Andy “Fletch” Fletcher, keyboardist and one of the founding members of iconic British electronic band Depeche Mode, has died. He was 60.
The news was announced via Depeche Mode’s official Twitter account, which posted the news Thursday afternoon. “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,” the post reads. A cause of death was not confirmed.
— Depeche Mode (@depechemode) May 26, 2022
Fletcher formed Depeche Mode in 1980 with Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Vince Clarke, who was initially seen as the auteur of the group before abruptly departing after their debut album and leaving Gore as the principal songwriter ever since. “Fletch” was the least outwardly showy of the core trio, often wearing shades as he stood behind the keyboards while the more demonstrative Gahan and Gore roamed the stage, but still raising his arms to rouse the rabble.
Speaking of his role in the group, Fletcher said in an interview published in Electronic Beats that he was “the tall guy in the background, without whom this international corporation called Depeche Mode would never work. There is this big misunderstanding that in guitar bands real men are working real instruments — evening after evening — while in a synthesizer band like Depeche Mode nobody works, because it’s all machines. But that’s bullshit. … 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.”
Over the course of Fletcher’s tenure with the group, they sold over 100 million records worldwide and had 54 songs chart on the UK Singles Chart. As a member of Depeche Mode, Fletcher was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.
“We’re a democracy. If someone doesn’t want to do something then we won’t do it,” Fletcher said in a 2017 interview with The Skinny in the U.K. “Martin and Dave live in the US and I live here, but it doesn’t really affect our relationships. Me and Martin are very close. Dave is more like a brother to me – if that makes sense. But what makes bands better than solo artists is the electricity that’s generated. Sometimes a band can’t stand each other but that electricity makes for great music. It’s the same with Depeche Mode; we have moments where we don’t like each other, and moments when we love each other. It’s the electricity that’s generated between us all that produces the good music.”
Fletcher spoke to how the group wasn’t taken seriously by the press in the early days, dismissed as just another synth-pop group until sold-out shows at venues like the Rose Bowl forced the world to take Depeche Mode seriously — but even then, credibility sometimes came more easily in America than their native country.
“The U.K. is the country we’ve had the most criticism from. The press have never really taken us seriously, it seems… until this album,” he said in 2017, when “Spirit,” the band’s last album to date, was coming out. “The problem with Britain is that the press are always looking for the next big thing, and they forget about the last big thing. In America and Europe, they tend to be more loyal.” But, he added, “These days, most interviews we do, almost everyone seems to like us.”
In a 2009 interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Fletcher explained, “I’m the opposite of Dave. I’m a musician but on the street nobody will recognize me. Within the band, I contribute the element of pop. (Gore), who writes most of the songs, loves American blues and country. And Dave has discovered jazz for himself. I, however, will probably eternally feel loyal to the simple pop melodies and the lightness they stand for.”
Fletcher spoke to their endurance, saying to The Skinny that it had been “an amazing dream come true. I always tell this story, but we had these accountants when we started to make a bit of money, and they drew up a plan – that we’d only last for two or three years. And yet we just kept getting more and more popular; we had to throw that plan out.
“We seem to be more popular now than we’ve ever been. We’re not a big media band, and it’s never been our ambition to be the biggest band in the world – it’s just the way things have played out. I think being on Mute Records was a big help. We had offers in the beginning from major labels, and they promised us a lot of money, but instead we chose a man that was offering us no money.”
Fletcher took part in a pre-taped acceptance speech when Depeche Mode was ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during the pandemic in late 2020, but in his typical staying-in-the-background fashion, he had far less to say than either Gahan and Gore. He did pipe in to say that “it’s a shame we’re not doing the concert” (that would usually be part of a Hall of Fame induction); that “you’d have still been stealing cars, Dave,” if the band hadn’t succeeded; and a cheery “Off to the pub!” at the conclusion of the acceptance.
Talking with Die Welt in 2009, Fletcher said the group had been a sedate one for many years. “As a rock star, you are a king for one night whenever you enter a town — especially in the States. For one night, we’d own the saloon, the gambling tables, the alcohol and the girls. And the next evening another city was at our feet. … Everything has changed. We all have family and children now. I’m the only one left in the band who fancies a drink. One vice after the other goes overboard. You can’t pull off that lifestyle forever.”