Cabaret Voltaire are an English music group from Sheffield.
Initially composed of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk, and Chris Watson, the group was named after Cabaret Voltaire, a nightclub in Zürich, Switzerland, that was a centre for the early Dada movement.
Their earliest performances were Dada-influenced performance art, but Cabaret Voltaire later developed into one of the most prolific and important groups to blend industrial dance, techno, dub, house and experimental electronic music with pop.
The band formed in Sheffield in 1973 and experimented widely with sound creation and processing. Some of these early experiments were first documented on the Industrial Records cassette 1974-1976 (1980), then later on the triple album CD set Methodology '74/'78: The Attic Tapes (Mute 2002). They eventually turned to live performance, often sharing the bill with Joy Division. In one incident, Mallinder was hospitalised with a chipped backbone after the band had objects thrown at them. However, the arrival of punk rock brought a more accepting audience for their industrial, electronic sound and they were championed by Sheffield punk fanzine Gunrubber edited by Paul Bower of local band 2.3.
In 1978, Cabaret Voltaire signed to Rough Trade Records. With Rough Trade they released several acclaimed musically experimental singles and EPs, including Extended Play, "Nag Nag Nag" and "Three Mantras", and albums such as The Voice of America in 1980, and Red Mecca in 1981.
Watson left the band in 1981 to work for Tyne Tees Television and went on to found The Hafler Trio with Andrew M. McKenzie before becoming a BBC sound engineer and then a soloist.
During this time, Cabaret Voltaire toured Europe, Japan and America without major record label support, releasing Hai!, a live album recorded in Japan, in 1982.
In late 1982, Cabaret Voltaire decided consciously to turn in a more commercial direction, with the album The Crackdown released in 1983 on Some Bizzare / Virgin Records. This decision was rewarded with the album reaching number 31 in the UK Albums Chart - over 60 places higher than their previous (and then only) chart placing. In 1984, the singles "Sensoria" and "James Brown" from the album Micro-Phonies (also on Virgin) charted on the UK Indie Chart, as well as getting play in the underground dance scene.
In 1987, the band released Code, followed by the house-influenced Groovy, Laidback & Nasty in 1990. A series of completely instrumental works under the Cabaret Voltaire name were released on Instinct Records in 1993 and 1994. The last Cabaret Voltaire release to feature Mallinder on vocals was the Body and Soul album in 1991.
Since the mid-late 1980s, Kirk began a solo career under several names, including Electronic Eye and Sandoz, while Mallinder relocated to Perth, Australia and records with a collaborator under the name Sassi & Loco and, more recently, in another collaborative effort the Kuling-Bros. Mallinder also helps run his own Offworld Sounds label and contributed to synthesizer and programming on Shaun Ryder's solo album Amateur Night at the Big Top.
In 1996, Mallinder reported to Inpress magazine's Andrez Bergen that "I do think the manipulation of sound in our early days - the physical act of cutting up tapes, creating tape loops and all that - has a strong reference to Burroughs and Gysin; in terms of the Dada thing, there's a similarity between the Dadaists' reaction to the bourgeoisie and the war and our own position - we felt alienated from popular culture ourselves. I think those kinds of attitudes become embedded within you, but I'm not sure how it relates now..."
Hopes of a Cabaret Voltaire reunion were raised when Kirk dropped hints in the late 1990s, the most significant being in the notes of a reissue of Radiation, but this never happened. In a special 'Depeche Mode/History of Electro-pop' edition of Q magazine, Kirk suggested he is still considering resurrecting the Cabaret name, but this time he plans to "Get some young people involved".
In 2001, Watson appeared in the documentary film Made in Sheffield, where he discussed the early years of Cabaret Voltaire. Since that time, Kirk has resurrected the Cabaret Voltaire name and has released new albums with New Zealand band Kora called Kora! Kora! Kora! and Sheffield band, The Tivoli called National Service Rewind. The new material was recorded at Western Works studios.
The experimental 'Sensoria Festival of Film and Music' is named after the Cabaret Voltaire song, and has become an annual event held in Sheffield since 2008.
In July 2014, Berlin's Atonal Festival reported that Cabaret Voltaire were to perform at the festival. The performance - the first in twenty years - will see a setlist of all new material performed by a line-up "consisting solely of machines, multi-screen projections and Richard H. Kirk", the lone remaining member of the 'group'.
- Stephen Mallinder - vocals, bass, keyboards (1973–1994)
- Richard H. Kirk - guitars, keyboards, tapes (1973–Current)
- Chris Watson - keyboards, tapes (1973– October 1981)
- Mix-Up (October 1979) No. 12 UK Indie
- The Voice of America (July 1980) No. 3 UK Indie
- Red Mecca (August 1981) No. 1 UK Indie
- 2x45 (May 1982) No. 1 UK Indie, No. 98 UK
- The Crackdown (August 1983) No. 31 UK
- Micro-Phonies (November 1984) No. 69 UK
- The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord (October 1985) No. 57 UK
- C O D E (October 1987)
- Groovy, Laidback and Nasty (June 1990)
- Body and Soul (March 1991)
- Plasticity (October 1992)
- International Language (June 1993)
- The Conversation (July 1994)
- Johnny Yesno (November 1983) No. 8 UK Indie
- Johnny Yesno Redux (November 2011)
- Technology: Western Re-Works 1992 (June 1992)
- Remixed (2001)
- Kora! Kora! Kora! The Cabaret Voltaire Versions (March 2009)
- National Service Rewind (May 2010)
- Live at the Y.M.C.A. (February 1980) No. 2 UK Indie
- Live at the Lyceum (1981 cassette) No. 14 UK Indie
- The Pressure Company: Live In Sheffield 19 Jan 82 (1982)
- Hai! (Live In Japan) (October 1982) No. 5 UK Indie
- Radiation (BBC Recordings 84-86) (1998)
- Live at the Hacienda '83/'86 (2002)
- Archive #828285: Live (2013)
- 1974-1976 (1980)
- The Golden Moments of Cabaret Voltaire (1987)
- Eight Crepuscule Tracks (1988)
- Listen Up with Cabaret Voltaire (1990)
- The Living Legends (1990)
- The Original Sound of Sheffield '83/'87. Best of; (2001)
- Conform to Deform '82/'90. Archive; (2001)
- The Original Sound of Sheffield '78/'82. Best of; (2002)
- Methodology '74/'78: The Attic Tapes (2002)
- #8385: Collected Works 1983-1985 (2013)
- #7885: Electropunk to Technopop 1978-1985 (2014)
Singles and EPs
- Extended Play EP (tracks: "Talkover" / "Here She Comes Now" / "Do The Mussolini (Headkick)" / "The Set Up") (July 1978)
- "Baader-Meinhof" / "Sex in Secret" on A Factory Sample (January 1979)
- "Nag Nag Nag" / "Is That Me Finding Someone at the Door Again" (live 75) (April 1979)
- "Silent Command" / "Chance versus Causality" (October 1979) No. 10 UK Indie
- "Three Mantras" (January 1980) No. 10 UK Indie
- "Seconds Too Late" / "Control Addict" (September 1980) No. 8 UK Indie
- "Sluggin' fer Jesus" / "Your Agent Man" (March 1981)
- "Eddie's Out" / "Walls of Jericho" (July 1981) No. 6 UK Indie (initial copies included free 7" single "Jazz the Glass" / "Burnt to the Ground")
- "Yashar" / "Yashar (alternative mix)" (Factory Records (FAC 82); 1983) No. 6 UK Indie
- "Fools Game (Sluggin' fer Jesus Part 3)" / "Gut Level" (1982)
- "Crackdown" / "Just Fascination" (double A side 12") (July 1983)
- "Just Fascination" / "Empty Walls" (July 1983) UK No. 94
- "The Dream Ticket" / "Safety Zone" (November 1983)
- "Sensoria" (October 1984) UK No. 96
- "James Brown" (January 1985) UK No. 100
- Drinking Gasoline (April 1985) No. 71 UK
- "I Want You" (October 1985) UK No. 91
- "Shakedown" (March 1986)
- "The Drain Train" (July 1986) No. 5 UK Indie
- "Don't Argue" (February 1987) No. 69 UK
- "Here To Go" (September 1987) No. 16 U.S. Dance, UK No. 88
- "Hypnotised" (December 1989) No. 66 UK
- "Keep On" (June 1990) No. 55 UK
- "Easy Life" (October 1990) No. 61 UK
- "Colours" (January 1991)
- "What Is Real" (April 1991)
- "Percussion Force" (September 1991)
- "I Want You" / "Kino '92" (February 1992)
- "Nag Nag Nag" (October 2002)
Selected compilation appearances
- A Factory Sample (1978)
- C81 (1981)
- A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse (1985)
- Salvation! Original soundtrack (1987)
- Wasted: The Best of Volume, Part I (1995)
- Redefining the Prologue (2006)
- Acid Horse featuring Al Jourgensen, Chris Connelly and Bill Rieflin with Mallinder and Kirk.
- Hafler Trio featuring Watson.
- Sandoz featuring Kirk.
- Sweet Exorcist featuring DJ Parrot and Kirk.
- The Pressure Company featuring Kirk.
- Xon featuring Kirk.
- Bands and musicians from Yorkshire and North East England