Alan Vega in 2004
|Birth name||Boruch Alan Bermowitz|
June 23, 1938 |
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Genres||Protopunk, punk, electronic, experimental, minimalism, no wave, industrial, synthpop, rockabilly, post-punk|
|Occupations||Musician, sculptor, painter|
|Years active||1966–present day|
|Associated acts||Suicide, The Sisterhood|
Biography and career
Alan Bermowitz was raised in a Jewish household in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.[note 2] In the late 1950s, he attended Brooklyn College where he studied both physics and fine art under Ad Reinhardt and Kurt Seligmann and graduated in 1960. In the 1960s, he became involved with the Art Workers' Coalition, a radical artists group that harassed museums and once barricaded the Museum of Modern Art. In 1969, funding from the New York State Council on the Arts made possible the founding of MUSEUM: A Project of Living Artists—an artist-run 24 hour multimedia gallery at 729 Broadway  in Manhattan. Calling himself Alan Suicide, he graduated from painting to light sculptures,[note 3] many of which were constructed of electronic debris. He gained a residency at the OK Harris Gallery in SoHo where he continued to exhibit until 1975. Barbara Gladstone continued to show his work well into the 1980s.
Seeing The Stooges perform at the New York State Pavilion in August 1969 was an epiphany for Vega.[note 4] In 1970, he met and befriended Martin Reverby. Together, they two began experimenting with music and formed the band Suicide along with guitarist Paul Liebgott. The group played twice at MUSEUM before moving on to the OK Harris Gallery. Calling himself "Nasty Cut", he used the terms "Punk Music" and "Punk Music Mass" in flyers to describe their music, which he adopted from an article by Lester Bangs. In 1971 the group dropped Paul Liebgott and added Mari Reverby on drums, though she didn't play in their live performances. With Bermowitz finally settling on Alan Suicide as a working name, they began to play music venues. Suicide went on to perform at the Mercer Arts Center, Max's Kansas City, CBGB and ultimately, achieve international fame.
In 1980, Vega released his eponymous first solo record which defined the rockabilly style that he would use in his solo work for the next several years, with the song "Jukebox Babe" becoming a hit single in France. In 1985, he released the more commercially viable Just a Million Dreams, but was dropped from his record label after its release. The album originally was set to be produced by Ric Ocasek as a follow-up the critically acclaimed Saturn Strip (1983), but production switched over to Chris Lord-Alge and Vega ran into several difficulties during the recording sessions. Vega later lamented, "They took all my songs and turned them into God knows what."
Vega teamed up with Martin Rev and Ric Ocasek again in the late eighties to release the third Suicide album, A Way of Life (1988). Visual artist Stefan Roloff produced a music video for the song Dominic Christ which was released by Wax Trax! Records. Shortly thereafter, Vega met future wife and music partner Elizabeth Lamere while piecing together sound experiments that would evolve into his fifth solo album, Deuce Avenue (1990). Deuce Avenue marked his return to minimalist electronic music, similar to his work with Suicide, in which he combined drum machines and effects with free-form prose. Over the next decade he would release several more solo records as well as perform with Suicide.
In 2002, he constructed Collision Drive, an exhibition of sculptures combining light with found objects and crucifixes. Vega's tenth solo album, Station, was released on Blast First Records in 2007 and was described by his colleagues as "his hardest, heaviest album for quite a while, all self-played and produced." In 2008, British label Blast First Petite released a limited edition Suicide 6-CD box set and monthly tribute series of 10" Vinyl EP's, to mark the occasion of Alan Vega's 60th birthday Musicians who contributed to the tribute series included The Horrors, Lydia Lunch, Primal Scream, and Miss Kittin.
In 2009, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, France, mounted Infinite Mercy – a major retrospective exhibit of Vega's art. This included the screening of two short documentary films: Alan Vega (2000) by Christian Eudeline, and Autour d’Alan Vega (extraits) (1998) by Hugues Peyret.
Prior to the announcement of the 70th birthday release in 2008, Vega was thought to have been ten years younger. The 2005 book Suicide: No Compromise lists 1948 as his birth year and quotes a 1998 interview in which Vega talks about watching Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show (1956) as a "little kid". A 1983 Los Angeles Times article refers to him as a 35-year-old. Several other sources also list 1948 as his birthdate.
Quotations from Alan Vega
- "... I never heard anything avant-garde. To me it was just New York City Blues." (1980)
- "Suicide was always about life. But we couldn't call it Life. So we called it Suicide because we wanted to recognize life." (1985)
- "Where I grew up in Brooklyn, man, a punk was like a wuss, the guy who ran away from the fight. “You’re a punk. You’re a weasel. You’re nothing.” Now it has this connotation of being the tough-guy thing. The revolution, are you kidding? So I liked the word and used the term “punk music mass,” maybe inadvertently trying to turn it into something else. One day I wake up and there’s the word punk all over the place. That’s when it became meaningless to me. Somebody said that Suicide had to be the ultimate punk band because even the punks hated us." (2008)
- For recordings made with Suicide, please see Suicide discography.
- Alan Vega (1980) Reissued as "Jukebox Babe"
- Collision Drive (1981)
- Saturn Strip (1983) With Ric Ocasek & Al Jourgensen
- Just a Million Dreams (1985)
- Deuce Avenue (1990) With Liz Lamere
- Power on to Zero Hour (1991) With Liz Lamere
- New Raceion (1993) With Ric Ocasek & Liz Lamere
- Dujang Prang (1995) With Liz Lamere
- Getchertikitz (1996) With Ric Ocasek and Gillian McCain
- Cubist Blues (1996) With Alex Chilton and Ben Vaughn
- Endless (1998) With Pan Sonic as Vainio Väisänen Vega
- Righteous Lite™ (1998) With Stephen Lironi as Revolutionary Corps of Teenage Jesus
- Re-Up (1999) With Étant Donnés, Lydia Lunch and Genesis P-Orridge
- Sombre (1999) Original score to the film by Philippe Grandrieux
- 2007 (1999) With Liz Lamere
- Resurrection River (2004) With Pan Sonic as VVV
- Station (2007) With Liz Lamere
- Sniper (2010) With Marc Hurtado (Étant Donnés)
- 2006 – Silver Monk Time – A Tribute to the Monks (29 bands cover The Monks) label play loud! productions
- 2006 – The Wiretapper 16 free CD issued to subscribers of The Wire and available on some over the counter issues, but not all.
- 2008 – Alan Vega 70th Birthday Limited Edition EP Series (covers of Vega's work by Bruce Springsteen, Primal Scream, Peaches, Grinderman, Spiritualized, The Horrors, Sunn O)))+Pansonic, Julian Cope, Lydia Lunch, Vincent Gallo, LIARS and Klaxons.
- Cripple Nation – 2.13.61 (1994)
- 100,000 Watts Of Fat City – Editions Anna Polerica (2000)
- Alan Suicide Vega – Infinite Mercy? Let U$ Pray!. Copeland, Mathieu ed. (2010). Dijon, France: Les presses du réel.
- For several years other sources stated that he was born in 1948 – see 'Myth' section
- Vega has claimed a Catholic mother – see 'Myth' section
- "I started as a painter. The first time I did a light piece was when I was working on a very big purple painting. There was one light bulb in the room and as I walked around I noticed how the painting acquired different aspects. I wanted it to be one color so I said, "Fuck this, man!" I took the light out of the ceiling and really stuck it on the painting." Alan Vega, 1993 – 100,000 Watts of Fat City © Anna Polerica.
- "It showed me you didn't have to do static artworks, you could create situations, do something environmental. That's what got me moving more intensely in the direction of doing music. Compared with Iggy, whatever I was doing as an artist felt insignificant." Reynolds, Village Voice.Jan 29 2002
- Copeland, Mathieu (2010). Alan Suicide Vega – Infinite Mercy? Let U$ Pray!. Dijon, France: Les presses du réel. ISBN 978-2-84066-379-9.
- "Alumni Newsmakers". Brooklyn College Magazine. Spring 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
- Reynolds, Simon. "Suicide Watch". Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
- "display ad". Village Voice. September 25, 1969. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
- "SuicideChronology". From The Archives. Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
- Miller, Marc H. (April 20, 2009). "Punk Art Catalogue – Section IV: Suicide, Bad Boys, Tattoos". 1978 Punk Art Exhibit. 98Bowery.com. Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
- "Suicide Chronology". FromTheArchives.org. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
- Valdivia, Victor W. "Just a Million Dreams review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Suicide: No Compromise. Google Books. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "Live". Alan Vega. Slim Smith. December 2006. Retrieved 21 December 2013. "The new live set is based around Alan's new album, "Station", his hardest, heaviest album for quite a while, all self-played and produced."
- Paul Smith (2008). "Alan Vega Turns 60- Years Old/Box Set". MV Remix Rock. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
- "Primal Scream cover Suicide for new single". NME. Time Inc. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- "Alan Vega, Infinite Mercy". Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Documentaires sur Alan Vega". Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Paul Lester (October 10, 2008). "Suicide: How the godfathers of punk kept the faith". The Jewish Chronicle Online. "Vega is similarly ambivalent. He alludes to the "miraculous" nature of his career with Suicide and fateful meeting with Rev, begging the question - does he believe in a higher power? "I distrust the name ‘God' but, yes, I do believe in a higher power," he says. He adds that he shares the rationalist stance of Spinoza, the 17th-century Jewish philosopher and "pantheist theologian". "God is in all of us," he says, before deciding: "There is an immense power. There has to be.""
- Suicide: No Compromise. Google Books. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "ALAN VEGA: MELLOWING ON AMERICA". Los Angeles Times. Aug 11, 1983. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- Buckley, Peter (2003) The Rough Guide to Rock, Rough Guides, ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0, p. 1131
- Thompson, Dave (2000) Alternative Rock, Miller Freeman Books, ISBN 0-87930-607-6, p. 667
- "La crucifixion, la mort et l'extase selon Alan Vega". "Le Monde". June 5, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
- "The Feelies, Dirty Three With Nick Cave Revisit Classic Albums at All Tomorrow’s Parties". Rolling Stone. September 12, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-09.[dead link]
- "Suicide: How the godfathers of punk kept the faith", Paul Lester, The Jewish Chronicle, Oct 10 2008.
- Biography of Alan Vega on ZE Records Official Website
- VegA'rt – Art by Alan Vega
- Alan Vega – Infinite Mercy Slideshow of the 2009 Lyon retrospective.
- Infinite Mercy – Aide à la visite Guide to the 2009 Lyon retrospective.
- Suicide Watch – Village Voice interview for Collision Drive installment (2002)
- Calling All Stations! – ReGen magazine interview (2007)
- Tony Fletcher & Alan Vega – All Hopped Up and Ready to Go Brooklyn Public Library – Dec 10 2009.
- Alan Vega Synesthesia Interview film by Tony Oursler
-  Autour de Vega, a documentary by Hugues Peyret