February 2017

Enjoy The Silence

Andy FletcherAndy FletcherAndy FletcherText: Gabriel Knowles Images: Andy Fletcher

Anyone that’s seen 101 – the documentary covering Depeche Mode’s 101 gig world tour in 1988 – knows that the band were not only a huge deal but a train wreck waiting to happen. Heroin addiction was wreaking havoc and it’s debatable if the band really knew where all their money was going. Somehow they make it to the Rose Bowl in California to play a triumphant finale having pulled off the remarkable feat of being both underground and massive.

“After that is when it started to really go pear shaped, about four or five years after that Dave (Gahan) was in a terrible way, I was in a bad way,” recounts keyboardist Andy Fletcher on a suitably miserable London morning.

“There was a chance that the band wouldn’t stick together but we solved our problems and carried on. I think the pressure had a lot to do with it and we’d been winding up the rock ‘n’ roll aspect with every tour, every tour was getting more and more rock ‘n’ roll.”

Joining notoriously committed heroin users, Primal Scream, on tour was a sure sign the worst was yet to come for Depeche Mode. So much so it’s often forgotten that Gahan suffered a heart attack on stage in New Orleans.

“It sort of peaked with the Songs Of Faith And Devotion tour in 1993. It was like 187 concerts and it was sheer rock ‘n’ roll the whole way through it. The most famous bit being when Primal Scream joined for the last American leg. I think that was the most debauched tour of all time. Fortunately I’d quit the tour then due to my nervous breakdown. The funny thing was that Primal were the kings of rock ‘n’ roll at the time but even they were shocked by what was happening with Depeche Mode.”

Despite all that happened during that period Fletcher is adamant they wouldn’t change a thing, which is understandable seeing as they didn’t see themselves having more than two years at the top.

“We figured out the formula but to be honest we’ve been going for 30 years which has been a dream come true. I think there’s more to it than the formula though, we have a lot of talent in the group. Martin Gore is an amazing song writer and Dave is one of the best front men in the world, we’ve always been surrounded by good people I think.”

Part of that success can be attributed to Mute Records founder and producer Daniel Miller who gave the band carte blanche to do what they wanted. Fortunately the faith Miller placed in them wasn’t misjudged, although even the group were unsure of just how they would be received.

“We never thought we’d stand a chance in America, we thought our music was too European and in fact we didn’t go to America for a few years after 1982. When we came back we were suddenly these big stars, it was just phenomenal. That gig at the Rose Bowl, people thought we were taking a huge risk but it was just craziness in those days. Every single person was buying a Depeche Mode t-shirt, I think we broke the record for merchandising in the States for that concert and I think it stood for many years after that.”

“We’ve had some bad times but we’ve carried on and grown stronger.”

Andy Fletcher DJs Playground Weekender at Wisemans Ferry, February 17-20

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