Sheffield's pioneering electronic musician Richard H Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire dies aged 65

Sheffield’s own Richard H Kirk, the man behind the pioneering electronic and industrial trio Cabaret Voltaire, has died at the age of 65.

By Alastair Ulke
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 1:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 1:48 pm
Richard H Kirk, co-founder of Cabaret Voltaire and a pioneer of electronic music in the 1970s, has died aged 65.
Richard H Kirk, co-founder of Cabaret Voltaire and a pioneer of electronic music in the 1970s, has died aged 65.

The 1970s band breakthrough use of loops and synthesizers has been credited for influencing a generation of pop and house music.

This afternoon (September 21), a spokesperson for Kirk’s record label Mute Record confirmed the news while describing him as “a great and dear friend” and a “towering creative genius who led a singular and driven path throughout his life and musical career”.

His former bandmate Stephen Mallinder wrote on Twitter: “I’m shattered. my Cabs music partner and often sparring partner, difficult to live with but impossible not to love. Stubborn, no sufferer of fools, but insightful, spontaneous, and with vision and underneath the spiky shell a warm heart. I’m truly devastated. RIP Kirky.”

No cause of death has been confirmed.

Kirk, along with co-founders Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder, formed the influential group in Sheffield in 1973. They signed to Rough Trade in 1978 and became known around the city in the late 70s for their provocative live performances.

They frequently supported major acts like Joy Division and are credited as having enormous influence on groups like Depeche Mode and Bauhaus.

Kirk and and group later founded their recording studio, the Western Works, out of a former cutlery factory in Portobello Street in the city centre. It became a hub for Sheffield’s punk scene.

While never receiving the commercial success of their peers like Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire’s music has always been critically acclaimed by those same groups and the industry as a whole.

Kirk’s ‘weird’ sound from Cabaret Voltaire and his own prolific solo career influenced pop and 90s house over the decades.

In Sheffield today, hundreds of fans have paid tribute to the born-and-bred artist, and many have shared stories of how they had the chance to meet him in the 1970s and during his career.

The University of Sheffield tweeted: “We’re so sorry to hear of the passing of Sheffield musical genius Richard H Kirk, whose innovative, strange and inspiring work soundtracked the steel city.”

Kirk reformed Cabaret Voltaire in 2008 as the sole member and released two albums earlier this year. A friend of the artist on Twitter said the 65-year-old was planning future material.