The original plan was to call the band Life, but downtown New Yorkers Alan Vega and Martin Rev were barely hanging onto life as it was. Vega was at the time the custodian of an art venue named the Project of Living Artists, funded by New York State, where he and a whole mess of other musicians, artists, and hangers-on met in a second-story loft to woodshed, swap ideas, perform, hang out, get high, and get by as best they could. It was open around the clock, and everyone took turns making sure the place was kept intact (along with the people in it). When it wasn’t his turn to perform or oversee, Vega would grab what little sleep he could in a pup tent he’d erected in the back of a nearby abandoned lot. Food was a luxury: one Blimpie tuna-fish sandwich a day between the two of them, if they were lucky. Winters were murderous. Friends were all anybody had.
Vega’s original inspirations were the visual arts, photography and sculpture. He’d had gallery showings that consisted ropes of Christmas lights arranged on the floor, but it wasn’t until he saw Iggy Pop performing as the frontman of the Stooges in 1969 at the World’s Fair that music opened itself up as a possibility for him. To see someone expressing himself that nakedly, that violently on stage, both with and through the music, was nothing short of inspirational. Martin Rev had come from a highly musical family and had been playing organ and electric piano with various jazz outfits (his main inspiration in his youth was Thelonious Monk). When Vega saw him at the Living Artists space one night in 1971, the two of them were drawn together like unpaired oxygen atoms.Read more