Author: Peter Martin / Source: Smash Hits / Published: 29th March 1984
Four Germans, a brilliant record called "Dr Mabuse" and a very strange video. There’s a word for it all…
At last! A group that’s genuinely different. Propaganda are two boys and two girls from Dusseldorf, Germany. They don’t play traditional instruments but, instead, "act as a team to think up ideas, sing and program the electronics".
All this should come as no surprise if you’ve heard their first single, "Dr Mabuse", or seen the accompanying video. It’s a fantastically strange and powerful song that’s drenched in European mystery and grandeur. Trevor Horn’s production gives it that epic feel, while photographer Anton Corbijn’s video (in black and white!) thickens the spooky plot with masses of weird images: monks, abandoned churchyards, banks of fog and a ghostly hand that swoops around attacking unsuspecting bystanders.
It’s all in keeping with the image of their record company, ZTT, the people who brought you Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s "Relax". So what, you might ask, is it all in aid of? And who is Dr Mabuse? Suzanne, spokesperson for the group — i.e. she speaks the best English — explains.
"He’s an evil character from a classic 1920s/30s German film, but we’ve put him in a modern setting. In those days the character was a warning against Fascist politics, but in this context he could be businessman, possibly. We think it’s sad," she adds, "that European culture has been replaced with that of America. All people can remember about Germany is The War but, before that, there was a great movement with great art, designers and filmmakers. Propaganda is a move back to those sort of roots."
Previously the girls were in a group called Topolinos, the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. Then, 18 months ago they joined up with Ralf and Andreas to form Propaganda — the name means "a small unit communicating their ideas to the masses". And then, "by chance", they signed to ZTT last year. A "fortunate" move for the group who set out to "create a new form of music that will hopefully reach a big audience".
Still, it hasn’t forced them to give up their day jobs. Suzanne’s a freelance goldsmith (as was Nena). Claudia’s hard at it doing the German equivalent of A-levels, Ralf works in a bank and Andreas is a DJ, although he’s currently out of work.
"We all like to have work outside music," says Suzanne rather curiously, "because it can sometimes take you away from reality."
She said it, not me!