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niggels fletchdancer byMarcelDeNeidelsA black day in the life of any DEPECHE MODE fan… Yesterday evening I was sitting with friends and some beer and we had a good time… until one of my friends said “Oh, Fletch has died”. I thought she got something wrong, could not believe it and grabbed my phone… already full of messages, WhatsApps… and the timeline of my Facebook was full with the sad news. It felt so unreal and still feels today. The world is wrapped in cotton… DEPECHE MODE and Fletch were integral part of my life for nearly 40 years now. I still cannot find the right words. But our writer and long-time DEPECHE fan DJ Niggels did. The most heart-warming words I could imagine under those circumstances:

“This is me in 2009, or as I like to say “20 kilos ago”, sporting my self-made “Fletchdancer” shirt hours before DEPECHE MODE would hit the stage in Leipzig. I made this shirt as a tribute to Fletch, a bit tongue-in-cheek and certainly as a dig at all those “Dave dancers” you would often see at certain DM parties. I thought that Fletch, the man in the back behind his keyboard rig, deserved a bit more of the spotlight. This shirt was my way to say that. I can’t remember exactly when and where but one day I bumped into Fletch while wearing my Fletchdancer shirt. Maybe at a CLIENT gig, the band on his own label. He had a good laugh and I explained to him the idea behind the shirt, adding “There are enough Dave dancers in this world, and we tall, gangling blonde boys have to stick together, don’t we?”. He had a chuckle, apparently, he loved my shirt.

Fletch is surely the DEPECHE MODE band member I met most often. You would run often into him when NITZER EBB played London. Often in company of a certain Martin L. Gore before he moved to California, always open for some chitchat and a toast. The first time I met Fletch was in 1992 at the Town & Country Club backstage after the NITZER gig there, and a day later at the Hard Club at the Gossips in Soho. At the Devotional Tour 1993 I was lucky enough to get backstage a few times after shows, and Fletch was always the one who would take his time for fans. In 1997 I met him after the recording of the band’s performance at the RTL Samstag Nacht show. He wasn’t in a good mood that night and rather hesitant to sign autographs but the catering and (German actress) Esther Schweins were much more in the focus of my attention for some reason, anyway. There were a few more meetings, such as the meet & greet in 2001 during the Exciter tour, when he was on tour with CLIENT, the only band signed to his short-lived Toast Hawaii record label, and so on. So many memories! And some occasions I can hardly remember – that’s what you get when you drink with the stars!

Andrew Fletcher

I’ve always loved and admired Fletch. I always felt defensive when people, including some fans, mocked at him or made false claims such as “his keyboard isn’t even plugged in”. Okay, he wasn’t the greatest musician - and Fletch was always the first one to admit that - but he did play. Just check the early live vids, for example, to see him play bass lines for DM’s early songs. Not with one finger, with both hands, mind you!

Much more important than his musical input were his social and business roles within the band fabric. As many people have said, and say it again now, he was the glue which kept DEPECHE MODE together. Fletch was kinda the CEO of DEPECHE MODE, while Dave and Martin (and Alan, for that matter) were the creative departments. The other brought their musical talents to the show, Fletch brought the huge LED screen in front of which they performed. He took care of things and kept the huge DM machine running. He brought some sort of “fan perspective” to the studio work or when it comes to live setlists, for example. He was very proud of what DEPECHE MODE did in the first few years, Dave and Martin on the face of it not so much. Fletch was the mouthpiece of introvert Martin, and also the band’s mouthpiece in interviews and in business negotiations. In a band with not just one but two superstars with diametrically opposed egos you need a normal guy taking care of stuff. Fletch was the normal one.

And Fletch was still so much more! If you still need prove, then just look at how many people from the music business pay tribute to him now: SOFT CELL, OMD, THE CURE, DURAN DURAN, and so on - not bad for a “one-finger keyboarder”, eh?

Yesterday a part of my youth and part of my heart was ripped away from me and thrown into the fire. We lost a legend, and a super-nice guy. Since I was 13 years old, DEPECHE MODE have been an integral part of my life, and will always be. DEPECHE MODE, and with it Fletch, gave my life a different spin. That’s not just a phrase. I don’t think I would be the music enthusiast and freelance DJ I am now if it wasn’t for them. I don’t think I would run my own business in the event and music industry if it wasn’t for them. I would simply be a very different person, with different friends and, for that matter, with different relationships past and present. In fact, I never was with a woman who wasn’t also a fan, who I didn’t meet through music in one way or other, and this includes the wonderful woman I’m with today.

DEPECHE MODE have shaped me, and Fletch was a very, very integral part of this journey. Only nine years older than me, he is gone now. Too early! I am devastated. Rest in peace, my hero.”

Picture of DJ Niggels by Marcel de Neidels, live picture by Daniela Vorndran

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