DEPECHE Mode is big in Hong Kong and has been ever since it last played the territory in 1982. Then, it was all about floppy fringes and a happy little crowd at the Baptist College's AC Hall. Now a world-status stadium filler, the band is preparing toturn it on for 15,000 people at Hong Kong's shiny new venue on March 16. In the years since 1982, the band's records sold well in the territory but Depeche Mode and Hong Kong were kept worlds apart. Speaking from South Africa where the band was touring, songwriter Martin Gore acknowledged the time that had passed between visits. 'We have not been to this part of the world for quite a long time,' he said. 'It is not logistically possible to do one show here and there. We have to do a whole tour. The band is really looking forward to this tour because we have never played Singaporebefore, or South Africa - it's all new.' However long the gap between their first and second visits to Hong Kong, Depeche Mode album sales have been surprisingly healthy for a Western act, although Gore could not offer a reason for the band's popularity. 'I do not know why we sell so well in Hong Kong. We are generally popular all over the world and at all levels. If I could actually bottle what it is that makes us popular and sell it I would be quite an intelligent person!' Gore said the band was planning to play a cross-section of the music on its albums dating back to 1983, using a modified version of the stage set they played on during their tour of the United States and Europe. 'We used 11 screens before as a backdrop,' he said. 'Now we are using just one large screen.' Even in the Unplugged era of stripped-down stage craft, Depeche Mode is still a proponent of visual effects. 'I find it the most boring thing in the world to watch four people playing their instruments on stage; it is too basic. Anything that adds to it must improve the show. The seven concerts we have played so far have gone really well.' Even over a distance of thousands of kilometres it was possible to imagine Gore wince as he was reminded how much Depeche Mode had changed its image from the New Romantics of the early 1980s to the present long hair and leather look of the latest album, Songs Of Faith And Devotion. 'Yeah, don't remind about those appearances on Top Of The Pops [the now defunct BBC TV British music charts programme]. We have never consciously developed our image. If you look back at our old video footage and photographs it is just the same as lookingat someone's family album. There are times when you are embarrassed by what you are wearing and there are pictures where you think you look all right. It is just that our family album is open for the whole world to see. The change happened naturally. It isthe same with the music; it just happened naturally, too.'