Exclusive Interview: Matt Fretton

Here is another Home exclusive Interview, this time with Matt Fretton. Matt toured with Depeche on their ’82 and ’83 UK tours and has a unique perspective on early DM.

Can you tell us what you were doing before you supported Depeche Mode?

I’d been in a four-piece punk band playing guitar, and had gradually fired all the other musicians until, at 15, I was a one-man-band. This was really only possible because synthesizers and drum machines suddenly became affordable around 1980 & of course the Portastudio was invented. After leaving school at 16 I played a lot of solo gigs around London & came to the attention of Eurythmics, who needed a support act for their first tour. Typically, Dave Stewart had a mad idea of having all their equipment, including the mixing desk, onstage, so they needed someone who didn’t take-up much room. I was just a kid with a set of backing tapes, so I was chosen.

Had you heard much Depeche Mode before you took the support slots? Did you feel your music would fit in with theirs?

I knew of DM’s music with Vince Clarke of course and had thought it terrible, but after he left and Martin became the songwriter, there seemed to be a new depth and sadness to their music. I have to admit though, that I’ve never owned a DM record.

How did the Depeche Mode support happen? Who approached who?

In 1980 I think, Blancmange were supporting DM on a tour, but couldn’t do a couple of London dates at the Hammersmith Odeon, so I was asked.

Depeche Mode don’t tend to work with the same people twice, and yet you supported the band on 2 UK tours (1982 and 1983) how was it that you got the gig again?

We all got on well and became friends and I think they liked to have familiar people around them. Daniel Miller was often on the tours, along with various wives and girlfriends. Also, my career was going well at that time: I’d signed to Chrysalis and released my first single ‘It’s So High’ which had reached No.50 in the UK charts, so I seemed a good choice for the following tours.

You supported many bands in the 80’s who was your favourite?

I really enjoyed the tours with the Eurythmics, Depeche Mode & The Boomtown Rats the best. Every now and again I remember some other band I opened for on one-off dates (Billy Idol or the Thompson Twins for example), but the tours were where you had the best experiences and made friends.

Not many Depeche Mode fans from 1982 and 1983 are still around, so your music hasn’t been heard by many of the current fans, can you describe your music to us?

Dreary 1980s synth-pop I’m afraid.

How many records have you released and where can they be heard?

I made three singles for Chrysalis: ‘It’s So High’ ‘Dance It Up’ and ‘It’s All Over’. I then made one further single ‘Palpitating Heart’ and a mini-LP for an independent label IDK. I’ve recently posted some of these on Myspace, not out of vanity (quite the opposite), but due to the fact that they’ve never been released on CD and almost certainly never will be.

In recent tours Depeche Mode fans have been brutal to support acts, how did the fans react to you?

In the UK they were great and really made me feel I was special, but the last tour I did with DM was a month long European tour, where my use of backing tapes was incomprehensible to the audience and I was booed and had things thrown at me every night. I hated it and thought seriously about quitting, but realized that would have been inexcusable, so I went to a studio in Germany (Hansa in fact) halfway through the tour, and edited the backing tapes down to a set of about 15 minutes. That helped, but the tour manager was really not pleased that it was such a short set.

Did Depeche Mode get a good reception all over the UK or were there some poorly attended shows?

On the tours I did with them they were getting more and more popular, so they were all well attended I think.

Do you have a list of all the shows you supported Depeche Mode at?

No sorry.

A lot of fans see a huge shift in the band musically between 82 and 83; did you see much of a change in them as people, and the sort of audiences they attracted?

There was a huge change away from the straight forward pop songs Vince Clark wrote, to the ones Martin was writing. I mean compare ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ to ‘Leave In Silence’. This continued through ‘Master & Servant’ & ‘People Are People’ and on to the darker material they recorded after I had stopped being involved.

If you had been asked to support Depeche Mode again, would you have done it a third time?

I think maybe the European tour in 1985(?) was the third time. Fletch eventually said to me ‘we can’t have you support us again, as it will seem we only have one support act’ and of course he was right, although I think he found it awkward to tell me.

Do you have any recordings of your support slots?

No, sorry, but since it was all to backing tapes, it would have been pretty much like the records.

Can you give us a rundown of an average day supporting Depeche Mode?

Pretty dull; I stayed in the same hotels for convenience (they kindly let me travel with them on their tour bus) so we’d all get up, get on the bus and travel for hours. I remember seeing ‘Spinal Tap’ for the first time on DM’s tour bus and we found it so ridiculously realistic. We’d arrive at the venue and DM would sound check, which didn’t usually take too long, they used extensive backing tapes on an 8 track tape recorded and to be honest, I don’t think Fletch’s playing or singing ever made it past the monitors, so it was just Martin, Alan & Dave, plus tapes. After sound checks, they’d go back to the hotel and I’d do my act, then they’d return and play.

Did you actually watch the Depeche Mode show many times?

Most nights.

Was there much of an after show party thing going on back then?

After the gigs we’d usually stay up drinking and talking at the hotel or head off to some local club.

What was the most memorable thing about supporting Depeche Mode?

The whole experience really, it was so exciting to see that level of pop music success from the inside and of course that was where I wanted to be as well.

What affect did the support slots have on your career?

I think a lot of the people who bought my first single were DM fans from the tours, as were many members of my fan club.

What was the worst thing about touring with Depeche Mode?

The European tour and having coins thrown at me in Italy, they hurt both physically and emotionally (someone in the road crew picked them all up and I used them to make calls to home).

Has it surprised you that Depeche Mode has gone on to be one of the biggest bands in the world?

I guess so, especially their influence on a younger generation of musicians. In many ways they’re not your typical rock and roll people, apart from Dave, whose wayward lifestyle seems a sad attempt at rock and roll credibility that has badly backfired. I guess it must have been hard on him being so little involved in the creative processs of song writing and recording.

What do you think of Depeche Modes recent albums?

I haven’t heard anything by them since ‘Personal Jesus’, although Daniel Miller gave me copies of Martin and Dave’s solo albums.

When did you last have contact with any of Depeche Mode?

Mid 1980s, which is a shame, as I was pretty close to Martin for a while and used to see him and Fletch regularly in Maida Vale. I guess it’s due to my lack of success in music, coupled with my being pretty arrogant at the time, which must have irritated everyone. I do miss them, especially Martin and Fletch.

Can you tell us about the film you made with Derek Jarman?

Derek made a Super 8 film lasting about 15 minutes, to accompany my mini-LP ‘Avatar’ in 1986 (the music was terrible). We met quite often, but it was through my ex-manager Rick Rogers that the connection was made. We spent the day in Normandy filming and on the way back Derek asked to be driven to Dungeness where he was thinking of buying a house with the money he’d inherited when his father died. It seemed a very strange place to have a house to me, although I subsequently visited him there a few times and it was very beautiful.

I understand you had a record label and a recording studio, is that still the case?

I formed an independent label IDK with my then manager, Rick Rogers, and we built a studio with Adam Williams, who had been working with Eurythmics, but that’s all long gone.

What are you up to these days?

I’m an agent and manager for classical musicians and have been running a classical music club night at Shoreditch Town Hall called ‘This Isn’t For You’.

For more information on Matt Fretton, please visit:

Interview by Pete. (C) Home. Do not steal this article without giving full credit and a link! Photos appear courtesy of Matt Fretton. Matt Fretton head shot by Sussie Ahlburg.


  • john pattinson


    nice article I remeber you from 82 in newcastle bought your single after show i think ive still got it we met after the show never mind best wishes

  • Minesy


    What's theis patronising crap about there being no fans from 82/83 left ??? I made 9 shows on the Tour Of The Universe and 7 on Touring the Angel, AND I was there to see matt support DM in 1983 .... and Blancmange in 1982 for that matter. I am not unusual, many of the people I travel around the UK and Europe with to see DM are as long term as I am. DM DID NOT START WITH VIOLATOR !!!

  • Glitterbomb


    Enjoy your blog immensely. Thanks for sharing your information.