This experimental band formed in Sheffield in 1974 and played their debut gig at a student disco in May 1975.
Named after a Dadaist collective, Cabaret Voltaire was essentially vocalist and bassist Stephen Mallinder, guitarist Richard H Kirk and multi-instrumentalist Chris Watson.
Early live performances were confrontational “events” rather than conventional musical performances, but in later days, convention crept in when they discovered the hypnotic joys of funk.
Unsurprisingly, Cabaret Voltaire were rejected by the late 70s punk scene as a middle-class performance art wank. It wasn’t until 1981’s ominous electro outing Red Mecca on Rough Trade (they were the first UK act to grace Rough Trade vinyl) that critics began to take them seriously.
A switch to Virgin records and a more commercial punk-funk electro-cocktail permitted The Crackdown (1983) to reach #31 on the UK chart.
Singles Sensoria and James Brown from follow-up Micro-phonies (1984) both became indie chart hits thanks to a beat-heavy dance orientation that would evolve into the pioneering house and ambient techno of Groovy, Laidback and Nasty (1990) and Plasticity (1993).
Founding member Chris Watson left the music industry in the early 90s to work as a sound recordist for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He then branched out into production for film and television and has handled field recording for numerous nature programs, documentaries and feature films.
The band spluttered to a halt around 1994.
Vocals, bass, electronics, percussion, trumpet, piano
Richard H Kirk
Guitar, vocals, synthesizer, bongos, piano
Christopher R Watson