- Monday, June 30, 2014, 8 p.m.
Belly Up Tavern,
143 S. Cedros Avenue,
Forged in the horror of the Kent State shootings, bolstered with bracing irony and a handful of religious and pseudoscientific screeds, Devo (short for “de-evolution”) took showmanship, synthesizers, and science fiction to the masses. They’re back at the Belly Up on Monday, June 30, giving their own prehistory, “Hardcore Devo” demos recorded prior to their first album. Co-founder and bassist Gerald Casale took some questions over email.
My condolences on the death of Bob 2 [Casale’s brother]. What were his most important contributions, onstage and in the studio?
Onstage Bob was a first-rate utility player moving between rhythm guitar, keyboards, and triggering samples, etc. In the studio Bob was responsible for just about everything, creating and programming sounds, recording instruments and vocals, executing my ideas about arrangements, etc.
What about Bob 2 would surprise the average Devo fan the most?
Maybe his sense of humor or his “grill master” status among friends and family.
Who are you replacing Bob 2 with?
We have no plans to do that right now. It’s unthinkable.
What venues has the band played in San Diego, and what sort of reception does it get in SD?
We have played so many venues there over the past 35 years the names have become a blur. You name it, we played it, indoor or out. The reception has always been rabid.
What led to the decision to re-create “Hardcore Devo” onstage?
It was an idea Bob 2 and I had, given the great response to the release of Hardcore 1 and 2 a year ago. Superior Viaduct [Records] kept requesting permission to release additional runs of the release because it was selling out. We thought it would be an opportunity to revisit our roots that drew us five together in the first place.
What were the recording circumstances for “Hardcore Devo”? What did the band learn that applied to future recordings?
It was all D.I.Y., so we learned everything from the ground up. All the early recordings were done on a TEAC four-track machine and we had no sequencers so we learned to play like machines.
What are the toughest gigs the bands has ever played?
The toughest gig we ever played was the Knebworth Festival in 1978 in England. We were clearly out of our element and the transformers that were supposed to allow us to use our custom equipment on the British standard of electricity failed. We sounded like we were under water or someone was dragging their finger on a spinning record. The crowd started throwing things at us. The stage was so high that missiles intended for us hit other people in the crowd and fights broke out below us — crowd vs. crowd. Humorous in retrospect.
Any of the old analog technology you actually miss?
We don’t miss the problems but we miss the sounds. So much so we dragged all the vintage stuff out on this current tour.
The band’s been accused of misogyny, misanthropy, and easy cynicism. Are these charges justified?
I’ll accept misanthropy to a point and cynicism minus the “easy.” It’s not easy being honest. Smart people who speak truth to power are always dismissed as cynical. Misogyny connected with Devo makes me laugh. We were self-effacing metrosexual Yoni worshipers who always left our hotel rooms clean and remembered the names of any girls we may have slept with. We were the antithesis of preening, cock rockers who put sex in the gutter file.
What other films, books, and music influenced the band’s initial direction, and how?
Your question demands a book’s worth of answers... I was raised reading books and I majored in English literature at Kent State University. From the 17th-century Metaphysicians to the Romantics and on to the Existentialists and Semioticians, there are too many references to start enumerating. Thomas Pynchon’s work inspired “Whip It” and the Dada manifesto inspired Devo’s manifesto, to name two.
Do you ever revisit the Kent State campus? If so, what goes through your mind?
I do. I went back in 2010 for the 40th anniversary of the killings. I spoke to about 3000 students who were not alive at the time of the incident. I saw the blank stares on their Google-, video-game-obsessed faces. History is doomed to repeat itself.
What are the band’s plans for the future, after the tour?
We will address what we have been unable to face: How to move forward without Bob 2.
Do you ever see Neil Young these days?
I saw him eating dinner at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills hotel about six months ago. He was warm, funny, and friendly as always — even when he looks as if he’s going to wring your neck.