by SashaS

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  More on: Suicide

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Somerset House, London
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Scala, London
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Sound heist + noir piques
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They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
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Labour of art, love and doctrine
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Suicide, the original 'riot squad'
The good, the brave and the indiferents
Suicide on passé art of rebellion, futurism, ‘AWoL’

Regularity of tabloid reports on celebs’ behaviour and Britney’s marriage count make them look like the last Rock’n’Roll outlaws but the truth is completely different. Compared to the shoulders on rock baddies they stand on, they all are pussycats: Courtney Love’s breaking-in, rehab-issues, custody battle, The Libertines' drug issues… Still, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell’s shooting during the Damageplan show is the most tragic example of crossing the demarcation line between fantasy and reality because pop culture requires suspension of disbelief, as much as movies, and religion, do.

The fans in the past used to be much more extreme, antagonistic and downright mad-as-hell but non-lethal, luckily. When Suicide came over for a debut tour with The Clash their shows were shortened due to such hostility that 10-minutes was tops they could manage to play! On a subsequent Euro-tour, with Elvis Costello, there was an axe in Glasgow that missed singer/lyricist Alan Vega by a whisker but a monkey wrench in Metz scored a direct and bloody hit; Vega still bears the scars.

He and partner Martin Rev are the kind of groundbreaking warriors, far from the Oasis’ policy that if someone chucks a smelly sock on stage they’d be storming off! The current stars are spoilt by instant gratification of fat bank balances while Suicide had to fight adversity for many a year with the macabre blend of two-chord electronic droning underpinned by ghostly rockabilly vocals that they call “punk funk symphonic sewer music”.

For the difference, their ‘comeback’ shows in 1998, to mark reissuing of the first two LPs, ‘Suicide’ and ‘The Second Suicide Album’ (aka ‘Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne’), were received with emo-demo of a pacifist rally, a far cry from the past. Their London show on Monday night [at Electric Ballroom] was performed in an air of respectability and revered awe.

We now have 'A Way Of Life' and 'Why Be Blue?' re-released at the end of the month, with additional material: 'AWoL' (from 1988) is paired with the London's Town & Country (now Forum) show on 13 December 1987; 'Blue?' is augmented by a celebratory concert performed for an adoring Parisian crowd at Le Palace on 17 April 1989. Both of these albums were produced by Ric Ocasek, of the MOD-rockers Cars. Just to recap, Suicide’s previous album, 'American Supreme', came out 11 years after ‘Y B Blue’ (1992).

Were you ever truly worried for your safety during the early days?

Alan Vega: “A lot of the times, but it was also fun and exciting to be doing it. I don’t think we were really afraid of anything in those days probably due of our age and naivety. ”

Martin Rev: “Those early shows weren’t artistically fulfilling but were very good for starting riots! Especially the Elvis Costello tour!”

AV: “Every night was an amazing adventure.”

MR: “Those shows were great, not financially successful but certainly great experiments in what you can’t do onstage.”

AV: “People hated us in the early Seventies, because we were using cheap Japanese keyboards and drum machines, the kind of instruments you get at bar-mitzvahs. Everyone was like fighting a revolution and it was bloody great. Now, you get people who come and applaud politely, which is nice because we are not as agile or as quick to be dodging all those missiles.”

Gigging borderlines

Did you permanently feel bitter about your situation/lack of success?

AV: “No, we’d go through phases when we’d be pissed off but it would pass and you get on with your life and work. We weren’t lucky to have a label like Motown who invested a lot of money into initial albums and then developed artists. Nowadays you have to do a whole album before going to a record company, have a video-clip done, have an image to present, and have your own studio, as well...”

Were you ever tempted to compromise and try something more populist?

AV: “I think it is good that we weren’t embraced from the beginning because we could have ended up doing something forgettable. We could have made money but is that the meaning of life?”

MR: “I think we were tempted to compromise because you always want, not just to survive, but to be able to do it from a comfortable position. It also depends to what extent you want it. We had to satisfy our creativity first of all and it never felt right. I only hope people who take easy way out can live with themselves. Comfortably.”

AV: “I don’t want this to sound pretentious but I don’t think we knew how to become more commercial. You simply do what you feel, know, value, as an artist. And, you have to be honest because fakery is just like prostituting your soul.”

MR: “Why do you think we had our albums produced by Ric Ocasek? We hoped some of his pop-sensibility would rub on us…”

Avant-electro expressionism

Comparing your creativity to arts, which movement would you say you belong to?

“Something Expressionistic,” Rev offers first, “with some aspects of Abstractionism in it.”

“There is an element of Impressionism,” Vega opines, “but I’d say it is like Pop-Expressionism and a bit of Surrealism; perhaps, Electronic-expressionism.”

Even if music were an artform, ten years is a bit too long even for a masterpiece?

MR: “Nine years, it was nine years only. It’s not that we didn’t want to work but it was the case that we didn’t have a label, until Mute stepped in. When they re-issued our first two albums, it was still album-by-album situation and although we’ve been doing new stuff onstage for the past five years, we didn’t really push for it. We waited for them to ask us.”

Taking you a couple of decades only to be recognized for pioneering work, was the hardship worth it?

MR: “We know it is ironic but that is what we like about it all. We haven’t changed but times and people have. From outsiders we turned into some sort of legends. If we could only start getting paid, finally.”

Suicide’s albums 'A Way Of Life' and 'Why Be Blue?' are re-released 31 January 2005 by Blast First/Mute