A Tribute To The Iconic Alan Vega
“People were coming in off the streets hoping they’d be escaping…all we were doing was shoving the streets back in their faces” Alan Vega
Alan Vega the artist and founder of pioneering protopunk band Suicide, has passed away at the age of 78. In August 1969, Alan Vega witnessed a performance which was set to change his life forever. Watching the Stooges perform at the New York State Pavilion, Vega was instantly captivated by the outrageous Iggy Pop. Enraptured by the sight of a half-naked, vomit-covered Iggy, Vega found a new outlet for his creative talent and formed Suicide along with Martin Rev.
The Suicide sound consisted of a primitive drum machine, a distorted organ and intense vocals from Vega; a sound that caused quite a reaction from their audience. Despite being the first band to deem themselves as ‘punk’ (their debut gig flyers promoted ‘punk music mass’), the punk audience were completely unprepared and unwelcoming. Performing at CBGB’s, the Mercer Arts Centre and Max’s Kansas City, Suicide and Alan Vega soon became notorious for their violence filled performances. Vega would goad his audience into riots; whipping his body with chains and tearing at his skin. Rather than being disheartened by this reaction, Vega seemed to thrive on it.
By the mid late 1970s, Suicide had supported The Clash (Vega had an axe thrown at his head) and released their eponymous debut album. This music was raw, harrowing, dark and completely unique. While the duo never officially split, both Vega and Rev worked on solo material over the years. They continued to perform together live and released increasingly challenging records.
For a band that appeared to be totally isolated from the popular music around them, their influence was far more wide-spread than might be believed. It is undoubtable that the synth-explosion during the 1980s was indebted in some part to Suicide, with many explicitly citing the band as influences, from Soft Cell to Bruce Springsteen.
With a body of work spanning five decades, Vega continued to paint, write music and perform until the end. In true Vega style, he claimed his career was over when audiences actually started to enjoy Suicide’s performances. Dedicated to his art in every sense of the word, Vega will no doubt to continue to inspire and influence for decades to come; whether he likes it or not.