Article image

Title: Propaganda, Dr Mabuse
Author: Peter Martin
Source: Smash Hits
Publish date: March 29 1984


Four Germans, a brilliant record called "Dr Mabuse" and a very strange video. Thereís a word for it allÖ

At last! A group thatís genuinely different. Propaganda are two boys and two girls from Dusseldorf, Germany. They donít play traditional instruments but, instead, "act as a team to think up ideas, sing and program the electronics".

All this should come as no surprise if youíve heard their first single, "Dr Mabuse", or seen the accompanying video. Itís a fantastically strange and powerful song thatís drenched in European mystery and grandeur. Trevor Hornís production gives it that epic feel, while photographer Anton Corbijnís video (in black and white!) thickens the spooky plot with masses of weird images: monks, abandoned churchyards, banks of fog and a ghostly hand that swoops around attacking unsuspecting bystanders.

Itís all in keeping with the image of their record company, ZTT, the people who brought you Frankie Goes To Hollywoodís "Relax". So what, you might ask, is it all in aid of? And who is Dr Mabuse? Suzanne, spokesperson for the group ó i.e. she speaks the best English ó explains.

"Heís an evil character from a classic 1920s/30s German film, but weíve put him in a modern setting. In those days the character was a warning against Fascist politics, but in this context he could be businessman, possibly. We think itís sad," she adds, "that European culture has been replaced with that of America. All people can remember about Germany is The War but, before that, there was a great movement with great art, designers and filmmakers. Propaganda is a move back to those sort of roots."

Previously the girls were in a group called Topolinos, the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. Then, 18 months ago they joined up with Ralf and Andreas to form Propaganda ó the name means "a small unit communicating their ideas to the masses". And then, "by chance", they signed to ZTT last year. A "fortunate" move for the group who set out to "create a new form of music that will hopefully reach a big audience".

Still, it hasnít forced them to give up their day jobs. Suzanneís a freelance goldsmith (as was Nena). Claudiaís hard at it doing the German equivalent of A-levels, Ralf works in a bank and Andreas is a DJ, although heís currently out of work.

"We all like to have work outside music," says Suzanne rather curiously, "because it can sometimes take you away from reality."

She said it, not me!