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Suicide: The band that will always sound like the future
09:09 am


Alan Vega
Martin Rev

I was late to the party, but I think many of us were late to that party. Suicide had been playing for about a decade before we started really noticing what was going on—and what we were missing.

When Suicide played in England during the 1970s they were pelted with bottles. The punk audience was horrified by this intense, strange band. This wasn’t punk. This wasn’t New Wave. It wasn’t. This was a glimpse of the future.

I never heard Suicide on the radio. Not once. Or in the record shops that blasted out The Clash, the Banshees or PiL. Or even in the clubs. When I first heard “Ghost Rider”—a long long time after its release—it was a visceral thrill. Mesmeric, powerful, unforgettable.

In fact Alan Vega best described the effect of hearing Suicide from his own experience of hearing Martin Rev. In an interview Vega said that he had never wanted to be on stage. He was a sculptor, an artist, not a performer. He liked playing around with tape machines and noise, sure. He liked listening to the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, of course. But the thought of being a musical artist—the thought of performing on stage, I mean—scared him shitless.

Then one night Vega was standing at the side of a stage watching Martin Rev playing jazz funk fusion. Something happened. The sounds cut through him. He was no longer just a spectator. He was possessed. Vega started hitting a tambourine. With every beat he was getting ever nearer ever closer to being onstage. He was no longer scared. He felt alive. That’s almost how it felt the first time I heard “Ghost Rider.” It’s a powerful song.

But back to that night when Vega started slamming a tambourine: Martin Rev turned to him and said “We’re going to do something together.” They would commit Suicide.
The group started out in 1970 as three piece band. The guitarist “who was like a free-sound guitarist and also a visual artist” soon left to make films. As Vega and Rev told Igloo Mag in 2008:

Martin Rev: We knew we weren’t going to keep a band together for that long based on what we did, the amount of space we might have for rehearsal, which was always limited, and the amount of money we had for equipment and the amount we gigs we had. We were starting from scratch.

Alan Vega: We started out with a ten dollar Japanese keyboard that Marty found somewhere. We could hardly get any sound out of it so we started introducing, was it an Electro Harmonix thing like bass boosters and treble boosters?

Martin Rev: Yeah.

Alan Vega: This keyboard would be lined up with five or six of these things and that would jack up the sound because we almost couldn’t get any sound out of this thing. That in a way created the sound. As Marty was saying, it was out of a necessity thing. We had to jack up that keyboard, man, and out came this incredible rush of sound that no one has ever heard before or afterwards. The sound was created just out of necessity and we ran with it, man. It’s also more than that. I mean, Marty and I, we were both hearing electronics. In the late 60s I was already fooling around with just noise, just radio static and shit. It’s our musical taste. We like to hear noise, you know?

They spent years of gigging. Working on their own distinct sound. A psychotic, yelping Gene Vincent vocal over a mix of repetitive pounding synthesiser beats, white noise and menacing throbbing, pulsating psychobilly.

In 1977, Suicide released their eponymous debut album. It took seven years of trial and error to create the songs, then just four short days to record. As Martin Rev told the Guardian last year “We started like sculptors”:

“With a big piece of stone, pure clay, pure sound, big lumps of sound. We started from scratch, and then out of that we carved out the songs. After a year or two, we were playing the earliest, “Ghost Rider,” “Cheree” and “Rocket USA.” Also, when I was finally able to get a rhythm machine, that changed things a lot. I was able to delineate songs more clearly. The first year or two was a pure wall of sound.”

Hard to believe now, but this stunning debut record failed to chart in either the US or the UK. Both countries were too hung up on punk and disco and new wave. Some critics loved the album (as did Bruce Springsteen who made a hit of “Dream Baby Dream” and film-maker Rainer Werner Fassbinder), but others were literally terrified by their sound.

In the end Vega and Rev won.

Since those heady days Vega has most recently come through a heart attack and a stroke. He still performs with Rev and still produces artwork—last year he exhibited a series of new and old paintings at the Armory Show in New York.

Rev is “always looking for the next cool instrument or pedal. I’m not using software, live, so not everything works for me; I don’t need everything.”

“You bring your life with you….The way you are in the present, what you’ve learned, what you know.”

Killer videos to live for from Suicide, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Saturn Drive’: When Alan Vega met Ministry, 1983
02:03 pm


Alan Vega
Al Jourgensen

Saturn Strip, Suicide frontman Alan Vega’s third solo album and his first for a major label (Elektra), kicks off with the single “Saturn Drive,” a six-minute hybrid of early Ministry synth and sequencer sounds and Vega’s futuristic rockabilly. Co-written by Vega and Alain Jourgensen, the single was recorded with the whole With Sympathy team: Jourgensen plays keyboards, his original Ministry partner Stephen George drums, and Ian Taylor and (former Psychedelic Fur) Vince Ely are credited with producing the song’s basic tracks. Vega’s staunch supporter Ric Ocasek, who produced Saturn Strip (as well as the second, third and fourth Suicide albums), also appears on the song playing guitar and keyboards.

Vega’s lyrics to this time-traveling sci-fi epic aren’t easy to find online, so I’ve transcribed them for you from my tear-stained copy of Cripple Nation:

Wild stormy Monday
A gray rain came
Touchin’ Infinity’s prison
The creature made a war
Take the plane to Saturn
Celebrate their comin’
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century

High price soldiers
Knockin’ down Eternity
Soda city delusions
Snake knows for sure
Winning by confusion
It’s a losin’ game
Saturn’s rings of reason
So’s a lonely street
Profits by the billions
Got the mornin’ line

Momma’s future children
Buy a bad machine
The computer knows nothin’
It’s feelin’ sympathy
What price glory
It’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Follow the Indian
Lookin’ for that comet
Feel that fantasy
Huh oh yea fantasy

The creature’s nothin’
Just a stain on a wall
Death Row gets a window
Here comes Eternity
A million candelabras
Ya gotta have a scheme
Dr. Doom got a lash
It’s a time machine
That comet got religion
Snake eyes
Layin’ on the shore
It’s a losin’ game
It’s lonely streets
I got that mornin’ line
Yea what price glory
There’s too much infinity
Take the plane to Saturn
Lord knows Mr. Cheyenne
It’s a crucified photo
Of the wrong century
Yea, it’s the wrong one
The wrong one

I had really hoped Jourgensen’s memoir would shed some light on how this collaboration came to be, but I found no mention of Vega. Maybe Al will reveal all in one of the upcoming sequels?

I realize the fruits of this collaboration might not be to everyone’s tastes. But look at it this way: if Vega and Jourgensen hadn’t worked together on “Saturn Drive,” Vega never would have delivered this completely insane performance of the song on Spanish TV, which must be seen to be believed.

Click here for Vega and Marc Hurtado’s 2010 remake of the song, “Saturn Drive Duplex.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’: The best book yet on the dawn of punk rock

Early band shot of Blondie

In the now long line of endless punk rock history cash-in books being pumped out from every corner of the world it’s shocking to find the one book that’s not like the others. Paul Zone’s Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground published by Glitterati Inc. is a coffee table book brimming with amazing, unseen photos and the life story of Paul and his brothers Miki Zone and Mandy Zone and their bands The Fast and later, Man 2 Man. What makes this book different is its author and the time frame it takes place in.

There was a short moment when everything was happening at once, no one knew or cared and the only band that had an audience or a record deal was the New York Dolls. As early as 1974 Patti Smith was playing, as was Television, Wayne County, Suicide and Blondie. The Ramones were starting to play at CBGB (opening for a drag show that starred Tomata du Plenty later of Screamers fame), KISS was pretty much in this same scene playing to about five people with many bands like The Planets And Paul’s brothers The Fast were playing alongside of them. At one point, sub-culturally speaking, all the cards were thrown up in the air and no one knew where they were going to land. It was a very small group of friends almost all of whom would, in a few short years, become icons of pop culture,
Johnny Thunders, early 70’s

At the time, Paul Zone was very young. Too young to be in a band, but not too young to see a band or be snuck into the back room at Max’s Kansas City. And not too young to document this exciting time in his life by photographing everything. There are very few photos of this period when punk rock was actually occurring in the midst of the glitter rock scene. When the up and down escalators of rock ‘n’ roll infinity met and EVERYONE was hungry on the way up AND on the way down. There was change in the air, excitement and confusion.

Seeing Alan Vega of Suicide performing in a loft in 1973 with a huge blonde wig and a gold painted face is unbelievable. The years the photos in the book span are 1971 to 1978. Most are snapshots of friends hanging out when everyone was still on the starting line. The Fast were one of the more popular of these bands who let their new friends Blondie and The Ramones open for them in small New York clubs.

Early photos of The Fast show them amazingly in full glitter regalia with KISS-like make up (Miki Zone has a heart painted over one eye, etc.) but this was before KISS! There are a few photos of icons of the time like Alice Cooper (watching cartoons in his hotel room), Marc Bolan, The Stooges, etc. (a good one of KISS with about three people in the audience, as mentioned above). Most are of friends just hanging out, having a ball, not knowing or caring about the future and without that dividing line in music history called “punk rock.” It is truly a treasure to see something this rare, and even better, 99% of these photos have never been seen before.
Wayne County long before becoming Jayne County

By 1976 Paul Zone was old enough to join his brothers and became the lead singer of the version of The Fast that made records. Sadly due to poor management decisions The Fast got left behind that first punk wave and watched as almost all of their buddies become some of the most famous faces in music history. How amazing that all of these people were friends just hanging out, broke and creative going to see each other play, talking shit and influencing each other in ways they didn’t even realize?
Joey Ramone eating dessert at Paul Zone’s parents house at 5 am

Linda Ramone, future design icon Anna Sui, Nick Berlin and me, Howie Pyro (The Blessed) at Coney Island 1978

After a few years of struggling, The Fast trimmed down to just brothers Miki and Paul Zone and some early electronic equipment. They finally let go of the name The Fast and became Man to Man, one of the first Hi-NRG electro dance music groups, recording with the likes of Bobby Orlando and Man Parrish. They had huge hits worldwide and here in dance clubs like “Male Stripper” and “Energy Is Eurobeat,”
Suicide’s Alan Vega, early 70’s

This book is three quarters a photo book and one quarter autobiography, cutting to the point and perfect for this modern, short attention span world. It is packed with so much amazing first hand information in such a short amount of text that no one will be disappointed. Playground was co-written by Jake Austen of Roctober Magazine, with a foreword by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. The book is available here
If you are in the Los Angeles area this Saturday, June 28th, there will be a book release party and photo exhibit (with many of these photos printed HUGE) at Lethal Amounts Gallery at 8 pm.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
‘23 Minutes Over Brussels’: The legendarily confrontational Suicide concert, 1978
10:17 pm


Alan Vega
Martin Rev


—Alan Vega

“23 Minutes Over Brussels” is a recording of an incendiary performance given by Suicide in Brussels, Belgium on June 16th, 1978. Martin Rev and Alan Vega were opening for Elvis Costello and the audience, let’s just say, didn’t like them very much. In fact, they hated their fucking guts and let them know it in no uncertain terms, including booing loudly, snatching the microphone from Vega’s hands and even breaking his nose!

Suicide hated them back and the result was performance art meets a full-scale riot, perhaps the most legendarily confrontational ur-punk moment this side of Iggy and The Stooges’ Metallic K.O. After Suicide escaped with their lives, Elvis Costello and The Attractions came onstage, but Costello was furious at how the crowd had treated Suicide and played an extremely short set that was also short on pleasantries. The crowd went nuts when they refused to return for an encore and the riot cops were called in armed with teargas.

All in a day’s work for Suicide. When the band toured with The Clash that same year, Vega was physically attacked several times:

“I got my nose busted in Crawley… In Glasgow someone threw an axe by my head! In Plymouth The Nazis got me in the dressing room.”

The Brussels set was recorded on cassette tape by a friend of the duo and it was released as a legit bootleg (with a Berlin show from same tour) and as a flexi-disc. Eventually it got released on CD as a bonus track. Vega and Rev once referred to their music as “punk, funk and sewer music.”

Below, Suicide on Paul Tschinkel’s legendary InnerTube cable access program doing “Ghost Rider” in 1978:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Suicide’s Alan Vega interviewed by Gregg Foreman on ‘The Pharmacy’
03:30 pm


Alan Vega
Gregg Foreman

It’s a brand new year and here’s a brand new feature for you, our dear Dangerous Minds readers…

Gregg Foreman’s radio program, The Pharmacy, is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

There will be new episodes of The Pharmacy posted weekly on Dangerous Minds.

Gregg Foreman is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since, 2012, Gregg has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.

Gregg’s got amazing taste in music and access to some amazing people. Since this is the first time we’re featuring The Pharmacy on Dangerous Minds, I thought these three shows featuring an interview with Suicide’s Alan Vega would be of particular interest to our readers and a great way to kick things off.

Take it away Gregg…

The Pharmacy Radio - Ep 2 w/ Alan Vega of Suicide by Mrpharmacist on Mixcloud

You can download this show here.

The Pharmacy Radio Ep 3 - Alan Vega Pt 2 ... by Mrpharmacist on Mixcloud

You can download this show here.

The Pharmacy Ep 4 - Primal Scream and Alan Vega . . by Mrpharmacist on Mixcloud

You can download this show here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Elvis from Hell: Alan Vega’s rarely seen ‘Video Babe’
03:41 pm


Alan Vega

Alan Vega’s Elvis fetish is in full effect in the rarely seen “Video Babe” from 1983.

While Vega does Elvis, Martin Rev does a killer Nancy Sinatra.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Suicide’s Alan Vega discusses songwriting, art and life

Suicide’s Alan Vega interviewed for Tony Oursler’s Synesthesia Project.

The Synesthesia Project was a series of filmed interviews shot between 1997 and 2001 by artist Tony Oursler. Among the musicians featured were John Cage, Thurston Moore, Lydia Lunch and David Byrne.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment