Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H Kirk Dies Aged 65

Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk Dies Aged 65

At the age of 65, Richard H Kirk, a member of the band Cabaret Voltaire who was regarded as a pioneer in electronic and industrial music in the 1970s and 1980s, has died. The experimental usage of synthesizers and tape loops by the Sheffield band had a significant impact on a number of pop, house, techno, and art-rock musicians.

Kirk was a tall, creative genius. He led a life that was single-minded and driven. His record label, Mute, said this. “We will miss him a lot,” Mute added.

People who are paying tribute to him are saying nice things about him. They said he was a dad of electronica. They also said he was an inspiration for what people could do with synths in the 70s. A group was formed in 1973. It has two people who are called Kirk and Stephen, and they are from Sheffield University. They named themselves after a nightclub in Zurich where the Dada art movement began.

Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk Dies Aged 65
Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H Kirk Dies Aged 65

The influence of beat writer William Burroughs’s tape collage experiments, as well as bands like Kraftwerk and Roxy Music, helped to shape their style. “Just listening to Eno talk in interviews about how anyone can create music because you don’t need to learn a contraption, you can make music with a tape recorder, or a synth was the aha moment that really got us going,” says Spock.

The university’s music department gave Cabaret Voltaire the same type of synthesizer as Eno, and they got a sequencer and drum machine.

‘Went mad’

The band’s first concert was in 1975, but it descended into a near-riot because the audience had been anticipating a standard rock act, according to Kirk. “Somebody else took my clarinet and started whaling on someone with it,” he stated. “Everything exploded into a frenzy.” But the group’s second performance occurred at 10:00 a.m., at a school assembly in Bury, but it was halted after four minutes when someone pulled the plug and set off the fire alarm.

‘Hugely influential’

The band amassed a growing following with albums like the 1980s The Voice of America, 1981’s Red Mecca, and 1983’s The Crackdown, all of which charted in the UK top 40.

They seemed to be “way, way ahead of their time,” according to DJ magazine in 2013. The band’s sound was “heavily influential” on the birth of industrial, house, and techno as it created a “tough tone that absorbed electronics, dub, found sounds, and scuzzy punk.”

They also established a flourishing music industry in Sheffield, paving the road for The Human League, Heaven 17, Moloko, and Warp Records. The Human League’s Martyn Ware has referred to Cabaret Voltaire as “big brothers.”


The band moved into hibernation in the 1990s, but Kirk resurrected it in 2009 as the only remaining original member. In the meantime, Mallinder had emigrated to Australia, and Watson had departed in 1981, eventually becoming a highly regarded sound recordist for Sir David Attenborough. Kirk told the Irish Times that he had turned down “a very large sum of money” from the Coachella music festival a few years ago to bring back the original lineup.

“I don’t think it’s right to go for the quick buck,” he continued. “To me, it would be a slap in the face to the original Cabaret Voltaire’s spirit.”

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