The original electro thug-punk Elvis from hell has left the building.
By Blurt Staff
When Alan Vega passed away this past weekend (July 16), the music community felt the psychic equivalent of a crack in the earth’s crust. To say Vega, along with his Suicide bandmate Martin Rev, was an influential artist would be a massive understatement; the duo literally helped write the book on electronics-infused rock, channeling elements of punk, garage, and rockabilly and pushing them through a minimalist pulsing/huffing sieve of synth-powered sound.
Vega was 78 at the time of his death. According to the New York Times, “His death was announced in a statement from his family posted by the musician Henry Rollins, a longtime friend. The statement said he died in his sleep but did not say where he died or specify a cause. Mr. Vega had a stroke in 2012, but had continued to work as a visual artist…. Mr. Vega had exhibitions of his art in France and New York. And last year the Invisible-Exports gallery on the Lower East Side presented what it said was his first full exhibition of new work since 1983.”
Vega is survived by his wife Liz and son Dante.
We’ll have a Vega special here at the website in a couple of days, including a pair of exclusive interviews from our archives. Below, listen to a recording of a Vega solo show in Boston in ’81 that was posted online by Big O zine in tribute to Vega. Meanwhile, Blurt editor Fred Mills offers the following as his own personal tribute:
“I was lucky enough to see Suicide in the early ‘80s (my memory is hazy), but more recently, the fall of 2011, Vega and Rev descended upon Asheville, NC, to take part in the then-annual Moogfest electronica festival, and yours truly and fellow Suicide enthusiast Steven Rosen were in attendance and summarily blown away. From our report:
“Late that night, Suicide took stage at the Orange Peel club for a fiery, no-nonsense and angry
play-through of their first album, 1977’s Suicide. The muscular Martin Rev, standing by his synth and looking revved up, commanded his droning, buzzingly ominous electronic music with proud authority, stalking around stage between songs like he’d just dunked a game-winning three-pointer.
“Vocalist Alan Vega, for his part, stomped and swayed like he’d been bitten by something painful and wasabout to fall over. And when someone in the crowd gave him a requested cigarette (a violation of the no-smoking policy), he puffed so voraciously and defiantly it was scary – like a dying man’s last wish. But he howled, exclaimed and chanted the lyrics with the kind of punk authority that’s now folkloric.
“After “Rocket USA,” with its cautionary refrain, “It’s 1977/Whole country’s doing a fix/It’s doomsday, doomsday,” he shouted in complaint, “And look at the country now.” His meaning, one presumes, is that it’s only gotten worse with time. But Suicide’s music only has gotten