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HARDBACK RE/Search #6/7: Industrial Culture Handbook Excerpt: Cabaret Voltaire

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STEPHEN “MAL” MALLINDER: . . . The basic inspiration or philosophy is that we’re primitive, but primitive in an urban way—also primitive in our fascination with the ethnic primitive as well. I’m not saying we’re an ethnic group, but we’re aware (like in the Jajouka musicians) of that primitive force that goes through all of us. Instead of emulating ethnic primitivism we’re modern primitives. I don’t think we contrive ourselves to be that way, I think that’s basically what we are—I think that’s in us. We don’t have a propaganda, we don’t say this is what we’re trying to interpret, this is what we are. To us, the way we work is very natural and the way we feel music is instinctive. Whether we try and make it commercial or whether we try and make it weird, the whole point is that it’s instinctive, and in that sense I think we’re primitive.

R/S: Trust yourself! I think it’s admirable to remain in Sheffield, away from the supposedly advantageous distractions that London offers.

MAL: It’s still close, but people aren’t going to be dropping in on us. It allows us our identity. One disadvantage of London is that it can get very incestuous, full of wheelings and dealings, and that’s what we don’t want. Much as we feel a great affinity with a lot of people in London, our greatest affinity is with ourselves! For a group in our position it would be slightly easy to get engrossed in the superficial side—

RICHARD KIRK: We’re bullshit fighters!

R/S: —and on the fashion side—

MAL: I think we’re getting a bit too old to be fashionable now!

R/S: How do you think the videotapes you’ve collected reflect you? What are some of the titles?

RICHARD: We don’t want to get prosecuted for having too many bootlegs! Everything from Clockwork Orange to Taxi Driver to Midnight Express. Also real trash sci-fi and trash horror.

MAL: And European films like Aguirre and Fitzcaraldo which are still fascinating. You’ve got your kitsch American films for the trash element, and European ones for the subtlety. I mean, you need a bit of everything!

People’s approach to video is so hampered in a lot of ways—the whole idea of the music business promo video we find annoying. We haven’t produced a perfect video, but we’ve given some idea (just a sketch) of an alternative. And now we’ve started Double Vision which is not just an outlet for Cabaret Voltaire videos; we want it to be a total alternative video label which will bring out films and performance which might not be mass-marketable (but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be available). Where if we don’t do it, there’s a fair chance no one will. But the label has to be self-supporting. We want to make sure it’s quite flexible—some videos we might get an order for 100 straight off, and other videos might only sell a total of 12.

R/S: What have you read lately? Besides the new William Burroughs Reader?

RICHARD: I just read Andy Warhol’s From A to B and Back Again. Before then I was reading Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Before that I read Cities of the Red Night when I was in the hospital. I had an appendix taken out 2 weeks after I came back from Japan.

MAL: I just read a really good book, Through a Black Sun, by a Japanese journalist who was in Vietnam from ’64-65. Before that I read Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti.

RICHARD: I have a lot of books on military psychology which I pick up from time to time and read. I go through phases where I don’t read anything at all, and then I’ll have a total fit of reading for a few weeks.

MAL: I think reading should be a natural process. I think there’s a certain elitist attitude where you feel obliged to have a certain amount of intellectual intake, which is very bourgeois. But reading should be something you do which you enjoy—you shouldn’t feel obliged to take in this written data just for the sake of it, just to store up the knowledge. It takes me 2 weeks to read a book—I’m permanently reading, but I don’t read 4 books a week and constantly feel, ‘Oh I must get that,’ because then you become just like a record collector. I think reading should be enjoyable and natural and something that you use—if you read 1 book and you use it for the rest of your life, that’s greater than reading a book a week that’s just there, of no use whatsoever to you.

RICHARD: I keep loads of books around for reference, so I can pick up a book and read maybe 2 chapters of it . . . And go back to certain books every now and then and pick out certain things that crop up in a conversation or film or anything. I prefer to do it on that basis a lot of the time.

R/S: It makes sense to have information potentially accessible, so that if you do get curious about a topic, you can quickly look it up. Most people who don’t read are forced to read—advertisements! And people who do read usually read what the reviewers select for them—they never bother to search out what might truly appeal to their own desires. If you’re rebellious enough, you usually do find those weird books that do change your life and are off the beaten path; that really become influences.

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