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PROPAGANDA (CLAUDIA BRUCKEN) INTERVIEW [2010]

IT'S THE TWENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF 'A SECRET WISH', WHICH IS PROBABLY MY FAVOURITE ABLUM EVER, BY ANYONE… WHEN YOU WERE MAKING THE RECORD DID IT FEEL LIKE YOU WERE DOING SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL?

I realised we were doing something special, I just felt that the opportunity that we had been given - to work with Trevor and Steven with all this talent around us - I knew that something very special would happen, that was pretty clear. And it was fun, we were just given all of these tools, it was a complete experimental playground, where all these people were just kind of thrown together to see what we came up with and that was a great experiment.

Because we were so young - and I'm talking only for myself here - we never really questioned the situation we found ourselves in, we just kind of dealt with it, but I think that I knew that something special was happening when we met Paul Morley… we were on the same wavelength, and all the quotes he used on the releases, and all the references he made, to Futurism and the Futurist Manifesto, we could relate to that.

Also working with Anton Corbijn on 'Dr. Mabuse', that was just crazy - I think we were pretty much his first music video - and all the imagery, I think we could relate to all of that. I mean I was at art school and my favourite art period was the surrealists, Marinetti and everyone so I could relate to that very easily.

DID ZTT HAVE THEIR OWN STUDIOS AT THAT POINT? COULD YOU JUST GO IN AND PLAY AROUND?

They did. Sarm Studios was already there, it used to belong to Chris Blackwell and as far as I can remember Trevor bought it off them and built the studios. But there was also accommodation there, so when we came over from Düsseldorf we could stay there in the flat upstairs, and there were also programming suites so we could do our own programming as well. It was brilliant - although it also came with an incredible price-tag, which I wasn't aware of at the time - but it was an experience that I would not want to have missed, you know? I learned so much, and also working with Trevor and Steve instilled such standards into me, they were great teachers…

DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT SORT OF SHAPE THE ALBUM WAS IN BEFORE YOU STARTED RECORDING IT?

It was pretty much a work in progress, but I think there would be different opinions about that, and different memories, from different band members. I was pretty much based here in London - as soon as I finished school I moved over and I stayed here - so I was pretty much always in the studio with Steve, working on the album and kind of representing the band. Suzanne was still in Düsseldorf at that time although she later moved here, Michael was working in the orchestra in Düsseldorf and Ralf was a banker.

I do remember Trevor being there pretty much all of the time overseeing the writing process. With 'Duel' for example it was pretty much the case that Michael and Ralf and I would start something and then Trevor would come in and make suggestions. 'Duel' started off as a very 'chordy' song and Trevor would use his expertise to make suggestions like 'what would happen if you take this chord out' or whatever. I learned so much about songwriting at that time because he understood songs so well. 'Duel' was pretty much written on the piano and fine-tuned over a long period of time until all the melodies, from beginning to end, were done. Then we went in to record it.

IT MUST HAVE BEEN A REALLY INTERESTING PROCESS, PARTICULARLY FOR YOU IF YOU WERE IN THE STUDIO FOR MOST OF THE RECORDING, TO SEE THESE SONGS MUTATING INTO THE RECORDED VERSIONS WE KNOW TODAY?

Yes, I loved that so much! Also I'm a good learner and I like watching how things happen. We were also quite open-minded about what we were doing; quite experimental… we dared to make mistakes, to try things out.

I GUESS WITH YOUR ART STUDENT BACKGROUND THAT WOULD BE A VERY NATURAL PROCESS FOR YOU?

That's right. It was also very playful and I thrive in that sort of situation, where people kind of throw ideas at you and the atmosphere is so easy and relaxed that you dare to try them… Steve Lipson was brilliant at that, and he's particularly great with female vocalists, he just gets the best out of you in a very relaxing way. Trevor would sometimes stress me out a little bit, he was intimidating at times, but that was partly because I was so young and green at the time!

AT THAT TIME FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD WAS TAKING OVER THE WORLD WHICH TOOK TREVOR AWAY FROM PROPAGANDA A BIT, WAS THAT A GOOD THING IN HINDSIGHT?

I think so. Don't get me wrong, I adore Trevor and I think he's brilliant, but even at that time he wasn't too far away and he was the executive producer so he was always around. Because it was Trevor's first experience with having a record company he kind of made it up as he went along. I don't think he really quite knew what it was to run a record company, and that was what was fantastic about ZTT really, what made it something very special and different from other record companies; there would be The Art of Noise in one studio, Propaganda in another studio, Frankie in another studio, Killing Joke over there… it was a place that was completely full of energy...

WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN VERY EXCITING IN LOTS OF WAYS, ALTHOUGH POSSIBLY QUITE FRUSTRATING IN OTHERS?

Well, I think the thing was that Paul had signed quite a few bands and they were hoping to get Trevor to produce them all, but Trevor takes quite a long time to produce - that's just how he works, he changes his mind quite a lot - so the situation was that there were commitments to be fulfilled and there were always bands hanging around waiting to be produced. For us, we had started the process at the point where he suddenly realised that he just wasn't going to be able to produce everyone. That was the point at which it was suggested that Steve work with us and I think that he did a fantastic job. I do think that it's Steven's best work, although I am biased! It was very strange for us because Steve was listening to Pink Floyd and had this very 'muss' background, and there we were from Dusseldorf, very different, which kind of threw him, but in a very good way you know?

I THINK I DO… THE ALBUM KIND OF REFLECTS THOSE THINGS, FROM THE HUGE ORCHESTRAL SOUNDING PARTS TO THE HARSH, ALMOST INDUSTRIAL, ELECTRONIC SOUNDS. IT WAS A REAL MELTING POT OF SOUNDS AND STYLES…

Yes! That's pretty much it and it was down to the way all these characters were, they all brought something in. A big part of the sound came from Stephen's team. I mean in Steve's team there were all these other characters, like Andy Richard who did a lot of great keyboard playing on the album. All the musicians just came in and kind of improvised in a very experimental way… it was infectious really. I knew we were doing something quite special, and I did think it was quite radical!

PROPAGANDA WERE ALSO PRETTY MUCH AHEAD OF THEIR TIME WHEN IT CAME TO REMIXES TOO WEREN'T YOU? NOT JUST WITH THE SINGLES BUT ALSO WITH THE 'WISHFUL THINKING' REMIX ALBUM AND SO ON… DID THAT ALL COME FROM THE BAND OR WAS IT MORE SOMETHING ZTT WANTED TO DO?

That was… well we liked the whole idea, but the 'Wishful Thinking' album was pretty much Paul Morley's idea, and the same with the remixing really. That was pretty much his thing, he just loved to take music out of its context and just experiment… and there were all these engineers around, like Bob Kraushaar, and all these facilities. At night the studios sometimes weren't used so Paul would just say let's go in and do something. We weren't really thinking about it, it was just a given that we would work like that.

SOME OF THAT WORK IS VERY ANARCHIC ISN'T IT? I MEAN SOME OF IT YOU COULDN'T REALLY DANCE TO, AND SOME OF IT YOU ALMOST COULDN'T LISTEN TO - AND I MEAN THAT IN A POSITIVE WAY!

That's true. That was just the spirit of that time… at that point I would say that we didn't really consider what the public might think, we had the arrogance that comes with being young and we were doing this basically to please ourselves. But there were certain people within the record company who were very much concerned… worrying about how much it was all costing, or whether it would be played on the radio or shown on TV, but as the artists we just didn't care… and again I'm only really talking about myself here, you could ask all four of us the same question and I'm sure we would all come up with a different answer!

HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU IN THE REISSUE OF 'A SECRET WISH'?

Not very much really, it was all compiled by Ian Peel who went into the archives and kind of plundered what was there. It's great because it means those things get to see the light… I think that's everything now, I don't think there's anything else there now, it's pretty much everything we came up with at the time.

I was a bit apprehensive about the package, but I love it! I think they did a beautiful job. It's all very sensitively done. I especially love the second CD because there's a mix on it that I always adored and which I thought had been lost, I couldn't find it anywhere, that's '(Echo Of) Frozen Faces' and I love it. It's really so summery and I don't even think it has aged that much. I think the whole second CD is beautiful, there are things on there that are pretty obviously just pieces of work in progress, like little scenes from 'p:Machinery' and so on, but I think it's just lovely.

IF THE LINE-UP OF PROPAGANDA HADN'T CHANGED BETWEEN 'A SECRET WISH' AND THE SECOND ALBUM, '1234', HOW DIFFERENT DO YOU THINK THE SECOND ALBUM WOULD HAVE BEEN?

Well… I think it would have been a continuation of the spirit of the first record. My conflict was that I just loved the people at ZTT, it was a very special place and not like the big corporate record labels where you would just be one band among hundreds. It was a very special situation and I think that if we could have stayed at ZTT, the whole band, then I think we could have made a very special album. I would have liked to have done it within the same set-up because it worked so well for 'A Secret Wish' and if something works that well then I think you have to try to stick with it. Unfortunately that just wasn't meant to be…

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF '1234'? AM I ALLOWED TO ASK?

Yes you are… I felt that it had kind of lost the band's spirit and its originality. I mean I think Betsy is a great singer, she has a really great voice, but it wasn't really suitable… for me it sounded too American. From a production point of view, well there was a free spirit that was captured wonderfully on the first album and that just wasn't there for me. It's quite a difficult thing to answer! I think there were some good tunes on the record but, for me, they maybe weren't executed right? It was a bit frustrating because we had got so far and at the height of it all we split up…

BUT THE STORY MIGHT NOT BE OVER YET… ON THE SLEEVENOTES IN THE NEW EDITION OF 'A SECRET WISH' IT MENTIONS THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER AGAIN?

We are trying. We keep on trying… we love each other really! I have great respect for the others, and for what they do now, but I think at the time we didn't really have enough respect for each other because we were young and inexperienced and selfish. I think there's an art to being in a band and I have learned that now. You have to give everyone their space, but back then we just didn't have that kind of solidarity. Deep down I would love to make another proper album with them, and I would love to work with Stephen Lipson again… it would be interesting to see what he would do now.

Maybe it's just not to be… I don't know. I'm really trying to motivate everyone to go out and tour 'A Secret Wish' again. I would LOVE to do that, but so far I just can't get Michael motivated to do it which is a real shame because when I'm touring with OneTwo we get such a great response to the Propaganda material we play and I wish the others could experience that. I keep on trying but maybe what I should do is just stop trying and then it will happen! Suzanne is very willing to do it, we just need to convince the boys again.

YOU TOUCHED ON ONETWO THERE FOR A MOMENT; CAN I ASK WHAT THE STATUS IS WITH THAT PROJECT AT THE MOMENT?

Well we're just about to start really working on it again. Paul was side-tracked with the new OMD project and I really wanted him to do that - those two have a great marriage and they are a great live band, it's amazing what they can do with just the four of them - I have so much respect for them and when the chance came for them to make another album I told Paul to just go and do it. He was a bit worried about what would happen to OneTwo but I told him not to worry and that I would just prepare lots of material. So I have prepared lots of songs and he has finished the OMD record so we're ready to go back to OneTwo…

IS THERE A TIMESCALE ON ONETWO? WHEN WILL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO HEAR NEW STUFF FROM YOU?

Well hopefully it won't take us too long, because Paul and I are quite organic; we're still very precise but basically you have an idea, you make something and you put it down on record rather than just thinking 'Is that right?' all the time. So it shouldn't take that long because we already have quite a list of songs that just need to be executed properly now. We're looking forward to it. We're also doing a Festival in Germany in a month and it's always fun to play live with Paul rather than just sitting in the studio and so on…

AND YOU HAVE AN ALBUM OF MATERIAL FROM ALL STAGES OF YOUR CAREER COMING OUT SOON TOO DON'T YOU? WILL ANY OF THE OLD OR NEW ONETWO MATERIAL BE PART OF THAT?

Yes it will. It's kind of an album of my collaborations with people, selected songs from ZTT to today and it will have a OneTwo section. I think the first seven tracks cover my work with ZTT with Propaganda and ACT, and then there's some of my work with Island and then the rest of the songs are what I've done since then up to now.

One of my favourite OneTwo songs is 'Sequential' from the first album and when we went out live we added a lot of things to the song, electronic parts and guitar parts, so we've made a new recording of it. The new version we've done should actually have been on the album but we didn't know it at the time. So that will be on the album, a completely new version of 'Sequential', which I think brings out the song a lot more. Then there's a song called 'Cloud 9' - a collaboration with Martin Gore - which is also going to be on the album and that's the OneTwo slot I think.

There's also going to be a couple of songs with Stephen Hague… in the 80s Paul Morley always kind of wanted to get Stephen Hague to work with Propaganda but our paths never quite crossed. Then a few years ago we met at a party and I told him that I had always wanted to work with him. He suggested we try writing so we did, we wrote a couple of songs and it was a great experience to work with him… I really wanted to make an album with Stephen but he's such a busy man that it could have taken years, so I've been trying to find a home for these songs and when this project came about those two songs went on to it. It means that the album is not just retro but that it also includes some things that I am doing now. I actually listened to the album for the first time yesterday and it was nice to hear it all together. I'm proud of it. I just thought yes, from Propaganda to today, this is a good body of work. I'm very lucky...

JULY 2010

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