Alan Vega / Suicide Special…


This months MuZK KLuB is an Alan Vega tribute. I’ve made a special 13 track compilation CD to go with it. These songs vary in style but I’ve tried to search through my record collection and find tracks that I think are there because Suicide existed. When you do this, it’s actually amazing how many tunes there are that have this thread..or maybe it’s just my record collection!

I didn’t come across Suicide until the mid 90’s and I never saw them live. I believe they only toured the UK once back in the late 70’s and were mostly bottled off the stage. Nobody really knew what to make of Suicide back then and when they played here again, years later, after being established as an influential band, it seems not many people knew what to make of them either. I have some friends who saw them live and said that Martin Rev was the only one man band who could actually go out of tune and out of time with himself. I’ve never met anyone who talks about a Suicide gig as being spellbinding like, say, a White Stripes gig. On the contrary, most people who witnessed a Suicide gig walk away wondering if ‘that was any good or not?’ (Please leave some comments if you saw them and what it was like). A lot of people refer to them as being quite scary. People are scared of what they don’t understand. People were scared of Kraftwerk!

But that’s just it. Music is also about showing intent, it’s not just about melody, harmony and rhythm. I’ve always been drawn to that sort of music and I don’t know why. Most of my favourite albums are bootlegs or live recordings that sound like shit. I love the 70’s live albums (although most of them aren’t actually even live). In the 80’s I used to get stoned and listen to Neil Young (did I really just say that!). My mates, who were into Van Halen laughed at me and laughed at Neil’s guitar playing.. I got bored of hearing them say: “what a load of shite..he can’t fucking play (or sing)!” It just made me want to turn it up louder. It wasn’t about that for me. I’d like to think I was right!

I love those songs that Neil Young does, the ones that repeat and continue until you finally submit to it because he is willing you on, his sheer persistence makes you take notice. Does it matter that he can’t play guitar like Steve Vai or sing like Adele? I love the fact that if Neil Young turned up on the xfactor they would all hit the ‘no’ buzzer before he got to the second verse. Unless of course he was THE Neil Young and had paved the way for his sound to be part of our listening experience in which Simon Cowell would say: “Mmmm, has a certain Neil Young quality about it but it’s too far out there.”

It’s easy to forget that when you do something totally new, no one has done it before. It takes a lot of intent to get you to that place and you can only release it when you think it’s ok to let your baby go. Suicide, Neil Young and Kraftwerk. People laughed at Kraftwerk in the beginning, now they are (after the Beatles) the second most influential band in the world. Apparently Suicide spent years sitting on their first album before deciding to release it. Either they weren’t sure or they waited for the times to catch up with what they were doing. Punks.

As I’m writing this I’m listening to the six by seven Kickstarter album I’ve done. It’s totally unique to my ears and I’m scared. It sounds like six by seven and it rocks but it’s so different that I have to take 5 days off and then listen again because after 5 days off I’m convinced it’s too ‘out there’. However, when I listen to it, I think that it sounds great, and so does my wife; there is something about it that I really like. Is that good enough? I think so. I’m an artist, there is always that fear. Maybe 50% of you who have bought and will get it through the post will hate it but then 50% of you will love it. To be honest, that’s what I want, I’d be totally ok with that, part of me actually demands it.

Maybe a percentage of you believe that six by seven should be one thing and one thing only. I don’t. What was it in the first place. I was petrified when I released KluBmiX!33. I was expecting hate mail but I got many emails telling me it was the best thing I’d done that it gave me the confidence to carry on with the six by seven name. That was a radical album. I had to do something back then because the band had walked away again. The girl who did my press at the time refused to work it saying: “It’s not six by seven”then adding “I really like it though.” I decided not to ask her to do it and to limit it to 300 double vinyl albums with black and white artwork and not do the usual press job and not put it onto CD.

Deciding not to put that record onto CD back then was surprisingly what brought on lots of emails asking me what the hell I thought I was doing. Now loads of people seem to have bought a record player. I had to put that record out to pay for the financial disaster that was Love And Peace And Sympathy. (Manufacturing large amounts of product for a gigging band that just evaporated overnight).

Releasing something on record, vinyl that is, is much more special. It looks and feels special and it is constrained by time, just 18 minutes on each side if you want it to sound good. That’s liberating for a musician, a CD can go on and on and isn’t split into two chapters. On vinyl the bass gets lost on the tracks at the end of each side too so you have to make lots of decisions about track placement. It feels like you are creating something energised by the medium itself when you make a record for vinyl only. That’s the important thing, it has to be vinyl only, you can’t make all those decisions about 18 minutes per side, compression, track placement and splitting it into two coherent chapters and then just bang the results onto CD.

These are interesting times when you can make a solid piece of vinyl again and make it like Neil Young made Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere or After The Goldrush or Comes A Time. I love the diversity in Neil Young I love On The Beach and Tonights The Night as much as I love Harvest (I draw the line at the utter guff that is Landing On Water though!). Neil Young is a punk, Suicide is punk and I’m beginning to realise that I’m a punk…at heart. It’s all about the attitude and the persistence. A true punk just keeps on going. My MuZiK KluB has helped me to keep going and now hopefully releasing vinyl albums too will help a bit more. It might take me from month to month survival to month to month existence. To be able to exist by making music that has attitude and sounds good to me is the best I can hope for… I’m not interested in hits, videos or TV anymore. (I don’t think I ever was).

Keeping on going has been the biggest challenge. I suppose it is for any band. I went to see the Dandy Warhols again the other day in Coventry. They are still doing it, still with the same line up and Coutney is still complaining about the venue being too hot and the floor being sticky. I have so much respect for that band. I’ve noticed throughout my travels through a musical life how music attracts all sorts of people, mostly those who want things like fame and fortune out of it…no really, there are a lot out there who just want that. They latch onto singer songwriters and people who they percieve to be charismatic enough to make it work…for them. If it doesn’t, or when it doesn’t, they send an email saying..”thought long and hard about this and decided…” Chances are they didn’t think long and hard about the music, they thought long and hard about whether it was worth it, will it get them the things they wanted. I don’t blame anyone who’s done this with me, I didn’t really know what they wanted until they weren’t getting it, stupidly I thought it was the music. For me, I didn’t want anything, I just had to do it because in the end I’m fucked up and I can’t do anything else. Now I’ve done this for so long that I really can’t do anything else, all chances are gone. I like that in a way.

KlubMix!33 was the most punk and radical thing I ever did and, this might surprise you, if someone asked me what music most defined me out of everything I’ve done I’d say it was that record. That would be followed by the blood stained Record Store Day album and this new one which is coming out because it was funded through Kickstarter by those that just want it to be there and want to hear it. It doesn’t get much cooler or punk than that.

All those 3 albums are also vinyl only. I don’t know if that’s just a coincidence. Is it just me or does making vinyl seem to give a project more creedence and longevity? It’s expensive and takes time to make. It gets looked after and cherished (not all of mine did I have to say, remember waking up in the living room after a good party and seeing all your vinyl without covers all over the place, propping up the furnitur and each other).

Most people would say that The Closer You Get is the album that most defines me / six by seven. The lyrics are vitriolic and the sound of that record is full of anger, even in it’s acoustic and quiter moments. On reflection it was probably a special set of songs that were collected together back then, even if I now hardly recognise the man who is singing that record. However, let’s not forget that in the grand scheme of things it was also a quiet failure. It cost X amount to make and market and brought in less than all of those parts put together. This is not the case with the last three vinyl albums and that makes a difference. Back then, Beggars made it happen, they are that sort of label, probably more punk than Stiff and they are still doing it. They didn’t know if it wasn’t going to be a big seller, they tried everything to make it one but it never happened and they even gave us another chance with The Way I Feel Today. You can’t keep doing that forever though. That’s another story.

Anyway, changing the subject; I decided to change the artwork with this months MuZiK KLuB again. I thought the last few started to look a bit corporate. Don’t get me wrong, they looked cool but I felt after a few releases that they started to lose the personal handmade touch and I was constrained by the format, not in a good way. I’ve pulled them back in and am now only getting the covers printed and making the rest myself again. It’s a labour of love and I’m lucky to be given the chance to keep er… labouring…working… just doing…making. Speaking of which, must get on…








  1. Hi Chris… I saw Suicide twice (at The Garage in 1998 and Primavera Sound in 2011) and speak from the perspective of someone who absolutely loves their recorded music. What you say about people being undecided about if it was good or not is pretty fair comment. Both times were fairly similar… All the classics rolled out in a pre programmed style all sounding very much like their 1992 album Why Be Blue, with Martin playing the live part by jamming his fist down on the keys in fairly random style! It Was strangely compelling and yet… not what I had built myself up for, so I felt a little (perhaps unreasonably) short changed. That said… I am glad to have seen them.

  2. I saw Suicide twice in New York in 2002 I think, maybe 2001. First time was in a garage in SoHo. Maybe 50 people, tiny stage. Björk, Foetus, Sonic Youth, Jim Jarmusch was in the audience.
    It was loud, aggressive and short. Maybe 25 minutes, they had two spotlights and I loved it. I did not recognise a single song and after when I checked the setlist it was all hits. They just played completely new versions.

  3. The second time was more of a concert, they played the whole new album American Supreme I think it was called. Not as good, but stranger and angrier. And waaay too loud.

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