Tag: Act

A Beginner’s Guide To CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN

act_claudiaWith her distinctive ice maiden delivery, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is the undoubted queen of cinematic avant pop.

She first came to prominence with PROPAGANDA and the Trevor Horn produced film noir drama of ‘Dr Mabuse’.

Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the Düsseldorf based quartet released their acclaimed album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT in 1985.

But despite the album being a favourite of musical figures such as Quincy Jones, Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr, PROPAGANDA split following business and creative tensions as a result of their deal with ZTT.

Remaining with ZTT, Brücken formed ACT with early electronic pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, her first solo album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ came in 1991 on Island Records before she took a career break.

There was a brief reunion of PROPAGANDA in 1998, but when that came to nought, Brücken spent much of the new millennium’s first decade working and touring with OMD’s Paul Humphreys in ONETWO, supporting ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE along the way.

Since then, she has released two further solo albums and more recently been spotted in the studio with Susanne Freytag and Stephen J Lipson, while a new collaborative project with Jerome Froese is also in progress.

Although her catalogue is wide and varied, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is perhaps still very much regarded as a cult figure on the music scene. Certainly, she deserves greater recognition so with a restriction of one track per release, The Electricity Club offers a twenty track Beginner’s Guide to her work…


TOPOLINOS Mustafa (1982)

TOPOLINOSBrücken and Freytag first met in Düsseldorf around Die Ratinger Straße; “There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another” she said. Together they formed TOPOLINOS, literally translated as ‘The Mickey Mouses’! Using a rhythm unit, electric organ lines and Middle Eastern flavoured vocal phrasing, ‘Mustafa’ was a typical art school recording of the period and appeared on ‘Partysnäks’, the soundtrack to the film ‘Die Tanzbeinsammler’.

Available on the compilation album Electri_City 2 (V/A) via Grönland Records


PROPAGANDA p: Machinery (1985)

Propaganda ‎– pMachineryAt the suggestion of Freytag, Brücken was recruited into PROPAGANDA and their dynamic sound was marketed as “ABBA in Hell”! p: Machinery captured their Teutonic edge and the charm of state-of-the-art technology such as the PPG Wave and Synclavier systems. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, the song also had an unexpected contributor as Brücken recalled: “It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘p: Machinery there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in…”

Available on the PROPAGANDA album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square


GLENN GREGORY & CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time (1985)

Glenn+Claudia When Your HeartWritten by Will Jennings, best known for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ for the film ‘Titanic’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’ from ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’ was recorded for the film ‘Insignificance’ directed by Nicolas Roeg. Brücken and the HEAVEN 17 vocalist met during the Anton Corbijn directed video shoot for ‘Dr Mabuse’ when Gregory’s then-wife Sarah was doing the make-up. The song was produced by Midge Ure, under the pseudonym of Otto Flake Junior.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ (V/A) via Union Square


ACT Absolutely Immune (1988)

ACT Absolutely ImmuneAfter PROPAGANDA fragmented, Brücken formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987. Working again with Stephen J Lipson, alongside the technological marvels came a more playful, decadent glamour with some political flirtations. ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness. Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, it failed to gain interest in a landscape dominated by the bland blue eyed soul.

Available on the ACT album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square


JIMMY SOMERVILLE Run From Love (1990)

jimmy_somerville-the_singles_collection_1984-1990While not a sales success, the acclaim and respect that ‘A Secret Wish’ attained among fellow artists led to Brücken being offered many opportunities to collaborate. One of the first came from Jimmy Somerville. ‘Run From Love’ was a lesser known BRONSKI BEAT number reworked in a more house directed fashion by S’EXPRESS producer Pascal Gabriel for the diminutive Glaswegian’s greatest hits collection and Ms Brücken provided backing vocals in the chorus.

Available on the JIMMY SOMMERVILLE album ‘The Singles Collection 1984/1990’ via London Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Absolut[e] (1991)

Claudia Brucken Absolut(E)Despite ACT ending, Brücken signed a deal with Island Records which eventually spawned her debut solo album produced by Pascal Gabriel. The first single ‘Absolut[e]’ was very much dominated by Gabriel’s dancefloor instincts. But as the album was being recorded, all was not well within. “The MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well” she remembered, “A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen, so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ via Cherry Red Records


CHROME SEDUCTION Light The Way (1993)

Claudia+SusanneThe reaction to ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ was muted and Brücken took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal. ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION was a percussively frantic club number that also saw a reunion with former partner-in-crime Susanne Freytag. The project of Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Joseph Fiennes and Ralph Fiennes, it first surfaced on an independently released 12 inch on Mother Alpha Delta.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square


THE BRAIN I’ll Find A Way (1996)

THE BRAIN I'll Find A WayThe project of Düsseldorf based DJ Dietmar Andreas Maier, ‘I’ll Find A Way’ was typical of the frantically paced Euro-Trance of the period. Co-written with Michael Mertens, the seed of a PROPAGANDA reunion began with a number of songs including ‘Ignorance’, ‘No Return’, ‘To The Future’ and ‘Turn To The Sun’ being demoed. Although a video for ‘No Return’ was produced, the title proved poignant and Brücken later announced: “The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out.”

Available on THE BRAIN single ‘I’ll Find A Way’ via BMG


OCEANHEAD Eyemotion (1997)

OCEANHEAD EyemotionContinuing to contribute the occasional guest vocal, ‘Eyemotion’ was a co-write with John Etkin-Bell which coupled a shuffling drum loop with some beautifully chilled out atmospheres. Brücken’s breathy whispers and a muted synthetic brass motif à la PET SHOP BOYS provided the colourful sonics on an elegant piece of downtempo electronica. Blowing away the likes of ENIGMA and SACRED SPIRIT, the original CD single release was limited to just 2000 copies however.

Available on the OCEANHEAD single ‘Eyemotion’ via Land Speed Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL RUTHERFORD This Is Not America (2000 – not released until 2011)

After the aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA, Brücken accepted an invitation in 2000 to join Paul Humphreys on his solo tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford intended for a film soundtrack. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although shelved, it finally saw the light of day on her ‘ComBined’ career retrospective.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Unicorn – Duet Version (2002)

APOPTYGMA BERZERK HarmonizerEurope maintained a vibrant industrial music scene at the start of the new century and in a one-off collaboration with Norway’s cult electronic body merchants APOPTYGMA BERZERK, Brücken returned to the more Teutonic overtones that had been evident in PROPAGANDA. In an electronic rework of the heavier guitar focussed original, the combo provided a suitably aggressive but accessible backing track for her to duet with frontman Stephan Groth on ‘Unicorn’.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK album ‘Harmonizer’ via WEA


ONETWO Cloud 9ine (2004)

ONETWO ItemBrücken formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. They dusted off a track that had been demoed during the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion. The song in question was ‘Cloud 9ine’, a co-write with Martin Gore which also featured the guitar of DEPECHE MODE’s main songwriter. It was the stand-out song on ONETWO’s debut EP ‘Item’, but it would be a few years before their first album would be completed.

Available on the ONETWO EP ‘Item’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/item


ANDY BELL with CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Delicious (2005)

ANDY BELL Electric BlueBrücken joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. More club oriented than ERASURE, the long player was produced by THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE who were also part of the ONETWO live band, and provided the introduction. The call-and-response Hi-NRG stomp of ‘Delicious’ saw Brücken in her most playful mood since ACT and in rare poptastic glory, despite the bittersweet, reflective lyrical nature of the song.

Available on the ANDY BELL album ‘Electric Blue’ via Sanctuary Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY Libertango (2005)

ANOTHER LANGUAGEBrücken teamed up with former ZTT label mate Poppy to record a number of stripped back cover versions, with just piano or guitar as accompaniment for her first long form release since 1991. Among the reinterpretations were songs originally performed by RADIOHEAD, MARIANNE FAITHFUL, ASSOCIATES and KATE BUSH. One of the highlights was a suitably dramatic take on ‘Libertango’, better known as ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ made famous by GRACE JONES.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY album ‘Another Language’ via There (there) at http://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/another-language


ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Onetwo_InsteadHumphreys and Brücken finally released a full length album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet fully rejoined McCluskey in his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead


BLANK & JONES Don’t Stop (2008)

BLANK & JONES The Logic of PleasureIn between the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and ONETWO, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN guested with the popular German dance duo on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeously shuffled electrobeat ballad. The parties reunited in 2008 but while ‘Unknown Treasure’ was in Brücken’s words, “a real collaboration”, “’Don’t Stop’ was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them”. Despite the remote detachment of the recording, ‘Don’t Stop’ was still elegantly enticing.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & THE REAL TUESDAY WELD The Things I Love (2011)

=LA NoireRockstar Games wanted a German singer for a new game called ‘LA Noire’ soundtracked by THE REAL TUESDAY WELD’s Stephen Coates who was known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences dubbed Antique Beat. “I thought: why not?” said Brücken, “I heard the songs and thought they were so beautiful. I found it a really good challenge doing something I hadn’t done before”. ‘The Things I Love’ was the alluring highlight of three songs recorded.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘L.A. Noire’ (V/A) via Rockstar Games


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN One Summer Dream (2012)

Claudia Brucken One Summer DreamThe B-side to ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s massive hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from Brücken’s reinterpretations project with producer Stephen Hague which also included material by DAVID BOWIE, PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR, JULEE CRUISE and THE LILAC TIME. Beginning with a vintage gramophoned segment, it built to a dreamy John Barry influenced, ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP string arrangement.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)


OMD Kissing The Machine (2013)

OMD-English-ElectricAlthough this Andy McCluskey / Karl Bartos co-write first appeared in 1993 on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’, Paul Humphreys completely reworked ‘Kissing The Machine’ from scratch for OMD. “Paul had the idea of asking Claudia to do the vocal in the middle eight” remembered McCluskey, “but I suggested we start it with the ‘I want you to want me – I need you to need me…’ bit through a vocoder and went ‘y’know, could you ask Claudia to do it in German as well?’!” The result was electronic magic.

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Time To Make Changes (2014)

CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Where ElseThe biggest surprise musically on Brücken’s third solo album ‘Where Else…’ was her adoption of the acoustic guitar. Working with producer John Owen Williams whose credits also included BLANCMANGE, the songs dealt with the subjects of “emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes”. Almost like ABBA meeting MORRISSEY in a lush organic backdrop, ‘Time To Make Changes’ very much reflected her personal mindset following the end of her relationship with Paul Humphreys.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Where Else…’ via Cherry Red Records


For further information on the upcoming projects of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN, please visit her official website and Facebook page

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaBruckenMusic


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th July 2016

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL HUMPHREYS Discuss How ‘This Happened’

Claudia Brücken’s ‘This Time’ career celebration at The Scala in London was without doubt, one of the best live presentations of 2011.

On this wonderful evening, the first lady of cinematic electronic pop was joined by some very special guests in Erasure’s Andy Bell, Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, Ralf Dörper and Susanne Freytag from Propaganda and one time ZTT label mate Andrew Poppy for an unforgettable and almost certainly unrepeatable concert.

The superb event has been captured as a DVD film and accompanying CD soundtrack entitled ‘This Happened’. This is the perfect souvenir for those who were there (and those who wished they were there). It captures all the warmth of appreciation from that evening when Claudia performed a selection of songs from her career accompanied by a superb backing band led by ONETWO partner and musical director Paul Humphreys.

Featuring Philip Larsen, James Watson, Dawne Adams, Sam Sallon, Melissa D’Arcy and Dave Watson, the company delightfully tackled a catalogue songs made famous by Claudia as a member of Propaganda, Act, Onetwo and as a solo artist. There are many highlights to savour including a exceptionally groovy ‘Absolut(E)’, playful duets with Glenn Gregory and Andy Bell, the Bond theme meets Massive Attack chic of new song ‘Thank You’, the three quarters reunion of PROPAGANDA and the surprise inclusion of ‘Dream Within A Dream’ from their highly regarded album ‘A Secret Wish’.

But that’s not all. To celebrate the release of ‘This Happened’, Claudia Brücken will also be playing a new version of the show, ‘This Time Too’ at London’s Bush Hall on Thursday 19th July 2012 featuring OMD’s Andy McCluskey as one of the special guests. Taking a break from preparing for this upcoming performance, Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys kindly invited The Electricity Club to their London studio to talk about the live DVD and reminisce about that wonderful evening at The Scala last March.

It was an amazing night at The Scala, how do you look back on it?

Claudia: It was a complete success, it was great to have all the people, who I have collaborated with, agree to perform with me. It was quite a difficult task to get all of the musicians together and to organise it all.

Paul: Getting everyone to rehearse on the same day was a nightmare.

Claudia: Everybody was individually rehearsed. We told everyone what parts they were doing so they were all well prepared and then we did two days rehearsal…

Paul: …that was mainly for the band really as we were playing a whole load of songs we had never played before. *laughs*

Which songs were the most challenging to reproduce in a live situation?

Paul: ‘Dream Within A Dream’ was probably the toughest because it’s such a complex piece, there’s all these solos and Dawne our percussionist had all these things to do, there were different cues and all the bar counts are changing all the time! To be honest, we never got ‘Dream Within A Dream’ right in rehearsals; the only time we got it right was live on stage at the Scala. On stage, we were all just secretly nodding at each other!

I remember all the gasps of excitement from the audience when Susanne uttered those first few words…

Paul: Yes, you can hear it on the mikes when I mixed it!

Claudia: That was a little personal challenge; it’s such a great Propaganda piece. As Susanne was there as a guest, I really wanted to put that song out there in a live context.

Paul: All the chords are very complex and we had to get in our mate Sam who hadn’t played flugelhorn since he was a kid. So he bought one and he spent two weeks rehearsing…but he did really well *laughs*

The setlist was very well paced and as good as perfect. How did you decide what to perform?

Paul: We played the obvious ones from the ‘ComBined’ album as it was a celebration based around that.

Claudia: Also through Onetwo, we had so many songs already rehearsed. It was just a matter of organising everyone. So it became obvious when we had Glenn as a guest that we do ‘Snobbery & Decay’ and ‘When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time’. ‘When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time’ was pure self-indulgence because we’d never done it before. We thought we might as well do it.

Paul: We completely reworked it, it’s nothing like the original; we did a very electro version.

Claudia: Then Glenn and Martyn remembered they had done an electro version of ‘Temptation’ which was a demo…

Paul: …apparently that was the demo which got HEAVEN 17 their deal. And they had a German singer actually talk it before they reworked it with all the high vocals and the strings.

Claudia: I had this demo as a template and I really like that almost detached attitude so I thought that’s a good way to go with the idea.

Paul: But the biggest challenge for Claudia was ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘In Dreams’ with Andrew Poppy because you’re so exposed and any slight mistake, it really stands out.

Claudia: It was quite daring because most people attending the show, their background is electronic music so for me to just come out and bring it right down to just piano and voice…I really liked it for a change of scene. I did a show with Andrew Poppy the other day for his new album ‘Shiny Floor, Shiny Ceiling’. We did a couple of performances at the Chelsea Arts Centre. He’s very clever and such an artist, he’s got his own ideas and he sees it through.

Paul: It was an amazing show.

Were there any songs that you considered, but discounted for various reasons?

Claudia: I would have liked to have played more from ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ like ‘Baby Sign’ or ‘Love: In Another World’ but there was just so much to choose from.

The crowd particularly enjoyed the three quarters reunion of PROPAGANDA…

Claudia: It was great, I’ve always wanted to do it. I’ve been working towards the possibility of trying to get Propaganda on the road again and there’s always been hurdles, it’s never been easy! Everything else with ONETWO and the band has always been very easy and pleasurable.

So when Susanne and Ralf agreed to join me, it was the closest at that point of getting those Propaganda songs back up live. I’m someone who doesn’t give up easily and I try different ways to make something happen. I’ve known them for such a long time and it just kind of fell into place.

Is it true Ralf never played live with Propaganda first time round when you were on ZTT?

Claudia: That’s right, he was working as a banker and couldn’t get time off. The first time was the Trevor Horn Wembley concert in 2004. Wow! That was a bit of a band wasn’t it? *laughs*

Yes, I’ve seen the video clip of that! Stephen Lipson, Lol Creme, Anne Dudley, Geoff Downes, David Palmer AND an orchestra!

Paul: Now that’s what I call a band! *laughs*

Claudia: A band, Trevor Horn style! *laughs*

There’s an obvious onstage chemistry between you and Glenn Gregory, what do you put that down to?

Claudia and Paul: Mates! *laughter*

Claudia: But we genuinely love each other as well, I’ve known him since the ‘Dr Mabuse’ video shoot which his first wife Sarah did the make-up for. One of my earliest memories about England was going to Glenn’s old house in Notting Hill…I was discussing make-up and stuff with Sarah and there were Heaven 17 sitting on a couch in a darkly lit room. We just became really good friends and went through a lot of things together on ZTT as Trevor Horn used to use him as a session singer a lot on recordings by Grace Jones and stuff.

We’ve already mentioned Andrew Poppy but you couldn’t have had a more polar opposite guest than the other Andrew, Mr Bell?

Claudia: I did some gigs with Andy Bell back in 2005 at Madame Jo-Jo’s and Koko, it was just so natural.

Paul: Again, we’re mates with Andy, we’ve been on holiday with Andy too. He’s a sweetheart. We adore him.

Susanne almost didn’t make it on stage in time for ‘Light The Way’. How did you make sure the evening ran like clockwork while still being able to vibe off the special occasion?

Paul: It was funny while mixing the sound for the DVD and album, all the way through the intro of ‘Light The Way’, Claudia’s going: “Where’s Susanne? Where’s Susanne?”…we didn’t have a stage manager! *laughs*

Claudia: We forgot actually about that didn’t we!! *laughs*

Paul: We relied on everyone to remember their cue, I posted a sheet up in the dressing room! There’s only one dressing room at The Scala and it’s tiny…there were fifteen of us!!

Claudia: All these men dressed in black standing there, it was like a Magritte painting *laughs*

Paul: There were three chairs, all for the girls of course.

Claudia: It was very funny!

How was it trying to fix situations like when Susanne’s microphone cut out during ‘Dr Mabuse’ in the final audio mix? Is it a matter of retrieving sections of the recording or overdubbing?

Paul: It was actually there. It went to record, but our soundman Chicky had it muted on the desk! He had so many cues to remember that he forgot that one! *laughs*

Claudia: It was a bit “let’s see what happens” as well. There was so much information for him there.

With so many people involved, was it a matter of tying it all together during the soundcheck? Martyn Ware mentioned to me it had been a long day.

Claudia: We did have a soundcheck but there were a few technical hiccups which no-one could foresee. At 6.45pm, I said to Paul: “Shouldn’t we be hearing a sound of some sort by now?”

Paul: I was trying to keep Claudia calm and saying “Don’t worry, everything is fine” but knowing that it really wasn’t! What happened was James from the band’s laptop blew up and he didn’t have a back-up….all his virtual instruments were on there. So he was programming all these different sounds on another keyboard that he had using his headphones! But also at The Scala, we had so many lines, mikes and inputs that the stage box wasn’t good enough. You have to split it to monitor desk and front of house but with their box, you could have one or the other, but not both! So I had to hire one really quickly and get it delivered. But I didn’t tell Claudia this! *laughs*

How does the finished DVD look and will it satisfy those fans who there, and also those were unable to make it to the gig?

Paul: It’s fantastic!

Claudia: It’s been a real labour of love, it’s taken us so long to make. We get asked to play Canada, Russia, Finland and the USA but we can’t tour everywhere, it’s not so simple.

So I wanted there to be a documentation of what I’m like live so I hope they like it. We put a lot of love into it… it’s 100% and more to make this an entertaining piece of work.

Is it in 5.1 surround sound?

Paul: It’s not actually, so many people I know don’t have 5.1, so I didn’t think it was necessary. Plus it would have made it far more expensive to make because I mixed it in my own studio, and I don’t have a 5.1 system in here. I’m happy with stereo and most people will enjoy it stereo. In 5.1 you’ve got mix everything twice as you have to do a stereo mix anyway, those balances are completely different. It took a long time to just to mix 98 minutes of music in stereo.

You have ‘This Time Too’ at Bush Hall coming up on 19th July as a follow on event. This time you have another Andrew, ie Mr McCluskey as a guest. What song will he be performing with you?

Claudia: He’s doing ‘Absolutely Immune’ in place of Andy Bell…

Paul: …but instead of ‘Delicious’, we’ll be doing something else which Claudia and Andy will sing as a duet.

Would it ever be a possibility for you to go out with a touring version of this show in Europe, albeit maybe without all the wonderful guests?

Claudia: If I did it, it would make sense for everyone else to join us…anything is possible.

But if they did come on tour with me, I would want them to show more of themselves. I couldn’t ask them to sing just one song…

Paul: Hopefully, Claudia will be touring to promote her new solo album and she will playing some of these songs in the show so it will kind of be happening…


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys

Additional thanks to David at Impressive PR

The DVD+CD set ‘This Happened’ is released on 23rd July 2012 via There(there).

The tracklisting is:

1   Kiss Like Ether
2   Sequentia
3   Dr. Mabuse  – with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper
4   Absolut[e]
5   Cloud 9
6   Snobbery & Decay – with Glenn Gregory
7   Temptation – with Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware
8   When Your Heart Runs Out of Time – with Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware
9   Running Up That Hill – with Andrew Poppy
10 In Dreams – with Andrew Poppy
11 Dream Within A Dream – with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper
12 p:Machinery – with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper
13 Night School
14 Light The Way
15 Home (Tonight)
16 Delicious – with Andy Bell
17 Absolutely Immune – with Andy Bell
18 Duel – with Susanne Freytag
19 Thank You

www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

www.theremusic.com


Text and Interviewby Chi Ming Lai
Photos from the Claudia Brücken, Propaganda and Onetwo Facebook pages
4th July 2012

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ComBined

The release of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘ComBined’ in association with ZTT/Salvo presents the first career retrospective of the German chanteuse’s marvellous collection of work.

Before LADYTRON or GOLDFRAPP, it was CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN who reigned as the original first lady of icy, feminine led Eurocentric avant-pop. As a keen collaborative artist, this compilation gathers together her various ComBinations with producers and musicians who included Trevor Horn, Stephen J Lipson, David Sylvian and the late John Uriel among many others.

Her classic PROPAGANDA tracks ‘Dr. Mabuse’, ‘Duel’ and ‘P.Machinery’ need no introduction. They still retain their Teutonic magnificence and cinematic surrealism. Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the quartet are still remembered as ‘ABBA in hell’.

However, when Claudia formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987, there came a more playful, decadent glamour with political flirtations. ‘Snobbery & Decay’ was a warning about the effects of the Thatcher government while ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness.

Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, the technological and theatrical marvels on the parent album ‘Laughter, Tears and Rage’ in 1988 were sadly unable to gain a foothold in a landscape dominated by the bland mid-Atlantic blue eyed soul and FM AOR that had become the requisites for the then brand new CD format!

act_claudiaAlas, ACT did not continue and Claudia signed a deal with Island Records for her 1991 album ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’. The wonderful ‘Kiss Like Ether’ recalls the rhythmical template of JON & VANGELIS’ ‘State Of Independence’ while her debut solo single ‘Absolut(E)’ is very Pascal Gabriel, the production dominated by his electronic dancefloor vibes.

The reaction to the album was strangely muted and Claudia took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal.

One of those included on ‘ComBined’ is ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION, a percussively frantic club number that also saw the return of one of her former partners-in-crime Susanne Freytag. After an aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA in the latter half of the 90s, she accepted an invitation in 2000 to join OMD’s Paul Humphreys’ tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although recorded in 2001 and shelved, it finally sees the light of day on ‘ComBined’.

Claudia formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. Open to collaboration with others, the song ‘Cloud 9ine’, co-written and featuring DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore, was the stand-out on their debut EP ‘Item’ released in 2004. But it was a few years before their first album was completed.

The crisp and moody ‘Instead’ finally emerged in 2007 and is represented on ‘ComBined’ by ‘Sequentia’, a toughened up remix by Paul Humphreys of the chilling East European flavoured highlight from that album. Finding herself in demand again, Claudia also joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. The pair became good friends and their chemistry is particularly evident on the energetic interplay of ‘Delicious’ which sees her in full and rare poptastic glory.

‘ComBined’ also features two brand new tracks produced by Stephen Hague whose credits include OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER, ERASURE, JIMMY SOMMERVILLE, DUBSTAR and A-HA. ‘Thank You’ is a fantastically moody epic driven by a trip-hop drum loop and swathed in Cold War atmospherics. Closer ‘Night School’ is a more uptempo, but is still classic Claudia with smooth layered textures and rich, minimal guitar melodics.

But for the bonus track encore, Claudia rejoins ZTT’s musical minimalist ANDREW POPPY with whom she recorded the fascinating ‘Another Language’ covers album. The new piano accompanied rework of ROY ORBISON’s ‘In Dreams’ retains the heartfelt drama of the original, but adds a slice of Weimar edginess to what has now become a rock’n’roll standard.

Yes, there are several notable absentees on the CD such as her BLANK & JONES collaborations ‘Unknown Treasure’ and ‘Don’t Stop’.

But the former though has been included on the iTunes version of the album in addition to PROPAGANDA’s cover of ‘Femme Fatale’ and a new ‘Geek Boy remix’ of her OCEANHEAD track ‘Eyemotion’ under the title of ‘Augenblick’.

There may be a case argued for her collaboration with HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’, although this is now available in its full glory on ZTT’s ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ compilation.

Overall, this is a superlative snapshot of one of Europe’s finest talents and a perfect introduction to her varied and influential musical catalogue.


‘ComBined’ is released by ZTT/Salvo on 7th February 2011.

On Wednesday 2nd March 2011 at London’s Scala, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & Friends will play a special concert to celebrate her career. Very special guests include HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, ERASURE’s Andy Bell, PROPAGANDA’s Susanne Freytag, ANDREW POPPY and OMD’s Paul Humphreys.

www.ztt.com

www.theremusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th February 2011

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Interview

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is the undoubted queen of electronic avant-pop.

Her distinctive ice maiden cool vocal delivery with hints of classic Marlene Dietrich and wispy Nico more than suited the glorious European film noir sound of PROPAGANDA, the Düsseldorf quartet with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper in which she first came to prominence.

Together, their songs such as ‘Dr. Mabuse’, ‘Duel’ and ‘P.Machinery’ were fine examples of how new digital technology could be utilised to produce accessible neo-industrial pop music with a chilling edge. Their 1985 ZTT album ‘A Secret Wish’ gained a legion of prominent fans including DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore and MICHAEL JACKSON’s producer QUINCY JONES who borrowed their influential sound for the ‘Bad’ album.

Despite the acclaim, PROPAGANDA split. Remaining with ZTT, Claudia formed ACT with early electro pioneer THOMAS LEER and released an album ‘Laughter, Tears and Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, she released her only solo album so far ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ in 1991 on Island Records before taking a career break to bring up Maddy, her daughter with then husband Paul Morley. During this period, she only recorded occasionally with guest contributions for acts including SPIRITFEEL, THE BRAIN and OCEANHEAD.

During the latter half of the 90s, PROPAGANDA reformed and although material was written and demoed, no album was released. Around this time, a friend at German label Logic Records suggested Claudia should work with Paul Humphreys of OMD.

First touring the US together in 2000 before eventually becoming ONETWO, they released an EP ‘Item’ in 2004 and then the excellent album ‘Instead’ in 2007 via their own There (there) label.

Simultaneously, Claudia also worked with BLANK & JONES, APOPTYGMA BERZERK and ANDY BELL as well as releasing ‘Another Language’, an album of stripped down cover versions with her former ZTT label mate ANDREW POPPY.

With new deluxe 2CD reissues of ‘A Secret Wish’ and ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ hitting a variety of retail outlets, Claudia Brücken invited The Electricity Club down to ONETWO’s London studio to chat about her career and her upcoming musical retrospective which is expected to feature the mouth watering prospect of some unreleased tracks and new remixes.

Who were your original influences?

There were people like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and PATTI SMITH, I thought she was wonderful. I was completely mesmerised by DAVID BOWIE and I also liked KLAUS NOMI. And then KRAFTWERK came along. It just questioned everything that came before because with ‘Autobahn’, you were wondering “what kind of sound is that?”. It was just so revolutionary at the time!

Of the electro stuff I was into, there was early HUMAN LEAGUE, CLUSTER, MALARIA! and NEU! I loved LA DUSSELDORF, DAF and also DER PLAN, they were completely arty and had these tiny electronic keyboards and they dressed up in these really weird costumes.

And I was also very much into the very first NINA HAGEN BAND album amongst other things. I’ve never been into one specific musical direction only; I was like a sponge soaking everything in from when I was 15. I drew from so many other sources. This would have been the time I was in a band with Susanne. There came a point where it seemed that everyone wanted to be in a band.

The Düsseldorf scene was very small. There is a street in Düsseldorf called Die Ratinger Strasse and there was a club called Ratinger Hof where a lot of bands and students from the University of Art would mingle. All the bands and people from the art school or university would all meet around there. There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another.

With ‘A Secret Wish’ now receiving the deluxe remaster treatment, what are your immediate memories of that period on ZTT and the recording of that album?

Working with Stephen Lipson really. There were four studios in Sarm West, ZTT was upstairs at that time and there was also a flat where PROPAGANDA were staying at the very top. It was this place of creativity so there were these rooms where PROPANGANDA were programming in, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were in Studio1 and THE ART OF NOISE in another.

We were in a little studio for recording which we called ‘The Spaceship’, a tiny little room with lots and lots of lights and electronic equipment. And for me, it was one of the most creative times in my life. I don’t really dwell on the bad bits.

Stephen J Lipson’s production on ‘A Secret Wish’ proved to be highly influential on variety of people; DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS and QUINCY JONES to name but three. What sort of technology were you using on the album?

We had the PPG in Düsseldorf so we worked with that. I had moved to London but I was flying back and forth so we would be doing lots of writing on the PPG.

We also worked with a Linn Drum and our data was recorded onto floppy disks as far as I can remember, which we then would give to Stephen… but I’m not really the one to talk technical here, that would be a question for Michael.

Most of the PROPAGANDA sounds were actually from the PPG. It had a really great identity that PPG, I could identify it immediately like “oh, that’s a PPG sound”… it just had something that was different and distinct about it.

The Fairlight we only used on ‘Dr. Mabuse’ as far as I remember because JJ Jeczalik who operated it was part of Trevor Horn’s team and Trevor produced the song. When it was decided that Stephen would produce the album, it was mostly the Synclavier that was being used. I think at the time there were only three Synclaviers in the world and Trevor had one of them. Stephen did all the Frankie songs using the Synclavier, he was one of the few engineers who knew how to use it! *laughs*.

How did you find working with Trevor Horn?

Trevor has his own way of working because when we worked with Stephen, Trevor was the executive producer and he’d go “ok, play me what you’ve done” and go “ok, I think that’s not working yet”.

So he would check in every night to give us his comments and walk out again. We’d meet the next day again, that’s the way he worked.

And Trevor, he can take a lot of time for one thing only to come back to the very beginning to say this is what he wanted! But he goes through all these alternative ways to realise this was the best idea. Extremely time consuming and costly but that’s what you get when you work with Trevor, that’s his way.

Someone told me the other day that ROBBIE WILLIAMS gave Trevor his entire album and said “Trevor, see you in six months, do with it as you wish!” and came back six months later and just absolutely loved what he did.

Was it quite interesting for you to hear the PROPAGANDA sound on say, a MICHAEL JACKSON record like Bad? Or did it not register at the time?

It really didn’t… Trevor mentions this on the new sleeve notes and I was very flattered, that’s just brilliant. I remember hearing QUINCY JONES wanting to licence ‘A Secret Wish’ but I didn’t realise that it had captured his imagination so much. So that’s validation isn’t it? It’s wonderful!

PROPAGANDA could be considered a forerunner to the modern female fronted electronic acts like LADYTRON, GOLDFRAPP or CLIENT. Were PROPAGANDA ahead of their time?

Yes, I think what was interesting for us was we fitted into Paul Morley’s avant-garde vision of ZTT. There was the pop act he wanted which was FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD but he also wanted something which was edgy and different, and we kind of fitted in with that picture. Susanne, Ralf, Michael, Andreas Thein and I, because we were five at the time, we had that essence. What was magical about it was that we were given this opportunity.

It is interesting what happens when you put five industrial bashing experimentalists like us into this playground where we can work with the best musicians, the most amazing equipment and an absolute stunning producer… what happens if? You couldn’t have predicted what it was and this came out of it. I think you can hear that in the music. People were saying “have a listen to this” and “why not try that?” and it all just came together. And it then created this very special album. But PROPAGANDA wasn’t so easily digestible at the time, we confused the hell out of people who just thought “who are they?”… we didn’t fit in really!

How do you look back on being part of that whole remixing, multi-formatting marketing machine of ZTT? As a non-native English speaker, how did you find trying to understand Paul Morley’s sleeve notes?

Well, I did have to get the dictionary out at times! Obviously the Nietzsche quotes I could understand as a German so I had no troubles there.

But some stuff was like “Hmmmm! Where’s this coming from?”. The thing with Paul, and that’s what attracted me to him, was we had a very similar way of thinking and approaching things so we were talking the same language although I did have difficulties with the English language at the time.

Paul would have an idea like “let’s remix this song”… there would be a house engineer available, a downtime studio free so let’s use it rather than have it standing empty, let’s do something and be creative. That was Paul’s energetic spirit, we were all kind of rebellious and driven. We weren’t really questioning things too much, we were just doing. I was 19-20, you don’t question everything you do at that time… you do it when you’re older… sadly. *laughs*

When was the first time you actually dreamed in English?

I don’t know. I cannot answer that question because I can’t remember that moment. Now I think and I find it much easier to write in English. I find it really hard sitting there and construing a sentence in German because the grammar is probably completely the opposite to the English language. So I find it much easier and I think now after 25 years, I feel more Anglified and I feel really kind of English.

What caused the eventual PROPAGANDA split and to you forming ACT with THOMAS LEER?

Well, it was the deal that we signed. I always say we had a management which wasn’t really management in a sense that it was divisive towards the band!

I wouldn’t class them as good managers, a good manger knows how to pull things together and make them happen.

In this case, yes, we did have a bad deal. But I remember Jill Sinclair, ZTT’s label manager didn’t want to lose PROPAGANDA, she already had lost Frankie.

She loved what we did, she was very proud of this album and what it had achieved at the time. And she did not want to see another band of hers go. So she said “come to me and negotiate” which I later did.

But I was in a tricky position because I wanted to work with Paul, I loved working with Trevor and I loved working with Stephen. Obviously, my loyalties were with my husband also and I knew what he had done for PROPAGANDA. He would have done so much more for us, but it was the others who wanted to leave. I know how the album was made so I knew you couldn’t put that kind of team together on another record company. I very much knew that.

It was a magical team, I do always believe it’s all in the team that you’re working with. When you have that, why give up something that works? It was the decision that the others took. I really didn’t want to leave them but I just didn’t want to go to a different major company either.

What would a second PROPANGANDA album on ZTT have sounded like if the team has stayed together to follow-up ‘A Secret Wish’?

Much like ‘A Secret Wish’, very much so… I think it would have been a very natural progression of what we had written and recorded before.

Do you think you’d have got artier and avant, or do you think you could have gone the way 1234 sounds, dreamy but almost with a mid-Atlantic pop accessibility?

I personally would have liked to have explored a similar direction to’A Secret Wish’. For me it was a perfect marriage of pop accessibility and the arty avant side of us. There was a rebellious side to Susanne and me and although we love pop music, there was a dark and a bit disturbing side to us as well and we wanted to combine these two sides. We were a band full of contrast, light and dark, dreamy and nightmarish. The combination of the two was what intrigued me.

Also musically, Stephen picked up on that. The voices would be very soft and the backing would be very hard. And then if I’d go really really hard, the music would sometimes become very soft so it was just this interplay. Yes I think we could have made a great second album on ZTT.

Do you think it could have turned out how the ACT album sounded?

No, that was a different vision altogether. For ACT it was all decadence and glamour. And we wanted the drama of it all and we moved kind of politically further. We’re now in ’87 and it was the decline of Thatcher’s Britain and we just had a completely different message altogether.

It was a lot more theatrical and spielerisch, which is kind of more playful in a sense. It left aside the dark side, the Teutonic-ness. But also musically, Thomas was such a different kettle of fish altogether.

Do you think the UK didn’t ‘get’ Snobbery & Decay then?

No, sadly they didn’t *laughs*

Unfortunately they didn’t, or perhaps it was just not the right moment for this song… I do think it’s such a great song. Thomas wrote me an email the other day and he does think that perhaps we were ahead of our time. But also what happened was ZTT at the time changed companies to work with so they went from Island to Warners. And when that always happens, and we were just right in the middle of all that, the MD who takes over is often not that interested to take on what he’s been given, he has a complete different vision about what should be. So it’s sad because it happened to me again with my 1991 album ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’. The MD and the team you work with change and the artist is no longer a priority. The artist gets caught in record company politics.

When I was doing ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ with Pascal Gabriel, we were working in the studio on the last two songs of the album and the MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well. A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental and we did so on the song ‘Surprise’ with THE BOW GAMELAN ORCHESTRA who were using fire and huge pipes to create sound. We realised we’d have trouble selling this album now. It had nothing to do with the artist or the content of the album.

‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ is being reissued by Cherry Red. You must be very pleased that this is fully available again and able to be re-evaluated because it’s very under rated?

Yes, maybe this time people can get the feel of it. At the time, I didn’t get much promotion.

I understand there may be a CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN compilation in the offing with some unreleased songs and remixes as well as collecting together material in all your various guises?

Yes, it’s going to be called ‘Combined’. I’m hoping that it will be released on Union Square as well, because it’s a licensing nightmare *laughs*

There’s so many other record companies involved and I don’t necessarily have the knowledge of how to do this. In this particular instance, I went to Union Square and said it would be great if they could get that together for me because they do this all the time. And it will make things easier.

Will this include stuff like the BLANK + JONES, OCEANHEAD, THE BRAIN and APOPTYGMA BERZERK collaborations?

None of those, but there’s going to be all the singles that I’ve made. So it’s going to be three PROPAGANDA tracks, two ACT tracks, two from my Island days. There’s going to be a new electro version of ‘Sequential’ on it, Paul Humphreys has done a really good version of that.

There’s two tracks that I’ve done with Stephen Hague called ‘Thank You’ and ‘Night School’, they’re completely new and I wanted to find a home for them. Also I want those two songs to promote the album so I’m hoping to make videos etc. We haven’t decided which one we should put out as a single so we may make two.

‘Delicious’ with Andy Bell of ERASURE is going to be on it and so is ‘Cloud 9’. All in all there will be 14 songs on CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘Combined’.

Will any of the unreleased PROPAGANDA material from the late 90s reunion be included?

No, we’re not going to put that on. I didn’t want to go there.

Is there any possibility of the four of you working together again?

Actually I’ve been working with Michael, Susanne and Ralf again, we’ve written one song and I like it a lot. I’m really happy with the song. Now we just have to find the best way of releasing it. I think it’s a song that’s very suitable for the Olympics actually! Maybe we’ll get it out by 2012, hopefully before, we just have to see. But it’s written, it’s recorded and almost produced… in my view it sounds really fresh and very much like PROPAGANDA.

But a few years ago when we tried this, Ralf was absent. What was really essentially missing for me was Ralf because he has a way of saying things with words and he also formed PROPAGANDA with Andreas and Susanne. And he had a good vision about the band, what it stood for intellectually and so on. It felt more right when we wrote together again about a year ago; I’m comfortable with that format. That is PROPAGANDA, the four of us.

ClaudiaHow did you come to work with Paul Humphreys?

For a few years I was a bit lost, unsure of what to do next musically… I’ve always been reliant on working with other people, I don’t really work that well on my own. I do like to have other people’s input.

So Paul and I started working together when he asked me to do this 2000 tour in America *laughs*

That’s when Paul and I discovered that we work well on stage together.

Again, with Paul, it’s brilliant because we are very playful, we are not too precious.It doesn’t have to sound like OMD or PROPAGANDA. We can take elements if we wish but we’re not labouring over it.

How are plans coming together for the next ONETWO album?

We are writing and we’ve started. I’m hoping we can put something out by April 2011. That’s what I would like to do, that’s my plan! But you know, sometimes things take a little longer but we’ve made a good start.

‘Instead’ was very well received, but what are your reflections on the album now?

I think we did really well. The other thing that I now think about the album is I wish we’d have gone out with it live before because we’ve got Philip Larsen who adds a lot of electronic blips and also James Watson who’s such a great musician. So because we did all the gigs with ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE and we added things on, I would have liked to have gone in the studio now and recorded it because it would have got another bite to it and a bit more aggression behind it.

It’s a little bit like making a wine, the sediment has to go down and settle… it’s the same kind of thing with music. We’ve grown into a really good live band now that we know what we’re doing and now we can play around with all the parts as well. So I would have liked to have gone back and now recorded the album and I think it would have sounded more electro and energetic. But that’s something we’re now aware of and we’re thinking with the next songs that we’re writing, with the next ONETWO gigs that we have, to take them out and rehearse them live, then record them later.

Who do you think makes up the ONETWO audience? Are they mostly your fans or OMD fans? Or are they new fans who are not necessarily aware of you and Paul Humphreys’ history?

I think all of those. To be honest, when we did THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ERASURE gigs, I think people had no idea who we were and then they realised when we were playing ‘Messages’ and ‘Duel’… “Oh, it’s them!”

We were something new and how do you get to know a band like ONETWO if you don’t have any radio or TV and only a few people who write about you?

We had to start at the beginning and I’m just really pleased that THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ERASURE gave us a platform for more people to discover us.

Before ONETWO, you were not really known as a live performer but it’s like you tour like mad now. You recently appeared live with HEAVEN 17 too performing ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. It was on TV, how do you think it went?

I haven’t seen it because I never watch my own performances. I got the live bug I guess, I just really like singing. In a studio environment, it’s all so controlled… but I’ve just become this live singer! Teaming up with Paul Humphreys, he made me discover that when I was doing a tour with him in 2000 and I thought “this is good fun”. And then I realised singing PROPAGANDA songs, how well people responded when they got a chance to hear them. Now I just want to spread the word because they are great songs, they are part of my past and I’d like people to hear them.

Is a solo concert ever going to be a possibility?

My plan for ‘Combined’ is to make a special evening with special friends, so I’m trying to pull as many people who are on this album to appear with me. I’m trying to get Susanne, Michael and Ralf in, I’ve invited Thomas and I hope he’ll be able to join me.

I’m hoping Andy Bell can do it. I’m sure I couldn’t get Martin Gore… but Glenn Gregory I think I could get; we keep on helping each other out. If he’s around, he probably will do it.

I will ask everyone who’s been involved to join me, it could be great night….let’s see!

You do seem to have worked with quite a few legends from the ‘Synth Britannia’ era.

One special thing about ‘A Secret Wish’ was that it has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve got so much respect from fellow musicians, people just kind of go “Claudia, I want to work with you, can you do this?”. That’s pretty much how all of my collaborations came about.

Is there a stand-out memory from any of these collaborations?

It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘P-Machinery’, there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in, it’s that theme which is also ‘Thought II’ from the bonus CD.

Is that David Sylvian I can hear on the middle eight of P-Machinery?

That’s just the girls. The “calm but steady flow, our strength is running low” bit, that’s me! But I tell you who does the backing vocals in ‘Duel’… it’s Trevor!

What did parts did Glenn Gregory do on ‘A Secret Wish’?

Glenn did the shouting on ‘Jewel’. It was me, Paul Morley and Glenn!

Claudia & Susanne‘Don’t Stop’ was your most recent recording in collaboration with German dance duo BLANK + JONES. You also recorded a marvellous song with them called ‘Unknown Treasure’ in 2003. How did those songs come together and how much input were you able to contribute to the final results?

With ‘Unknown Treasure’, that was quite magical really because Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones sent me a basic groove. And onto this groove, I wrote the melody and all the words. Paul Humphreys was brilliant, he helped me to record the voice and edit it.

He’s so patient with editing vocals and putting it all together. It’s a very time consuming process. So we sent them the entire vocal track and two weeks later, they sent me a CD back and to my delight they had turned it into this beautiful song, it was just this lovely journey. And I think they did such a great job, a real collaboration. Don’t Stop was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them. And this is how these two songs came together.

Is there any reason why ‘Unknown Treasure’ is not on ‘Combined’?

It’s not on ‘Combined’ because ‘Kiss Like Ether’ is on, and ‘Kiss Like Ether’ is very much in same the vein as ‘Unknown Treasure’. Before, ‘Combined’ was a double CD and pretty much everything I ever did was on it *laughs*

And then it was like, we’re only doing one CD. And then I had to put some songs aside. So with ‘Unknown Treasure’, I really wanted it on but I wanted ‘Kiss Like Ether’ instead. Tempo wise, it’s very similar so it had to go… it was a tough decision!

You’ve done quite a few cover versions in all your guises as well as doing the ‘Another Language’ covers album with ANDREW POPPY. Are there any other songs you’d like to do?

There’s so many great songs, I’m a singer and I like good tunes. ‘Duel’ for example is one of my favourite songs because it’s a singer’s song, composed for my voice. I love Motown stuff but at the moment, I’m singing ‘Plastic Palace People’ by SCOTT WALKER. I’m pretty random with my choices that I like to sing. I love electro and I love heavy industrial stuff. I love Chanson and drama. When I grew up, my grandma listened to LOTTE LENYA and BERTOLT BRECHT. I think you can put me in any kind of musical outfit really and I can make it work in my own style.

What did you think of SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR’s and MANDY SMITH’s covers of ‘Duel’?

I like Sophie’s and Mandy’s versions of ‘Duel’ and I’m glad that they’ve picked our song as they make other people aware of PROPAGANDA’s music.

Personally, when I do covers I like to put the songs I chose in a very different light to the original. In that way they become my own interpretations. My approach is more similar to SUSANNA & THE MAGIC ORCHESTRA or the way Martin Gore works on his ‘Counterfeit’ albums.

The MANDY SMITH one was done by STOCK AITKEN & WATERMAN so they obviously are secret PROPAGANDA fans!!

It’s very funny but on the sleeve notes of ‘A Secret Wish’, Paul Morley was saying that when Trevor Horn was not available to be producer anymore because of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, he wanted DAVID SYLVIAN.

Meanwhile Jill Sinclair wanted STOCK AITKEN & WATERMAN!! That would have been a wrong choice, nothing against them! *laughs*

Have you heard that track by HURTS called ‘Wonderful Life’ which sounds a lot like PROPAGANDA?

I think that track is really beautiful; I can really hear how PROPAGANDA influenced it musically, especially from the middle bit onwards because it goes into that dreamy motion until the end and the choice of instruments used remind me a bit of ‘A Dream Within a Dream’.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

My daughter gives me songs to listen to, so I don’t lose connection. I’ve been listening to BEACH HOUSE, NITE JEWEL, THE RAINCOATS, SUSANNA & THE MAGIC ORCHESTRA, GILLIAN WELCH and the new ARCADE FIRE album. You have to discover acts yourself now, I preferred the old-fashioned way of listening to the radio.

Another truth installed by the machine…


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Claudia Brücken

Special thanks also to Paul Humphreys

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ is reissued as a 2CD package by Cherry Red on 30th August 2010

PROPAGANDA ‘A Secret Wish’ is available now and released by Salvo/Union Square

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘Combined’ will be released in 2011

www.claudiabrucken.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaBruckenMusic/

www.ztt.com


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29th August 2010, updated 5th February 2018