An Interview with Cristian Flueraru of Depeche Mode's SPIRITS in the Forest (Part 4 of 5)

Kevin Keating
Depeche Mode's David Gahan @ SAP Center - Oct. 17th, 2017 (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan @ SAP Center - Oct. 17th, 2017 (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Depeche Mode's last appearance here in the Bay Area was back on the 2017/2018 Global Spirit Tour during which they played both the Oakland Arena and SAP Center in San Jose in October 2017. During that tour, Depeche Mode set out to create a new type of concert film to document not the live concert experience, but instead, a selection of fans and their relationship to the music of Depeche Mode. Through the deeply emotional stories of six special Depeche Mode fans, the film shows not only how and why the band’s popularity and relevance has continued to grow over the course of their career, but provides a unique look into music’s incredible power to build communities, enable people to overcome adversity, and create connections across the boundaries of language, location, gender, age, and circumstance. Artfully shot and expertly directed by Anton Corbijn, Depeche Mode: SPIRITS in the Forest weaves together exhilarating musical performances, filmed at the final shows of the Global Spirit Tour in Berlin’s famed Waldbühne (“Forest Stage”), with intimate documentary footage filmed in the fans’ hometowns across the globe.

To celebrate the release of Depeche Mode: SPIRITS in the Forest and the band's recent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, SF Bay Area Concerts teamed with Columbia Records to offer four of the Bay Area's top Depeche Mode fans the chance to interview 5 of the SPIRITS featured in the film in this 5-part series. We'll post a new part of the series every two weeks leading up to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, May 2nd periodically leading up to the Blu-Ray release on June 26th! (Ed. note: We had every intention to release these every two weeks until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The R&R HoF induction has been postponed to later this year.)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (below) | Part 5

Our lucky Bay Area Depeche Mode fans included:

Anne C. (Petaluma)
Jason E. (Fremont)
Nolan E. (Sacramento)
Vince F. (Cupertino)

Our fourth part features Cristian Flueraru from Bucharest, Romania.

Jason E: Your story touched on aspects of being a dM fan that I always knew was a reality for so many in other parts of the world but easily took for granted in my own journey and relationship with the music. While the language barrier was a challenge in fully appreciating the songs, it did not stop you from enjoying the musicality of their creations. When you were learning English and got to the point of understanding the song lyrics, that had to be some great reward on a scale of epic proportions! Before you knew the lyrics and only had the melodies to absorb, did you formulate your own thoughts on what the songs were about? Were any of your thoughts similar (or very far) from the actual meaning? The other fascinating aspect of your story is the challenges of getting dM music at that time in Romania. The regulations and restrictions you faced must have made seeking out dM music a very "on-edge" situation at times. I suppose if you would have been caught in possession of unsanctioned materials, it would have been considered contraband and confiscated. Perhaps there would have been some other punishments or repercussions to you as well? Do you have any intense stories/memories from those times as you went on a quest to obtain more dM music? Did that risk/threat that was always looming in the background result in you having a very different connection to the songs/albums you heard at that time? How liberating was it when you could have all the dM music you ever wanted in your arms? Did that also change how songs connected to you?

Cristian Flueraru: Back in the '90s, it was all about the music. Depeche sounded fresh and new. They were a gateway towards freedom in a dull and grey country at that moment. I had a very Basic English background as my parents insisted on giving me private English lessons, but, like any child, I preferred to play football rather than studying a foreign language. “Personal Jesus”, for instance, was very intriguing since the key words were somehow familiar. I remember that I had endless discussions with my friends on what the message of that song could have been. I don't remember what ideas we were debating about, but I am sure we were quite far off. A funny example (not mine!) comes from a radio show from that period, when somebody called and asked for "Richard Touch Me". I will let you guess what the song was.

My personal stories from the communist period are not that deep. I was only a child, and my parents tried their best to give me a good life. I was able to sense certain things such as their quiet gatherings around the radio, the TV broadcasts available only for couple of hours, or the lack of food, information, and freedom of speech. Since I never knew that life could be different, I thought this was all normal. Later, I learned that one could have faced severe problems for having long hair, listening to Western music, or even wearing jeans. After 1989, information and music started to become available so I could properly cultivated my love for my heroes. The nice part about that period was the abundance of information from the German teenager magazines like Bravo and Popcorn. Of course, this raised another linguistic challenge: the German language. But, our German teacher was a good sport and would always assign us thematic homework where the boys would translate Metallica or Depeche articles, and the girls translated NKOTB or Vanilla Ice. Regarding music itself, bootleg tapes were very sought after. But again, it all depended on who had what. One day, for instance, I could get a copy of “Violator”, then the next week “Speak and Spell”. Finally, to properly answer your question, even after 1989, I couldn't have all the music in my arms. Finding Depeche continued to be a permanent discovery. Since any long journey opens additional wider horizons, I also began to understand the lyrics, to see the videos on tv, and to learn how unique a live Depeche show was. Fast forward to 2020; I don't think the journey is over. It is now more delicate and intimate.

Nolan E: I’m a bit “top 5 list” guy. What are your top 5 Depeche Mode songs and why?

Cristian Flueraru: This is always the hardest question for anybody who likes Depeche. Top 5 is a bit restrictive, perhaps a top 10 could have been more comprehensive. So, without listing an endless disclaimer (e.g. it depends on the mood, the feelings that days), my top 5 looks like this (random order): “And Then”, “The Bottom Line” (especially the "country" version from Philadelphia 2001), “The Sun and The Rainfall”, “Sweetest Perfection” and “Here is the House”. I will also add two "honorable mentions" for “Policy of Truth” and “But Not Tonight”.

Explaining why these songs and not the others is hard. All of them recall so many feelings, memories, images, or even smells. “But Not Tonight” however, can be explained easily. This song always brings me joy and makes me smile. During the Delta Machine Tour, I was blessed by the universe with a live version on a rainy Berlin day. It was pouring rain that day, and Martin decided to make a last minute change to insert the song on the set list. I nearly cried for joy; it was an unforgettable moment.

Nolan E: How did Depeche Mode “find” each of you for the film? Being in a tribute band that has viral videos, I understand, but where there other media events for the rest of you that caused similar popularity? What was your reaction when getting asked to be in the film? And how has it affected you since wrapping up the project?

Cristian Flueraru: I don't really know how I became a part of “Spirits in the Forest”. The Facebook Takeover was of course the beginning, but who, why and all these little details are still a mystery to me. Maybe some things in life are meant to be this way. I was more than happy that I was given the opportunity to share my DM stories with the world, and that moment felt like the very top.

A few months after, I received an innocent brief email about a filming opportunity. My initial thought was that we would do a short clip for the DVD or a FB Takeover follow-up. Of course, I said yes, and then there was silence for months. The time until the second email on this topic passed painfully slow because waiting patiently was never a virtue a mine. New emails started to come starting in March (or maybe April). There were new people and new questions, so I began to realize that maybe this is more serious than I thought. By the time the filming crew touched down in Bucharest, my mind was a real carousel until the lights in Berlin Waldbuhne went off.

My life post “Spirits in the Forest” didn't change much. The first screening in my hometown (Bucharest, Romania) was very emotional: my parents, my brother, all my childhood friends were there. We occupied 25% of the cinema. I was quite nervous as I couldn't anticipate how people would react towards the film. Would our stories be liked? Would it match the expectations? The feedback we got afterwards was another big surprise. We received lots of wonderful comments from friends and from people I was meeting for the first time. So, I will summarize this by saying, "life is full of surprises" again and again.

Vince F: What is your favorite dM album, song and video and why?

Cristian Flueraru: Naming a favorite song and/or album will have a different answer depending on the time I am asked the question. My answers for this January day would be “Black Celebration” (album) and “Sweetest Perfection”. I love “Black Celebration” as a whole. I love how the groovy tunes of “Fly on the Windscreen” follow right after the dark sounds of “Black Celebration”. I love how “A Question of Lust” is flanked by “It Doesn't Matter Two” and “Stripped”. Once we reach the B side, it all comes close to perfection with “Here is the House”, “World Full of Nothing” and “Dressed in Black”. My song choice is also somehow related; years ago I found a short video from Frankfurt 1990 where Martin sings “Here is the House” and “Sweetest Perfection” in a sequence. It is just him, the guitar, and the wind blowing in his hair. It is sublime. I have watched the video a zillion times but I still cannot get enough of it. Selecting my favorite video is a bit simpler for me. It is certainly “Enjoy the Silence”. I watched it over and over, with and without sound, read everything that was to read about it, studied all the scenes, and it still makes me jump for joy whenever I see it.

Vince F: Who is your favorite member of dM (from current and previous lineups) and why?

Cristian Flueraru: I don't have a favorite Depeche Mode member. I grew up with them and their music and I see them all as my heroes. Each of them has a different personality, a different role within the band, but I love them all, and I love the music they are making. I hope they are aware of how much they are loved and the love that they brought to our lives.

Vince F: 2020 is the 40th anniversary of dM, what might be your top three wishes for them in light of this major milestone and why?

Cristian Flueraru: 2020 is indeed a big Depeche Mode year and wish that they are well, they keep their spirit alive, and to continue to explore as both musicians and human beings. A more selfish wish would be for them to celebrate this anniversary with a Rose Bowl concert.

Vince F: Do you have a most beloved dM piece of merchandise? If so, what is it and why?

Cristian Flueraru: I am a big fan of DM merchandise, especially the older ones (1986-1993). My absolute favorite is an “I Feel You” white top, with the purple logo, of course. I love its minimalism and, on top of that, it is a genuine proof that one can wear white at a Depeche Mode event.

SFBAC: Thanks for your time Cristian! And thank you for reading! Learn more about Cristian and his love of Depeche Mode in SPIRITS in the Forest -- now available on streaming services! And be sure to follow us across our social feeds for more pictures, concert announcements and news here: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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