Interview With Fletch
Fletch sat down a week ago, and talked with the webmaster (Daniel Barassi) about the new album, the new tour, and Martin’s fixation with eBay.
Question (Daniel Barassi): Ben Hillier is the producer of the new record. What’s it’s like having Ben back producing this new record, and what do you feel he and his crew bring to a Depeche Mode project?
Answer (Fletch): We were very pleased with Ben on the last album. Normally, Depeche Mode don’t use the same guy twice. Maybe that’s because the same guy doesn’t want to work with us twice (laugh). Ben’s been more tyrant-like on this album. We’ve recorded a lot more songs than usual, so there was a lot more work to be done. He was really on the case.
Q: In some of the studio video clips, one of Ben’s crew is playing a lot of guitar with Martin. Can you tell us more?
A: His name is Luke Smith. On the last album we had Dave McCracken. Luke is doing the same role on this album, basically acting as an extra musician. To be honest, the atmosphere is generally very very good. It was quite smooth. It was even good fun, and we’re very pleased with what we’ve produced. I think we’ve produced something that is very good.
Q: Was there any particular sound the band was aiming for, going into the studio?
A: There never normally is when we go into the studio. Obviously, we had Martin’s demos, but I think one of the driving forces, inspirationally, was Martin’s obsession with eBay and analog synthesizers.
Q: I wanted to ask about that, actually. Ben was doing that during ‘Playing The Angel’, right?
A: Yeah, well Martin’s got a new obsession I suppose, and he chose analog synthesizers and guitar pedals. Every couple of days, a package would arrive. We’d get the item out, and see what it sounded like. That was quite an inspiration. Generally, I think it’s more of an electronic album. There is guitar on it, of course, but much more electronic than ‘Playing The Angel’.
Q: Do you feel with all the new toys in the studio, that it helped or hurt the process of recording? Was there a fear of over-production, or was the new equipment helpful?
A: It was very inspirational, just getting something to arrive that you’ve heard is good, and then trying it out. You’ve got a particular sound you like, and we’d say “let’s try this thing.“ There was literally boxes showing up every day.
Q: Obviously some of this vintage equipment was very old. Did all of it actually work?
A: No, they were all in very good condition.
Q: Dave brought some songs to this new album, as he did on ‘Playing The Angel’. What’s it like having two songwriters in the band now, and do you feel this adds strength to the project?
A: Well, we did have two songwriters before in the band…
Q: Yes (Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder), but I mean now, in the current lineup.
A: The truth of the matter is I think generally Dave writing songs has really glued him a bit more to the group, and he’s so much more confident and fulfilled. It’s one of the main reasons the band is really gelling together. Dave’s songwriting is improving all the time. You know, it’s sometimes hard to actually distinguish between Dave’s songs and Martin’s songs. On top of that, Martin’s been probably the most prolific he’s even been as a songwriter for this project. He’s written more songs, all of a good quality, that he’s done for a long time, which is why I think there’s so much quality on this record, going from the beginning to the end.
Q: Do you think the translation for the new songs to a live performance will be difficult, or will it be a smooth process?
A: Certain songs are generally suited to the live situation, and some songs aren’t. Traditionally, when we are in the studio, we’re not really thinking of the live situation. When we finish the album, then we start to concentrate fully on the tour. We’re just in the process, at the moment, of picking which songs on the new album we are going to be playing, which old songs, and what versions are we going to be doing. Sometimes the remixes, for instance, give us quite a bit of inspiration.
Q: Any sort of fights over songs, or versions of songs, that the three of you want to perform on this tour?
A: I don’t think it’s a battle. I think the main problem is the vast amount of songs. Picking a set of songs, out of 200…if you imagine that you are going to play six or seven new tracks, so that’s probably fourteen songs from two hundred songs, that’s what makes me very very difficult. And I think the first leg of the tour being stadiums, I think we have to keep an eye on making sure that the set is right for that sort of venue as well.
Q: You have shot some more studio footage. Were you surprised by the positive fan reaction for the FletchCam(tm) footage from Playing The Angel, and how do you feel having the camera in the studio affects the recording process?
A: I don’t think the camera in the studio affects the process at all. Basically, what I’m trying to do is film anything that is of any sort of interest. You know, these guys like to be filmed (laughs).
Q: Did you have fun doing it?
A: I do. I don’t normally see myself as a very good cameraman. I think on ‘Playing The Angel’, I was shaking quite a bit, so I just tried to keep it a bit more steady this time.
Q: Do you enjoy being in front of the camera, or behind?
A: I don’t mind. When I am doing the studio footage, it’s sometimes weird because I’m doing nearly all the footage, I’m not really in (the film) that much. I don’t mind that too much, but I don’t mind being in front of the camera.
Q: The press conference held back in October was so big online that it initially crashed both the official DM site, and the video streaming web site. After all the years, the albums, and the tours, how fulfilling is it that the band still maintain such a high lever of hardcore fans, and what do you attribute that to?
A: To be honest, it surprises us. The live situation is even bigger than it was during the height of our chart fame. Some of these gigs we’re playing in Europe…I mean, when Violator was out, we were playing small areas, and we were all over the charts. It’s incredible. I think one of the reasons why so many tickets have been sold for this tour is because we put an effort to make every show a really good quality.
Q: It has to be odd to look at record sales being one number, and your live shows be such a higher number. Does that throw you at all?
A: Not really, because Depeche Mode have been going for nearly 30 years. People have been falling in love with Depeche Mode all the time over those years. People like different periods more than other periods. No, I understand that. We still sell quite a few records. It’s hard to say that, with not too many records being sold, overall.
Q: In the studio, a “No On Prop 8” sign can be seen taped to one of the studio windows (this is a reference to the California proposition against gay marriage). On the sign is written the tag line “Unfair & Wrong.” The first single is called ‘Wrong’. Coincidence?
A: There is no coincidence. ‘Wrong’ was actually written before that. An interesting thing was that in Santa Barbara, our studio was right next to the Obama headquarters. We actually nipped next door, and got some freebies, so we had badges and everything. It was quite cool.
Q: Are any of you actually registered to vote in the US?
A: We’re all British citizens.
Q: Was there any sort of thought to persuade fans, or is it just that the band had an opinion, and nothing more?
A: You have to remember that Dave lives in America, and is married to an American. Martin was married to an American. I’m really into politics. We were quite aware of Obama, and the whole election was happening while we were in America. We were very pro-Obama, and we felt the excitement.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to fans reading on the web site?
A: There’s a lot of information that is going to be coming out. I do understand the frustration of the fans on the web site, but as I’ve said before, it is an official site. One of the problems with an official web site is you only put things up when they are official.
Q: What do you see in the future for Depeche Mode, long term?
A: Well, to be honest, we always give the same answer. We’ve done the album, then we’re going to the tour. Other than that, we’re not really looking beyond that. All I can say that the feeling around the band at the moment is very very good, and bodes well for the future.
Source: depeche mode dot com