UTG INTERVIEW: Devo’s Gerald Casale Discusses Upcoming Tour, The Internet And EDM

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“The prize to look for is originality and I don’t think that’s really a value that’s part of our culture now. I don’t think people want originality. They want exactly what they know. They’ve already heard it, and they want more of it.”

According to Devo‘s founding member, Jerry Casale, the band was hardcore art way before any inkling of commercialization. The band’s debut album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, was released in 1978 via Warner Bros. Records, yet their upcoming ‘HARDCORE DEVO’ Tour focuses on the band’s music from 1974-1977. The idea, which started as an exciting creative concept, quickly turned into an homage and memorial tour for the late Bob Casale, a founding member of the band who passed away earlier this year.

Despite the hindrances, Devo will be hitting the road with smiles on their faces, ready to share the happiness and experimentation that the band has always had to offer.

Below, you can read UTG’s exclusive interview with Gerald Casale where we discuss Devo’s legacy, his favorite outfits, the likelihood of new Devo music, and the current state of electronic dance music. He even tells us some crazy, old school English punk stories and indulges us on his passion for wine.

UTG: I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, it means a lot.

Gerald Casale: Well, I’m glad that someone wants to talk to me!

So you’ve got the ‘HARDCORE DEVO’ Tour coming up quick, are you excited to get on the road?

Yes, I love playing. I wish there were more dates.

Why did you guys decide to do songs from ’74 to ’77 on this tour?

It was an idea that my brother and I had before he died. We started talking about it last fall, 2013, and then we thought we were going to be able to do it at the beginning of 2014 and it got moved to the summer and in the meantime he left us, so now it became a whole different purpose. Before it was just Devo returning to its roots and doing an artistic experiment because before we were a band on a label making commercial music, we were hardcore art. Now it’s a memorial tour to raise money for Bob’s family who were left in dire straits.

So you would say it’s paying homage to Bob?

Yeah, these songs are just when he entered the band, he was the last of the Devo five that everyone knows as Devo to join the band and right at the time he was joining was when we were doing these songs. His presence is felt, he came up with a few of the guitar riffs that are central to all of these old songs and most importantly he came up with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

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Is it heartwarming to know that solely through online donations you’ve raised over $55,000?

Yeah, you know, most of that is going to medical bills unfortunately otherwise they couldn’t have paid it.

Would you say that era was one of yours and Bob’s favorite eras of Devo?

Certainly, when you’re in the process of becoming, everything is exciting and everything is new. And every little thing you do seems very meaningful and no amount of money or fame makes up for that feeling.

I saw on your Facebook that at rehearsal you were sorting through all of these old wardrobes that haven’t been opened in quite a while. Are you taking it retro?

Oh, yeah, people might be shocked.

Well, you worked on designing a lot of those older get-ups right? So what can we expect to see?

Oh, yeah! Well we found facsimiles of the blue fireman’s work jumpsuits and we found the clear plastic masks and the blue hardhats that almost look like theatrical childish versions of hardhats–they certainly aren’t functional; they would never really protect you from anything. But, that’s all the better.

What would you say your favorite outfit is from throughout the years? Does it always come back to the “Energy Dome?”

My favorite outfit… I think it would still have to be the yellow suits.

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Well those are iconic. So you guys put out Something for Everybody in 2010. I know things haven’t been easy lately. Is there any chance you’ll be recording new music anytime soon?

I suppose it’s a possibility but it’s not probable.

Is that just for the near future? Or is that for the rest of Devo’s career?

I don’t like to speculate because if it were up to me, we would have new material coming out.

Are you familiar with the punk band Me First and The Gimme Gimmes?

I’ve heard about them.

Well, they just put out a cover record called Are We Not Men? We Are Diva! How does it feel that you’re still influencing guys that are even close to their 50s? The frontman, Fat Mike, is 47.

I salute them. Thank you, my DEVOlutionary comrades.

You guys have played for so many years — when you go on the road now are you seeing different generations of Devo fans? What does the crowd look like?

Yeah. We’re the New Wave-Techno version of the Grateful Dead. We see sometimes three generations and I love it. There are Millenials and Xs and Ys that have discovered us purely due to the internet and YouTube. And they’ve looked up all of our old performances and listened to all the old bootlegs, they know Devo better in some cases than fans that are our own age. For them it truly is hardcore–they see us, maybe the way I saw John Lee Hooker when I was 18 and he was 56 but he was incredible, but scary. That’s the way I think they see us and that’s good as far as I’m concerned.

A lot of people regard Devo as forefathers of technology and electronic integration in music. Do you have any thoughts on the evolution and current state of electronic influence in pop music?

Well, I mean of course I love a lot of it and I love the sounds, but now it’s gotten so homogeneous and so ubiquitous that the creativity and originality isn’t there. There’s almost now a rulebook for EDM. It’s fallen under the same cloak as any other form that starts to eat itself by having so many rules that it ruins the spirit of how it’s started. I mean, in the beginning, we didn’t even have the technology that we wanted so we imitated it; we were humans playing so tight it sounded like a machine and eventually we were using machines [laughs]. Now machines have taken over and it takes away a lot of the primal force of the music.

What do you think about these songs that are made strictly on an Apple computer and then they go and play festivals and press play in front of thousands of people? It’s a strange phenomenon isn’t it?

How about that? [laughs] That’s the evolution. Who would’ve thought that someone could’ve made millions of dollars doing this? It’s amazing.

Obviously you’re a creative guy and always working on stuff. When you’re toying around, do you ever dabble in these newer ways of making sounds or do you stick with a MOOG?

I wish things would get more radical. I don’t care if you use a machine or if you approach it like Jack White or whatever. The prize to look for is originality and I don’t think that’s really a value that’s part of our culture now. I don’t think people want originality. They want exactly what they know. They’ve already heard it, and they want more of it.

You said earlier how so many people have discovered you through the internet and old YouTube performances. I know Devo were pioneers of badass music videos, many of which you’ve worked on. Is it strange to see that transition from MTV to a solely web-based delivery?

Yeah. It’s almost like it has come full circle. When we started out and I was directing Devo videos, first of all, they weren’t called videos, second you were shooting with 16mm film, and third there was no outlet for them. Now, yes, the outlet is YouTube but unless something goes “viral” nobody even knows that you did anything, or a handful of people do and it remains very insular and private. Even a bunch of hits don’t translate to anything for the content providers. If you wanna call people that now that create original material, ask OK GO how 10 million hits translate to sales. They’ll tell you it doesn’t.

Have you been directing any videos as of late?

No I haven’t even had the opportunity. Once in a while someone will send me a song and ask me to write a treatment and then I find out that unless I can do it for $5,000, they don’t care how good the idea is.

So what do you do to keep busy aside from working on Devo related content?

Well I still direct commercials but not as many as I did. I started a wine label; I’ve created my first wine and released it on April 30. It’s called “The 50 by 50.” I made a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a Rose of Pinot Noir. They are available online and in select restaurants and retail places.

Devo enjoying some vino.

Devo enjoying some vino.

That’s a cool alter ego…a rockstar by night and a winemaker by day.

It’s a passion and I finally had the opportunity to get a hands-on experience and really hang out in Northern California and work in Napa and it was fantastic.

That’s kind of like a polar opposite compared to playing on stage to huge rooms filled with screaming people.

It is, seemingly so, but they’re both like labors of love and come from passion and it requires a lot of effort and a lot of concentration and a lot of decision making creatively, and it’s organic. Every time you go on stage, even if you’re playing the same song for the hundredth time, something different happens. Unexpected things happen and the crowd is always different. And the way you play that night and the way you feel that night always puts something else in the song. And wine is organic and the variables are almost daunting and nature has a way of throwing you whammies, then you try to wrestle it to the ground and put something out. Each year, even the same grapes from the same vineyards taste different. It’s part of the creative process and it’s part random.

If going on stage throws you whammies, can you give me a good example?

I would say that the front truss catching on fire was certainly an amazing curveball. In England, in the early days, they had to put a chain-link fence in between the front of the stage and the band because the punks were so violent that unless they could be restrained they would attack the bands physically. We were playing behind the chain-link fence and they managed to rip it down.

Was that awesome and bad-ass or was that horrifying?

Everything all at once.

In one of the teaser videos for the upcoming tour it said that “Devo is not just music, Devo is gas, Devo is another form that is emanating around the world.” How does all that work?

That sounds like a bunch of hot air. I don’t know who wrote that!

What gasses are you guys made out of?

Argon! Straight Argon!

What other future plans does Devo have?

We’re working hard to find backing for the musical. We want to do a Devo musical. It’s not for lack of plot in the ideas, but musicals are quite expensive.

Would you try to do that in New York?

We’d probably start in a secondary market like Chicago and work our way up and try to shoot for Broadway.

If people will go to see shows like Monty Python or Rock of Ages, there is NO reason why Devo shouldn’t be on Broadway.

I’m with ya, and I appreciate that. I hope it happens!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jadvt7CbH1o

‘HARDCORE DEVO’ TOUR DATES:
Jun 18 Ramshead – Baltimore, MD
Jun 19 Best Buy Theatre – New York, NY
Jun 21 Arcada Theatre – St Charles, IL
Jun 23 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
Jun 25 Neptune – Seattle, WA
Jun 26 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, Canada
Jun 28 Fox Theatre – Oakland, CA
Jun 29 Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
Jun 30 Belly Up -Solana Beach, CA
Jul 02 Moody Theatre – Austin, TX

To donate to help Bob’s family with medical bills, visit here.
To check out Gerald’s wine website, click here.

Interview conducted by: Derek Scancarelli

Check out D. SKANK PHOTOGRAPHY.

Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli is a feature writer, interviewer, videographer, photographer, radio-er and more. In 2015, he received his MA in Journalism in New York City. In addition to Under The Gun Review, Derek has worked with Noisey (VICE), Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine and many more. He also pushes some buttons at SiriusXM.

Comedian Jim Norton once called him a serial killer on national radio. Enjoy the internet with him on Twitter.
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  • Jimmy Miller

    Devo was right! Back when they started, nobody wanted to admit to de-evolution, and now everyone seems to agree that it’s very real. Good job, Spudboys! All the best with the Hardcore Tour!

  • MattAtDoyle

    We must repeat.

  • Kenster999

    We must repeat.