Duty now for the future, was the cry. For the boys out of Akron (Ohio), there was a mission: a message for the world! A message of De-evolution -the sound of things falling apart.
Yes, my fellow spuds, let us not forget our DEVOID corporate history! That history may be short in earth-years - DEVO first registered on the radar that is global public consciousness many years after the A-bomb ended WW2 – but it has always been long in terms of substance!
Like many of us born in the 50s & 60s, our mutant heroes evolved from a long line of brain-eating apes! Eventually, by a process of natural selection (definitely not Darwin’s), these random individuals met and immediately discovered shared habits: making electronic noise, watching TV, watching us! We had our time in reverse, observing their habits and hearing the noises they produced from 1977 (DEVO actually formed in 1972, date fans! - Ed) until 1990.
Now the energetic dome-headed-troubadours are back to fully realize their embedded genetic codes. Once again, these suburban robots are here on our tiny island to entertain corporate life forms (that’s you and me) - & Jerry Casale, one of the key cogs in the DEVO machine, wants to talk to trakMARX! Who was I to deny him? Having last witnessed the idiosyncratic automatons play a triumphant performance at the Town and Country Club some seventeen years hence, I was as keen as a dutiful Spudhead marinated in mustard to get the latest from club DEVO:
trakMARX: So Jerry, what series of events led to the reanimation of DEVO?
JC: Well, you can’t really kill it. Devolution continues, always moving forward. We did some outdoor festival shows and then some indoor venues. They were great. It felt great.We would of done more before now, but with Mark’s (Mothersbaugh) commitments elsewhere things have been a little slow.
trakMARX: How does it feel to be personally touring again with the band - did you think those days had gone?
JC: I have always been evolving and developing DEVO: the costumes, the videos, the whole look. My whole adult life has been to sustain DEVO. I love touring, I wanted to do more and would like to do more in the future, it’s just the Mark situation that restricts most things.
trakMARX: Are you finding 2nd and 3rd generation DEVO fans coming to the shows?
JC: It is truly amazing to see these young kids totally getting the whole thing. I’m not really that surprised how things have gone over the years. We have always had a core of fans. No, we were never that commercially successful, but I think what we have done is great. We had great ideas. We experimented. I think that that is what is appreciated. Look at bands like The Cars - no one is interested, they lacked what we had. Yes, at the time, they may have been commercially more successful than us, but we had substance (you can’t buy substance! – Ed)*. We always put content over style - and that has been one of the reasons why this thing continues today.
trakMARX: How did DEVO 2.0 come about (kids playing DEVO music released as a CD a couple of years back)?
JC: Well, that was Disney, really! They came to us. We thought it was such a bizarre idea, why not? It’s funny; the kids who were introduced to DEVO music through that DEVO 2.0 thing went on-line and discovered the ‘real thing’. We see a lot of those kids coming to the shows now. Candy coated music has always been a draw for kids. For me it was artists like Pat Boone, playing what I hear now to be awful versions of truly amazing blues numbers. If that’s what gets the next generation listing and buying music, that’s absolutely fine by me (At this point I agree and confess to a little bit of Osmonds action myself).
trakMARX: Can we expect any new songs to be show-cased on the UK tour ?
JC: No, we don’t have a product that would normally precede a tour. This is going to be a celebration of the songs we love to play and what the fans want to hear. They are going to get a real feast of what DEVO music has had to offer over the years.
trakMARX: Is there to be any documentation of the 2007 tour, a “Truth About De-evolution 2” (first full-length DEVO film?).
JC: (chuckling to him self . . .) I wish; we have no money to cover such a venture, and no one offered to do it for us for free, either! That was a bit of a surprise. DEVO have been, and remain, one of the most visually exciting bands on the circuit. It’s a shame that there isn’t going to be any official document to capture this tour.
trakMARX: What have you been up to since the last time I saw you play London, some seventeen-years hence?
JC: Aside from continuing with the design and making videos for DEVO, I have been producing videos for other bands. These have included Foo Fighters and Soundgarden. It was at this point I began to be taken seriously as a video maker. This has now led to making a number of TV commercials. DEVO actually did a commercial themselves for Honda scooters! I didn’t direct that one, but we did script it - and added our own music!
trakMARX: You have one Josh Freese in the ranks now. How did he get inducted into the latest incarnation (de-evolution) of DEVO?
JC: Josh has been a fan for years. He actually started to learn his craft by playing along to the “Freedom of Choice” album. He is one of the most versatile drummers I have ever heard. Alan (Myers) was not that interested in doing this again, Alan too is a wonderful player. In Josh we have a brilliant percussionist - and he has played with everyone from Perfect Circle to Nine Inch Nails to Sting (Don’t tell Paul Weller that! He’ll probably spit at him! - Ed).
With things taped up for me on the ‘official’ DEVO question front, I was keen to find out details of any tasty merch we may have to consume at the up and coming shows here in the UK. Disappointingly, Jerry confesses that due to the dollar/pound-exchange-rate there is not a lot of money being invested in products. He goes on to deliver a tail of woe about the agents sorting this tour out in dollars - and promoters getting paid in sterling - leaving next to nothing in the bank for the band. Ouch!
I was also keen to nail the story surrounding one John Lydon (nee Rotten)’s proposed fronting of our jolly band of brain-eating descendants, only to find out it’s completely true! Apparently, the hippy Jesus Branson thought - in his smoke-addled mind (they were in Jamaica at the time) - that it would be a match made in heaven! (And this guy managed to create a multi-million pound empire!!!!! - Ed)
Jerry remembers that once Mothersbaugh had gotten over his laughing convulsions and realised that Catweasel Branson was actually serious, the words “fuck” and “off“ sprung immediately to Mark’s mind – and that’s what he did - straight back to the relative safety of the US. My understanding is that Lydon never go to hear about the ‘master plan’ at the time - he was too busy traveling around the other half of Jamaica signing up bands for Virgin’s new reggae label, Front Line. Once that dream had run its course,it was back to business - and the formation a little band you may be familiar with: Public Image Ltd . . . but that’s another story, spuds!
I wished Jerry well for the tour and told him I hope to catch them at the Shepherds Bush show later in June. Jerry closed by reminding me that things are still falling apart today - maybe more now than ever!
Duty Now For The Future . . . now more than ever, fellow Spuds . . . more now than ever!
DEVO Euro Tour / June 2007: Brighton Dome (18) Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown:London Royal Festival Hall (19) Birmingham Symphony Hall (22) ManchesterApollo (23) Glasgow Academy (24) Shepherds Bush Empire (26)
TicketHotline: 0870 735 5000 www.bookingsdirect.com/
Meltdown Tickets: 0871 6632520 www.southbankcentre.co.uk/meltdown/devo.html
You can also grab additional info about the tour here:
Suburban Kid – tMx 30 – 07/07
- advert: DAMAGED GOODS go and buy stuff