By Michael Hamersly
Like most internationally renowned rock groups, Depeche Mode has endured its share of internal drama. But on its recent world tour, which makes a stop Saturday night (Sept. 5) at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, the seminal British synth-pop band has had to deal with lead singer Dave Gahan suffering from gastroenteritis, a benign bladder tumor and a freak leg injury from an accident at a gig in Spain.
It's no wonder Andy Fletcher, founding member and keyboardist of the group that gave us the hits "Personal Jesus," "Blasphemous Rumours" and "People Are People," sounds relieved to be back on the road, business as usual. He talks to us about what to expect from the tour, the beginning of the band, and the early departure of Vince Clarke, who went on to star in the bands Yazoo and Erasure.
How's the tour going so far, and how is Dave holding up?
It's been a very strange tour. We've had some of the best gigs of our career, particularly in Paris and Milan, and the Hollywood Bowl we played for the first time. But some parts have been calamitous - we've had to cancel quite a few shows. But Dave is fighting, and all the ailments he's had are not there anymore. And he's singing very well at the moment, so we're very optimistic about getting to Miami [laughs]. We missed Miami last time, though - there was a big hurricane and we had to cancel because they didn't have enough police to do the show. This is actually the last show of the American tour, so it should be good.
What can we expect to hear?
We've tried to spread the set list throughout our career. But to be honest, the set list itself is becoming a problem each time we tour, having so many songs to choose from. It's very hard not to disappoint some fans. We're playing "Enjoy the Silence" and "Personal Jesus," but we're not playing "Just Can't Get Enough," for instance, on this tour. But the set list is good - we're taking some interesting old tracks from albums, mixed in with big hits, and obviously some tracks from the new album ["Sounds of the Universe"].
Depeche Mode has had a major influence on many of today's popular bands, from Pet Shop Boys to the Killers to Radiohead, and electronic acts such as Kruder & Dorfmeister and the Crystal Method. What influenced your sound back in 1980?
I think we were very fortunate that when we were about 16, punk really exploded in England with the Sex Pistols. And there was this whole feeling that you didn't have to be a fantastic musician to make a record. So that was a quite exciting period, when independent labels starting popping up. And after that, the electronic scene started, and we were big fans of Kraftwerk, obviously, and early Human League was very influential. We started off as a guitar band but then moved toward all synthesizers, and we were able to do that because it was the first time synthesizers had come down to a normal price, about 150 bucks.
Do you remember having the feeling you were doing something groundbreaking?
I think we were, because Kraftwerk were using these big computers, and these we had were like small monophonic synthesizers. So yeah, certainly when we came over to America, we felt no one had seen it before.
What do you think of Vince Clarke's work with Yaz (Yazoo in the U.K.) and Erasure?
Well, obviously I'm a massive fan - I think Vince is one of the best songwriters Britain has produced in the last 30 years. It's an honor to have him as a friend and an honor to have been in a band with him - it was me and Vince who started [Depeche Mode]. Vince was the real driving force behind the band as well - he was so determined to be successful.
Would it be fair to say that his departure helped lead Depeche Mode to evolve into a darker sound?
Yeah, I think if Vince had stayed ... with Erasure and Yazoo, it's all pretty much the same, isn't it, the pop music with Vince's stamp on it? Looking back, with Vince leaving - you're right. Yes, it did, because Martin [Gore] is a much different songwriter. So I was lucky to be in a group with two great songwriters.
Are you still close with Vince?
We still count each other as friends. We don't come across each other very much - he lives in Maine now, believe it or not, in the real wilderness. He's always been a bit of a loner, so he probably likes that.
What do you think of Miami?
It's a big city, isn't it? I had a holiday there for a few days in South Beach, and we've always stayed at this hotel - I can never remember where it is. But we've always had a great time there, and we're lucky we have quite a few friends who live in Miami, so it's always good to get there.
Depeche Mode, with special guest Peter Bjorn & John; 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5; BankAtlantic Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise.
Tickets: 954-835-8000 or LiveNation.com; $36.75-$86.75, four-pack $119
Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode performs during the 2009 Lollapalooza Music Festival. (Getty Images)