Author: Leslie O’Toole / Source: Record Mirror / Published: 24th August 1985
P stands for Propaganda and their new single, ‘P-Machinery’. Is also stands for passions and RM decided to pop the question to Claudia Brücken. No, sillies not that question. ZTT supreme and sometime scribe, Paul Morley, got in there first (he and Claudia tied the knot on St Valentine’s Day). No, the question we posed was the following — what do you feel passionately about?
Claudia arrived for the photo-session, seemingly laden with half the contents of her flat, so let’s cut the cackle and proceed.
Pride of place in her collection was awarded to the rather peculiar objet d’art which graces the cover of Propaganda’s debut album, ‘A Secret Wish’. The item in question is, in fact, an old tailor’s dummy.
“I saw it in the street one night when I was coming home in a taxi. It had been put out with the rubbish. We thought it would be a great idea for the album because it’s such an unusual thing to use on a cover and a lot of people haven’t got a clue what it is.
“I like the spirit of it. It’s a bit secret. It’s in my flat all the time and I use it for something different each day. I keep moving it around and sometimes I put flowers in it.”
Predictably enough, Claudia feels very strongly about Propaganda and their music. By way of representation, she has bought along a rather nifty little Casio gadget. Just the thing for carving out the rudiments of those hit singles.
“I prepare melodies on it sometimes and thought it would be a good symbol for what I’m doing.”
And what of Propaganda’s recent live residency with fellow stablemates?
“It was he first live experience for Propaganda and it was great. We worked with Steven Jansen and Derek Forbes (ex-Japan and Simple Minds men) who are both very professional and helped us a lot. They will be touring with us but not until next year. We want to work on our second album before we play live again so that we’re not dependent on a few songs. We need for flexibility.”
Continuing on the musical front, Claudia’s earliest influence was Marlene Dietrich, legendary German actress and husky-voiced singer.
“When I was young, I wasn’t especially into pop music. I listened to Marlene Dietrich all the time. It wasn’t until later that I started listening to people like Devo and the Specials. The first pop record I bough was probably Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’ but I never really concentrated on that market.”
So is Marlene Dietrich Claudia’s heroine?
“Yes, she is. She was a great way of expressing herself and is a beautiful actress. She’s not classically beautiful — it’s her character that gives her beauty.
“In Germany, you grow up with Marlene Dietrich films, because they’re on television every Sunday afternoon. The first film I saw her in was ‘The Blue Angel’. What attracted me washer vocals, she’s a great performer. I used to try and copy her a lot and sing all her songs.”
The move from Propaganda’s home town of Dusseldorf to London has inevitably entailed leaving family and friends behind. So another of Claudia’s passions is the telephone. Bet the passion doesn’t extend to the exorbitant bills though!
“The telephone is the only way I’m connected with home now, so it’s very important. I call my family every week, or vice versa, and we chat away.
“Normally, I try and go home every month for a couple of days, though sometimes my family comes over here.”
Dusseldorf — where the weather is apparently even worse than ours — sounds a good deal more parochial than the hustle and bustle of London.
“I like the way that in London, everyone lives together but you don’t really know your next-door neighbour. In Dusseldorf, you tend to know nearly everyone. When you go out, you meet thousands of people you know but here it’s just not the same.”
When not dishing up excellent records, Claudia likes to turn her attention to platters of a more culinary nature.
“I’m a vegetarian. Paul has been one for seven or eight years and he converted me. Why should I bother to eat meat and fish when you don’t need them and they’re very bad for you? Liver is the worst thing ever!
“Cooking is a very relaxing thing. I love making meals for lots of people. You don’t seem to have quite the same culture here, whereby you invite loads of friends round for dinner or even just go out to drink coffee. It’s very annoying — if you go out here and just order coffee, people get very upset.
“My favourite lean is gratin with a nice German salad. I love mushroom soup too and healthy food generally. That’s another annoying thing about England. You cook everything out of tins.”
From gastronomic delights to visual one — the film ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ to be more specific. It’s a mite tricky to describe on paper, being unconventional in every sense. No dialogue no story-line, just 90 minutes of breathtaking scenery and imagery, beautifully choreographed to the music of Philip Glass.
“I saw it in a hotel in Dusseldorf and was absolutely fascinated and depressed at the same time. It’s a bit like ‘2001’. A philosophical statement about life. The camera work makes the film. It has nothing to do with individuals, just human being in general — what they do with their lives and how they work.”
Get down to your local video shop now!
Another of Claudia’s most prized possessions is a mounted butterfly which her grandmother gave her.
“The main reason I brought it today is because in the ‘P-Machinery’ video, I’m trying to catch butterflies. The video is very surreal with a really kitsch background.
“I love the colours of butterflies and the way they glitter and shine. They’re very beautiful insects. Also, you see them in spring and summer which are my favourite seasons.”
If you scrutinise the accompanying photographs closely, you’ll also spot a self-portrait of Claudia, coloured with lipstick and mascara. Yup, make-up is another passion.
“I have to wear loads of make-up for videos and photos. It’s very important for what I’m doing.”
And back to the butterflies.
“Sometimes I do my make-up in a similar sort of shape.”
Is Claudia an arty person?
“Well, I studied art and English at college. I like to draw a lot but, at the moment, I don’t really have the time.”
One person who has more time for art is the one responsible for the rather large painting gracing the wall of the studio.
“A friend of mine, who’s a great painter, gave it to me for my birthday three years ago and it’s been with me ever since.”
Concluding the list of 10 is Claudia’s collection of hats.
“I never consciously collected hats. I just suddenly realised I have a lot. Most of them are still in Germany but I have about eight over here. The white hat was a wedding present.
“I love hats because they change your face and your image very abruptly. They also reflect your mood and change the way you feel.”
Hats off to Claudia and Propaganda. Long may their passions prosper.