Metall Maschinen Musik veterans DIE KRUPPS are to play two dates in the UK this August as part of the second leg of their European tour focussing on Scandinavia and festivals in Germany.
Formed in 1980, original members Jürgen Engler and Ralf Dörper plus newish recruit Marcel Zürcher have taken back some of what they have given to the Industrial scene with their 2013 album ‘The Machinists of Joy’.
Dressed in a Lou Reed ‘Metal Machine Music’ tribute sleeve, it reached No1 on the Deutsche Alternative Charts.
With acclaim by NME in 1981 for both the album ‘Stahlwerksinfonie’ and single ‘Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn’, DIE KRUPPS laid the foundation for Electronic Body Music; FRONT 242 and NITZER EBB called them their inspiration while DIE KRUPPS’ blend of hard electronics and danceable beats can also be heard in music as diverse as DEPECHE MODE and Detroit Techno.
Although Dörper had already left DIE KRUPPS in 1982 to form PROPAGANDA, he initiated a rework of ‘Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn’ in collaboration with NITZER EBB, retitled ‘The Machineries Of Joy’.
Produced by Dörper and Engler, it reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance Charts in 1989 and resulted in the pair reconvening as DIE KRUPPS for the album ‘I’.
The 25th anniversary of DIE KRUPPS in 2005 saw Dörper and Engler play festivals across Europe, leading to where they are today with ‘The Machinists of Joy’, seemingly never having lost ground in their Teutonic battle of the senses. Ralf Dörper kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK as they prepared for the next leg of their aural assault…
DIE KRUPPS toured Germany and Russia quite extensively earlier in the year. How has the material from ‘The Machinists Of Joy’ gone down live?
It has in fact been the first time (since ‘97) that we played not just a best-of-set. Now it’s around half / half. And the new material went down really well not just in Germany but in Eastern and Middle Europe as well. It is always impressive when people, for example in Russia, already know the German lyrics. We seem to have some hardcore fans in Russia. They even put out a record: a ‘Russian Industrial Tribute To Die Krupps’. Now, in the summer, we will try to fill the gaps we have left on the European map – so there will be concerts in the UK and in Scandinavia.
‘Risikofaktor’ signalled the stronger re-emphasis on electronics with this album. What inspired heading down this route again?
There have been some signals earlier on, as we constantly added some new material since we were asked to tour again by our fans. I refer to ‘Der Amboss’ or ‘5 Millionen’ or the release of ‘Volle Kraft 08’ in which only electronic bands participated. And we even played a harsh interpretation of ‘Dr. Mabuse’ from time to time… but we have not become purists – there are still some guitars.
‘Nazis Auf Speed’ is based by a true story?
Well – I took the title from a book which describes how the global war-machinery has used – and is still using – drugs: mainly to enhance stamina of the troops etc. But first I’d like to tell how this song came into existence. I have to admit that I quite like RAMMSTEIN, who I think are incredibly funny and very poetic as well. So a couple of years ago, I attended a RAMMSTEIN show (the tour which was supported by COMBICHRIST) and afterwards, I felt inclined to do a Lindemann-like lyric and put down the first two verses and a chorus: “Rammt sie!” (which means: bump into them) in just ten minutes. I thought the result was hilarious and I sent it to Jürgen as a joke. I guess that was back in 2010.
Quite recently when we had already started work on new material, I happened to watch a documentary channel in which they not only had a feature on Pervitin – the German Wehrmacht’s wonderdrug but also about the so-called: “Rammstoss-unit”. These were pilots who had metal-enhanced Messerschmitts – and their task was to fly into the enemy´s (sorry) Spitfire armada and to bring them down with a “rammstoss”.
So here we have the chorus: “rammt sie”), nothing personal, just historical. By the way, they were not Kamikaze, there have been quite a few survivors who appeared in that documentary. Jürgen was able to watch that programme as well – via internet in Texas. And the track was born.
And yes, it’s very tongue in cheek – we just couldn’t avoid those Ramm-style riffs. The song only appeared on a limited edition of ‘The Machinists of Joy’, but due to high demand in the clubs, we decided to do a video.
Visually DIE KRUPPS play with a lot of Second World War imagery?
I beg your pardon? Not at all – and I think it’s quite irresponsible to do so (when you are German). We better leave that to Lemmy. Please don’t get the wrong impression from that video for ‘Nazis Auf Speed’. We actually tried to refer to movies such as ‘The Great Dictator’. ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ (the Mel Brooks version) and ‘Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines’…
Our video for ‘Risikofaktor’ was a bit like ‘The Walking Dead’ albeit without any walking dead … and there will be one for ‘Robo Sapien’ which is likely to be a sort of trashy ‘Tetsuo’ meets ‘Robocop’.
How do you keep your Metall Maschinen Musik fresh? Were there any unusual influences in the creation of ‘The Machinists Of Joy’?
I assume that he might not admit it, but during the production process, Jürgen has been on filmsets in Austin. He actually might appear in ‘Sin City 2’. I think that had an influence on the creation. In fact, it delayed it 🙂
And we sort of went back in time and tried to create the album that could have been released in 1989, ie just after ‘The Machineries of Joy’ which we did with NITZER EBB. That also means no plug-ins but back to analogue equipment. Jürgen has refilled his studio with hardware – and I have chosen to bring a Korg back on stage. It’s more fun to fiddle about.
You once performed your metallic cover of VISAGE’s ‘Der Amboss’ with SARAH BLACKWOOD in 2008. How did that come about and do you intend to do it again?
When I first heard ‘The Anvil’ (‘Der Amboss’) by VISAGE, I thought: “what a perfect song for DIE KRUPPS” – it just needed more sweat, more steel. But unfortunately, I was not a member of DIE KRUPPS anymore (in 1982) but in fact, I was already working with Andreas Thein on what were to become the first PROPAGANDA tracks.
And it was not before 2005 when DIE KRUPPS were asked to play a few 25-year anniversary shows that I remembered ‘Der Amboss’ and we chose to record it for a limited give-away single during the tour. And as I was a big CLIENT fan at that time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Fräulein B for assistance in the vocal department. And last time we played London, Sarah was so kind as to share the stage with us. A great experience we definitely would like to repeat if she is around and up for it.
Which bands do you currently rate at the moment, industrial or otherwise?
Always tricky these questions… I think I better stick to the family and recommend VIGILANTE and CHANT who are both bands who supported us in the spring. There’s FANTOME which is a project our guitar player Marcel has with Hanin Elias who is ex-ATR. And I always look forward to hear new tracks from CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN or SARAH BLACKWOOD.
What’s next for DIE KRUPPS?
There will be further live activity in North and possibly South America. And later this year, there will be a live DVD. Most of it was filmed during our headliner show at this year s E-tropolis festival by Virus Films, the team who did the ‘Nazis On Speed’ video.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Ralf Dörper
‘The Machinists of Joy’ is released as a CD, 2CD, boxed set and download via Synthetic Symphony
DIE KRUPPS 2014 tour includes: Amphi Festival (27th July), Southampton Talking Heads (1st August), London Garage (2nd August), M’era Luna Festival (10th August)
Metall Maschinen Musik veterans DIE KRUPPS have just unveiled a controversial new video for ‘Nazis Auf Speed’, a track from their latest album ‘The Machinists Of Joy’.
Formed in 1980, original members Jürgen Engler and PROPAGANDA’s Ralf Dörper plus new recruit Marcel Zürcher have taken back some of what they have given to the Industrial scene over the last three decades with this Teutonic sub-RAMMSTEIN battle of the senses. The lyrics reflect on how The Third Reich aspired to victory at all costs and gave out drugs to their troops including speed in the form of Pervitin.
However, despite its provocative title, DIE KRUPPS point out that they “condemn fascism and drug abuse!” The monochromatic film directed by Philipp Virus depicts the darker, vicious side of Mittel Europa and sees DIE KRUPPS in a heroic and ironic dogfight AGAINST fascism and drug abuse… as if to point out the irony, the trio board Spitfires!
While the stark imagery does play on the usual Second World War clichés, it is powerful stuff while on a purely shallow and aesthetic level, who cannot resist the allure of a beautiful woman in a military uniform, no matter whose side she is on!
Meanwhile, the parent album ‘The Machinists Of Joy’ reached No1 on the Deutsche Alternative Charts on its release in the Autumn. Previous singles ‘Schmutzfabrik’, ‘Risikofaktor’ and ‘Industrie-Mädchen’ showcased a much greater focus on electronic sounds rather than guitars as in DIE KRUPPS previous work, but the essential sweaty body core still prevails in this 21st Century incarnation of the band.
‘The Machinists Of Joy’ is released as a CD, limited edition 2CD and download via Synthetic Symphony
DIE KRUPPS 2014 tour dates include:
Dresden Eventwerk (14th February), Prag Meet Factory (15th February), Budapest Duerer Kert (16th February), Wien Szene (18th February), München Backstage Werk (19th February), Nürnberg Rockfabrik (20th February), Pratteln Z7 (21st February), Oberhausen Turbinehall (22nd February), Hamburg Markthalle (23rd February), Berlin C-Club (25th February) , Frankfurt AM Batschkapp (26th February), Hannover Musikzentrum (27th February), Moskau Plan B (1st March), St Petersburg Zal Ojidanija (2nd March), Amphi Festival (27th July), M’era Luna Festival (10th August)
Following her Arrival in 2011, QUEEN OF HEARTS graced the world earlier this year with a brilliantly glitzy slice of electro schaffel entitled ‘Neon’ that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK thought managed to “out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP”.
Continuing her reign, her wonderful new single is the impressively tribal ‘Warrior’, an epically orchestrated production from the mine of DIAMOND CUT.
Here, she takes the next step in the ice diva stakes by effectively turning into CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN.
Sounding like KYLIE if she had been weaned on PROPAGANDA’s ‘A Secret Wish’, the young royal walks that fine line incorporating pop, art and fashion beautifully. This is reflected in the striking video which has been directed and filmed by the acclaimed fashion photographer Elliot Morgan.
Other tracks on the ‘Warrior’ bundle include Queenie’s paradoxically delicious synthesized cover of BEN HOWARD’s growly acoustic number ‘Only Love’ and the Eurotastic HI-NRG ‘Broken Dreams’ which appears to reveal a love of MODERN TALKING… incidentally, the duo’s Dieter Bohlen is now the Simon Cowell of Germany!
There is also the bonus of an oddly laid back ALUNA GEORGE mix of ‘Shoot The Bullet’, which was originally produced by Swedish pop duo THE SOUND OF ARROWS.
‘Warrior’ is released as a download EP by Night Moves on 2nd December 2012. It is available via Amazon, iTunes and other digital retailers.
‘The Lost Are Found’ is an emotive body of songs, each from their very own world, but together blending to form an eleven episode triste drame.
The journey started when CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN teamed up with the top producer Stephen Hague whose credits have included MALCOLM MacLAREN, PET SHOP BOYS, OMD, ERASURE, MARC ALMOND, COMMUNARDS, NEW ORDER and A-HA.
Recording two brand new songs ‘Thank You’ and ‘Night School’ for her ‘Combined’ retrospective in 2011, they bookended that phase of her career which began of course with PROPAGANDA.
‘Thank You’ in particular captured a Bond Theme meets MASSIVE ATTACK vibe and planted the seed for an intriguing project which was the idea of her daughter Maddy.
Claudia told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK back in July: “The theme is melancholy songs…they’re sad but they don’t make you slash your wrists. I recorded it in four months with Stephen Hague and we had this real clear vision of what we wanted to do”. Despite the varying eras of the compositions, memories and emotions within the human condition exist whatever the period. So by default, songs of love and heartbreak are generally timeless. And because many of these carefully chosen songs are semi-obscure, even within the catalogues of some of their more high profile writers, this album can be approached with fresh ears, like an adventure that has been previously uncharted. In that respect, ‘The Lost Are Found’ does exactly what it says on the tin.
The journey begins with the ethereal ‘Mysteries of Love’ written by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti. Layers of treated voices climb over synth mountains as lonesome ivories and glacial atmospheres bring Middle America to Alpine Europe. As featured in the film ‘Blue Velvet’ in its JULEE CRUISE version, also on the soundtrack was ROY ORBISON’s ‘In Dreams’, another song which Claudia has previously recorded. One suspects this surreal film noir might be one of her favourites.
Following it, ‘Memories Of A Color’ from Nordic avant songstress STINA NORDENSTAM is a mix of acoustic and electric guitars with distorted organ over a mid-tempo percussive jazz shuffle as Claudia’s vocals provide an approachable counterpoint. Although ‘The Lost Are Found’ features a technological base, this is probably the most organic collection CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN has ever recorded.
Although her excellent ‘Another Language’ long player with ANDREW POPPY was acoustic, that relied on stark, minimal theatre for its effect. ‘The Lost Are Found’ combines the ice maiden chill with a fuller naturalistic warmth for an artful but accessible sound.
One nice surprise is ‘The Day I See You Again’ from DUBSTAR’s first album ‘Disgraceful’; Claudia’s reinterpretation of the kitchen sink drama about a man who has grown to be “more Morrison than Morrissey” is done Düsseldorf style with Weimar piano and beautiful flügel tones complimenting the resigned frustration. Then one of the albums highlights arrives with ‘Everyone Says Hi’, a brilliantly lively take on one of Bowie’s more recent numbers dressed with catchy riffs and fuzzy shades.
Lesser known ELO B-side ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from these sessions and begins with a vintage gramophoned segment before building to a pretty John Barry influenced, ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP arrangement which is frankly quite wonderful.
Interestingly, Jeff Lynne himself has recorded his own album of classic tunes recently called ‘Long Wave’.
Another STINA NORDENSTAM work ‘Crime’ emerges with its pizzicato colours, subtle bass and sparring six string. It acts as a steadfast mid-album interlude in almost hushed resonance before it all snaps back into place with THE LILAC TIME’s ‘The Road To Happiness’. Here Stephen Duffy’s ironic ditty kisses Claudia within an idyllic setting of angelic chorals, spritely strums and French accordion courtesy of Stephen Hague. Salute!
Perhaps thanks to Stephen Hague’s production duties on the original, Claudia’s reworking of PET SHOP BOYS’ ‘Kings Cross’ retains the song’s melancholic edge, the metaphor of capitalism is actually very much still intact. But how it differs is the pressure now rises to a dramatic climax and adds a rush not previously apparent in the song. On the album’s singular new composition from The Burt Bros called ‘No One To Blame’, hints of ‘Spiegel Im Spiegel’ like an antique music box flit in while the electronic orchestration lifts the tune into a dreamboat setting as Claudia’s timbres alternate between innocence and worldliness.
As ‘The Lost Are Found’ steps to its conclusion, the revamp of ‘And The Sun Will Shine’ rom BEE GEES’ 1968 album ‘Horizontal’ is marvellously majestic with rousing string stylings, the neo-Riviera flavour sitting well with the soaring chorus. The album closes with Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel’s rustic ‘Whispering Pines’ from which ‘The Lost Are Found’ title comes from. With spacey synth forte not unlike THE KORGIS ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ sitting alongside percussive brushes, it’s not quite how one would imagine THE BAND to sound but that’s the point…
The character spectrum which Stephen Hague has crafted for ‘The Lost Are Found’ is a hopeful, soothing experience that is not at all overbearing; Hague is known for placing his emphasis on vocals and by working the music around them, all the instruments have their place.
As a result, there is plenty of room for Claudia to breathe and manoeuvre. While obvious electronic references are perhaps more muted than what one would normally expect from her work, the varied organic embellishments add an enjoyable lounge dimension to Claudia’s repertoire which matures with each listen.
With thanks to Rosie Johnstone and David Lawrence at Impressive PR
PROPAGANDA release a compilation of their best known material from their time on ZTT, the erstwhile label run by producer Trevor Horn, his wife Jill Sinclair and conceptualist Paul Morley that also gave the world FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and THE ART OF NOISE.
Subtitled ‘A Compact Introduction To PROPAGANDA’, the album contains 76 minutes of bite size highlights and a choice of extended variations featuring ‘Dr. Mabuse’, ‘Duel’, ‘p:Machinery’ and ‘Dream Within A Dream’.
Founded by Ralf Dörper of cult industrial electronic band DIE KRUPPS, Andreas Thein and Susanne Freytag from girl band TOPOLINOS, PROPAGANDA germinated within Düsseldorf’s vibrant art school scene based around Die Ratinger Straße. They recorded a reinterpetation of ‘Discipline’ by THROBBING GRISTLE which was heard by Paul Morley and he signed them to ZTT. The line-up was expanded to include classically trained percussionist Michael Mertens and songstress Claudia Brücken who had been in TOPOLINOS with Susanne Freytag.
Although Andreas Thein left after the Trevor Horn produced debut single ‘Dr Mabuse’ in 1984, the remaining quartet, dubbed “Abba in Hell”, recorded the now legendary album ‘A Secret Wish’ under the helm of Stephen J Lipson. The 1985 album’s notable fans included DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore, DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor, SIMPLE MINDS’ Jim Kerr and MICHAEL JACKSON producer Quincy Jones who later borrowed its industrial pop elements on MJ’s 1987 album ‘Bad’.
One unlikely admirer was Pete Waterman who subsequently recorded a cover of ‘Duel’ with Mandy Smith in 1988 as he plotted world domination with his PWL empire…ironically, Stock Aitken & Waterman had been suggested as producers by Jill Sinclair when Trevor Horn’s commitments with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and GRACE JONES made him unavailable to work on ‘A Secret Wish’!
The classic line-up of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens only ever recorded the one album but the quartet did reunite in 2004 for a performance of ‘Dr Mabuse’ during a special concert at Wembley Arena which celebrated the work of Trevor Horn in aid of The Prince’s Trust. More recently, Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper have performed together at the ‘This Time It’s Claudia Brücken’ show at London’s Scala which is now immortalised on the ‘This Happened’ DVD.
With the release of ‘Noise & Girls Come Out To Play’, Ralf Dörper kindly spoke about his time with PROPAGANDA…
With ‘A Secret Wish’ being readily available and hailed by many as a classic album, who is the ‘Noise & Girls Come Out To Play’ album aimed at do you think?
For a start, we do not own our back-catalogue so that seems to be a question the record company should answer – which, I believe, initially wanted to compile a best-of covering not just the ZTT era but the Virgin period (and possibly even more) as well. But licensing issues prevented that.
I have to admit that I was quite concerned regarding this release – as it could be seen as flogging a dead horse and might backfire on us. PROPAGANDA released just one album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT… so how to make a proper introduction without repetition?
But in my opinion, the curator has done an excellent job – again. After having listened (at proper volume) I can fully say that this “introduction” really gives a full picture of the weirdness that was essential to PROPAGANDA. Because behind the polished sheen of the singles – the hits are included – you get frantic string arrangements, industrial noises and weird vocal manipulations – and you get Michael Mertens singing – well worth the admission…
The only flaw in my humble opinion is the packaging. Once more the full frontals of the ‘Duel’ nude photo-sessions were omitted and just the portraits were used…
Do you think potential listeners are still possibly intimidated by the “Abba in Hell” descriptions of PROPAGANDA and the general Teutonic nature of the music, hence this ‘An Introduction to…’ compilation?
We have been demons to some, angels to others… whoever came up with “Abba in Hell” – we took it as a compliment, not as an intimidation. Much better than “Fleetwood Mac in Hell” I think. I am not sure about the “general Teutonic nature of the music” you refer to however. We never did marches – or we actually stopped doing them realising that LAIBACH are much better at that.
You and Michael co-wrote ‘Dr. Mabuse’ with original member Andreas Thein. How did that come together and was it intended originally for Susanne to perform lead before Claudia joined?
When ZTT showed interest on the strength of our first (non-released) recording ‘Disziplin’, Andreas and myself had plenty of musical sketches but just a few more structured demos, such as ‘Doppelgänger’ (recorded but not released)… in fact plenty of “D”-songs to start with, because I had the lyrical concept for ‘Duel’ already and the intention to do a song called ‘Dr. Mabuse’, it actually evolved from a sequencer-line (TB-303!).
The song structure was developed with Michael who more or less joined the ranks at the same time as Claudia, so ‘Dr Mabuse’ was never conceived as a song for Susanne but very much already with Claudia and Trevor Horn in mind… and I won’t confirm the rumour that I wrote the line “sell him your soul” after we signed the contract with ZTT.
Trevor Horn and his team – and the unlimited access to sounds – enabled us to explore the potential of ‘Dr. Mabuse’ much further and to enter new sound territories we wouldn’t have dared to image or try before. There had been re-starts, scrapped ideas – but no erased tapes. That’s why the ‘Mabuse’ takes on ‘Noise & Girls…’ are all very interesting. Maybe ZTT should have done it the ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ way and released a ‘Mabuse’ mini-album in 1984… Fritz Lang actually needed three movies to show all facets of the Doctor…
In the compositional process, what synths and equipment were you using in PROPAGANDA?
Pre-ZTT, we worked with very basic equipment as synths still were pretty expensive. As these were also pre-MIDI times, we used mostly the basic Roland machines as these synchronized well. In the recording of ‘Disziplin’, we also had temporary access to PPG and the Linn modules which we triggered.
Michael brought his marimba (which when played by a proper musician sounds like a sequencer made from wood) and an Oberheim he used. I met Michael when I answered his classified ad – he wanted to sell a rhythm machine. When I saw that equipment at his home-place, we started talking.
It was great, somebody who had no knowledge or interest in actual pop music – but was keen to explore… Michael played with the Düsseldorf Symphonic Orchestra and studied composition and percussion instruments! In London, we were confronted with state-of-art musician’s machines, which for example recorded your mistakes and did not correct them straight-away by quantisizing. This led to some hiccups and not so well spent studio time in the beginning…
Quite a few of the songs were made from scratch in London – sometimes with false starts but great advice from the engineers and producers. Here the unlimited supply of technical possibilities sometimes was a problem as the operators knew their equipment best… how should we have known what sounds JJ of THE ART OF NOISE had hidden in his Fairlight…
But it got much more focused after we had managed to squeeze some money from ZTT – or better from Perfect Songs. To become more independent from the Fairlight etc, Michael and myself invested a publishing advance to buy some equipment, especially the PPG system.
How would you describe the dynamic in the way the songs grew from your demos to the eventual Stephen Lipson productions using the Synclavier, Sony 1610 digital recorder etc?
In general terms, you could say that ‘Dr. Mabuse’ (produced by Trevor Horn) was very much based on Fairlight while the album production (by Steve Lipson) was much more Synclavier, PPG and still Roland. The Super Jupiter is featured quite often.
Steve Lipson was great as he understood our ideas even when they were still in an embryonic state. The quality of the demos improved drastically because of Michael, which means that ‘p:Machinery’ (of which an early version is included on ‘Noise & Girls…’), ‘The Chase’ or especially ‘Dream Within A Dream’ were fully structured as demos already. Whereas ‘Dr. Mabuse’ was just very basic and created step-by-step (including false starts) in the studio.
‘Duel’ was tricky as we wanted to have a musical duel taking place within the song itself – let’s say harmony and noise fighting each other. This concept was too heady and not properly working. But we found the solution in the end to have ‘Duel / Jewel’ like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – and the conceptual idea was realized by confronting the A-side of the single with the B-side. Hard to understand for someone just knowing about iTunes nowadays…
The possibilities in the studio with the digital technology became almost endless with dozens of remixes for some tracks. Were there many creative tensions with regards a track like ‘Dream Within A Dream’ for example which hasn’t really appeared in multiple versions? It’s almost like you were all happy with that?
‘Dream Within A Dream’ was a track which was nearly fully pre-arranged in Düsseldorf. This was made possible as the PPG – ie our own equipment – made us more independent from the sound sources at Sarm which were only fully grasped by their respective programmers and engineers. You really had to attend educational seminars before you could manage those complex systems as Fairlight or Synclavier. It would take ages to try to understand them just by reading the manuals.
It was also Michael’s idea to use the Flügelhorn on ‘Dream Within A Dream’. He tried that out with a former college of his from the Düsseldorf Symphonic Orchestra. And later we flew him in to do this part in the Studio. It’s a real instrument, no Synclavier!
Whose idea was it to cover THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘Femme Fatale’? And why was a vocal version of THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Discipline’ never actually released? Did you consider doing any other covers as Claudia has done quite a few in her various guises?
I have a very stern view with regard to cover versions – I think there are too many and I hate tribute albums in particular.
I believe you should only do a cover if you can add something special or move the song into another dimension – maybe that is the reason that nobody dared to cover ‘Dr. Mabuse’ so far. Or you use a cover version as a reference point, to express where you stand or where you are coming from. This might not necessarily apply for solo singers, but in my opinion, a band should avoid covers or make very careful and conscious choices only. Did KRAFTWERK, SUICIDE or ULTRAVOX! (John Foxx version) ever do a cover? – I ask.
But ZTT’s policy in the beginning was to have a cover version on the B-side of the singles… I think the idea was scrapped after the artists realised what amounts of publishing income would go to a lucky stranger…while the Relax B-side ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ for me is a good point of reference for FGTH as a hymn to Liverpool, we had some problems with Morley’s initial choice of a CARPENTERS (!) song.
Me and Andreas strongly opposed and it would have contradicted our concept. In the end we came to the compromise of ‘Femme Fatale’ which has quite a European sentiment in the original version sung by NICO, who is German.
‘Disziplin’ was not a full cover version of ‘Discipline’ but more a song inspired by… – I would say nowadays. Not sure if Genesis P. Orridge objected as I did totally new lyrics… however I very much would have preferred to have a THROBBING GRISTLE cover version – if any – on our debut instead of ‘Sorry For Laughing’.
What do you think the follow-up to ‘A Secret Wish’ would have sounded like had you, Claudia, Susanne and Michael been able to stay together for a few more years?
Although I like speculation (…go short in euro, long in pound…), I am not really inclined to go for this futile exercise. In 1985 the tensions were growing rapidly, there were plenty of unsolvable issues internally – not to mention the huge problem of unfair remuneration!
But three quarters of PROPAGANDA continued anyway – albeit after a long frozen period. And I think that ‘Ministry of Fear’ and ‘Vicious Circle’ are very much in the tradition of ‘A Secret Wish’…it is also rather futile to argue if the choice of producers was right…how to follow Horn/Lipson?
But one thing is for sure, in case of a continuation it would be much easier for any passing listener of ‘1234’ to identify the band’s origin: it’s Düsseldorf, Germany not Ohio, USA…
You decided not to remain with Michael for what became the ‘1234’ album?
You could also say WE decided… and you should speak to Michael to get the full account of the story as I think PROPAGANDA’s Virgin period was nearly as dramatic as the ZTT time.
We started with a handicap because we were lacking a singer when we were in the wilderness of legal proceedings against ZTT – and our accounts had been frozen. But thanks to the help of friends in Germany and especially Derek Forbes (ex-SIMPLE MINDS) in Scotland, we had access to studios where we could work on some material which got us signed eventually by Virgin records in 1988.
The new singer Betsi Miller was discovered by Susanne (indirectly, by her bother) and we thought it should be mainly her decision after she had been pushed away from the spotlight by ZTT somewhat… however the chemistry between the two did not really develop, so she left first – but she can still be heard on ‘Vicious Circle’, the song on ‘1234’ which has – together with ‘Ministry Of Fear’ – most of the former PROPAGANDA flavour I believe.
I also have to admit that I somewhat had lost interest in pop in the second half of the 80s and was keen again on more extreme sounds. I was living in London at that time (and working in the City) and often listened to pirate stations on the radio which played Chicago Acid and Detroit Techno. And in the clubs you heard hard electronic sounds (again) which reminded me of the early 80s in Düsseldorf – for example NITZER EBB who continued where DAF stopped…
In fact I met with Andreas (Thein) again at that time. He often visited London living off the Mabuse-fame. I convinced him to do an acid track together – using his alias RIFIFI. We recorded it in Germany in two and a half days. It became the first German acid track and went straight into the charts in Germany – it was called ‘Dr. Acid & Mr. House’ and was mainly programmed on the machines we started ‘Dr Mabuse’ on: Roland TB-303 and TR-808…
So the “vicious” circle had closed – that was the time me and PROPAGANDA parted company… however I think Michael, Derek and the others made a record to be proud of. And I am still proud to have written the words to ‘Only One Word’ which was a very big hit in South America…
How was it for you to be on stage with Claudia and Susanne for the 2011 concert at The Scala to perform PROPAGANDA songs? That must have been interesting as you were unable to play live with PROPAGANDA back in the day because of your day job I understand?
This might be the official story – however, it sounds a bit odd given the fact that I played a couple of hundred concerts in Europe and North America with DIE KRUPPS in the 90s – while still having a so called “day job”.
In fact I had a quite stubborn view on playing live as PROPAGANDA as I believed it would be not possible to give a proper impression without lifting the studio on stage. And I did not consider it an option to use guest musicians … especially no guitar player. HEAVEN 17 had a similar stance and will – for the first time – perform ‘The Luxury Gap’ this year because just now it is possible without compromising, due to today’s technology.
As I like one-off events, I did the Trevor Horn event at Wembley and Claudia’s show at The Scala. This was especially for the fans – and the latter also to express my respect for the works of Claudia.
But what happened in Düsseldorf?
I did not do Düsseldorf as this event was not open to the public but more of a promotional tool for the local Stadtwerke (energy board).
Here the audience consisted mainly of management and chosen employees – and friends and family of the promoter…
I understand you, Claudia and Susanne have been in the studio together more recently, can you tell us more about that?
No, I cannot confirm that rumour. Or do you refer to the abridged session roughly two years ago? Michael Mertens, who creates a lot of music for TV and advertising, had done a snippet for Heidi Klum’s model show, which is big here on German TV. That was a short teaser – great hook – on which Claudia did the vocals.
At that time we considered giving PROPAGANDA another try – and the hook was promising enough to elaborate… I kept the words of the chorus and added the verses…but this proved to be the final PROPAGANDA track as old conflicts / wounds / problems / whatever broke out again…
What have been your own proudest moments with regards PROPAGANDA and the band’s legacy?
It’s been 30 years! (PROPAGANDA was conceived in 1982!)
So many crucial moments to recall and too difficult to bring them in a proper order – so I stick to the most recent ones…
So, recent moments of pride:
– The audience going wild at The Scala when the intros of ‘p:Machinery’ and ‘Dr. Mabuse’ were played
– The feat of charting with the reissue of ‘A Secret Wish’ in the UK (I thought this is only possible for ‘Tubular Bells’ or ‘Dark Side of the Moon’)
– Discovering a Mexican ‘Best of the 80s’ compilation which included PROPAGANDA during my holidays
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Actually I stopped recording music more or less at the end of the 90s.
However DIE KRUPPS – which also stopped in 1997 – are back on the live circuit since 2005. The reason was the 25-year anniversary of our first record and the rising demand.
Funnily enough, the band is seen as some sort of EBM / industrial-godfathers and there is a big scene not just in Germany but all over Europe and the Americas.
Last year we did a joint European tour together with Mute act NITZER EBB which was fun. We like to play concerts because we have a young audience – it has nothing to do with revivalism. We play mainly our greatest hits but include from time to time new songs.
We actually recorded a version of ‘Der Amboss / The Anvil’ by VISAGE which we made only available at concerts. It features Sarah Blackwood aka Client B. We also from time to time play a simplified but hard version of ‘Dr. Mabuse’ live…
And are there any new acts who you like who may be of interest?
I am living in the past…well, that was a joke, but currently I am re-discovering some things which were taking place when we were sucked into the ZTT machinery… for example I discovered what exciting recordings Conny Plank made (mainly with Dieter Moebius) in the middle of the 80s. That material – among others – has been brought back by German label Bureau B which takes good care of Germany´s electronic music heritage.
Interestingly Karl Bartos (who once was in KRAFTWERK) will release new material there. Something to look forward to… I am also waiting for the final THROBBING GRISTLE record – and the first FACTORY FLOOR album.
With regard to new acts, I guess ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is well aware of what is good and worthwhile. I could only name one act to of interest you might not have heard of yet: it is from Düsseldorf, called STABIL ELITE.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Ralf Dörper