Where are they now? #2 Propaganda
Although formed in Düsseldorf, Propaganda moved to the UK after achieving the biggest of their five chart entries: Duel, Number 21 in May 1985. But they soon discovered that critical acclaim isn’t enough when there’s rent to pay. John McKay of Middlesbrough, your search for enlightenment is over.
Michael Mertens (percussion): When we moved to England, Claudia [Brucken, vocals] was already there, because she was personally involved with Paul Morley, a journalist who was also a director of ZTT, the label that had signed us.
We started to realise that the conditions of our ZTT contract meant that we would never make any money no matter how many records we sold, and we sold millions. We took them to court in 1986, but ended up making an out of court settlement which got us out of the contract, although it didn’t earn us any money.
Claudia was often told that her voice was the reason for Propaganda’s success and she became louder and louder in the band, and her nature was to be something of a plotter. I thought that Paul was trying to establish her as a pop diva, and used her to try to control the band.
It came to a head when Claudia basically told the rest of us that if we didn’t work the way she wanted us to, she would leave—
Then I re-formed Propaganda with Derek Forces and Brian McGee [both ex-Simple Minds], plus an American singer called Betsi Miller, but it fell apart when Susanne left.
I started my own studio, Music Works, in Düsseldorf, and that’s been very successful. About 75 per cent of our work is for TV commercials.
About six years ago, Claudia and I tried to write some material for a new Propaganda album, and musically it was productive but she and I didn’t get along on a business level.
I’ve been speaking with Ralf recently, and he’s interested in working on the music I wrote with Claudia, so there’s still a possibility that a new Propaganda album could be released next year.
Claudia Brucken (vocals): The others saw my relationship with Paul Morley as a threat, but I never saw it that way. He wasn’t a business person—
When I left, I stayed with ZTT so I could continue working with Paul and the ZTT creative team. My new group ACT, had a much better deal, but we still didn’t make any money because we spent so much making the album.
I met Paul Humphries [ex-OMD] when I was doing my second solo album in 1996. We started just as co-writers, but we now live together in London.
Ralf Dörper (keyboards): “Although Ralf was one of the founders of Propaganda,” says Mertens, “and he wrote the lyrics, he continued to work in a bank all through the band’s lifespan. After Propaganda, he re-joined his previous band, Die Krupps, in 1989 and he continues to work as a banker in Düsseldorf.”
Suzanne Freytag (vocals): After Claudia left, we did a second album but I didn’t like it. So I returned to Germany, where I resumed my original profession as a goldsmith, in Cologne.
In 1991 I moved back to England, and I now live with my partner Andrew Catlin, who is a photographer, and our two sons in a big old house in Hastings, where I work as a diamond dealer.
As told to Johnny Black