1988-04-xx Talking Music SPEEK013, USA
Talking music is a UK label specialised in unofficial interview discs. In 1998, they released such a disc categorised as SPEEK013, containing an interview with Andy Fletcher. The interview was conducted in late April 1988, in California. The interview covers the band's development with particular emphasis on their studio technique, management, and the attitude of the music industry to them. Fletch takes time warming to the interviewer and can be hard work in places, but there is plenty here especially for someone interested in the music industry. The transcript below has been taken from Sacreddm.net (dead link).
- Duration: 26:36 minutes
Interviewer: Got to start some place, Andy. Give me the date of your birth, please.
Andy Fletcher: Eighth of July, 1961.
Interviewer: And whereabouts in the UK - where's home?
Andy Fletcher: Well home's Basildon in Essex, but I was born in Nottingham. (laughs)
Interviewer: Tales of Sherwood Forest, huh?
Andy Fletcher: Yes... yeah.
Interviewer: Rich in tradition? I mean, did you grow up with a bit of imagination because of the place?
Andy Fletcher: I left when I was about two. And the town I actually come from is just basically a concrete jungle new town, which has got literally no character at all, so I think we basically had to find some inspiration from somewhere.
Interviewer: Now what did your parents do for a living?
Andy Fletcher: My father's an engineer, my mother's just a housewife.
Interviewer: Musical family?
Andy Fletcher: No. Not at all, no.
Interviewer: What 'drew you in', as they say?
Andy Fletcher: I think every kid in England wants to be in a band, don't they, from an early age. I don't know why, but they just do, don't they?
Interviewer: What expression can you get from being involved in a creative source like a band?
Andy Fletcher: I think it's just like anything, really. I mean, just creating anything is a real achievement, isn't it. And making music is something that you can do from an early age. It's like painting or something like that, and just creating something which people actually like is good. To be honest, I mean, in my case it was only the fact that my friends really wanted to start a band and, I mean, I thought, "Why not? I might as well." But I was never into it that much. It's one of the beauties about a band really; we never really forced anything. It just happened, basically. That was good. How we did it, I don't know, but it just happened, and we did it.
Interviewer: Did you start off traditionally on keyboards?
Andy Fletcher: No, we had a traditional guitar sort of upbringing. We had a bit of a church upbringing and everyone knew how to play guitar and things. And we went on, we started listening to a lot of electronic music and we thought we might as well try this, because there's too many guitar bands around. (laughs)
Interviewer: At what age did you start playing?
Andy Fletcher: About 12 or 13.
Interviewer: Standard six-finger acoustic, or --
Andy Fletcher: Yeah.
Interviewer: Do you remember coming to a reality that music could be not only a way of life but it could support you, it could be your friend, it was a way of expression, and everything like that?
Andy Fletcher: Er - not really. I never came to the point when I -- Now, when I look back, I realise it. But it happened in such a way that you just didn't think about things like that. We just started doing very well, writing our own songs, doing a few covers, and then we got bigger and bigger crowds, and then we made a record, the record went in the charts, and then you think, "Oh - better make another one!" sort of thing and then - we're still working at this time, and it's still just a hobby and then - in fact it was a bit silly because we were on Top Of The Pops and we're still working. And so we felt it had got to the stage, we were on an independent label, we were earning good money so we gave up our jobs, and it went on and on and on, you get more involved, make videos and then you just realise when you look back what you have achieved, and you realise you have achieved something creative and you get a good feeling from it.
Interviewer: Give me from the most bizarre to the most mundane of nine-to-fives or standard work that you've done.
Andy Fletcher: I've ever only had one nine-to-five job, and that was when I was an insurance clerk for two years. I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was at school, cleaning aeroplanes (laughs) and all things like that. Just cleaning elevators, cleaning everything basically.
Interviewer: What was the first group that you joined that had a name?
Andy Fletcher: I'm not telling you. No, it was a band, same members as Depeche Mode, it just had a different name. So it was the first group really. But Martin was in a band called Norman And The Worms. (laughs)
Interviewer: See, I thought it was going to be Norman And The Worms!
Interviewer: I couldn't find the other name, I had Norman And The Worms, I couldn't find another name for you guys. You won't tell me, huh?
Andy Fletcher: Nope - no.
Interviewer: Brings back too many unpleasant memories?...Random choice, 'Depeche Mode'? How did the name come about?
Andy Fletcher: It was just the name of a French magazine. When Dave joined the band he was at fashion college basically and that was one of the magazines he dealt with and we thought, "Ah, that sounds good, we'll use that."
Interviewer: What were some of the other names considered?
Andy Fletcher: Everything - we did everything. It was the only reasonable one we could find. I tell you, when you form a band it's the hardest thing to find is a decent name. That's why there's so many naff names around. (laughs) Actually people have criticised us on all levels basically but no-one's ever criticised the name so that must be something.
Interviewer: Do you look at the band being born out of, almost, a post-Punk alternative?
Andy Fletcher: We definitely consider ourselves post-Punk, yeah. I mean, we consider ourselves derived from Punk, in a way. Because we still keep to the same - all the old Punk ideals; our music isn't Punk rock but we still consider ourselves as coming from that generation. Because when Punk came out, we were about 15 or 16, we were the kids that were buying Punk records, and Punk went on to sort of New Wave, Elvis Costello and all this sort of thing and then it went on to sort of more electronic style music: Human League, OMD, and us. And even now, we haven't got a manager, we haven't got a record contract, we still see ourselves from that generation.
Interviewer: When you were growing up, who were the people who cut through the radio? Who were the people whose records you truly enjoyed not because you --
Andy Fletcher: What do you mean 'growing up'? What age?
Interviewer: Let's say when you became aware of music - 11 / 12 / 13.
Andy Fletcher: Glam. We was into Glam. T-Rex, The Sweet, Gary Glitter, all of us were into Glam. I mean it was lucky that they were all really good songs. That's why now we're all really big fans of pop music; we never really liked rock. We liked rock'n'roll, like '50s and '60s rock'n'roll; we don't really like rock music. You know, Springsteen, all heavy metal, all this sort of thing, we really don't like because we think that's regressive. We just like good songs.
Interviewer: The original enticement just the theatrics?
Andy Fletcher: No; I think we were always a great believer in good songs we just thought we'd try and do it and that's one reason why we kept together. The image, and the theatrics, we're not really into it that much because we haven't really got that sort of background. We don't know much about it. That's why we don't look very weird or what-have-you.
Interviewer: Now whose idea was it simply to be a sampling band, a keyboard synthesizer --
Andy Fletcher: Well Martin bought a synth first, and Vince quite liked that. I think he was a bit jealous. You see, he'd spent about six months trying to save up to get a guitar, and he was a bit annoyed when Martin bought his synth and it seemed pretty good so then he saved up another six months and got a synth, so we had two, and then I was playing bass. And then Vince turned round one day and said, "I think it might be good if you get a synth as well - make it all electronic." So we went from there. And it was quite weird actually because we can all play other instruments, and a few years ago nearly all the other electronic bands started to get bass guitarists and drums and things, but we held out because we felt...we wanted to look different from a normal band. And I think that's kept us in good stead really, we didn't sell out.
Interviewer: Why do you think that there has been a massive decline from that mentality, and yet you are survivors?
Andy Fletcher: It's funny because although there's been a decline on the surface, there's definitely not been a decline in practice. In fact most of the records that are made today, in the pop charts, they're made by electronic instruments, but when you see people on video, or on TV, they're all playing their guitar, which is sampled; they're playing their drums, which are sampled; and that's the state of music today. We're one of the bands that say, "Right, we want to do it, we want to show people that we make music that way and we do that live as well that way." In fact, what's quite exciting in England at the moment is all this House music, which is really popular, and that comes straight from what we've been doing really in the last seven or eight -- In fact, journalists are shocked when they ask all these bands who they like and who they listen to and they say us, and say, "What?!", you know! Because we was doing that in 1981, what they're doing now; just, basically, not sampling but using electronic instruments, drum machines and all this sort of thing, because we knew that was the way of the future.
Interviewer: It doesn't really matter what country we're talking about. It can be the Near East, the Far East, Europe, the United States, you have really enjoyed a massive following - in record sales, in concert attendance and everything else. Why do you feel that American radio specifically hasn't embraced the group outside of this limited mentality of dance?
Andy Fletcher: Because we don't fit in, basically. I think all you have to do is listen to American radio and you know why we're not played; we just don't fit in, we sound too unlike anything else. And I think that they're a bit frightened that if they play us then they've got to let everyone else in, and that's the problem. It's not just American radio, I'd like to point out. I mean Radio 1, in England, we've always struggled with. The only reason they've had to play us is because we go in the charts, because the fans buy the records and it's a retail chart, so they have to play it. So it's good, otherwise they wouldn't have played us. The thing is, you can understand it - I mean, if you play Bananarama, followed by Tiffany, followed by...I don't know, some real rocking track, and then you play one of our records, you can understand why they don't like it - because it doesn't fit in.
Interviewer: Even though a radio programmer's ear might not hear it, why are all these people following you from venue to venue in droves?
Andy Fletcher: Because it's really good music, that's why. It's good music, good songs, and I think some kids do get a kick out of the fact that we aren't played on radio, to be honest. I know it sounds a bit weird but we meet so many American kids who say, "The day you're played on Top 40 radio is the day we're stopping buying your records." I mean you do meet loads of kids like that.
Interviewer: It's the angst of adolescence, you see. With Vince leaving how do you feel over...I mean, we're talking, this is the seventh album, if I'm not mistaken?
Andy Fletcher: Yep.
Interviewer: How do you feel, over the course of those seven albums and the personal changes - er, the one personal change - that the group's sound has evolved?
Andy Fletcher: Erm... again, it's not for me to judge, really. A lot of people say, "How much have you changed over the years?" and things. I really can't say; all I know is that technology has improved a lot since we made our first album, we've matured as people, all sorts of things. Martin's songwriting's got better, in every way we've just tried, we've improved I think. And although we still really like the first record, you can see there is a general change in every record. A lot of people think we sound the same, but if you actually listen through the singles all the way along, there is a gradual change, but you can't change from one point to another point in, like, six months or something - it's got to be gradual.
Interviewer: Oh, I can agree with you - I can really see the change in your music over the years, I really do. But that's comparing 1 to 7, there's a quantum leap there. Do you feel at times that you're a slave to technology?
Andy Fletcher: No, Not really, because our method is that we write songs outside the studio, we work on the arrangement outside the studio, and when we go into the studio anything can go, really. Anything goes; we don't have to use just technology, we can use acoustic instruments which we're doing a lot more recently, and we've got no set rules basically. And the only set rule is that we never use a preset. Basically, we never use a preset sound. Apart from that, anything goes.
Interviewer: What I actually was referring to is that the mass of technology that's being heaped on our shoulders --
Andy Fletcher: It's all been so simplified recently, though. I mean it's so much easier to use now, and I think there was a danger, I mean about five or six years ago and it was terrible, people were just obsessed by the whole machine thing, they were becoming machines. And we're fortunate because all our live work and things... For instance Vince, about three or four years ago, he spent about two years solid in the studio working on different projects without doing any live work, and he just got obsessed with the whole thing. And when he came out, he just knew he had to start a band again and get back on the road, because the only way...because then you get away from all that sort of technology and what's-the-latest-thing-out and that, and when you get back to the studio, then you check out a few new things, and you're fresh again.
Interviewer: Electricity is something that's a necessity to power this band now, you are fuelled by the alternating current.
Andy Fletcher: Every band is, virtually, these days.
Interviewer: Have you run into any really adverse situations because of power fluctuations, or a brown-out, or whatever?
Andy Fletcher: We have done in the past. In the States, when we came over first of all we didn't really know what was happening. A lot of our synths broke down and things, which was pretty bad. Obviously, when we played the Ritz in New York we thought we'd never come back again. But in Germany as well it's like slightly...because in Europe it's 240 volts and they're on 220, we get a few fluctuating things there, but we use stabilisers now and recently we haven't had any problems, touch...Where is it?
Andy Fletcher: (laughs)
Interviewer: I know that lyrical input came from a couple of sources in the band but as of the last two albums there's a consistency with Martin. Wasn't Alan writing?
Andy Fletcher: Yep.
Interviewer: OK, Alan was writing and Martin was writing as well. How, with one lyricist, being Martin, has that focussed you as a group?
Andy Fletcher: Martin does write by himself, but I think what he...I think we give the impression to people, and it's the right impression, that we don't get extra people in, and that: we are the group. And basically we've lived in each other's pockets now for seven years and we're like a family. And I think what Martin writes does speak for the whole group; and I think because he writes generally about his experiences about life, which - I know most people do, but - he writes about all aspects of life, and I think people do get that thing that comes from us, and it's the way we live and things.
Interviewer: I think that before, there were a lot of external things that influenced the lyrics, whereas now it's a more internal attitude that Martin's --
Andy Fletcher: I think he's very aware of that. You see, with 'Construction Time Again', that was a very... He was looking out a bit, and then the last couple of albums, he has been a bit more personal, he has been aware of that. Because one thing we've never tried to do is be in a rut when it comes to lyrics, especially like...The reason we got out of the 'Construction Time Again' thing is because a lot of people were thinking we were sort of Socialists and all this thing, and we don't really like to bring our politics into things, because we feel we shouldn't influence people directly. We only like to pose questions, we don't like to give too many answers.
Interviewer: You have a mind - use it.
Andy Fletcher: Yeah, definitely, yeah. I mean, we just try and, by posing questions we just try and get people thinking. I mean we, unfortunately, realise that people do like us - 90% of people like us - for the tunes. Very few people actually listen to the lyrics, so we realise we can't change too many...we don't want to change too many people, I think people should be individual and have their own thoughts.
Interviewer: You said that in a song somewhere...
Interviewer: Which was incidentally the biggest hit that you've had in the United States. Can you give a little intro of the song and give a little background on 'People Are People'?
Andy Fletcher: Er... basically it's our least favourite song, that is, what can I say? - Which was our biggest hit. It's Martin's least favourite song, I don't know if there was a story behind it, it's just that he brought it to us one day, we liked it and went in the studio, recording it, and it was a big hit, which surprised us. There's no particular story around it, all I'll say now is it's a bit weird that it was our biggest hit because we don't even like it. That's always the case, I suppose.
Interviewer: Looking at it from your point of view, can you give me a couple of favourite tracks?
Andy Fletcher: Yeah, I like 'Everything Counts', 'Stripped' I really liked; and now 'It Doesn't Matter' on 'Some Great Reward' I think is a really good love song; 'Dreaming Of Me', of course, the first single, as I said earlier I really like.
Interviewer: 'Route 66' seems to be experiencing a lot of success right now.
Andy Fletcher: That was an accident, that was not meant to be, really. It was only supposed to be a bit of a laugh, and the Americans liked it and were putting pressure on, and things like that. It's a bit of a shame really, because we think 'Behind The Wheel', which was supposed to be the 'A', is a better song, but...No, actually, 'Route 66' is a really good song, it's just that we don't really like doing cover versions as a rule, especially when we've got our own songs available, it just seems a bit of a waste.
Interviewer: This, in fact, was the third single, if I'm not mistaken, released off the album, was it not?
Andy Fletcher: Yep. And it'll be the last. (laughs)
Interviewer: No! There's so much more good --
Andy Fletcher: No, we don't believe in that, no. We've never believed in sort of doing a Madonna or whatever and releasing eight singles off an album. We just think it's a waste: the album's the album and you take singles off to promote the album but, I mean, once enough people have bought the album, that's alright.
Interviewer: English press has still on a lot of occasions a rumour mill attitude. What's the strangest thing you ever heard about yourself, or read about yourself in print?
Andy Fletcher: Er, the worst... Actually, we're lucky, very lucky. We've kept out of the daily press, because that's the worst thing, but the worst story we ever had basically was just in our early days, and Vince didn't do any interviews for three years because of this one thing. We'd just done this interview and basically Vince said, basically, "If you're good looking, you have a better chance in life." Which is true, to a certain extent. And this paper read the headline - the Daily Star, it was sort of like - "Ugly Guys Can't Make It In This Business", about us going on about how good looking we were and things. But that... As I say, we've been lucky, I mean we haven't had really sensational bad stories about us. I don't know if you've ever seen our singles album, I don't know what it was like over here, but we had a lot of comments, reviews of our singles. We had a good comment and a bad comment. There were some good ones on there, like, "Why did God bother with Depeche Mode?" We've always got like 50% good and 50% bad. Every single single we've released - this is what we've wanted to prove - is every single we've ever released you can always guarantee you'll get half the reviews are good and half are bad. So it just shows you, really, no-one really gives a damn.
Interviewer: No - you have to wonder how close people listen. On both sides of the fence.
Andy Fletcher: When people ask us to review singles, we don't really like doing that, because you only listen to a song once and personally speaking, all my favourite songs I've always hated on the first time, or never liked. I mean you always like songs after a few times, a few listens. An instant song, for me, you know you're going to be bored with it straight away, after a few listens, if it's instant.
Interviewer: Where were you the first time you heard yourself on the radio? Because I imagine that is a rather special occasion.
Andy Fletcher: Can't remember.
Andy Fletcher: No, I seriously can't remember. It must have been on 'Singled Out', Radio 1, which...Probably at home, but I can't remember.
Interviewer: Fans have been very generous with their attendance at concerts and their buying of the album. They're also generous in the things that they make for you, things that they want you to have, that they've given, taken their time to make. What's a special gift that you've received from a fan?
Andy Fletcher: Nothing that special. I mean, we get a lot of letters, good letters; I think they're the best things, when you read good letters, when they talk about their problems, things like that. And you get certain presents, obviously: shirts and clothes and things, but you don't get anything really amazing.
Interviewer: No paintings, or drawings, or things like that?
Andy Fletcher: You get all things like that, and obviously you appreciate the work that's gone into the thing, but what can you do with them?
Interviewer: There is, I mean there always has been, a cult following for the band, I mean it's a more mainstream cult thing now than it was prior to this! Have they found you out, where you were staying? Have they besieged...Have you come under siege from fans and how do you deal with that?
Andy Fletcher: Yeah, I mean we've had all that in the past, and we still have it now; and the way we deal with it is by trying to avoid it, trying to avoid them really. I mean, we never try and encourage fanaticism, we always try and discourage that really. We always try and put ourselves on the same level as the fans and we've never really understood when someone goes that crazy - it always baffles us really, because when we were kids we wouldn't do that. If we saw our hero, then we'd just stay clear, basically. But you know, we don't blame if people do that. It's fair enough.
Interviewer: Let's take the members individually, and tell me what their contributions to the overall Depeche Mode sound is, because that's something that people have really wanted to know. Might as well start off with Martin.
Andy Fletcher: Well he's the songwriter, he's the main creative source behind the band.
Interviewer: OK, and Alan?
Andy Fletcher: He's the chief musician, best musician in the band. He's the...In fact, when he joined he gave us a whole new dimension in a way. Because he's such a brilliant musician.
Interviewer: I'm sure that you were rather devastated for a while when Vince left, but out of everything bad comes something good.
Andy Fletcher: Yeah - I mean, we weren't that devastated, but it was...We knew we had to carry on. We'd just given up our jobs and we knew we had to carry on, basically.
Interviewer: Alright, let's talk about David.
Andy Fletcher: Well Dave is the frontman of the group. I mean every group has to have a frontman, although we try and keep that as much in the background as possible, so we're all equal, and I think he's part of the reason why we have built up a big live following. A lot of people don't like his stage performance, but he really does get the crowd going, and you can't ignore that, basically. And he's put a lot of effort into his stage performance and into improving his singing over the years, and I think it's worked out really well.
Interviewer: Where do you find your niche?
Andy Fletcher: My niche is really on the organisational front, because we haven't got a manager and I provide all those functions; and on the musical level I just play my parts and I'm adequate and that's it really. But I'm...I see myself on the morale front; getting, keeping the band together and all that sort of thing, which I think is really important. Every band's got to have that sort of person as well.
Interviewer: When you were saying before - and believe me, this didn't go over my head - you said, "We don't have a manager and we don't have a record label." What do you mean you don't?
Andy Fletcher: We have a record label; we're not signed to a record label. Actually, the only label we're signed to in the whole world is Sire, because basically I don't think you can really do it in America. But in Europe and Britain, it's just on a handshake with Daniel Miller, who's our producer. And it's worked for seven or eight years: 50/50 partnership deal, share the costs, share the profits.
Interviewer: If Daniel did not want to do it any more, if he wanted out --
Andy Fletcher: ...We'd sign with CBS for fifty million dollars! (laughs) No, I don't know what we'd do, don't know what we'd do.
Interviewer: He's a fifth member in a lot of ways.
Andy Fletcher: Yep.
Interviewer: He's as integral as you are to him.
Andy Fletcher: Yep - yep.
Interviewer: Would it be starting anew?
Andy Fletcher: Now... it's not so bad as it would have been a few years ago, I think we really did rely on Daniel three or four years ago when we were going through a crucial - you know - Vince had left, we were just new in the music business, it was a vary crucial period. If he'd have pulled out then, I think it might have been very difficult. But now I think he's taught us everything he has to teach us, and I think he gets a lot from us now. Obviously, I'm talking about a...Because we've experienced a lot as well in the last few years, perhaps he hasn't as well, and I think now we could perhaps hang in as well on our own - definitely, easy - but he is such an important and as you say, the 'fifth member' I think is definitely correct.
Interviewer: What do you see as the legacy of this band?
Andy Fletcher: I think we're going to be remembered...You see, the thing is, pop music, the way I look at things pop music's always remembered ten years after its time. Rock music, I think, is always remembered, but at the time. For instance U2 is appreciated now, and Led Zeppelin were appreciated at their time. I know they're a bit...there's a bit of a resurrection. I just think pop music is always hated at its time and always appreciated later on, and hopefully that'll be our legacy.
This file was taken from DIME by User:DMLiveWiki.
- The band name Andy is having such trouble spitting out is 'Composition Of Sound'.
- Other names considered, according to Daniel Blythe in The Encyclopedia of Classic 80s Pop, included The Lemon Peels, The Glow-Worms, and The Runny Smiles. I've also seen "Peter Bonetti's Boots", as Fletch was and is an ardent Chelsea fan.
- For a long time in their early years, the band would perform live with a reel-to-reel cassette deck clearly visible on the stage for this reason.
- Try this article for more on this subject.
- Although there was this little incident somewhere on the American leg of the Black Celebration Tour in 1986.
- This article is here.