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Richard H Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire: Today's Dance Culture is Too Transient

Author: Jonty Adderley
Saturday, March 22, 2003
"Everything changes very quickly these days with new ideas being absorbed into the mainstream very rapidly. That means it's very hard to have an underground in the way there used to be, which was where a lot of the great ideas came from. Cabaret Voltaire was never just about entertainment, it was about, I wouldn't say education, because that would sound pompous, but it was about an attitude."

Chatting down the phone from his home town of Sheffield, Richard H Kirk has anything but attitude, being helpful, humble and decidedly down-to-Earth. It's a refreshing and even perhaps surprising stance, from a man who, alongside Stephen Mallinder and early member Chris Watson, helped invent electronic dance music, yet never reaped the rewards so many followers went on to claim.

"CV are without exaggeration the un-acclaimed uncrowned originators of British electronic experimental dance music," Soft Cell's Marc Almond wrote on the Cab's recent box set sleevenotes (alongside eulogies from Derrick May, New Order and Kraftwerk) reflecting the band's continuing influence and obscurity. Not that Richard's too concerned.

"It would be great to have been set up for life but it didn't happen, so you forget about it and keep on going," he told Skrufff's Jonty Adderley.

"It's nice to get the recognition and that's enough in itself."

Recognition in another form has come in the last year from 80s alternative rock God turned electroclash mainman Jonny Slut, who named his London club after the Cab's best known record Nag, Nag, Nag. With the club now universally recognised as London's best alternative space, it's perhaps no surprise to see remixes emerging of the same track, just 6 months after Tiga remixed the original.

"It all comes back to the fact that a lot of people started playing Nag, Nag, Nag in the last couple of years so I felt it should be re-issued," said Richard.

"And because you're working with record companies, they tend to say 'Let's do some remixes' so that's what we did. I felt Cabaret Voltaire should be represented there in some way, which was why I did some of the remixes myself.

Skrufff: Cabaret Voltaire also released a box set and greatest hits style compilation last year, why do you think all this interest in the band suddenly appeared-

Richard H Kirk: "Virgin Records did a campaign two years ago after they approached me to do a 'best of and box set album and I said yes and started going through my archives. There was lots of unreleased material that hadn't been available so I thought it would be nice to put it out there for people that wanted it, then move on but the moving on stage led to me approaching Mute, to do something similar with a different period of the Cabs, the late 70s/ early 80s. We ended up doing another Best of compilation, which hopefully will serve as an introduction to younger people who are interested in electronic or dance music, who might like to see where a lot of the ideas came from. It's also a little more user friendly so hopefully people will hear it and want to go and explore the Cabs albums which is where all the definitive work lies anyway."

Skrufff: Some musicians hate hearing old work, how do you feel about your music from 20 years ago-

Richard H Kirk: "To me, it still sounds remarkably fresh, quite naïve and quite simplistic, because we were young people working with very basic, homegrown technology. In some ways I find it quite refreshing and quirky compared to the kind of sounds people are used to nowadays. We were never part of any movement, instead we were just three guys in Sheffield, who couldn't really play music, getting together to see what we could do. When it was done, the music was quite shocking to lots of people because they weren't used to hearing electronics and drum machines in music at that time.It's great for me the way things have developed because I'm an artist and I still release lots of music, every year. You also get the recognition for