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Devo - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 1 / 6 / 2010

Devo - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Devo bass player and vocalist Gerald Casale about the Akron, Ohio synthpunk act's first album in twenty years, 'Something for Everybody'

While they have been back together after a six-year hiatus since 1996, 'Something for Everybody', Devo's new album, is the Akron, Ohio synthpunk act's first album in twenty years. Devo take their name from 'Devolution', a bleak philosophy created by founder members Mark Mothersbaugh (synthesizers, vocals, mutated guitars) and Gerald Casale (bass guitar, bass synthesizer, vocals) upon the band's formation in the early 1970s in which they insisted that, as technology had advanced, humankind rather than continuing to evolve had regressed. In an age of reality TV, vacant celebrity culture and in which the internet has often trivialised rather than developed society, it seems that Devo's satirical, yet serious message has never been more timely or important. 'Something for Everybody', however, surprisingly reveals a mild sense of optimism towards the future. Although on the surface featuring more of the synchronized robotic pop that Devo have become famed for since the release of their debut album, 'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo!' in 1978, 'Something for Everybody' is in all other senses a progression. It has found the previously notoriously insular Devo working with video maker Greg Scholl (who has served as Chief Operations Officer) and advertising agency Mother LA through the band's website www.clubdevo.com on all creative decisions from colour selection to song mixes. It is also the first of Devo's nine albums to feature a range of guest musicians. 'Something for Everybody' has, however, been the subject of both confusion and rumour. Its title was changed at the last moment and there has been much debate about who these guests actually are. Sixteen tracks were recorded and then whittled down to twelve and it has been said that this final selection has been picked both by fans and also by an enigmatic "88% focus group". In conversation with Pennyblackmusic about 'Something for Everybody', Gerald Casale provided answers that, as might have been expected from Devo, were both typically cryptic and deeply insightful. PB: Devo has said that it no longer sees itself as out of line with the rest of the culture. What has brought about this change of feeling? GC: Time and entropy. We are part of the devolutionary process we talked about. PB: The new album had the working title of ‘Fresh’ until recently, but was changed to ‘Something for Everybody’. What has brought about this change? Was it that feeling of being more in sync with society? GC: 'Fresh' was a song title that writers ran with. We always intended to let focus groups decide the title. PB: One of the main theories of 'Devolution' was that mankind has become basically second string in the age of machine. In the twenty years since Devo last released an album, we have seen the rise of the internet and rapidly increasing use of both computers and mobile phones. Do you see if anything Devo as being even more relevant than ever? GC: Devolution is real. The demise of Western capitalist materialism is reaching its end game. Digital technology is a neutral tool that allows the worst aspects of human nature full expression. PB: You have said in a previous interview about ‘Something for Everybody’ that “we think it is the best record that we have ever done.” Normally when rock bands make these remarks it is something of a cliché. You have never really made such statements, so it is probably true. On this album you decided to "actively seek comment and criticism, from outside people and use it as a tool, rather than shunning or ignoring it.” Is this why you think it is your best record to date? GC: I'm not sure where that quote came from. It sounds like it was erroneously extracted from a real quote that said "we think this is the best music we've made since 'Freedom of Choice'(Devo's third album from 1980-Ed). PB: Who were some of these other people involved? Various names have been suggested as producers including Snoop Dogg and Fatboy Slim. Why did you decide to work with Greg Kurstin eventually? GC:Many are called but few are chosen - or in this case available. Such was the case with Snoop, Andre 3000, James Murphy and Al Doyle from Hot Chip. We ended up with people who were excited and available. That included John Hill, Santigold, John King, Greg Kurstin and Paul David Hager. PB: There were sixteen tracks recorded for this album, which was then cut down to twelve. There has been some confusion about how made your final choice. Some sources say that it was done by fans; others that it was “88% focus group.” How were they chosen? GC: The label created that confusion where none exists in reality. The focus group voted package is intact in the order of votes. There is also another retail configuration only 88% focus group approved due to the modern demands from retail of a "unique commercial configuration" different from i-tunes. PB: Devo has hoped to record a new album since it reformed in 1996, but, while the group has done various things for soundtracks and commercials, it took until late 2007 to begin recording it. How many of the songs on the album were written before you got back into the studio and how many from after then? GC: All songs except 'Watch Us Work It' were written between April of 2008 and November of 2009. PB: The front cover of ‘Something for Everybody’ shows a girl swallowing a blue dome, which you have available for sale on your website. What is the significance of that dome? GC: Eat it and you shall see for yourself. PB: You have described yourselves as “angry young men that have been validated.” Despite this new closer harmony with culture, Devo has always railed against the ridiculousness of society and the world and seems to be doing plenty of that on this album. Have you really mellowed at all? GC: This record contains a veiled message of hope. Devo never traded in that previously. PB: Devo surprised some of their fans by playing in 2008 a special concert with their fellow Akron area members the Pretenders and the Black Keys for Barack Obama. In the year and a half since Obama got in, how do you think he has been doing? Are you still supporters? GC: Do not mistake our support in 2008 for a naive endorsement. He was the only viable choice in a nation so devolved by 8 years of Bush's Junta that an intelligent song and dance man for the New World Order was all we could hope for. PB: Thank you. Devo’s new album “Something For Everybody” is released by Warner Bros. Records on Monday June 14th. Further info: www.clubdevo.com

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Devo - Interview

Devo - Interview

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