Alan Vega, Suicide frontman and electronic music pioneer, dies aged 78
Henry Rollins broke news of influential singer’s death with statement from Vega’s family on his website
Alan Vega, the frontman of the American electronic musical duo Suicide, has reportedly died, aged 78.
The former Black Flag and Rollins Band vocalist Henry Rollins broke the news via his website, with a statement from Vega’s family.
“Alan passed peacefully in his sleep last night, July 16,” the statement said. “He was 78 years of age.
“Alan was not only relentlessly creative, writing music and painting until the end, he was also startlingly unique. Along with Martin Rev, in the early 1970s, they formed the two-person avant band known as Suicide.
“Almost immediately, their incredible and unclassifiable music went against every possible grain. Their confrontational live performances, light years before punk rock, are the stuff of legend. Their first, self-titled album is one of the single most challenging and noteworthy achievements in American music.”
The group recorded five studio albums, Suicide (1977), Suicide: Alan Vega and Marin Rev (1980), A Way of Life (1988), Why Be Blue (1992) and American Supreme (2002).
Their self-titled 1977 album, which was recorded in four days, was No 39 on online music publication Pitchfork’s greatest albums of the 1970s list and Rolling Stone placed it on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Vega and Rev’s music used synthesisers and primitive drum machines and they were renowned for their chaotic and often violent live shows. In 2008, Vega told the Guardian that, during a 1978 show in Glasgow supporting the Clash, “someone threw an axe at my head”.
Suicide’s aggressive synthesiser rock has been cited as an influence by bands such as Radiohead, U2, New Order and Depeche Mode, electronic acts such as Daft Punk and Aphex Twin, and Bruce Springsteen, who covered their song Dream Baby Dream on his 2014 album, High Hopes.
alan vega/suicide was one of my biggest heroes & musical influences. gutted to hear we lost yet another pioneer. RIP my comic book fantasy.
— ZOLA JESUS (@ZOLAJESUS) July 17, 2016
Alan Vega Thank u for your music.
— CEDRIC BIXLER ZAVALA (@cedricbixler_) July 17, 2016
— Kurt Loder (@kurt_loder) July 17, 2016
In September 2009, the group performed their debut LP live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow’s Parties-curated Don’t Look Back series.
The riff from their song Ghost Rider was sampled extensively in MIA’s 2010 single Born Free and LCD Soundsystem covered Vega’s solo song Bye Bye Bayou.
In 2012, Vega suffered a heart attack and a stroke, eventually undergoing surgery, which wasn’t initially thought to be viable. However, he recovered and the duo continued to perform.
“One of the greatest aspects of Alan Vega was his unflinching adherence to the demands of his art,” his family said on Rollins’ website. “He only did what he wanted. Simply put, he lived to create.
“Alan is survived by his amazing family, wife Liz and son Dante. His incredible body of work, spanning five decades, will be with us forever.”