Andy Fletcher, a founding member of multiplatinum new wave band Depeche Mode, has died. He was 60.
The keyboard player helped define the sound of 1980s and ’90s synth-pop and alternative rock through hits including “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Personal Jesus,” “Enjoy the Silence” and “People Are People.”
Fletcher’s death was announced by Depeche Mode in a Twitter post, which read, in part, “We are shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness with the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member, and bandmate Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. Fletch had a true heart of gold and was always there when you needed support, a lively conversation, a good laugh, or a cold pint.”
“Very sad news today. Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has passed,” wrote the Cure’s Lol Tolhurst on Twitter. “I knew Andy and considered him a friend. We crossed many of the same pathways as younger men. My heart goes out to his family, bandmates, and DM fans. RIP Fletch.”
A cause of death was not announced.
Depeche Mode, which was founded in 1980 by Fletcher, singer Dave Gahan and keyboardists Martin L. Gore and Vince Clarke in Basildon, England, ascended to become one of the most successful rock acts of its time. (Alan Wilder replaced Clarke in 1981.) Of his role in the group, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020, Fletcher humbly said, “Martin’s the songwriter, Alan’s the good musician, Dave’s the vocalist, and I bum around.”
During a 2013 interview with online magazine Electronic Beats, Fletcher described himself as “the tall guy in the background, without whom this international corporation called Depeche Mode would never work.”
More than a mere keyboardist in the band, Fletcher was an essential part of the studio team. For example, on “Walking in My Shoes,” from 1993’s “Songs of Faith and Devotion,” Fletcher pounded on a suitcase with a pole to get the proper percussion sound. He noted that one trait of synth-driven acts is a certain anonymity, which works great when you want to go to the movie theater but not when you feel unrecognized as an artist.
“Apart from the singer, the audience doesn’t really know which role which musician has within the group. But bands like Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode actually work as divisions of labor collectives. The contribution of each individual remains invisible. And because I don’t push myself to the fore, many mistake me for the fifth wheel.”
Fletcher was born in Nottingham, England, on July 8, 1961. The seeds of Depeche Mode were planted during the punk and new wave explosion of the late 1970s, when Fletcher and friend Clarke started a band called No Romance in China, which morphed into Composition of Sound. After Fletcher and Clarke discovered Kraftwerk and other early electronic music, they swapped strings for circuits, added kindred spirit Gore and, not long after, brought on Gahan as vocalist.
Clarke left the band shortly after the release of its 1981 debut album “Speak & Spell” to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet, and Depeche Mode hired Wilder as a replacement (he departed in 1995). Along with Gahan and Gore, Fletcher remained with Depeche Mode across the decades as the band went platinum with albums including “Music for the Masses,” “Violator” and “Songs of Faith and Devotion,” no small feat considering band members’ very public battles with addiction and depression in the 1990s.
Depeche Mode’s stock soared from the start. Its 1981 video for “Just Can’t Get Enough” was part of a wave of British synthesizer-driven pop acts storming the U.S. charts, many of them earning their first stateside attention from a just-launched cable network called MTV. Alongside the Human League, Eurythmics, Thompson Twins and Duran Duran, Depeche Mode connected classic Brill Building-style melodies and song structures with electronic bleeps, squiggles and rhythms. Early hits including “Master and Servant,” “Blasphemous Rumours” and “Everything Counts” ruled new wave clubs and gay discos with new sonic ideas embedded in 12-inch remix versions.
Los Angeles fell particularly hard for Depeche Mode, and the feeling was mutual. On the June 18, 1988 final show of their Music for the Masses tour, the band sold out the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a feat documented for the 1989 live album and D.A. Pennebaker-directed documentary “101.”
The next year the band returned to L.A. to promote their just-released commercial breakthrough, “Violator.” A 1990 meet-and-greet at Wherehouse Entertainment at Third Street and La Cienega Boulevard drew an estimated 5,000 fans — forcing 130 LAPD officers in riot gear to shut it down. A story in the Los Angeles Times described the incident as a “mob scene.”
At their ‘90s peak, only U2 was a bigger band than Depeche Mode among acts to spring out of the U.K. new wave scene. But unlike the seemingly inexhaustible Bono, members of Depeche Mode paced their studio output, releasing studio albums every four years since “Ultra” in 1997.
Depeche Mode’s most recent album, “Spirit,” came out in 2017.
Accepting their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Gahan expressed wonder at what he’d be doing had he not joined Fletcher, Gore and company in Depeche Mode. “You’d still be stealing cars, Dave,” Fletcher quipped, noting that after the livestreamed event he’d be heading to the pub for a pint.
On Twitter, musicians expressed their grief and admiration for Fletcher. “So sad to hear Fletch has passed away. Far too young. RIP," said Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti.
Wrote the Pet Shop Boys, “We’re saddened and shocked that Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has died. Fletch was a warm, friendly and funny person who loved electronic music and could also give sensible advice about the music business.”
Fletcher is survived by his wife, Gráinne Mullan, and their two children, Megan and Joe.
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