Andy Fletcher, who played synthesizers in Depeche Mode, the very electronic British band that developed a huge fan following and sold millions of records in the 80s and 90s, has died. He was 60 years old.
The group announced his death Thursday on Twitter. The announcement did not specify where he died or give a cause. An unidentified source close to the group told The Associated Press that he died at his home in Britain on Thursday.
Mr Fletcher formed Depeche Mode in 1980 in Basildon, east London, with fellow synthesizers Vince Clarke and Martin Gore and vocalist Dave Gahan. Mr. Clarke left after the release of the band’s debut album, “Speak & Spell”, in 1981, Alan Wilder took the place and Mr. Gore succeeded Mr. Clarke as the band’s main songwriter. The group began to move away from pop and into darker, more serious music which brought them worldwide fame over the next two decades.
At first, critics often did not fully appreciate the appeal of the synthesizer-dominated act.
“Composed of four young men, three synthesizers and a tape recorder playing pre-recorded rhythm tracks, Depeche Mode makes dark carousel music with a danceable beat,” Stephen Holden wrote in a half-hearted review in The New York Times of a 1982 performance at the Ritz in New York.
Fans, however, hung on and by the end of the 1990s the group had landed dozens of UK singles – ‘People Are People’ (1984) and “Personal Jesus” (1989) were among the most successful, also in the United States – and filled large arenas.
On stage, Mr. Fletcher was the least flashy member of the group. And he was self-deprecating on his role.
“Martin is the songwriter, Alan is the good musician, Dave is the singer, and I’m fooling around,” he said in “Depeche Mode: 101,” a 1989 documentary.
But Michel Pagnottaa SiriusXM Volume host who for much of the 1990s served as the group’s publicist, said that offstage Mr. Fletcher was the glue that held the group together, eager to promote it, follow the business and financial matters and often serving as the first point of contact when a tour took him to a new city.
“Andy Fletcher was the heart of Depeche Mode,” Pagnotta said in a statement. “A true believer in the band and their music. His honed musical and business instincts helped Depeche become one of the most popular and influential bands of their generation and landed them all the way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Not bad for a boy from Basildon.
This Hall of Fame induction came in 2020, with the band first being nominated in 2017 – a nomination Mr. Fletcher didn’t expect, as an electronic band didn’t fit the guitar template and drumming that traditionally defined rock ‘n’ roll.
“To be honest, we were surprised,” he said of the initial nomination in a 2017 interview with The Associated Press. “We never intended to be in it. We’re thinking, ‘An electronic band in rock ‘n’ roll hall?’
Andrew Fletcher was born on July 8, 1961 in Nottingham, England and, like the other founders of the band, grew up in a working-class family in Basildon. He and Mr. Clarke met when they were both in the Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth organization. They formed a band, Composition of Sound, in 1980 and soon invited another acquaintance, Mr. Gore, to join because, as Mr. Gore later said, he was “one of the few people in Basildon which had a synthesizer”.
Later that year, Mr. Gahan joined the band as featured vocalist, bringing a sense of style and a new name, Depeche Mode. Daniel Miller of Mute Records signed the band and their popularity began to grow, not only in England but also in East and West Germany and other countries.
“Violator”, one of the band’s most successful albums, was released in 1990 and, capitalizing on its popularity, Depeche Mode performed at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan the following year.
“The band’s music, made by synthesizers, is powerful sonic washes driven by a dance beat,” wrote Peter Watrous in The Times. “Jet engines roar. The cliffs crumble, the dams break. An occasional guitar peeks out from behind the wreckage. Everything is magnified, and the rhythm of the dance, sometimes influenced by house music and hip-hop, continues.
“In Radio City, the audience stood on their feet throughout the show and constantly had to be restrained from dancing in the aisles.”
In 2017, the group released their 14th studio album, “Spirit”.
Mr. Fletcher’s survivors include his wife, Gráinne Mullan, and their children, Megan and Joe.