Alan Vega (born Boruch Alan Bermowitz on June 23, 1938)[note 1] is an American vocalist, primarily known for his work with the electronic protopunk duo Suicide. He is also an established sculptor.

Biography and Career[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Alan Bermowitz was raised in a Jewish household in BensonhurstBrooklyn.[note 2] In the late 1950s he attended Brooklyn College, where he studied both physics and fine art, studying painting and drawing under Ad Reinhardt and Kurt Seligmann[1] and graduating in 1960.[2] In the 1960s he became involved with the Art Workers' Coalition, a radical artists group that harassed museums, once barricading the Museum of Modern Art.[3] 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 [4] in Manhattan. Calling himself Alan Suicide, he graduated from painting to light sculptures,[note 3] many constructed of electronic debris. He gained a residency at the OK Harris Gallery in SoHo where he continued to exhibit until 1975.[1] Barbara Gladstone continued to show his work 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 began experimenting with music with Martin Reverby. Together, they formed 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,[5] which he adopted from an article by Lester Bangs.[6] In 1971 the group dropped Paul Liebgott and added Mari Reverby on drums,[7] 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 CenterMax's Kansas CityCBGB and ultimately, achieve international fame.

In 1980, Vega released his eponymous first solo record, which contained "Jukebox Babe", defining the rockabilly style that he would use in his solo work for the next several years. In 1985, he released the more commercially viable Just a Million Dreams, which nevertheless proved unsuccessful.[8]

Vega teamed up with Martin Rev again in the late eighties and released the third Suicide album, A Way of Life, in 1988. Stefan Roloff produced Dominic Christ, the album's video. Shortly thereafter Vega met future wife and music partner Liz Lamere, while piecing together sound experiments that would evolve into his fifth solo album, Deuce Avenue (1990). Deuce Avenue marked his return to minimalistic, 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. 2007 saw the release of Vega's tenth solo album, Station, on Blast First Records, being "his hardest, heaviest album for quite a while, all self-played and produced."[citation needed]

In 2002 Deitch Projects mounted "Collision Drive", the first exhibit of Vega's art in 20 years.[3]

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 70th birthday[9] Musicians who contributed to the tribute series included The HorrorsLydia LunchPrimal Scream, and Miss Kittin.[10]

In 2009, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, France, mounted Infinite Mercy – a major retrospective exhibit of Vega's art.[11] This included the screening of two short documentary films: Alan Vega (2000) by Christian Eudeline, andAutour d’Alan Vega (extraits) (1998) by Hugues Peyret.[12]

He is married to Elizabeth Lamere, an entertainment attorney. The two have one son together.

On Vega's religious views, he was raised Jewish. He shares the views of Spinoza, the pantheist philosopher.[13]

Myth[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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".[14] A 1983 Los Angeles Times article refers to him as a 35-year-old.[15] Several other sources also list 1948 as his birthdate.[16][17]

Two 2009 articles confirm the 1938 birth date, one in Le Monde about the Lyon exhibit[18] and one in the magazine Rolling Stone.[19]

Vega also long claimed to be half-Catholic, but later, in a 2008 interview with The Jewish Chronicle, admitted he lied to "fuel the myth".[20]

Quotations from Alan Vega[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • "... 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)
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