One half of the seminal electronic duo Suicide, Alan Vega was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1938.
He began his career as a visual artist, gaining notoriety for his "light sculptures"; eventually Vega opened his own lower Manhattan gallery space, which he dubbed the Project of Living Artists. The Project served as a stomping grounds for the likes of the New York Dolls, Television, and Blondie as well as the 15-piece jazz group Reverend B., which featured a musician named Martin Rev on electric piano. Soon, Vega and Rev formed Suicide, whose minimalist, aggressive music -- a fusion of Rev's ominous, repetitive keyboards and Vega's rockabilly snarl -- helped paved the direction for the electronic artists of the future.
Suicide disbanded in 1980, and both Vega and Rev undertook solo careers. Vega's self-titled 1980 debut (including the hit single "Jukebox Babe") and his 1981 effort Collision Drive continued to explore the fractured rockabilly identity he had established in his earlier work. Saturn Strip, produced by longtime fan Ric Ocasek and released in 1983, marked Vega's debut for Elektra Records; corporate relations soured during production for 1985's Just a Million Dreams, however, and at one point the label even attempted to remove the singer from his own studio sessions. Suicide briefly re-formed in 1988, resulting in their third album, A Way of Life.
At the turn of the decade, Vega also began exploring new media outlets: Deuce Avenue War/The Warriors v3 97, his first book of photography, appeared in 1990, while Cripple Nation, a collection of prose and lyrics, bowed in 1991. After the release of Vega's solo albums Deuce Avenue (1990) and Power on to Zero Hour (1991), Suicide again reunited and toured. In 1995, Vega resurfaced as a solo artist with New Raceion; a year later, he returned with Dujang Prang. Cubist Blues (with Alex Chilton and Ben Vaughn) appeared in 1996, as did Getchertikitz with Ocasek and Gillian McCain. Vega then collaborated with Finnish electronic duo Pan Sonic under the name Vainio Väisänen Vega, resulting in the 1998 album Endless. This was followed by 1999 solo albums 2007 and Sombre, as well as an appearance on Étant Donnés' album Re-Up, which also featured Genesis P-Orridge and Lydia Lunch.
Suicide re-formed yet again in the early 2000s (yielding 2002's American Supreme), and a second Vainio Väisänen Vega album, 2005's Resurrection River, appeared on Mego. In 2007, Vega released the solo album Station on Blast First Records. He then collaborated with Marc Hurtado (one half of Étant Donnés), producing the 2010 full-length Sniper. Vega died in 2016 in New York City at the age of 78. At the time of his death, Vega was working on new music in collaboration with his wife Liz Lamere. In 2017, these final recordings were released by Fader on the album It. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi