Like most bands that have found incredible international success, Depeche Mode has also found its share of hardship, most notably a near-fatal drug addiction that temporarily stole lead singer Dave Gahan’s soul. But the seminal British synth-pop group – the most successful electronic-music band in history - has soldiered on, buoyed by the strength of hits including “Personal Jesus,” “Enjoy the Silence,” “Walking in My Shoes,” “People Are People,” “Strangelove,” “Policy of Truth” and “Just Can’t Get Enough.”
Now, Depeche Mode is back with its 13th album, “Delta Machine,” whose energy and vibrancy has drawn comparisons to the band’s best work decades ago; subsequently, Gahan’s deep baritone has enjoyed its own revival, sounding as rich and clear as ever.
The highly influential group hits the BB&T Center in Sunrise after a successful European tour, and keyboardist and founding member Andy Fletcher talked to Miami.com about the tour, the new album, and who influenced them in the beginning.
How was the European tour?
It’s a funny thing to say, but it was a bit of a blast, really. Attendance was fantastic, the performance of the band was great, and the general morale was really good, so we couldn’t be happier, really, and are looking forward to being in North America. We’re in good spirits.
Will the North American tour differ in any way from the European one?
We’re changing it a little bit, but basically the same sort of set-up, just changing the songs around a little bit.
You have such a massive repertoire – how do you choose which songs to play and which to leave out?
It’s very difficult. If we could play for four hours – I know Bruce Springsteen probably does, but we can’t compete with that – we could probably get everyone’s favorites in, but especially with Dave, it’s a real workout for him. So it’s very difficult, but we think we’ve got a good mix between the early years, the middle years, and today. So I think people are gonna be happy.
How much of “Delta Machine” will we hear?
You’re gonna hear quite a few songs. It’s quite lucky – sometimes you can’t really tell, but the songs on “Delta Machine” really do sound good live. They’re quite minimal, with few things going on. So six or seven, probably.
The new album has been compared to both “Violator” and “Songs of Faith and Devotion” – what do you think of those comparisons?
Ooh. Well, we like to think that all our albums are different, but with “Delta Machine” there maybe is more of a link to them, because it’s really electronics with a bluesy feel, so you could go back to something like “Personal Jesus,” where that went very well, from “Violator.”
For an electronic band, where do you think that bluesy side came from?
Good question. Martin [Gore], who writes most of the songs, has always liked blues music, and it has always been a big influence. But where it actually comes from, I don’t really know.
Does the name “Delta Machine” sort of represent the paradoxical nature of electronics meeting blues?
Yes, that’s what’s quite nice about the title – it actually can explain the music that’s on there. Otherwise the title itself doesn’t mean anything.
Depeche Mode has been incredibly influential – who inspired you guys in the beginning?
Well, a couple of things, really. We were very lucky that when we were 15 years of age, punk exploded with The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Before that, we had Bowie and T.Rex and things like that, and then weirdly enough, Kraftwerk was around in the ‘70s, and then people started listening to them in the ‘80s as well. And they were obviously a big influence on us in regards to instrumentation. So lots of things, really. And sometimes it’s the music you don’t like that influences you – like, we don’t want to sound like that [laughs].
Dave wrote a lot of the new album, contributing more than he normally does. Did that change the band’s dynamic much?
Yeah, Dave’s been writing more and more for quite a few albums now, and he’s getting better and better, so it gives the album a lot more variety.
His voice sounds as rich and powerful as ever.
Well, he looks after himself a lot more now. So yeah – and also, he’s performing live better than he’s ever done, I think.
So many great acts – Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones – have kind of stopped producing work that makes much of an impact. What’s the secret to you guys staying relevant?
It’s difficult, because you know the media are normally looking for young and fresh bands all the time. So the artists you mentioned are older than us, but we’re pretty old [laughs]. But we did use to say that if we didn’t think we were making relevant music, it was time to quit. But fortunately for us, I think we are still making relevant music, and we feel that there’s maybe a couple of good albums to go as well. So we’re very happy that it’s been over 30 years and it’s been sort of a dream come true for us. The fact that we’re going strong, selling out places, selling records – we really didn’t expect to be doing this. We thought we’d only last a couple of years.
Being an electronic band, have you guys ever attended the Winter Music Conference in Miami?
Never been, but I know all about it and what goes on. It’s more the timing, I think – when it’s on, we’re doing something else or we’ve got a break or something like that.
Is that something you’d consider performing at in the future?
Yeah, definitely. We’d love to.