Richard H. Kirk, Post-Punk Pioneer of Industrial Music, 65 . die on

Richard H. Kirk, a founding member of English group Cabaret Voltaire and a key figure in the creation of the post-punk style known as industrial music, has died. He was 65 years old.

His death was confirmed by his former record label, Mute. Instagram post on 21st September. The post did not say when or where he died or the reason behind it.

Mr Kirk formed Cabaret Voltaire in 1973 with Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson in Sheffield, England. They borrowed the name from the Zurich nightclubs where Dada, an art movement that responded to society’s evils with irrationality, was born in the early years of the 20th century.

“When we started out, we wanted to do something with sound, but neither of us knew how to play an instrument,” Kirk said in a 1985 New York Times interview. articles about industrial music. “So we started using tape recorders and various pieces of junk and slowly learned to play instruments like guitar and bass.” Despite his claim, Mr. Kirk was initially a clarinetist, and he developed a scratchy, slashing style as a guitarist.

The members of Cabaret Voltaire produced the template known as industrial music: hectoring vocals, mechanical rhythms, scraps of recorded speech stripped from the mass media, traditional instruments rendered exotic with electronic influences.

In recordings such as “Three Spells,” “The Voice of America” ​​and “Red Mecca” in the early 1980s, the group collaborated with William S. Burroughs and Brion Gaisin adopted the literary cutup techniques of British author JG Ballard’s dystopian provocation and punk rock’s abrasive. Stance music influences included Brian Eno, the German band Cain and Jamaican Dub.

Mr Watson left the group in 1981, and Mr Kirk and Mr Mallinder followed a more commercial direction that propelled them to the pinnacle of mainstream success. Cabaret Voltaire disbanded in 1994, after which Mr Kirk pursued an astonishing range of solo projects and collaborations. They revived Cabaret Voltaire in 2009 as a solo effort, focusing exclusively on new material, and released three albums in 2020 and 2021.

Mr Kirk was born on March 21, 1956 and raised in Sheffield, a steel town. He told author and critic Simon Reynolds, in an interview for his book “Rip It Up and Start Again” (2005), an authoritative post-punk history, “You looked down into the valley and all you could see was the buildings. was blackened.” .

Sheffield was a stronghold of the Labor Party and radical-left politics, and as a teenager Mr Kirk Young was a member of the Communist League. “My dad was a party member at one time, and I wore the badge when I went to school,” he told Mr. Reynolds. “But I never took it seriously.”

Mr. Mallinder, in 2006 Interview On the Red Bull Music Academy website, he said that he and Mr. Kirk were attracted to Black American music from an early age. “We used to go to Seoul clubs from the time we were about 13 or 14,” he said. “We were both working-class kids; We grew up with that. And whatever was in our world at the time, it didn’t really matter to us.”

But local performances by Roxy Music, then an up-and-coming art-rock band consisting of primitive synthesizers and Mr. Eno on tape effects, suggested new possibilities.

“People like Brian Eno had a huge influence on us, because he was really integrating things that were non-musical, and what attracted us,” Mr. Mallinder said. “We didn’t really want to be musicians. The idea of ​​being technically proficient or learning a traditional instrument was kind of a curse for us.”

Mr. Kirk attended art school and completed a one-year program in sculpture. He is joined by Mr Mallinder and Mr Watson, a grandfather-adjacent telephone engineer, at Cabaret Voltaire, initially an amorphous, boundary-pushing workshop project located in Mr Watson’s attic.

Mr. Kirk told Mr. Reynolds, “We used to go there every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and experiment for two hours, during which time we would probably write three or four works.” Less musicians than previously provocateurs, members of Cabaret Voltaire were soon swept up in England’s punk-rock revolution. In 1978, the group founded Western Works, a rehearsal and recording studio, formerly the offices of the Sheffield Federation of Young Socialists.

“Western Works gave us the freedom to do what we wanted,” said Mr. Kirk. An advance from the independent label Rough Trade helped the band build a studio with a four-track recorder and mixing desk. Rough Trade released some of the band’s most influential and enduring works.

After Mr Watson left the group, Mr Kirk and Mr Mallinder moved on to clear dance-floor rhythms, drum machines and lush synthesizer sounds, with underground hits such as “sensoria,” “James Brown” and “I Want You.” A major-label contract with EMI resulted in a collaboration with influential producer Adrian Sherwood on the group’s album “Code” (1987), and Chicago house-music producers in 1990. , a collaboration with “Groovy, Laidback and Nesty”. But the group disbanded after four years due to audience apathy and mounting debt.

Mr Kirk became involved in a range of pseudonymous projects and collaborations. While performing with Richard Barratt (aka DJ Parrott) in a duet called Sweet Exorcist, he was among the earliest artists documented by the fledgling Warp label. He had another powerful collaboration with Sheffield recording engineer Robert Gordon as the technical duo XON.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr Kirk declined lucrative offers from festivals such as Coachella to revive the original cabaret Voltaire. “Some people might think I’m smart for not taking the money, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that,” he said in a 2017 interview. fact sheet. “Cabaret Voltaire was always about breaking new ground and moving forward.”

He reinforced that influence by refusing to perform any older Cabaret Voltaire material. “I always make it clear that if you think you’re going to come and hear the greatest hits, don’t come because you’re not,” he told Fact. “What you can get is the same spirit.”

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