On March 15, 2011, the men of Devo put on a brilliant show at The Moore. The surprisingly loud band played hit after hit while a screen behind them projected manic, paranoid imagery. They joked with the audience and seemed to enjoy every second of being onstage. At the end, they rained smiley-faced rubber balls on the audience and Booji Boy took the stage to perform “Beautiful World” with the band. A couple of weeks later, I had the opportunity to speak to Gerald Casale over the phone. He was friendly and laughed at almost every question I asked. The whole experience was a nerve-wracking but exciting one.
Where are you right now?
GC: We’re in Houston.
How does Houston factor into the de-evolutionary theory?
GC: Oh, Houston is right at the top of the the de-evolution mold! Last time we were in Houston we were touring with the plastic pompadours and treadmills onstage. I was arrested and taken right off of the stage and taken with prisoners right to the county jail! I spent the night there and of course our lawyer was on the West Coast so I had to wait the next morning to call him.
What had happened?
GC: The cops arrived and were backstage telling us not to play one more song and I said to the audience: “the little piggies are here and they don’t want us to play one more song” and of course the audience were all shouting “f*ck you” and all that. The police were angry because I said “little piggies” so they pulled me right off of the stage, covered in sweat. They threw me right into the paddy wagon and took me in.
The new album, Something for Everybody, was brought about through many hours of market research and focus grouping– was there ever an “ahah!” moment where you thought “They’re right about that?”
GC: We just valued the input. It was a real eye opening experience and it hardly differed from what our own feelings and choices were anyway– there were just a few variations.
We wanted half a million people to participate but we only got forty-some thousand to participate. They didn’t like the ballad “No Place Like Home,” but Devo did so we wound up using it as a b-side. We put out exactly what the focus group picked and exactly what they had chosen and we put out one where Warner’s got what they wanted. You know, that way there’s many choices in the supermarket– mangoes, apples and cherries.
I read that due to Bob Mothersbaugh’s hand injury, you recently had the opportunity to collaborate with The Octopus Project. How did that collaboration come about?
GC: We had met them the day before and they were talented and Devo fans. We got to know them and we liked them and when you’re lookin’ for someone to tour with you, you want it to be aesthetically in the ballpark but you don’t want them to blow you off the stage– you want them have a sameness so that the Devo fans can also have a good time as a result.
Many of today’s bands claim to have been influenced by Devo or at least by Devo-influenced musicians– do you encounter that often?
GC: Yeah, and frankly that is some of the most satisfying stuff ever. We must have done something right enough to endure and to have influenced all these bands.
Does it also seem to you like the Devo influence has come around and is more popular than ever now?
GC: Music has come back around to a lot of 80’s type influences and even LCD and The Kills and the Ting Tings— you hear that and you say “I know that sound” and it feels really good to hear it.
Have you had the opportunity to play Devo songs on Rock Band?
GC: We did when they were first programming that before the game. We did pretty badly on our own songs because playing Rock Band is really an art in itself and it has nothing to do with playing an instrument. Gamers do better at it than we do.
One thing that struck me about the show was how much of the spotlight wound up on Booji Boy at the end. Is Booji Boy a permanent fixture on this tour?
GC: It depends on Booji’s mood– you can bet that costume gets very hot onstage.
Will “Dove (The Band of Love)” ever become part of the Devo experience again the way that Booji Boy has?
GC: That would really be something– I don’t know if the world is ready for a band like Dove to come back. if Dove took the stage today, they might get stoned to death.
Another thing that struck me about the recent Seattle Devo show was the sheer amount of punk rockers present– what do you think it was that finally made the punk rockers accept Devo?
GC: They eventually realized that it isn’t all about torn jeans and fashion and that Devo were really the true punks.