Richard H. Kirk, a founding member of the pioneering UK industrial group Cabaret Voltaire, has died at the age of 65. His label, Mute Records, confirmed the news, describing him as “a towering creative genius who led a singular & driven path throughout his life & musical career.” No cause of death was disclosed.
Born in 1956, Kirk formed Cabaret Voltaire with Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder in Sheffield in the early ’70s, taking their name from a Zurich club that helped birth the Dadaist movement. Combining music and technology, their experimental approach involved creating sound collages out of tapes loops and often using cut-up techniques inspired by William S. Burroughs. The band became associated with the emerging post-punk movement, often sharing the bill with Joy Division, and their provocative and unconventional live shows sometimes ended in fights between the band and the audience.
Cabaret Voltaire founded their own recording studio, Western Works, and signed with Rough Trade in 1978. Following the release of their first two albums, 1979’s Mix-Up and 1980’s The Voice of America, Chris Watson left the band, and Richard H. Kirk and Stephen Mallinder went on as a duo. After securing a licensing deal with Virgin, they explored a more pop-oriented direction with a series of singles before landing a deal with EMI and releasing their 1987 album Code.
In the late ’80s, Kirk began working on solo music and experimented with house and techno, leading the band to record 1990’s Groovy, Laidback and Nasty with Chicago house producer Marshall Jefferson. The group was soon dropped by EMI, and Kirk focused on solo projects, including Sandoz and Sweet Exorcist. In 2009, Kirk resurrected Cabaret Voltaire as a solo project, releasing Shadow of Fear, the first new album under the Cabaret Voltaire name in 26 years, last year. Two more Cabaret Voltaire albums, Dekadrone and BN9Drone, arrived on Mute earlier this year.