Suicide Watch

Alan Vega, Multimedia Artist

Things got slightly better for Suicide in the late '70s, when they played support on tours by the Clash, Elvis Costello, and the Cars. Audiences still hurled abuse and dangerous objects, but the crowds were much bigger, and at least Vega and Rev were getting paid. Some say Suicide were the ultimate punks, because even the punks hated them. In another sense, they were the first postpunk band, jettisoning the sonic trappings of trad rock'n'roll and paving the way for guitar-free synthpop outfits like Soft Cell. But the '80s and most of the '90s were wilderness years for Vega. Splitting from Suicide, he scored a hit in France with the Elvis-flavored "Jukebox Baby" and signed with Elektra, but the anticipated solo stardom never quite happened. Right now, though, Suicide are enjoying one of their cyclical resurgences. They are cited as a source for the highly touted New York band A.R.E. Weapons. An old Suicide outtake from 1975 is appearing in a European commercial for Tia Maria. And Rev and Vega are currently finishing their first studio album in a decade, due for release this fall. Suicide will also perform free February 22 at Deitch's massive 18 Wooster Street space.

Vega's art career had pretty much fallen by the wayside, however, until Jeffrey Deitch remade their acquaintance. "I'd met him just the once, in 1975, at Max's Kansas City," recalls Vega. There was talk of a low-key exhibition at a new Deitch space in Williamsburg, but when that closed, the plan switched to the Grand Street gallery. For Vega, it's a bittersweet thing, having a show only a few blocks away from where the Mercer Art Center used to be. "For the longest while, when I had to pass through Soho, it used to make me cry," he says. "I had a whole life down here, 1970 to '76. We used to hang out on the stoop, jam all night—nobody cared about the noise. It's the same old story—artists move into an area, make it nice. Suddenly people start giving you looks like you don't belong there. You know it's time to move on."

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