Andrew Fletcher has died. The founding member of Depeche Mode was reported on the band’s social media pages to have passed away, leaving fans and friends in shock. He had recently received medical care for an injury to his arm while on holiday, but there had been no indication that the 60 year old was in danger or suffering from illness.
“Fletch” had a unique role in electronic music. Originally charged with playing bass lines for Depeche Mode, his lack of musicianship meant that he started to mime to backing tapes early in their career. As the band’s fortunes rose, becoming only second to the Rolling Stones as a global touring act, Fletch kept his position at shows in front of a keyboard but played a more critical role off-stage. He was often described as the glue that held the band together, acting as a go-between for other members and an avatar for songwriter Martin Gore. He became involved in management issues, such as merchandising, but his main function was to give voice to Gore’s vision.
This role famously brought him into conflict with Alan Wilder, who had been brought into Depeche Mode following the departure of Vince Clarke. Wilder, a classically trained musician with deep studio skills and a sense of discipline, resented Fletch’s lack of musical contributions. As tensions widened between Gore and singer Dave Gahan, however, Fletch’s importance as a balancing act in the dysfunctional Depeche Mode environment came increasingly to the fore. It was said, with some fairness, that there could not have been a Depeche Mode without Fletch.
In 2002, Fletch launched the Toast Hawaii record label, and with it the recording career of Client. Featuring Sarah Blackwood as Client B, the band toured with Fletch as DJ. That he could only put on records, one after the other, and did not try to beat mix, was entirely in keeping with the Fletch brand. So was naming the label after a German canteen snack that he became known for while Depeche Mode had been recording.
Food played an important part in Fletch’s personality. On stage, he was famously captured eating a banana while other band members played their instruments. He also owned a restaurant in London’s St. John’s Wood called Gascogne that attracted Depeche Mode’s loyal fans keen to have pints pulled by one of their heroes. The restaurant was sold off, but he returned to the hospitality game when he bought into a local pub.
A Christian who started preaching with Vince Clarke in the Basildon Boys Brigade, Fletch was reportedly shocked by the lyrics to “Blasphemous Rumours,” an early Mode single. He is also reported to have preferred a pint of beer over the heroin, coke and speed consumed by his bandmates. Following the shocking news of his passing, many musicians took to social media to share their memories of Fletch as a supportive and caring friend. He was also known as someone willing to call out anyone who cut into a queue at a concert – a core element of British morality – even if his choice of words was…well, choice.
Fletch is survived by his wife, Grainne, and two children, Megan and Joe. His departure leaves a hole in the hearts of the black army of Mode fans around the world.