Title: There is no information, only disinformation and propaganda
Author: Chris Roberts
Publish date: May 18 1985
THE FIRST CUT WON’T HURT AT ALL…
As I near the gates of ZTT, I’m wondering what one can ask Propaganda that Morley hasn’t already decreed infradig with his active Eighties smirk, and also why no-one ever seems to mention Graham Greene’s book of collected film criticism 1935-40, which was called ‘The Pleasure Dome’. But, before I can spell Khubla Khan wrongly, a rasta steps authoritatively into my path and says…
“Go that way.”
I halt. “Sorry?”
“Go that way.” First, it occurs to me that the direction he is so kindly pointing out is not the way to ZTT and second, he doesn’t know where I’m going, anyway. Third, I think I can say “Why?” without anyone hitting me.
“Because it’s the truth.”
Flaming visions, etcetera! But — because this is real life — I say “Sure thing; later,” and with a glorious combination of body swerve and witless smile I circumnavigate the foggy-eyed human signpost. A minute later I’m at Zang’s place. Paul Morley comes up, unshaven, genuinely friendly, and says, This Claudia Bruchen.” We all look at each other and mumble for a bit. “Where would you like to do the interview — on the roof or in the room?”
THE SECOND MAKES YOU WONDER…
Propaganda — Claudia, Susanne, Ralf, and Michael. Described by everyone but ZTT as Abba in Hell. The follow-up to ‘The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse’ (who was more fascist than feline) is ‘Duel’. Or ‘Jewel’. Or ‘Duel (Bitter Sweet)’, my fave. Or ‘Jewel (Cut Rough)’. It all depends on how many inches you’ve got and which side you play it on. Let us understand, “improperly or extravagantly, the extent of Propaganda’s second release”.
The video contains a stirring “hands coming through the wall” scene ripped off from Polanski’s Repulsion (which is definitely irrelevant but had to be mentioned somewhere). Claudia, for her part, sings.
“We wanted to come out of the shadow of Mabuse and idealise a pop song, a love song. It just talks about… unable to communication. My English isn’t too good, by the way.”
Yes it is. Why does the chorus reckon “the first cut won’t hurt at all”?
“Well, I don’t know about you; maybe you’ve had these experiences as well. With your love or whatever — it does hurt, but at the end it gives you a way which your life is going. It doesn’t affect you for your next love.”
Are you sure?
“Ha ha! Well, I don’t like to interpretate the song. I think it’s very obvious. You getten used to it, you getten used to the pain.”
Not everybody does.
“But I mean I do. I’m singing the song.”
Aha! (Aha what?). Anyway it’s a very good song, part twisted, part straight. It’s hard, however, not to rake up the peripheries of ZTT… the verbiage… “some moments are livelier than others”…
Claudia, there are an awful lot of words on your record sleeves.
“Not an awful! A lot of words, but not an awful!”
I know, I was just being idiomatic. (What a wonderful laugh she has.)
“I think they suit our face. We can play with all the images we want to, around the word ‘propaganda’ itself. Out concept is not to be tied down.”
And what is your aim?
“To entertain. Can I have a cigarette?”
You can have a cigarette.
“These is The The you can hear from the studio. They are very loud. This place was church before.”
Are you and Susanne, as females, pushed to the front? As a selling-point?
“We always wanted to build up the image of Abba In Hell — two boys, two women. How I or Susanne sing or present it very strong in itself; it’s female for it’s own sake.”
What of all the “vamp” imagery — scratches, suggestive quotes like “Claudia takes an interest in shocking and disgusting things”, the OTT jewellery and crucifixes, “she reddens at the mouth with the blood of men”…?
“Those images suit the song, don’t they? And if you read about vampires — in the early ages, they were women.”
Have you actually read Baudelaire or Poe?
“I read them when Paul quoted them, you know? Some I thought was really pseudo, and some I liked emotionally. And some of Paul’s quotes are… taking the piss? Which I really like as well. So I don’t see it as very serious; it’s playing with things, with images.”
Tell us all about the forthcoming album, ‘A Secret Wish’.
“It will be more like a… like a tale. It starts with a Poe poem with music under it, ‘The Dream Within A Dream’. That’s eight minutes long. Then it goes from one experience and mood to another. Lots of little stories which altogether give the ides of the secret wish.”
“What? What?” No! I don’t want to say what the secret wish is! It’s for yourself!”
Well now. Is it an emotional record? Or does everything on ZTT get over-intellectualised despite the quite superb tongue-in-cheek aspect you mentioned? Could it ever be as pure and fresh as something made by four 16-year-olds in a garage?
“It is emotional for us because it’s our first. I don’t know… Frankie go and do pop number ones and things like that. We can’t be compared with them. I think the way people think of Frankie there and the other ZTT acts next is quite good for us.”
Propaganda have not used Trevor Horn to produce their LP. “We don’t want to be as dependent on him as Frankie are.” Steve Lipson has donned, or manned — whatever it is these producer-blokes don, or man.
And the next single ‘P-Machinery’ “is a song about machinery and people living together in society. It will be with trumpets going bizarre”. For the ZTT “theatre week” in late May — “no no no, no rock and roll, thank you!” — they’ll be working with Derek Forbes (just ex-Simple Minds) on bass, and Steve Jansen (ex-Japan, David Sylvian’s brother) on drums.
“These are the facts. As always, the fiction is up to you.”
THE THIRD WILL HAVE YOU ON YOUR KNEES…
“What I really hate is all the same questions like — the background, the concept…”
Do you enjoy train rides?
Train rides. On trains. Through different countries.
I dunno. Melancholy. Rootlessness.
“Aha ha ha! Well no, I don’t. I hate them. I can’t stand them. I went to Greece once. 48 hours. It was horrible.”
Was it boring?
“It was very dirty and you have to open your eyes all the time because people steal your things. It’s just terrible.”
What excites you? What’s the best thing in your life?
“My relationship to Paul. He irons my clothes for me. He’s a good clothesman. Or whatever.”
A good clothesman (or whatever) appears to check up on us.
“No thank you, darling.” (Claudia says this, not me.)
Not until three days later do I fin out that Claudia is Mrs Morley. Truth — doncha just love it? La Muse el la Madone.
“Obviously people say very bad things about Paul. I haven’t read all his interviews, just some. You think it’s jealousy, do you? I don’t know. Some people are very nasty. For me, I have a good laugh about all that because I don’t know him for that side. I see another person. Is he very famous?”
Um… he once made an idiot of Muriel Grey on telly. For that alone he should be knighted.
Will Propaganda change anybody’s way of thinking?
“Not all. Everybody’s way of thinking is individual. It can give you a feeling for a moment, make someone happy or sad on several levels, and that’s what I want.”
Why would you want to make someone sad?
“Ha ha ha! You know what I mean!”
Game’s up. ‘Duel’ will be Propaganda’s nineteenth number one. And then what?
“Les poetes… consumeront leurs jours en d’austeres etudes.” (Baudelaire ‘La Beauté).
For the stragglers at the back that’s ‘the poets will waste their days pondering its true significance’.
And so on.