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Devo are back — and just in time, perhaps, to put this whole ’80s revival
thing in perspective. This summer they’re touring the U.S.; they’ve got a new
DVD (Devo Live 1980), a couple new reissues (SHOUT and Oh, No!
It’s DEVO
) and a growing fan base to satisfy. On the eve of their shows at
the Sunset Strip House of Blues, we asked founding bassist Jerry Casale a few
burning Devo-related questions.
L.A. WEEKLY: Is devolution real?
JERRY CASALE: It was an idea we never wanted to come true, and
we never thought it would… but now… Bush is an insecure, moronic, dickless
spud who has to prove he’s macho. There’s nothing more frightening than a dickless,
wimpy man who has to prove he’s a god.
Devo’s usually pegged as new wave, but did you consider Devo a punk band?
[The media] didn’t think we were, but we were. We could punk with any
fucking punks; there was no doubt about it. There was the famous [1977] fistfight
with the Dead Boys at the Crypt in Akron, Ohio. We got into “Jocko Homo,” which
was our most confrontational song, and Mark [Mothersbaugh, pictured above] goes,
“Are we not men?” and Cheetah Chrome starts going, “You’re not men! You’re fucking
faggots!” And then Mark goes, “He’s not a man!” pointing, and the crowd goes,
“He’s not a man!”… So Cheetah attacks him. So then we attack them. There’s a
Dead Boys crowd and a Devo crowd, and they hate each other.
Nobody was punkier in the true sense of punk than Devo, because we fucked over everyone on the level of playing games with them.
Devo were real video artists well before most everyone else — you even won
a festival award for one of your earliest [1974] videos, about the theory of devolution.
We believed all that stuff in technology magazines that laser discs were going to happen. And so we said: “That’s great. We don’t want a record deal, we’re just going to make stories with songs — we’ll be like the Three Stooges with episodic segments.” We believed that.
Alternative bands often complain that when they get famous, they’re horrified
when jock assholes start coming to their shows and sometimes intimidating the
original fans. When Devo became so successful —
We weren’t, though. Even when we were on Warner’s and had a supposed hit,
we weren’t that successful. There were all these segmented markets; there was
no “alt radio” back then. And to do [our] shows, with the treadmills and lighting
and all the things we do, we couldn’t make a penny touring. ’Cause to do that
show, we had three semis, 25 people, and every day we were out, expenses were
$5,000.
You say that Devo was the most misunderstood band of that period — is that
still true?
Once they cut your arms and legs off they come to visit you in the sideshow. We’re just happy to play.Devo will appear at the House of Blues Saturday, Aug. 6, and Sunday, Aug.
7.
Devo Live 1980 will be released Aug. 23.

LA Weekly