Propaganda (band)

Propaganda (band)

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Propaganda

Background = group_or_band
Origin = Düsseldorf, Germany
Genre = Synthpop
Electronic music
New Wave
Years_active = 1982–1990
Label = ZTT
Amontillado Music
Associated_acts = Die Krupps
Simple Minds
Current_members = Susanne Freytag
Michael Mertens
Past_members = Claudia Brücken
Ralf Dörper
Derek Forbes
Brian McGee
Betsi Miller
Andreas Thein

Propaganda are a German synthpop group, formed in 1984.

Early history

Propaganda was formed in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1982 by Ralf Dörper (a member of the German industrial band Die Krupps), part-time DJ Andreas Thein and singer Susanne Freytag. As a trio, they made demo recordings for future release. With the inclusion of classically trained musician and composer Michael Mertens and 19-year old vocalist Claudia Brücken, journalist Paul Morley signed the band to Trevor Horn's newly-formed ZTT Records label.

The group relocated to the United Kingdom and released the single "Dr. Mabuse", named after the fictional character made famous by film maker Fritz Lang. A dark slab of rhythmic synthpop, the release reached number 27 in the UK Top 40 in April 1984, and number 7 in Germany. The group appeared on various TV shows in the UK, including Channel 4's "The Tube". Here, as well as performing "Dr. Mabuse", they also gave one of their few performances of a cover version of Throbbing Gristle's song "Disziplin". The band had included the song in their original demo and it was intended to be their debut single, but Throbbing Gristle blocked this. As Paul Morley marketed the band as a twisted, hellish version of ABBA, Michael Mertens remained in the background as an invisible fifth member - although this was not to last long.

Before the year was out Thein had left the band, and with Mertens now filling the gap left by his departure, the band forged ahead with recording their follow-up single and debut album. However both of these were to be delayed as a result of the unexpectedly huge success of ZTT's most famous signing, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. As the label was still in its infancy, ZTT were forced to spend all their limited resources on promoting and marketing the Liverpudlian five-piece. This also meant that Trevor Horn was unable to produce Propaganda's album. Stephen Lipson, one of Horn's established studio engineers, took his place. As a result Propaganda's second single, the more pop-oriented "Duel", didn't surface until April 1985. Perhaps the band's most recognisable release, it was also their most successful single in the UK, reaching number 21. It led to the band making their one and only appearance on the flagship BBC music programme, "Top of the Pops", in June of that year. It was also used as the theme music for the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2005.

With Frankie Goes to Hollywood tax exiles in Eire, the band effectively headlined "The Value of Entertainment", a series of showcase gigs of ZTT signings, held at the Ambassadors Theatre in London in May 1985. The shows also featured Art of Noise (Paul Morley addressing the audience after three dancers had performed to AON tracks), Anne Pigalle, Andrew Poppy and Instinct. Propaganda, minus Ralf Dörper (who, as the band's lyricist and conceptualist, did not play any instruments as such) were joined on stage by former Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes and ex-Japan drummer Steve Jansen. [cite web |url= |title="ZTT: The Value Of Entertainment (Time Capsule Version)" laserdisc |accessdate=2008-04-08]

Debut album

The first week of July finally saw the release of "A Secret Wish", the band's debut album. Receiving considerable critical acclaim and some commercial success, it rose to no. 16 in the album charts. The album was followed by another single, "p:Machinery", in August 1985, which only reached number 50 in the UK, but was a big hit in France, The Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. The 12-inch version of this release caused controversy (even within the group) as Paul Morley thought it was a good idea to have the sleeve feature a quote by writer J. G. Ballard praising the activities of the German terrorist group Red Army Faction. Ariola, who distributed ZTT's releases in Germany, refused to carry the 12" as a result, so the quote was changed on the German release to another by Ballard on the aesthetic perfection of German suburbs.

The group (again, minus Ralf Dörper) spent the rest of the year on their "Outside World" tour, taking in Europe and America. They were joined once again by Derek Forbes on bass, his fellow ex-Simple Minds cohort Brian McGee on drums, and Kevin Armstrong on guitar, with backing tapes used for most of the keyboard parts. In the meantime a remix album, "Wishful Thinking", was compiled by Paul Morley and Bob Kraushaar, and released in November 1985. Originally intended for the American club market, the album was also released in Europe, but against the wishes of the group themselves. Its UK album chart placing was telling, reaching only no. 82. A remixed version of "p:Machinery" was also re-released as a single, only four months after its original release. In the UK, it too failed to make an impact, charting at an even lowlier 87, but it was a big success in France, and Germany.


After making a second appearance on "The Tube" in January 1986 things went quiet for Propaganda. In late 1985 their management introduced them to the London based music lawyer Brian Carr of Compton Carr, who studied both contracts Propaganda have been given to ZTT Records and Perfect Songs, contracts which had been signed by the band members without legal advice. The lawyer explained to the group that under these contracts, the members of the group could go on making records for the rest of their lives and never make any money from them.Fact|date=September 2008

This was the point where everything ended between Propaganda and ZTT Records/Perfect Songs Ltd. Claudia Brücken left Propaganda to pursue a solo career. She stayed with ZTT, having married the label's publicist Paul Morley. She joined Thomas Leer to form Act, who in 1988 released their only album "Laughter, Tears and Rage". In 1991 she released a solo album ("") for Island Records. Nowadays she's working with Paul Humphreys as Onetwo.

New line-up

In 1990, the band signed to Virgin Records and Mertens returned with a new Propaganda line-up which included vocalist Betsi Miller, and two former Simple Minds members, bassist Derek Forbes and drummer Brian McGee. The result was a new album called "1234", produced by Ian Stanley and Betsi's husband Chris Hughes (of Tears for Fears and Adam and the Ants fame), on which Freytag and Dörper made guest appearances. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) played guitar on some songs of this album. Despite a radio-friendly first single "Heaven Give Me Words", co-written by 1980s "synthpop king" Howard Jones, and an album of intelligent material, the new Propaganda were not a huge success, perhaps in part due to MTV dropping the video for "Heaven Give Me Words" after only very few plays. Times were changing; melodic synthpop quickly became out of fashion as house became all the rage.

Reunion and second split

In 1998, Mertens, Brücken and Freytag reunited, signed an options deal with East West Records, and began working on new material. Several tracks were completed, including one produced by Tim Simenon and featuring Martin Gore on guitar. A video for one song, "No Return", was produced in Morocco and directed by "Keyser Soze" (likely a pseudonym) in December 1998. Two minute clips of it, along with photos of the shoot, were released via the band's official website in early 2000. However, no album materialized, and in January 2002, Brücken announced, "The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out." Later that year, an untitled nine-track CD was leaked via file-sharing networks on the Internet. Track titles were "Ignorance", "Who's The Fool", "Beast Within", "No Return", "To The Future", "Turn To The Sun", "Dream Within A Dream", "Cloud 9", and "Anonymous". "Cloud 9" was later recorded by Brücken for Onetwo's 2004 5-track EP "Item"; this track then reappeared in 2007 on their album "Instead", together with "Anonymous".

Recent activity

In early 2005, Propaganda, now Susanne Freytag and Michael Mertens, started to release new material on the German independent label Amontillado Music. [] In November of the same year, the original Propaganda line-up with Brücken and Dörper but without Thein performed at the Wembley Arena showcase of Trevor Horn's lifetime celebration. The band played "Dr. Mabuse". [] . In October 2007 the same Propaganda line-up appeared on RTL Germany "The Ultimate Chart Show" and performed an edited version of "Dr. Mabuse". []


tudio albums

*"A Secret Wish" (Start date|1985|7|1)
*"Wishful Thinking" (Start date|1985|11|17) (Remix album)
*"1234" (1990)

Compilation albums

*"Outside World" (Start date|2002|7|2)



External links

* [] - extensive Propaganda fan site
* [ Amontillado Music] - current label
* [ Zang Tuum Tumb and all that]

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