Andy Fletcher, who played synthesizers for Depeche Mode, the electronic-heavy British band that developed a huge following and sold millions of records in the 1980s and ’90s, has died. He was 60.
The band announced his death on Twitter on Thursday. The announcement did not specify where he died or give a cause. An unidentified source close to the band told The Associated Press that he died at his home in the UK 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 the group after the group’s first album Speak & Spell was released in 1981, Alan Wilder taking his place and Mr. Gore succeeding Mr. Clarke as the group’s principal songwriter. The band began to veer away from pop and into darker, more serious music that would propel them to worldwide fame over the next two decades.
Critics were often unaware of the attraction of the synthesizer-dominated act.
“Composed of four young men, three synthesizers and a tape player playing recorded rhythm tracks, Depeche Mode makes dark carousel music to a danceable beat,” wrote Stephen Holden in an unenthusiastic review in The New York Times of a 1982 performance at the Ritz in NYC.
Fans persisted, however, and by the late 1990s the group had charted dozens of singles in the UK chart – ‘People Are People’ (1984) and ‘Personal Jesus’ (1989) were among the more successful, also charting in the UK United States – and it filled big arenas.
On stage, Mr. Fletcher was the least conspicuous member of the group. And he was self-deprecating about his role.
“Martin is the songwriter, Alan is the good musician, Dave is the singer, and I fool around,” he said in Depeche Mode: 101, a 1989 documentary.
But Michael Pagnotta, a SiriusXM volume host who was the band’s publicist for much of the 1990s, said that backstage, Mr. Fletcher was the glue that held the band together, eager to help them keep on top of things on business and financial matters and often serving as the first port of call when it brought a tour to a new city.
“Andy Fletcher was the heart of Depeche Mode,” Mr. Pagnotta said in a statement. “A true supporter of the band and their music. His keen musical and business instincts helped Depeche become one of the most popular and influential bands of their generation and helped lead them all the way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Not bad for a boy from Basildon.”
Induction into the Hall of Fame came in 2020 after the band was first nominated in 2017 – a nomination Mr. Fletcher never expected as an electronic band did not fit the guitar and drums model that traditionally characterized rock ‘n’ roll defined .
“To be honest, we were surprised,” he said of the original nomination in a 2017 interview with The Associated Press. “We never wanted to be there. We’re like, ‘An electronic band in the rock ‘n’ roll hall?’”
Andrew Fletcher was born on July 8, 1961 in Nottingham, England and, like the band’s other founders, grew up in a working-class family in Basildon. He and Mr Clarke met when both were 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 put it, “he was one of the few people in Basildon who had a synthesizer “.
Later that year, Mr. Gahan joined as featured vocalist, bringing a sense of style and a new name, Depeche Mode. Mute Records’ Daniel Miller signed the group and their popularity began to grow, not only in England but also in East and West Germany and other countries.
One of the band’s most successful albums, Violator, was released in 1989, and due to its popularity, Depeche Mode played at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan the next year.
“The band’s synthesizer-generated music consists of loud waves of sound driven by a dance beat,” wrote Peter Watrous in The Times. “Jet engines roar. Cliffs collapse, dams break. Now and then a guitar peeks out from behind the rubble. Everything is magnified, and the dance beat, occasionally influenced by house music and hip-hop, continues.
“At Radio City, the audience stood throughout the show and constantly had to be prevented 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.