Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H. Kirk Dead At 65
Richard H. Kirk, co-founder of the pioneering UK industrial group Cabaret Voltaire, has died. News of Kirk’s death comes from Cabaret Voltaire’s publicist, and no cause of death has been reported. Kirk was 65.
Cabaret Voltaire formed in the English city of Sheffield in the early ’70s. Kirk and fellow co-founder Chris Watson were fascinated with early electronic music, and they formed Cabaret Voltaire with Kirk’s friend Stephen Mallinder, who sang and played bass. The group was experimental both in its music, which leaned toward disruptive electronic noise, and its performances, which were often surprise guerrilla spectacles in public places. Sometimes, their performances ended in fights between the group and the audience.
Cabaret Voltaire built Western Works, their own Sheffield recording studio, in 1977, and they signed with Rough Trade a year later. The group’s early tracks were stark, confrontational tracks like “Nag Nag Nag,” which fit spiritually but not stylistically within the growing punk underground. After Cabaret Voltaire’s first two albums, 1979’s Mix-Up and 1980’s The Voice Of America, Chris Watson left Cabaret Voltaire, and Richard H. Kirk and Stephen Mallinder continued on as a duo.
Cabaret Voltaire’s early records were spartan, damaged, aggressive electronic music. Alongside Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire were hugely important in the development of industrial music. But as that genre grew, Cabaret Voltaire moved increasingly toward relatively commercial dance music, eventually signing with Virgin and first reaching the UK singles chart with their 1983 track “Just Fascination.” The group jumped from Virgin to EMI and worked with producer Adrian Sherwood on their 1987 album Code. Kirk, recording solo, began experimenting with house music in the late ’80s, and Cabaret Voltaire went in that direction, as well, in the early ’90s.
Cabaret Voltaire broke up in 1994, and Kirk continued to record, both under his own name and under a series of aliases. In 2009, Kirk resurrected Cabaret Voltaire as a solo project. Last year, Kirk released Shadow Of Fear, the first new album under the Cabaret Voltaire name in 26 years. Two more Cabaret Voltaire albums, Dekadrone and BN9Drone, came out earlier this year.
Below, listen to some of Cabaret Voltaire’s music.