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Alan Vega - Collision Drive (1980)

One half of the seminal electronic duo Suicide, Alan Vega was born in Brooklyn, New York. He began his career as a visual artist, gaining notoriety in the early 70s for his radical light sculptures and through the mid-80s had numerous one-man art exhibitions at OK Harris and the Barbara Gladstone galleries in Manhattan. Also in the early 70s, Vega co-founded a lower Manhattan art & music forum, ‘the Project of Living Artists’ in a large warehouse space in SoHo. It was there he met Martin Rev and together they formed Suicide, whose minimalist music, a fusion of Rev's ominous, repetitive keyboards and Vega's rockabilly snarl, helped paved the way for the electronic artists of the future.

Suicide released 2 groundbreaking albums in the late 70s/early 80s but were met with resistance and hostility throughout these early years, often causing riots during tours with The Clash & Elvis Costello. In 1980, both Vega and Rev began exploring their sound as solo artists (a process they each continue to this day). Vega's 1980 debut “Juke Box Babe” and his 1981 effort “Collision Drive” expanded the fractured rockabilly identity he had established in his earlier work. Vega scored a major hit on the continent with ‘Juke Box Babe’ from his first solo outing, and this garnered the attention of the major labels. 1983's ‘Saturn Strip’, produced by longtime fan & friend Ric Ocasek, marked Vega's debut for Elektra Records; corporate relations soured during production for 1985's ‘Just a Million Dreams’, however, and at one point the label even attempted to remove Vega from his own studio sessions. His song “On the Run” from that album best sums it up: “What’s going wrong, this ain’t my song”.

In 1988, Suicide went back into the studio to record “A Way of Life’, followed by a European tour and their 4th studio album “Why Be Blue’ in 1990. During this same post - major label period, Vega was rediscovering his roots and deconstructing his solo sound. For 3 years he worked on what would evolve into his next solo release, “Deuce Avenue” a minimal tour de force constructed using effects machines without programming, directed solely by the human hand. This was followed up by the release in 1991 of Vega's “Power On to Zero Hour” the lyrics of which are remarkably prescient of our current war torn times. Vega continued to tour with both Suicide and his solo Vega band. In 1995, Vega released “New Raceion”, with the addition of several guest guitarists and a diverse sound reflecting the increasing cultural diversity of his world; a year later, he returned to a more personal sound with “Dujang Prang”. Also, starting in the late 80s Vega found with less corporate pressure to tour & produce artwork capable of mass consumption, he had more time to devote to his visual art; much of his time was spent building sculptures and experimenting in photography – more for the act of creation than with a view toward exhibition. Soon however, he was asked to compile photographs for publication, and in 1991 his book of photography & poetry “Alan Vega: Deuce Avenue War/The Warriors v3 97”, was published. Later in 1991, his book, “Cripple Nation”, a collection of prose, poetry and lyrics, was published at the behest, and with the penetrating guidance, of Henry Rollins on his 2.13.61 imprint. Vega’s sculptures were captured by French photographer, Marie – Paul Ricard, in “100,000 Watts of Fat City”, which was published in 1993.

By the mid 90s a new generation of bands were discovering Suicide, and the duo were approached by Paul Smith (head of the Blast First division of Mute/EMI) to perform in London at the launch of a ‘lo-fi’ space within the South Bank Centre. The ensuing relationship that developed with Paul led to the re-issue of the first 2 Suicide albums by Mute Records in 1998, followed by select touring. On the home front Vega welcomed his son, Dante, in late 98, while working on his next solo album “2007” a deeply personal & visionary opus which was released in 1999. During the late 90s Vega also released several albums in collaboration with other artists; “Cubist Blues” in 1996 with Alex Chilton & Ben Vaughn, “Endless” in 1998 as “VVV” with Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen of PanSonic, and “Righteous Light” as “Revolutionary Corp of Teenage Jesus” with Stephen Lironi in 1998. Also in 1998 Vega had the great honor of creating a soundtrack for the film, “Sombre” directed by Phillipe Grandrieux.

In early 2001 Vega was approached by Jeffrey Deitch, (renowned international art dealer and owner of Deitch Projects, SoHo). Jeffrey had long been interested in the cross-fertilization of art, music & fashion and heard that Suicide had just performed at the Knitting Factory on New Year’s eve. He was thrilled, after all these years, to hear the buzz about Suicide amongst his 20-something gallery assistants. Deitch had never forgotten the impact of Vega’s (then Alan Suicide) early 70s art exhibitions at OK Harris. He set out to find the man and see if he was still creating sculptures. The end result was the “Collision Drive” exhibition at Deitch Projects in January 2002 (which included recreations of Vega’s 70s style floor sculptures, as well as wall pieces - created in the period leading up to September 11th, yet eerily similar to the memorials constructed by the masses in response to that fateful day). This same time period also saw Suicide working on their next release, “American Supreme” which was indelibly impacted by 9/11 and released shortly thereafter. In 2003 Vega again collaborated with Vainio and Vaisanen resulting in “Resurrection River” released in 2004, and contributed his trademark vocal to 2 tracks on DJ Hell’s “NY Muscle” CD released in 2003.

In 2002, Vega & Rev were approached by a writer from England, David Nobahkt, to tell their story in the first, and only, docu-biography of Suicide. After 2 years of extensive interviews with the author, the resulting book, “No Compromise” was published by SAF Publishing UK at the end of 2004. The book also features interviews with Chris Stein from Blondie, Michael Stipe, Moby, Henry Rollins, Marc Almond, Bobby Gillespie, Jim Reid, Sylvain Mizrahi from the NewYork Dolls, Jayne County and many more. Coinciding with the publication of the book, Mute Records reissued Suicide’s third & fourth studio albums, “A Way of Life” and “Why be Blue” to critical acclaim.

From 2000 to date Vega has been working on his latest solo record. Similar to the period preceding Deuce Avenue, Vega has spent years searching for new sound; but this time he also has been performing the evolving material to live audiences and incorporating the feel of their response into the creative process. Performances at the Pompidou in Paris, & Nante, France in March 2004; Bilbao, Spain in December 2004; Limoge & Paris, France in March 2005 and in Lyon, France in May 2006 have further focused the energy of the sound, and Vega has begun the final countdown to the release the CD.

In 2006, on the Mekon release ‘Something Came Up’, Alan collaborated with John Gosling on the “Blood on the Moon” track, adding effects tracks as well as his vocal. The song also features a guest appearance by Bobby Gillespie. (slimsmith.com)

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