Aussie fans may have felt gypped in 2009 when synth-angst masters Depeche Mode announced their Tour of the Universe sans an Australian visit. But the time for crying is over, people.

Founding member, Andy Fletcher is back and he’s bringing the love — and his decks — with him.

Sounding suprisingly chipper for a man who’s recovering from sleepless nights in the Ukraine where he reacquainted himself with Depeche Mode audiences at some energetic and “very tiring” warm-up gigs, Fletcher spoke to the Star Observer from London just days before his first Australian DJ shows in Sydney and Melbourne.

“So far, the audiences have been great. Fan reaction has been great,” Fletcher said.

“The good thing about Depeche Mode fans is they’re not standard rock fans — they’re open to all kinds of music — so I’m hoping I’ll get that when I play in Australia.”

Thirty years worth of singles and an ever-growing cache of dance remixes — including a soon-to-be-released remix album — surely makes for hell in whittling down the perfect DJ set to pay homage to the world’s most successful electronic band, but that hasn’t kept the synth maestro from the studio where he’s spent the last couple of months working on secret new DM remixes.

“No, I can’t tell you what, you’re just going to have to wait,” he laughed.

What this former restaurant owner and founder of record label Hawaii Toast (named after his favourite dish at a German canteen) can tell us is that his two-hour DJ set “is loosely based on my heritage with Depeche Mode — electro, both old and new, from the Human League to Alex Metric”.

New mixes from respected producers Eric Prydz and Vince Clarke will also feature alongside old-school classics like Personal Jesus by Francois K.

“I don’t pigeonhole myself. I play pretty much what I think is the best dance music of the last year,” he said.

“I’m really looking forward to revisiting Australia. It’s been a long time since I was last there.”

Indeed it has — 1994 was the year and the tour, titled Devotion, is an apt description of how audiences reacted to seeing these kings of electro-pop on stage.

This time around, Fletcher admits that while it seems a natural progression for a musician wielding his 30-year pedigree in progressive electronic music to take up DJing, there are a few key performance differences.

“When you’ve got the band, you’ve got a bit of room because you’ve got your mates around you, you know? With DJing, if you make a mistake everybody knows whose fault it is,” he said.

“I’m better than most celebrity DJs but I don’t put myself up there with the superstar DJs like Paul Van Dyke. Martin Gore [DM songwriter], he DJs as well, but his is a very different style from mine — minimal techno. It’s a great sideline.”

Fletcher agreed that rare, up close and personal gigs like that at Sydney’s City Hotel are highly regarded by hardcore music fans. He chuckled when asked how he feels about performing what is touted as ‘one of the most intimate gigs of his career’.

Sure, he’s played to stadium crowds in their tens of thousands and influenced artists from The Pet Shop Boys and DJ Shadow to Marilyn Manson, but like any musician who cracks it the hard way, he’s no stranger to half-packed pubs.

“To be fair, we’ve been going for about 30 years and certainly for the first third of our career we played clubs and pubs — we came up the traditional way of breaking a band.

“These days an artist can become a superstar overnight. So, we’ve played gigs where there’ve only been 50 people in a room. “

Three decades on, there’s little chance Fletcher will be playing to a mid-strength audience as fans and musicians alike continue to discover the
peerless quality of Depeche Mode’s 12 studio albums. Their last effort, Sounds of the Universe, catapulted to Number 1 in 21 countries.

But Fletcher remains quietly philosophical about his success.

“Initially we always managed ourselves. We were on a very small label so we were able to do what we wanted, not what we were forced to do. We’ve been very lucky.

“When we first started we thought we’d only last a couple of years — to be still going strong after 30 years, it’s a dream come true.”

info: Andy Fletcher will play a special DJ set at the City Hotel, 349 Kent St, Sydney, on Wednesday, February 16 from 7pm. Visit www.cityhotel.com.au or www.depechemode.com He will play Melbourne’s Room 680, Level 1, 680 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn on Thursday, February 17. Visit www.room680.com He will play a set at Playground Weekender, Wiseman’s Ferry, NSW on Friday, February 18. Visit www.playgroundweekender.com.au

Five things you didn’t know about Andy Fletcher
1. When I’m away from home I miss… “My family. We’ve all got children”
2. If I wasn’t a musician… “I think I’m stuck in this”
3. Vinyl vs iPod… “Obviously vinyl, if you’re going for quality”
4. Favourite album… “Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I get a bit sentmental”
5. Best new music… “So much good stuff it’s hard to pin down”

— by Lynsey Hughes

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