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Cabaret Voltaire were a Britishmarker music group from Sheffieldmarker, Englandmarker.

Initially composed of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson, the group was named after the Cabaret Voltairemarker, a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerlandmarker 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 pop with dance music, techno, dub house and experimental electronic music.


The band formed in Sheffieldmarker in 1973 and experimented widely with sound creation and processing. These early experiments are documented on the triple album CD set Methodology (Mute 2002). They eventually turned to live performance. 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.

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.

During this time they toured Europe, Japanmarker and Americamarker without major record label support, releasing Hai!, a live album recorded in Japan, in 1982.

In 1983, coinciding with the departure of Watson (who went on to found The Hafler Trio with Andrew M. McKenzie before becoming a BBC sound engineer and then a soloist), Cabaret Voltaire decided consciously to turn in a more commercial direction, with the album The Crackdown 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 singing was on the single, "Colours" in 1990.

Since the mid-late 1980s, Kirk began a solo career under several names, including Electronic Eye and Sandoz, while Mallinder has relocated to Perthmarker, 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".

Band members


Studio albums

  • Mix-Up (October 1979) #12 UK Indie
  • The Voice of America (July 1980) #3 UK Indie
  • Red Mecca (August 1981) #1 UK Indie
  • 2x45 (May 1982) #1 UK Indie, #98 UK
  • The Crackdown (August 1983) #31 UK
  • Johnny Yesno (November 1983) #8 UK Indie
  • Micro Phonies (November 1984) #69 UK
  • Drinking Gasoline (August 1985) #71 UK
  • The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (October 1985) #57 UK
  • Code (October 1987)
  • Groovy, Laidback and Nasty (June 1990)
  • Body and Soul (March 1991)
  • Plasticity (October 1992)
  • International Language (June 1993)
  • The Conversation (July 1994)

Live albums

Compilation albums


  • 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 74) (April 1979)
  • "Silent Command" / "Chance versus Causality" (October 1979) #10 UK Indie
  • "Three Mantras" (January 1980) #10 UK Indie
  • "Seconds Too Late" (September 1980) #8 UK Indie
  • "Sluggin' fer Jesus" / "Your Agent Man" (March 1981)
  • "Eddie's Out" / "Walls of Jericho" (July 1981) #6 UK Indie (initial copies included free 7" single "Jazz the Glass" / "Burnt to the Ground")
  • "Yashar" / "Yashar (alternative mix)" (Factory Records (FAC 82); 1982) #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 #94
  • "The Dream Ticket" / "Safety Zone" (November 1983)
  • "Sensoria" (October 1984) UK #96
  • "James Brown" (January 1985) UK #100
  • "Drinking Gasoline" Virgin (April 1985)
  • "I Want You" (October 1985) UK #91
  • "Shakedown" (March 1986)
  • "The Drain Train" (July 1986) #5 UK Indie
  • "Don't Argue" (February 1987) #69 UK
  • "Here To Go" (September 1987) #16 U.S.marker Dance, UK #88
  • "Hypnotised" (December 1989) #66 UK
  • "Keep On" (June 1990) #55 UK
  • "Easy Life" (October 1990) #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

Related projects


  1. Mute records historic website
  2. Vintage Cab Sav, Andrez Bergen. Zebra, Inpress, 1996.

External links

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