This is what you might describe as an interview by post. We sent them some questions written on a scrap of paper,
and they answered them on a cassette. There were two voices on the cassette returned to us; we recognised Steve
Mallinder's from the records (he's lead vocalist). I deduced, in a Holmes-like fashion, that the other voice belonged
to electronics wizard Chris Watson (mainly due to the similarity btwenn what the mystery voice syas here and what
Chris has said in other interviews. I hope I'm right. I wanted to do a piece on Cabaret Voltaire because, firstly,
they're one of my favourite bands, and secondly, they are currently producing some of the most different,
experimental and radical music around. They are helping to expand people's ideas of music; to broaden the term's scope and definition. This can only be a good thing. On with the questions...
BOTP: YOU NEVER INCLUDE LYRIC SHEETS WITH YOUR RECORDS...WHY IS THIS? THE VOCALS I CAN UNDERSTAND THROUGH THE DISTORTION SEEM QUITE INTERSTING...I THINK IT WOULD BE BETTER TO HAVE LYRIC SHEETS.
Steve: Well, We're going to do a booklet with lyrics in it, so it'll come out separate to the records.
Chris: We haven't got round to publishing them yet.
Steve: Also it seems a bit self-indulgent to print lyrics with the records.
Chris: I don't even understand my lyrics.
To my mind, it seems rather stupid not to include lyrics with the records in Cabaret Voltaire's case. Lyrics are an important facet to any song, and if, as in this case, they cannot be properly understood (due to distortion of vocals) then it would seem a logical thing to include lyric sheets. Surely it's better to publish them with the records on which they appear, rather than charge money for special booklets with the lyrics inside? Oh well...
WHAT CHANGES, WOULD YOU SAY, HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN YOUR MUSIC OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS? DO YOU THINK "VOICE OF AMERICA" (The new album) IS A NOTABLE PROGRESSION?
Chris: It is a progression. There's a lot more bass on it, and it's more rhythmic. We've had more recording experience, and ther's different techniques used. It's more accessible than the hand of Fatima.(WHAT? - Ed.)
DO YOU GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO BE "EXPERIMENTAL"? WOULD YOU, FOR INSTANCE, RECORD A COMMERICAL POP SONG IF YOU FELT LIKE IT?
Chris: Well we've recorded a commerical pop song. We don't go out of our way to be experimental, we do things that
we feel are necessary.
Steve: Experimental's such a braod term anyway, like, a commerical pop song can be experimental. We don't justify things by saying they're experimental. We use a lot of experimental techniques in the way we record, but that's just our desire to try out new methods.
And on the subject of future plans...
Steve: We've bought a lot of video equipment, we'd like to try out that.
Chris: We might even pack up music altogether.
Steve: But Then again we might not. Errr...we're going to do another single, and we're going to put out a retrospective cassette on Industrial Records, and we're going to do some gigs after we've expanded our studio...we might do some in Europe and America. We're intending to do an LP of stuff that's already recorded, and also to produce some more stuff like "Three Mantras" available at a reasonable price.
Cabaret Voltaire have released 4 LP length records within the space of a few months, and apparently plan to release a lot more. They'll have to be careful, I think, not to sturate the market with their records. If they keep putting out pretty similar, if totally different, discs, they might find that people will stop buying them after a while. Perhaps they ought to slow down a little, and only release their very best material? This, I suspect, will become a problem in the months to come.
DO YOU FIND THAT NOT HAVING A DRUMMER IMPOSES A LIMIT ON YOUR CREATIVITY?
Chris: No, quite the opposite. If you use a drummer it tends to structure you too much. We use them if we want to, by using guest drummers.
DO ROUGH TRADE PUT ANY PRESSURE ON YOU TO PRODUCE MATERIAL THAT MIGHT SELL IN LARGE QUANTITIES?
WHAT SORT OF ARTISTIC RESTRICTIONS DO THEY PUT ON YOU IF ANY?
Steve: None whatsoever
Chris: No I disagree with that entirely I think they're ALWAYS trying to make us make commerical records that lots of people will buy.
WHAT IS YOUR EXACT RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM?
Accordingly to "NMX" fanzine, Cabaret Voltaire are prone to making remarks derogatory to Rough Trade, and this would seem to verify that statement. The editor of NMX has written that in future he will be selective in what he prints, so that Cabaret Voltaire can't arouse Rough Trade's anger through him. We her at "Breach of the Peace", however, have no such scruples.
Steve: We have a contract with Rough Trade for evrything we do and all profits are split 50/50......we're not under any complicated contracts.
WOULD YOU EVER BE INTERESTED IN SIGNING UP TO A MAJOR RECORD COMPANY? HAVE YOU EVER HAD ANY OFFERS?
Chris: A lot (If you believe that you'll believe anything - Ed.) but we're not interested, we're not really interested
in suggestions from any other people you see...we just want to do our own thing.
Steve: Majors would probably rip us off.
It is, certainly, lamentable that so many ideas and so much talent are wasted by major labels and their artists. The ridiculously great emphasis on compatibility to public tastes corrupts bands and stunts their creativity - you've only got to see what happened to bands like the Skids, SLF and the Mekons when they signed. Surely it's better for bands to get 50% of what they earn, than a huge advance (all of which has to be paid back) and a 5% cut. Cabaret Voltaire and many other bands are in a better position on Rough Trade than they would be anywhere else, and I'm sure they realise this.
HOW MANY COPIES DO YOU SELL OF YOUR RECORDS?
Steve: They sell usually between 10 and 15 thousand. The first EP sold nearly 20,000 though.
I SAW IN SOME FANZINE THAT YOU HAD A LIMITED EDITION CASSETTE OUT IN AROUND 75/76 - IS THIS TRUE? WHAT SORT OF STUFF WAS ON IT? ANYTHING WHICH HAS COME OUT ON LATER RECORDS? HOW MANY COPIES WAS IT LIMITED TO?
Steve: Yes, we did have a cassette out. There was an original version of "Capsules" on it, and an original
version of "Do The Mussolini", but that's all.
Chris: It was limited to around 20....it might have been less actually, probably about a dozen.
WHAT OTHER BANDS DO YOU LIKE, ADMIRE, OR FEEL AFFILIATION TO IN SOME WAY?
Chris: Errr......Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Hot Chocolate.
Steve: Lots of things really.
WOULD YOU EVER LIKE TO HAVE A HIT? DO YOU FEEL YOU'D BE ABLE TO ON ROUGH TRADE? WOULD YOU HAVE TO "CHANGE YOUR SOUND", DO YOU THINK, TO ACHIEVE COMMERCIAL SUCCESS?
Chris: The music, yes, but the distribution....possibly.
Steve: I'd like a hit, but only on my own terms - I wouldn't want to pander to anyone's tastes.
Chris: I'm not interested in any of that actually - I think it's a load of crap.
WHAT ARE YOUR LYRICS ABOUT? ARE THEY JUST WRITTEN TO HOPEFULLY BE INTERESTING OR WHAT?
Steve: Well the lyrics are open to individual interpretation really.
Chris: Or what I think is my answer to that one.
WHAT WAS THE POINT OF "EASTERN MANTRA"? WHAT ARE YOUR JUSTIFICATIONS FOR THE RELEASE OF THIS TRACK?
Chris: We don't have to justify anything we release and frankly I'm fed up with questions like that. From people who don't understand the significance of the Mohammed Salut. (The what? - Ed.)
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE LIVE LP? WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON ITS QUALITY? DID ROUGH TRADE PUT PRESSURE ON YOU TO RELEASE IT?
Chris: Yes, it's the best thing we've ever done.
Steve: It was all right, it was OK, considering it was just recorded on a cassette, it wasn't bad.
Chris: Rough Trade suggested we released it. If we hadn't have wanted it to be brought out, it wouldn't have been brought out....it seemed quite a good idea at the time.
WHAT TRACKS ARE YOU RETROSPECTIVELY THE MOST PLEASED WITH, OUT OF THE ONES RELEASED?
Steve: Silent Command
Chris: Eastern Mantra
DO YOU REGARD MAKING MUSIC AS A REASONABLY PERMANENT OCCUPATION? DO YOU EXPECT TO STILL BE MAKING MUSIC IN, SAY, 5 YEARS' TIME?
Steve: We don't really think of it in terms of a job or occupation.
Chris: We'll definitely still be making music in 5 years' time.
I KNOW THIS QUESTION IS A BIT OF A CLICHE, BUT HAVE YOU GOT ANY MAJOR CONSCIOUS INFLUENCES?
Steve: We're influenced by lots of things really, not just music....books, films....
Chris: Sex, perversions......(!!)
So now you know what Cabaret Voltaire are influenced by.
DO YOU EVER IMPROVISE AT ALL, AT STAGE OR IN THE STUDIO?
Steve: I've never much liked the idea of improvisation, you always set limits, even if you're improvising.
DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE BEEN FAIRLY PORTRAYED AND ADEQUATELY COVERED IN THE NATIONAL MUSIC PRESS?
Steve: No, not at all.
Chris: I think we've been the, er, unfortunate reciprocants of a disgusting piece of opportunist degradation, really.
Cabaret Voltaire decided not to answer questions regarding their favourite colours, their favourite types of lager and their shoe sizes...
I don't think Cabaret Voltaire will ever have any hits. None of their songs thus far released would have any small chance of being playlisted, and it doesn't look like their current status will ever change, despite Rough Trade proving the adequacy of their distribution system by putting Joy Division (RT distributed Factory Records) into the national top 20 singles charts. They are, in my view, ast the height of their popularity. Majority music tastes are simply too narrow, and unable to accept anything really different, to enable bands like Cabaret Voltaire.
But, at the moment, they exist and we can make the most of them. They're here, their records are in your local record shop now. It's up to you to take them or leave them.
Digital assistance and credit: Simon Dell
© Breach of the Peace, 1980