No compromise: Remembering Suicide’s Alan Vega – a true one-off

It’s just over a year since Suicide frontman and co-founder Alan Vega passed away aged 78, and last night independent station Dublin Digital Radio broadcast a brilliant tribute to one of the most singular frontmen of all time.

Vega, along with Martin Rev, created a sound they called punk music on a flyer in 1970, with no idea of where that four-letter word would end up a few years later. Through the 1970s they battered busted synths into rudimentary punk and rockabilly shapes, and while Kraftwerk’s sleek minimalism was eventually co-opted by the mainstream, Suicide were way more confrontational than the punks.

“It wasn’t just the name, it wasn’t just what we did onstage. The fact that we were two guys… we had no guitars, no drums, so we’re hitting it on three or four levels,” said Martin Rev.  Their early gigs are were pretty feral affairs, with riots, kickings, and the band pelted with glasses, years before that became Swans’ thing in filthy New York basements.

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But Suicide’s influence has transcended their early fingers-up attitude. Their 1977 self-titled debut album is held up as one of the year-zero albums for new wave, techno, industrial and noise. Their single Dream Baby Dream has been covered by Arcade Fire and Bruce Springsteen, and Bruce has said his desolate solo acoustic album Nebraska was inspired by Suicide — especially the song State Trooper, his take on Frankie Teardrop. One memorable festival moment of the last few years for me was Grinderman finishing on one stage at Primavera and Nick Cave ordering the crowd to rush over and see Suicide across the way, as “none of us bands would be here without them”.

Vega and Rev played as Suicideuntil shortly before Vega’s death, and Vega’s solo career and collaborations were no less compromising. The FADER label has just released Vega’s posthumous album IT, recorded over a six year period with his wife and musical partner Liz Lamere.

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“People have always said that my work was ahead of its time. But I’ve always believed it’s been right on time,” he said of his legacy.

As part of the one-hour tribute show, Liz talks to XXX host Emma Cawley about working with Alan on his “masterwork and final statement”.

The show was broadcast live last night, but if you didn’t catch it live it can be streamed below…