is one half of pivotal New York synth-punk duo Suicide. From 1976 on, he and Alan Vega have been turning music history inside out. Their aprroach to make music was so much ahead of the time that their first few gigs ended up in riots. Their debut in 1977 is the most influential post-punk album of all time. Even though the two agitators have an enormous prestige they still are underground.
Which song do you listen to when...you come home from the club?
My head is still filled with all the music from the concert. That’s enough. I cannot listen to any music with that set of mind.
you prepare for an important date?
The Rolling Stones
Something to boost me up. Good rock works well. Like The Rolling Stones. Also some of the genuine jazz composers like John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk. These guys were intellectuals that have been constantly influenced by modern Classical composers like Stravinsky and vice versa. Guys like them showed that you need brains and a sophisticated approach to achieve things in life. They laid the foundation for the beatnicks and the whole civil rights movement. Having Mingus conducting a classical 30-piece orchestra and entering the white bourgeoisie needed some intellectual background. Jazz musicians were role models for other musicans and Afro-Americans in general. Back then Afro-Americans could only break into the white cultural hegemony with cleverness. As oppposed to the last few years when black people tend to think the materialistic lifestyle will help you to climb the social ladder. I hope things will change for the better, though. We live in a country based on ethnical mixture and a very racist system at the same time. With Obama I see hope for lots of things. They day he got elected was a very important day for America. People were in the streets partying, dancing and crying of joy. I was very happy too. When I grew up in my neighbourhood in New York we lived amongst black people and all we listened to was their music. At the same time I was ashamed how the system treated them eventhough everything we culturally embraced came from them. Without guys like Little Richard there would be no pop music as we have it now. All the blues players… they’re importance on contemporary culture can’t be estimated too highly!
you want to disturb your neighbours?
Well, anything would work where I live. That’s why I only listen to music with headphones on. I’m trying to be a nice neighbor.
you drive a car late at night?
Well, actually anything is good for driving. From 50’s and 60’s rock n roll to modern Classical composers.
you want to get inspired?
I like to hear music that I don’t know, that I can’t really figure out. I’m always learning. I want to hear things I don’t really know how they work. It challenges me to work on new structures and compositions. My parents sent me to piano lessons when I was 11 years old and I hated it. I’d rather wanted to go out and play ball with my friends. But my parents insisted that I’d continue til I was 15. At that age it sounded like eternity! Now, I’m thankful to them that they forced me to. Later on, I chose my teachers on my own and got trained in classical music and Jazz. But the music I was hearing and influenced by was the music from the streets, which was Rock N Roll. I also wouldn’t want to play any Jazz music, altough I first played in a free jazz band. But Jazz ended in the late 60’s with the avantgarde. Expect for what Sun Ra and maybe Miles Davis did, there was no progession. And I wanted to explore new dimensions.
you are love sick?
Claude Debussy - Pavane Pour Une Princesse Morte
Claude Debussy - La Mer
Claude Debussy - Petite suite for piano
Igor Stravinsky - The Firebird
Igor Stravinsky - The Rite Of Spring
Gustav Mahler - Symphony No.2 and No.8
Maurice Ravel - Rhapsodie Espagnole
Maurice Ravel - L'enfant et les sortilèges
Aaron Copland - Billy The Kid
John Coltrane - Ballads
If you wan’t to cry almost any 50’s or 60’s rock n roll or R&B will work. All those songs were basically about love and being heartbroken. And in your youth you are always in love and lovesick even more of course. At least I was. All songs from that period remind me of that feeling. Today, I would listen to certain classical pieces like Debussy’s «Pavanne Pour Une Princess Mort», «La Mer» or «Petite suite for piano»; or Stravinsky’s «The Firebird» or «The Rite Of Spring», Tschaikowsky’s symphonies; Mahler’s Symphony No.2 and No.8; Ravel’s «Rapsodie Espagnole» or «L'enfant et les sortilèges»; Aaron Copland’s «Billy The Kid»; or chamber concerts by Brahms. Or some of the great jazz composers like John Coltrane’s «Ballads» album. Or some of the stuff Miles Davis did. Very romantic music!
you make love?
Maurice Ravel - Daphne Et Chloé
Nowadays I don’t want any music. But I recommend Ravel’s «Daphne Et Chloé». French orchestral music suits bedrooms very well.
you miss New York?
Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues
Marvin Gaye - Trouble Man
«Inner City Blues» and «Trouble Man», but also all the great doo-wop from the late 50’s, like The Chesters for instance.
you sit in a plane?
Sometimes I scan the inflight program, the Jazz and Classical channels. But the sound on airplanes isn’t very good to listen to music.
you have to spend a night in a spooky hotel?
I play the music and notes in my mind. I try to hear actual notes and tones, write music in my head. I do that very often, not only in spooky hotels.
you start a riot?
Martha & The Vandellas - Dancing In The Street
It was meant to be an innocent dance single, but it took a different meaning when all those riots broke loose in inner-city America. Lots of young people going on the streets to demonstrate against the Vietnam war and social injustice. It was an expression of the spirit of that time. Marvin Gaye’s «Inner City Blues», The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, The Isley Brothers they all talked about what was going on in the streets. Albeit some of the lyrics didn’t say it directly, you still could hear it in the music.
you sit in the subway?
I don’t have an iPod and I never walked the streets with headphones on. There is so much interesting sounds in the streets of New York I have to concentrate on. Back in the 60’s when those small transistor radios came out, everyone had one and you could hear music all over the city.
you repair a synthesizer?
Ha, I won’t do that. I take it to a technican to do it for me. Nowadays I use midi sequencers and interfaces anyhow. When me and Alan started out I actually often played a broken-down Fafisa organ we couldn’t afford to repair. But then that was maybe also the sound I aimed for. People were scared of this kind of sound, they weren’t ready for this new era. It’s a very interesting time we are living in, you are actually experiencing the switch from one age to the next, like from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, we are now in the process of moving from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age. This is kinda heavy to swallow. Therefore, I think, people have to reflect on what happened musically in the last 50 or so years. Lots of stuff to digest. When I was young there was no «old music» we could listen to. We wouldn’t want to listen to Swing and Ragtime. But if you are young today, you have so much music you can refer to. It’s amazing. There isn’t really the need for musicians to go further or contribute to the history. How should they? Too much happened in the last few decades. For instance, I like what Snoop Dogg is doing right now. But then I heard he is producing ringtones now... Is this the next art form? To compose pieces that work with three or four tones?
you wake up?
Nothing. Sometimes I just turn on the radio as a background source of sound. But usually I don’t wanna hear anything in the morning. I don’t want to get my head filled up too early. Later on I will listen to music very intensively and carefully. Therefore I need a slow start into the day.