Formed in Southern France in 1993, Volapük were initially a trio of drums, bass clarinet, and cello. The trio members used their instruments in expanded roles, creating unusual tonal colors; their music blended ensemble play, jazz, and chamber music with a solid rock underpinning.
In 1973 Volapük's percussionist, Guigou Chenevier, had been a founder of Etron Fou Leloublan, a band that (along with other groups including Henry Cow, Univers Zero, Stormy Six, and Samla Mammas Manna) became a charter member of the Rock in Opposition collective in 1978. Etron Fou recorded six albums between 1976 and 1985, touring Europe repeatedly and the United States three times. Chenevier has recorded several solo albums and releases with Les Batteries. He also recorded with Fred Frith on the latter's Speechless album and appeared on Morgan Fisher's Miniatures compilation. Bass clarinetist Michel Mandel received a master's degree in music from the Grenoble Academy of Music. He has played in numerous musical and theatrical settings in Italy, France, Germany, and Hungary. Cellist Guillaume Saurel studied at the Avignon Academy of Music. He has performed in concert and on several recordings, and has played music for dance and theater throughout France.
Volapük's first album, Tiger Fire, was released by Cuneiform in 1995. Their second Cuneiform recording, Slang!, was released in 1997, and in 2000 they released two albums, the studio effort Polyglot (also on Cuneiform) and a live album entitled Pükapök, recorded when the band was on tour in Poland and issued in a limited run of 999 numbered copies by Retort Media. Polyglot also featured the addition of violinist Takumi Fukushima (who had previously performed on record and on a European tour with the group After Dinner) as a guest musician. In 2003 Volapük issued Where Is Tamashii? on the Orkhêstra label; on this recording Fukushima was considered a full-fledged member of the group. After 17 years in existence, Volapük announced their breakup in March of 2010. ~ Jim Dorsch & Dave Lynch