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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
‘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
M.I.A.:  Another perspective
07:51 pm


Martin Rev

Marc can say what he wants about M.I.A.—we’re an anarchist collective here at Dangerous Minds—but I love her. if you ask me, her performance of latest single Born Free on The Late Show with David Letterman positively tore the roof off the sucker. I was absolutely blown away by what she did on that stage. And with Martin Rev of Suicide playing beside her? Playing his synth with his fist? We’re not worthy.

Kudos to M.I.A. for bringing Martin Rev out on to the stage with her. I found it sad how so few of the blogs, of all the many that wrote about this performance, even mentioned Martin! Kids! What’s the matter with kids these days?!?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment