Like other musical greats such as Elton John or Bob Dylan, the members of British electro-pop band Depeche Mode are not ready to retire. And why should they be? The icons of the new wave scene still have a place in the hearts of fans around the world, decades after their rise to fame in the 1980s.
The band's remaining permanent members, guitarist and keyboardist Martin Gore and lead singer Dave Gahan, announced in Berlin on October 4 that they will release a new album "towards the end of March" and embark on a world tour.
The band had been recording their latest album in Santa Barbara and will soon return to New York to finish it.
Gahan said they had "a really good time together doing it" and had started writing a couple years ago, before the passing of founding keyboardist Andy Fletcher, aka "Fletch," who died at his home on May 26 after an aortic dissection, in which a tear occurs in the inner layer of the body's main artery.
Band member remembered
"I think that it's important to say that all the songs and album title were decided before Andy passed. The album title is 'Memento Mori,' which means 'remember that you must die,'" said Gore, who has long been the band's main songwriter. "And it sounds very morbid, but I think you can look at it very positively, as well — Like: Live each day to the max. I think that's how we like to interpret it, too."
Gahan said that, when he heard the title, he "liked it immediately," acknowledging that it took on another meaning with Fletcher gone. "As you perform them even over years, songs always take on different forms depending on what's going on in your personal life or what's going on in the world," he said.
The singer said they often missed Fletch while recording in the studio. "Many times we would joke and things would come up and of course we missed Fletch … those are the things you miss about someone, the things you kind of take for granted when they are there."
The band will go on a world tour in 2023, starting with a limited run of shows in North America, followed by stadium tours next summer. Prestigious venues on the schedule include New York City's Madison Square Garden and London's Twickenham Stadium, among others.
A boy band with a future
The group formed in Basildon, Essex, in England in 1980. The combination of the velvety voice of Dave Gahan with lyrics full of guilt and anguish penned by Martin Gore turned out to be a winning collaboration.
Yet, in their early years, the band was dismissed as synth-pop pinups: a boy band that was unlikely to last. Andy Fletcher told British paper The National years ago that Depeche Mode's original accountant only drew up a three-year financial plan, thinking the band wouldn't last any longer.
The 1981 album "Speak & Spell," which spawned the hits "New Life" and "Just Can't Get Enough" and featured plenty of danceable synth melodies, put Depeche Mode at the center of the British new wave scene.
Depeche Mode then went on to sell more than 100 million albums, winning over a global audience with hit singles such as "Personal Jesus," "People Are People" or "Enjoy The Silence."
The band's last studio album, "Spirit," came out in 2017.
In 2020, Depeche Mode was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The band has also inspired a number of covers by artists one might not expect, such as Johnny Cash and Marilyn Manson.
Big in Germany
Depeche Mode were also highly successful in West Germany when the band burst on the scene in the early 1980s. After all, fans had already gotten used to other synth-heavy German bands like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk.
In 1984, "People are People" was used as the theme song for Germany's TV coverage of the Summer Olympics, which helped make it a hit.
Apparently the band was so popular with German magazine Bravo and its TV affiliate that the publication would make up stories when an interview was refused, according to a BBC report.
Speaking to an NME journalist in West Germany in 1984, Andy Fletcher said: "The last time we refused an interview with them, they made up a story about Dave having to be carried off stage at the end of every performance, taken to a separate dressing room and kept supplied with constant fluids. The time before that they said we hated everyone under 20."
During the Berlin press conference on October 4, Gore and Gahan were asked how they view the role of music in light of the ongoing wars in Europe and a world in turmoil. "It sometimes feels a bit strange to be able to do this," Gahan said, "but to be able to walk on a stage and bring some joy to a lot of people is something that we are pretty proud of.”
As for the upcoming tour, the band members said they were mulling plans for a tribute to Fletcher. "For sure he'll be there in spirit — or, you know, judging us," Gahan laughed.
Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier