Title: Duel control
Author: Mike Gardner
Source: Record Mirror
Publish date: May 11, 1985
After a long rest, Propaganda return with their quest to become the Devil’s own Abba
It’s all change for Propaganda — the German band from the same ZTT stable as Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise and Anne Pigalle. After the monochromatic menace of last year’s debut single ‘The Nine Lives Of Dr Mabuse’, they’ve returned with a dash of colour to upset all expectation with their new release ‘Duel’.
The group — Ralf Dorper, Suzanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Claudia Bruecken — are glad to stop people pigeonholing them as yet another German synthesiser/metalbashing band.
“A lot of people tried to put us into a corner after ‘Dr Mabuse’,” says Claudia Bruecken. “They saw that the single was inspired by the Fritz Lang film and assumed that we were very dark, very mysterious and very German. But we know it would happen. This time we set out to be very over the top in our video with lots of colour. We wanted to make that contrast.
Since the last single the group have dropped Andreas Thein and brought in Michael Mertens, a long time associate behind the scenes. But they haven’t deviated from their plan of becoming a new Eighties version of Abba.
The group hail from Düsseldorf and formed two and a half years ago when Ralf Dorper asked Claudia and Suzanne, them performing in a fun group called Topolinos, to join in his adventure.
“In Topolinos we dressed up very glamorous and performed a short set of four songs. We also did a lot of backing vocals for other groups,” says Claudia.
“Right from the start the idea was to go to England to get a recording contract.”
Even though the German record market is the third biggest in the northern hemisphere, after America and Japan, the industry is reluctant to invest in local bands, preferring to import their sounds from Britain and the USA.
“The business won’t take the risk in Germany,” says Claudia. “Kraftwerk only made it because they did it on their own. The German charts are split between American music and mainstream ‘Hitstars’ music.
“After the war American music became the style. As a child I was made to feel ashamed of German music. My parents were into American music or jazz. It’s developed from that culture problem to this position. It’s still very difficult for German music to be accepted. All you get it Nena which is a copy of American music.”
“But I think people are trying now and they should,” says Suzanne. “In France the Minister Of Culture is pumping money to stop France from being swamped by American culture.”
After Trevor Horn and Paul Morley heard their tapes, the group people have referred to as ‘Abba In Hell’ got the ZTT treatment. But that has been a mixed blessing to them.
“When Frankie Goes To Hollywood has success with ‘Relax’, people were very positive about ‘Dr Mabuse’ and it helped being on ZTT. But it’s a lot different now. They are putting us under a microscope and criticising is. But it was obvious that that would happen,” says Claudia.
“There’s a lot of jealousy involved with people outside ZTT and the company has built up a lot of enemies. But that’s the way business life goes,” she adds philosophically.
Claudia put her relationship with ZTT on a firmer footing last Valentine’s Day when she married ZTT office-boy Paul Morley.
“We knew we had a special relationship a long time ago,” says Claudia, “but it was his idea we marry on February 14. He’s very funny, very straightforward and enthusiastic. He’s not a bastard, as people have said.”