Anamorphic photograph of Martin Rev and Alan Vega before 1988 Toronto concert
|Origin||New York City, New York, United States|
|Genres||No wave, new wave, art punk, industrial, synthpunk, lo-fi|
Suicide is an American electronic protopunk musical duo, intermittently active since 1970 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. They are an early synthesizer/vocal musical duo.
Never widely popular amongst the general public, Suicide are highly influential: critic Wilson Neate argues that Suicide "would prove as influential as The Clash. The synthpop, techno, and industrial dance sounds of the '80s and '90s, and now the new New Wave of electroclash, all gesture back to that foundational album."1
Suicide took their name from the title of a Ghost Rider comic book titled Satan Suicide, a favorite of Alan Vega.4 Rev's simple keyboard riffs, (initially played on a battered Farfisa organ combined with effects units, before changing to a synthesizer), were accompanied by primitive drum machines, providing a pulsing, minimalistic, electronic backdrop for Vega's murmuring and nervy vocals. They were the first band to use the term punk to describe themselves, which they had adopted from an article by Lester Bangs. Some of their earliest posters use the terms "punk music" and "punk music mass".
Suicide emerged alongside the early glam punk scene in New York, with a reputation for their confrontational live shows. Many of their early shows were at the Mercer Arts Center, alongside bands like the New York Dolls and Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps. David Johansen once played harmonica with Suicide in an early show there. Vega and Rev both dressed like arty street thugs, and Vega was notorious for brandishing a length of motorcycle drive chain onstage. Vega once stated "We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage. Just from the way we looked they started giving us hell already." 5 This sort of audience confrontation was inspired by Vega's witnessing of an Iggy and the Stooges concert at the New York State Pavilion in August 1969, which he later described as "great art". After the collapse of the Mercer Arts Center in 1973, Suicide played at Max's Kansas City and CBGB, often sharing the bill with emerging punk bands. Their first album was reissued with bonus material, including "23 Minutes Over Brussels", a recording of a Suicide concert that deteriorated into a riot.
Their first album, Suicide (1977), is regarded a classic. One critic writes: "'Che", "Ghost Rider"—these eerie, sturdy, proto-punk anthems rank among the most visionary, melodic experiments the rock realm has yet produced." Of note is the ten-minute "Frankie Teardrop", which tells the story of a poverty-stricken young factory worker, pushed to the edge. Critic Emerson Dameron writes that the song is "one of the most terrifying, riveting, absurd things I’ve ever heard."6 Nick Hornby in his book 31 Songs described "Frankie Teardrop" as something you would listen to "Only once".7
Suicide's albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s are regarded as some of the most influential recordings of their time and helped shape the direction of indie rock, industrial music and dance music. Among others, Steve Albini (Shellac, Rapeman, Big Black), Panthére, Gang Gang Dance, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sisters of Mercy, She Wants Revenge, Henry Rollins, Joy Division/New Order, Soft Cell, Nick Cave, D.A.F., Erasure, The KLF,8 Ministry, Nine Inch Nails,9 OMD, Pet Shop Boys,8 Tears for Fears, Cassandra Complex, Mudhoney,10 Nitzer Ebb,11 Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Radiohead, Kap Bambino, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Angel Corpus Christi (covers of Dream Baby Dream and Cheree with Alan Vega guest vocals), Michael Gira, MGMT, Sonic Boom, Loop, The Fleshtones (both of whom have recorded cover versions of "Rocket USA"), Ric Ocasek of The Cars, Mi Ami, Depeche Mode,12 Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Devo, Ultravox, Air, Autechre, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin13 and The Kills have all listed Suicide as an influence.14 Bruce Springsteen was also influenced by the band, as evident by the song "State Trooper" from his album Nebraska. Furthermore, Springsteen also used a solo keyboard version of "Dream Baby Dream" to close the concerts on his 2005 Devils & Dust Tour.
In 1986, Alan Vega collaborated with Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy on the 'Gift' album, released under the name of 'The Sisterhood'. Vega and Rev have both released solo albums, and Suicide released their first album in over a decade with 2002's American Supreme. Sales, however, were slow and critical reception was mixed.
In 2005, SAF Publishing put out Suicide No Compromise, a "docu-biography" by David Nobahkt, which featured extensive interviews with Vega and Rev as well as many of their contemporaries and famous fans.
In 2008, Blast First Petite released a monthly, limited edition series of 10" Vinyl EP's and downloads by major artists, honoring Alan Vega's 70th birthday. Among those paying tribute were Bruce Springsteen, Primal Scream, Peaches, Grinderman, Spiritualized, The Horrors, +Pansonic, Julian Cope, Lydia Lunch, Vincent Gallo, LIARS, & The Klaxons. The label also released "Suicide: 1977-1978", a 6 CD box-set, the same year.15
In mid-2009, the band The Horrors released a cover of the song "Shadazz" as part of a tribute to Alan Vega and his work. They've performed it many times live, along with another Suicide song, "Ghost Rider". Later that year, Primal Scream and Miss Kittin covered the song "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" for a limited-edition 10-inch vinyl pressing. A total of 3,000 copies were pressed and released on March 30, 2009.16
"Ghost Rider" was recently featured in a sixth season episode of HBO's Entourage. "Ghost Rider" is featured in movies Finisterrae and Attenberg. The riff from "Ghost Rider" was sampled extensively in M.I.A.'s single, "Born Free", released in April 2010.17
- 1977 - Suicide
- 1980 - Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev
- 1988 - A Way of Life The 2005 Mute / Blast First CD reissue has a slightly different mix of the album, most notably the song "Surrender", and includes a live bonus disc recorded in 1987. Videos for Dominic Christ and Surrender by Stefan Roloff
- 1992 - Why Be Blue The 2005 Mute / Blast First CD reissue includes a live bonus disc recorded in 1989 and a complete remix by Martin Rev of the original album and different track order.
- 2002 - American Supreme Initial CD copies included a live bonus disc recorded in 1998.
- 1981 - Half Alive A collection of live and demo material recorded from 1975-1979. Originally released by ROIR on cassette only. With liner notes by Lester Bangs.
- 1986 - Ghost Riders A live concert from 1981 - originally released on cassette only.
- 1997 - Zero Hour Late 70's live recordings.
- 2004 - Attempted: Live at Max's Kansas City 1980 Soundboard recordings from a NYC rock club performance. With liner notes by Marty Thau.
- 2008 - Live 1977-1978 A 6-CD box set containing 13 complete Suicide live performances from September 1977 to August 1978 plus bonus material.
- 1978 - 23 Minutes Over Brussels
- 1998 - 22/1/98 - Reinventing America Recorded live at The Barbican - "Inventing America" launch party.
- 1978 - "Cheree" / "I Remember"
- 1979 - "Dream Baby Dream" / "Radiation"
- "Dusted Reviews: Suicide - American Supreme". Dustedmagazine.com. 2002-11-24. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- Reynolds, Simon (January 29, 2002). "The second gig took place at the Soho gallery OK Harris, where Vega also held his first show. "On the gig flyers, we announced it as a Punk Music Mass. We didn't invent the word—I probably got it from an article on the Stooges by Lester Bangs—but I think we were the first band to describe our music as punk."". Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
- "Suicide - Chronology". From The Archives. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- Reynolds, 2006. p.143
- Moyer, Matthew (January 2003). "Alan Vega". Ink 19. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
- Dameron, Emerson. "Ghost Songs - Our Favorite Halloween Tunes". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
- Nick Hornby. 31 Songs. McSweeney's.
- David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 188. ISBN 9780946719716.
- David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. "By the end of the eighties, Suicide's influence could be heard in the output of the industrial dance/ rock/noise bands that emerged during that era. DAF's Die Kleinen UndDie Bosen album had much in common with Suicide. There was also The Neon Judgement, Dirk Ivens' Absolute Body Control, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Die Krupps and Front 242."
- David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716.
- David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. "There was also Bon Harris and Douglas McCarthy's band Nitzer Ebb, who had their own style of 'take no prisoners', beat driven electronic rock 'n' roll that came to form on their 1990 album Showtime."
- David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. "Amongst the synth bands that emerged at the start of the eighties was Depeche Mode. Suicide's influence on their sound is indisputable. Martin L Gore of Depeche Mode told The Times newspaper, "The synthesizer before Suicide was always a clean-cut instrument, whereas they brought in a punk element." He went on to say, "That was a very important step in the history of electronic music, they were way before The Prodigy and the whole industrial scene." Alan Wilder, Depeche Mode's music director and keyboard player from '82 to '95, had taken notice of Suicide's sampled and manipulated guitar sounds whilst recording the 1990 album Violator. Wilder later commented on his Shunt Website. "When we recorded the track "Blue Dress" it was based around using washy sounding, drone guitars (a la Suicide) which formed the backbone of the track.""
- David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. "Suicide's influence on electronic music was to carry on into the next decade with the Aphex Twin, Autechre and Two Lone Swordsmen having their Suicide-like moments."
- 1001 Songs (2007). Frankie Teardrop - Suicide. Hardie Grant Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 9781742731483. "Suicide's heirs – Devo, Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sisters of Mercy, Daft Punk, Air, Chemical, Nick Cave to name but a few – benefited from their pioneering sheets of industrial music."
- Paul Smith (2008). "Alan Vega Turns 70- Years Old/Box Set". MV Remix Rock. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- "Primal Scream cover Suicide for new single". NME. Time Inc. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- Brown, August (August 23, 2010). "Snap Judgment: M.I.A. drops new track, "Born Free" (and gets Suicide paid)". Hiss & Pop. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Various - Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2! (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- "IGGY & THE STOOGES PERFORMING RAW POWER + SUICIDE PERFORMING 1ST LP". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- "Various Artists: "Dream Baby Dream" | Tracks". Pitchfork. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- "The Place Beyond the Pines Soundtrack List". SongOnLyrics. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- Suicide Story on ZE Records official website
- Suicide and You, by Matthew Moyer
- "Suicide Watch" article by Simon Reynolds on Alan Vega, including some information on Suicide in general
- Complete concert chronology
- Very complete discography
- Martin Rev official site
- Alan Vega official site
- Piero Scaruffi, The History of Rock Music, "Suicide" . 1999. Accessed 11 June 2010
- Video for Way of Life by Stefan Roloff