Catching up with DEVO's Jerry Casale last week via phone, we touched on our society's DEVOlution, that is, how human beings have ceased to evolve along the same lines predicted in DEVO's work. "It really happened. What we had been warning about really has happened. "
I call him a prophet and he demurs. "No, no (laughing) we actually thought of ourselves as reporters. We really didn't want any of this to happen."
The seeds of DEVO were sown when Casale and fellow Kent State student Mark Mothersbaugh hooked up, with Casale's brother Bob and Mothersbaugh's brother, also named Bob, soon to follow. Inspired by eclectic source material, including a book about how humans have evolved from cannibalistic brain-eating apes, they were soon writing songs and making videos that were equal parts irony, disdain, sympathy and mockery.
A few years later "Whip It" blew up and turned the band into early MTV superstars. DEVO turned out a few more good records before sputtering to a halt in the late 80's. In between a handful of comebacks, band members have been busy behind the scenes. Mothersbaugh became a successful film and TV composer, while Casale went on to produce videos for the likes of Foo Fighters and Rush.
I asked him about the iconic video for the Foo Fighters' song "I'll Stick Around," which depicts a fuzzy sphere-like thing floating around in the video. "That was a 3D computer image of a AIDS virus." Casale chuckles. "The song was about Courtney Love, but of course, The Foo Fighters didn't really want to say that publicly, so I represented Courtney in the video as this annoying virus."
After a few reissues and one-off shows, DEVO started working on a new record, Something for Everybody, last year. They wound up launching a marketing plan designed by the ad firm Mother that included a test marketing campaign that allowed fans to pick the songs to be on the new record.
"I love it, it's what I love to do," Casale says of the new record. "I never wanted to quit DEVO. It's just like the song on the new record, 'What We Do.' We do what we do. So, when we got back together, we couldn't not be DEVO, we just started writing and this is what came out."
The album is full of the snarky social commentary that we've come to expect from DEVO, including songs about desensitivity to violence ("Don't Shoot (I'm a man)"), odes about thoroughly DEVOlved men ("Cameo") and forceful declarations of purpose ("What We Do"),
"I think we have as much to say as anybody," Casale explains. We are as good of a band as anybody out there. I like a lot of the new music — I like LCD Soundsystem, the Kills, MSTRKRFT — and I think DEVO fits right in there. We're contemporary."
Has technology made it easier for DEVO to tour? "All technology does is create more problems, more chances for failure. Back then we didn't use as much technology. Also, we were very, very energetic; we could do two shows a night or five shows in seven days. We could get up a 6 in the morning and stay up until 3 in the morning. We can't do that now."
Two episodes from a Something for Everyone making-of series: