To call Devo legends would be an understatement, for their music is far beyond anything of normal comprehension and legendary musical status. Devo has always been and continue to be revolutionary. Take a listen to any modern pop song on the radio these days and you will hear a Devo influence. When the band formed in Ohio in 1973, they had significant hardcore and punk roots, then, as the 70's came to a close and the 80's beckoned, they transformed into one of the most influential and brilliant New Wave / pop acts of the era. Their innovation, coupled with their amazing music videos, notably, "Whip It," as well as their tour-de-force live shows have made them one of the most important American bands of all-time. From Lady Gaga to Arcade Fire to Pearl Jam to Green Day to Madonna, the influence and impact of Devo can be felt and heard.
Now, using the direct-to-fan platform, PledgeMusic, the band are releasing a live DVD / CD of their recent Oakland, California, performance at the Fox Theater called, Hardcore Devo. As the band gear up the special release, I spoke to bassist Gerald Casale about their legacy, working with PledgeMusic, and history. Take a look at our interview below:
When this band formed in 1972, did you think this would last as long as it has?
I never thought about predicting the arc of our journey at all. The best laid plans of mice and men…..
Every decade of existence, Devo has influenced a new generation of musicians and fans, how do you feel about that?
That fact is one of the most satisfying bits of our history.
When you look back on the legacy of this band, what do you think?
Despite the missed opportunities and critical backlash, we prevailed against all odds leaving an indelible mark on pop culture if nothing more than placing the idea of cultural de-evolution in the minds of millions.
The band had it’s roots in hardcore before crafting what would become New Wave, this past year, you revisited the hardcore roots. What was it like going back to that?
It was Devo going face to face with its past, a kind of devolved version of primal scream therapy.
The band’s live shows are just as amazing as they were when you first started, how do you keep up the energy for so long?!
Devo is and was real. The songs have substance. When we play we tap into the origins of our creativity. It's a ritual not unlike going to church.
After the energetic live shows, how does Devo decompress when a gig is up?
These days everyone goes their separate ways. I endeavor to find a decent restaurant with a good wine list if there is still such a place open when we leave the venue. I drag anyone along from the crew who wants venture out as well as inviting friends from the particular city we are in.
Your latest release, a live album / DVD of “Hardcore Devo” is going directly through the direct to fan platform, PledgeMusic. What made you decide to take this route?
Given the obscure aesthetic of the songs we were performing it made absolute sense to use this platform to reach our fan base (hardcore Devo fans).
With PledgeMusic and other artist-to-fan sites and platforms offering new ways for fans to connect with their artists, do you think this is where music production is going? The fans will now act as the bands / executives funding an artists project?
Much has been written about this trend. All astute pundits agree this is the direction content providers are headed.
After the passing of your brother Bob (my thoughts go to you and your family), Devo decided to soldier on. How?
It's funny you would use that term "Soldier on.” In the beginning we presented our manifesto to the world and asked people to join the Devolutionary Army. It was tongue-in-cheek of course but not without serious intent. When one of your men goes down you pick up his rifle and keep shooting as best you can. You fight the good fight creatively as long as you can. That's an artist's first and foremost duty to stay true to their vision.
Given that your music is electronic and the ever-changing landscape of technology we are in, do you, as a musician even find it difficult to keep up with how fast technology changes? Do you still use some gear from back when you started?
As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same. In pop music the 7 year cycle, the 12 year cycle and the 20 year cycles are well documented. How would The White Stripes have thrived otherwise? And when Jack White moved on The Black Keys were there 7 years later to continue the retro trends. Now the audience is disappointed unless we appear with our mini-moogs and other analogue gear that they cream for two 20 year cycles later.
Devo released their latest album in 2010, is there talk of a new album?
The travesty of Warner Brother's failure in bringing that album to market was so traumatic we probably will never release another album. We worked very hard for 2 years on those songs and we worked with the brilliant agency, Mother New York, on a dadaistic ad campaign that was totally in keeping with Devo's piss-take on all that is sacred. It was a campaign that made fun of ad campaigns, the band and the label in a way that had people asking "are they serious" the same way they did in 1978. But then came the corporate second guessing and blowback. There was no one in our corner going to radio or sustaining the vision. I hit a wall and shriveled in pain. We may still release music but not in a typical way.
Everyone in the band had various side projects and other work they did when not in Devo. You were a music video director, what got you into that medium?
I directed all but one of Devo's music videos. In the mid-eighties I started directing for other bands and it took off once I started directing TV spots as well from the mid-nineties to through the 2000's. The video business is not a business. The budgets are minuscule except for a handful of huge corporate acts. If I get a bite I'm competing with 5 other directors. We all submit elaborate treatments and a visual presentation for the privilege of working with a 25K budget.
Are there any videos you will doing in the future?
Maybe some instructional, assisted living videos with Devo score.
What is next for you and the band?