“Fletch was destined to outlive us all”: Depeche Mode on death, rebirth and defying all odds (2023)

AAs Dave Gahan happily admits, there was a time when he thought there would never be another Depeche Mode album. In fact, he says, there were two. The first came shortly after the pandemic, when he underwent surgery equivalent to a rock star.the great waiver, the phenomenon of being stuck at home, began to reconsider his priorities. He had tried to play with his other band, the Soulsavers, between the first and second lockdowns in late 2020 ("Wonderful shows, but it was all a constant state of anxiety: are you fit to fly? What's going to happen tomorrow?" ), but he spent most of his time at home in the United States. It was the longest he had ever been off the road.

“Don't make a record; I spend time with my family, my friends, my damn cat,” he says. really interested in making new music." He smiled. "I was 18 at the timeDepeche Waystarted. I thought: That's enough. I had a good run. When our manager called and said, "It's time," I honestly said, "Jonathan, I don't know if I want to go through with this."

Gahan was eventually persuaded to return, spurred on by new songs submitted by bandmate Martin Gore. Last Depeche Mode album, 2017geist, was strictly political, which was perhaps a good thing: a month before their release, American neo-Nazi Richard Spencer tried to label them "the official far-right gang". ("He's an idiot," Gahan retorted with winning directness in response.) By contrast, these were songs that played into what The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey once called the "exciting, eccentric sweet spot" that Depeche had . about sex. , about addiction, about information overload, and especially about death, the latter perhaps the inevitable result of writing during a global pandemic.

In fact, there were so many songs about death that Gore suggested naming the album Memento Mori. Gahan hoped to work on them in the studio "to make the songs more colourful, to stretch them out, to get them to the point where Fletch would say ' - imitating bandmate Andy Fletcher's gruff Essex accent - ' ' Let's put that aside, us 'I see, what are you doing, don't make it too complicated?' The good part of making an album". half to half."

Andrew Fletcher: the pop lover who held Depeche Mode togetherRead more

Six weeks before the recording of Depeche Mode's 15th album, Fletcher died suddenly at his London home of an aortic dissection. The fan reaction was shocking and incredulous. He was just 60, and besides, Fletch was the rock of the band: the least affected by his worldwide fame, the one who kept his cool in the early 90s when Gahan succumbed to the heroin addiction that nearly killed him, Gore and I. alcoholism was in the grips, and keyboardist/songwriter Alan Wilder quit. It was, says Gahan, a reaction mirrored within the band. "O?he says and shakes his head. "Alan always said, 'He's going to outlive us all the time.' Fletch was always the one."

So stunned was he, says Gahan, that Fletcher's death didn't fully hit him until the funeral, when he saw Mute Records founder Daniel Miller: the man who signed Depeche Mode as a teenager and believed in them when they were its main composers. , Vincent. Clarke, who left after her debut album; that, says Gore, "we're going to experiment and grow at our own pace" and that he will continue to contribute ideas to their records. "He came in with his wife and Martin and I got up and fell on top of him and he hugged us and we were all... I was crying. It was just the three of us. I don't know how to explain it but that's when I completely lost control. pointed out: When he met me and my band, I was a teenager, close to my 19th birthday. I thought about it. About forty years have passed. My whole adult life."

“Fletch was destined to outlive us all”: Depeche Mode on death, rebirth and defying all odds (1)

After Fletcher's death, Gahan says he was once again "convinced for a minute" that Depeche Mode was over. “But Martin and I talked. He just called to see how I was doing and said, 'We're moving on, right?' I said yes. I didn't miss a beat."

For his part, Gore says he never thought about the end of the band. "I wondered for a second if it would be a good idea to continue with the schedule we had," he says, "because we were supposed to open the studio six weeks after his death, and I wondered if we should get it installed." . But we decided it's probably best to focus on the album, the music, something we know, something to take our minds off of Andy's death."

The recording was remarkably smooth: certainly smoother than some of the famously contradictory sessions on previous albums. "I think maybe the only thing that came out of Andy's death is, you know, positive," says Gore, before his voice trails off and he reconsiders. "There's nothing positive about it. But you know, the only good thing is that it brought Dave and I closer together. We have to make decisions as the two of us, so we talk, we talk a lot more on the phone, even FaceTime sometimes. We never did. this before."

In fact, when you meet them separately, each in their own room in a luxury London hotel, it's hard not to be surprised by their differences. Friendly and talkative, Gahan is a rock star, charismatic and blessed with his ability to look extremely cool while wearing clothes that would make anyone but a rock star look ridiculous: leather, purple sunglasses. , skinny pants (slightly baggy), her all-black ensemble was completed with a pair of bright red snakeskin pointed-toe boots.

Gore, on the other hand, looks like Martin Gore: even at 61, the motorcycle jacket and curly blond hair cut short on the sides are instantly recognizable on the sides of '80s hits. : as Gahan suggests, Gore "isn't someone who wears his feelings on his sleeve, he always wears his feelings in his songs". Gore says he never considered changing the album's title or releasing his death songs after Fletcher's death. "For me, Andy's death cemented the idea that we need to move forward with these songs and the title. The idea that we should all make the most of our time on Earth, and it's very limited, is an important message. And It's even more important now that Andy is gone."

Still, Gore admits, it's a bit of an odd situation: releasing an album full of hints of mortality less than a year after the death of one of the founders. "I don't want to sound too new about it, but sometimes when you're writing songs you wonder if there's something in the ether that you're connecting with. Sometimes I sit down and write something and it just comes and flows and I I really don't know where the words are coming from. When I look at him, I think, Ah, that's the point.

“Fletch was destined to outlive us all”: Depeche Mode on death, rebirth and defying all odds (2)

But then again, as Gore and Gahan point out, Depeche Mode has almost always been in an awkward position. There's a clip of it on YouTubea 1981 ITV documentary, who were being filmed when their first big hit, New Life, entered the Top 20. They were filmed doing things "futuristic" bands did: playing monophonic synthesizers with one finger and trading old-fashioned space-style entertainment for intruders. Arcade game seriously discussing the new romantic movement. On one level, it's very timely, but on the other hand, it's striking how far Depeche Mode seems to be from the scene it's meant to portray. The residents of the Blitz Club think they're a bit of a non-U: not London fashion scene-makers, but guys from Basildon's decidedly vintage vibe, and they're not particularly artsy, at least by the standards of the time.

They talk enthusiastically about their love of disco and pop, and their videos come across as too British and provincial, shot in tacky clubs and Woolworths, rather than meaningful, serious and Central European. Later they got huge, but that was weird too. His peers achieved worldwide success with big pop hits or switching to a more traditional guitar-based approach; Depeche Mode did this while sticking to electronic music and becoming more weird and experimental (they are perhaps the only band in history to invade the US right after launching a new musical genre heavily influenced by experimental metalheads. Berlin, collapsing new buildings) .

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In the early '90s, when the careers of most of their peers were faltering, Depeche Mode sold millions of albums and had incredible global reach: even Gore admits he was taken aback when the documentary was released in 2019ghosts in the forestrevealed that the band had fans in Outer Mongolia. Thirty years after their best-selling album of the 1990s, Violator, they can still call themselves the biggest cult band in the world without too much fear of contradiction: As Gore notes, the tour they're about to embark on "will probably be the biggest tour we've ever done, and the tour before that was the biggest tour we've ever done. Every time we go out, we seem to play to more people."

And yet, something strange clings to them. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in late 2020 (their Zoom acceptance speech was the last time Gahan and Gore appeared in public with Fletcher), but Gahan says he still feels oddly out of place. . “A few years ago, when we were first nominated, I heard someone on the jury say something about us being boring weirdos who wear eyeliner.” He laughs. “I like that. We join the ranks of the eyeliner-wearing freaks: Prince, Mick Jagger, Dave Vanian from The Damned.OAssociation."

He's understandably excited about Memento Mori, an album that offers a perfect blend of ominous mood, electronic textures that range from intense to ethereal, and a classic Depeche Mode style with a melancholy but persistent melody. He compares the single "Ghosts Again" to "Enjoy the Silence", "one of those songs that for me are Depeche's main anchors". It's another song about the fleeting and fragile nature of life: "Everybody says goodbye...they whisper that we'll be ghosts again."

It's a subject that Gahan is uniquely positioned to sing about, not because of Fletcher's death, but because he technically died himself, when he was, as he puts it, "kind of following the rock star thing that he was." ". all the clichés.” His heart stopped beating for two minutes after he overdosed on heroin and cocaine in 1996, an incident that finally caused him to sober up. Not a sound in the room, nothing but darkness seemed near you.

"I had something people are talking about, astral travel, and the next thing I knew I was in the back of an ambulance that was being transported away. At that particular moment, the only real thought I had that was terrifying was that I can't decide what's going on. thought I had I was obsessed with the idea of ​​"when I go out, I go out big", having what I think is a good time surrounded by other fawning losers. It's going to hit us all, but you really don't know when."

Which makes Gahan talk about Fletch again, how strange it is to do things without him for the first time: interviews, TV appearances, photo shoots with his longtime collaborator Anton Corbijn. He points to the next porch. "I still hope to hear you outside my room," he says. Or smell him lighting up a cigarette. Turn that damn thing off, Fletch! I have to sing later!'”

How Depeche Mode (Almost) Became My Own Jesus

People were always asking what Fletch was doing in the band, he says, because Fletch tended to downplay his own contribution, telling an interviewer in the 1989 documentary 101 that he "wandered around" while everyone else was busy with music.

"To me it was a little offensive. His personality was huge. He was the voice of reason when we took a song too far. We've been doing this for a long time: me, Martin, Fletch. So this is a monumental change. It wasn't a change. Monumental musical change, he didn't do masterful things on the records, but what Fletch represented within the band was identity."

He says it's going to be awkward without him onstage; Fletcher always seemed so excited to be there: "Depeche Mode's biggest supporter", performing with the band. "My job is acting. It's about creating something bigger than any existence you may have had. Martin is like the gunslinger next to me. And Fletch was the superfan."

He pauses and smiles at me as if remembering why he decided to return to Depeche Mode despite his initial misgivings. "He knew it was the best job in the world. You know, you won the lottery a goddamn time.

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