“They were the most happening-est band”

If you were going to target a “most underrated band of all time,” New York duo Suicide would be a great candidate. Its uncommonly fruitful, three-decade career notwithstanding, the band also lays claim to one of the most influential albums in rock history (a 1977 self-titled debut). Martin Rev's bare, haunting synths and Alan Vega's charismatic mix of brooding whispers and aggravated yelps helped define the synth pop genre, and the album's dark, lonely aesthetic served as a primary inspiration for Bruce Springsteen's 1983 hallmark Nebraska. Saturday at Moogfest, Suicide will perform the storied debut in its entirety. We caught up with Vega to discuss.

Xpress: This will only be the fourth time you’ve ever played the whole debut live. Why so few performances?
Varga: It all started with Paul Smith, our manager in England. He suggested we do it because other bands had been doing it. Marty rejected the idea at first, and it took him about a year to come around. Then, Paul got all the equipment together that we used on the first album. We both decided to do it. As far as I was concerned, I loved it.

It just works well, and people love it — young kids, people that weren’t even alive when we started. They love it.

Looking back, are you surprised by the impact the album has had?
I’m amazed. Somebody just came over and did an interview. He wanted me to talk about the influence I’ve had on Bruce Springsteen. I’ve never thought of myself as having an influence on Bruce Springsteen because I really love the guy. We don’t see each other that much, but when we do, it’s like homecoming.

But when I think about it, I see it. It started out one day, I walked into the Z Records' office, when Z Records was still in New York in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. There was a song playing, and it had the Vega whelps and the “Whoop!” and the Suicide bareness about it. I’m walking into the office, and I’m hearing this shit. I’m telling everybody, “Man, did I do a song that I forgot I did?” They said, “No, it’s Bruce Springsteen.” It was “State Trooper” from the Nebraska album.

I’m beginning to believe it now. Suicide has been up against so much adversity, except for the last 10 years or so when things changed around so drastically. It’s like how you get used to being poor. Somebody gives you money, and you don’t know what to do with it because you’ve never spent money before. You know, “What do I do with this shit, man?” It’s the same thing with Suicide. You have to learn to accept the fact that a lot of people have covered us, and a lot of people are looking at us in a very high regard now.

Does that newfound attention change the way you look at Suicide?
I’m beginning to think that maybe we did do something. Every body’s writing now how great we were. Some college I went to wrote a big article about Suicide; you know, “They were the most happening-est band,” “They were ahead of their time,” “They were f—king amazing.” A college, and I’m like, “Holy shit, a whole one-page editorial on the greatness of Suicide.” And I’m going like, “What the f—k?” It’s reached everywhere now. Maybe I’m going to believe it.

For full Moogfest coverage, click here.

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