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An Interview With Gerald V. Casale of DEVO
By Wil Forbis
Wil: DEVO has always preached the concept of "De-evolution": the premise being that mankind is de-evolving as opposed to evolving. However, after listening to several thousands hours of your music and reading a fair amount of interviews, I still claim to having only a cursory understanding of the concept. Can you go deep here, and provide a more in-depth analysis?

Gerald: We were basically refuting the idea of linear progress. By tracking the erosion of human analytical skills, erosion of personal freedom, number of physical diseases, and food and water supply contamination commensurate with geometric population growth and reliance on technology and weapons of mass destruction, we concluded that the quality of life for the mass wad is indeed devolving.

 

Wil: I might argue that we're not really evolving or de-evolving, but merely changing. And whether or not we're going forward or backward is simply a matter of opinion?

Gerald: Yes, I suppose some opinion is involved but we've gone from Marcel Duchamp to Jerry Springer. There are more fat, mean, stupid people with money and mobility than at any time in history. They are consuming everything in their paths.

Wil: I understand that the theory of de-evolution was in some ways precipitated by a book entitled: "The Beginning Was the End: Knowledge Can Be Eaten", a discourse on brain eating apes. What's the story on this work? Is it like "The Turner Diaries" for the De-evolutionary movement?

Gerald: The book was written in 1974 by Oscar Kiss Maerth (seriously). It says that humans were an unexpected mutant by-product of the dominant, cannibalistic strain of great apes. These apes ate the brains of other apes finding that it increased their sexual desire and intellectual capacity. It also increased the size of their brains faster than their skulls could expand to accommodate the phenomenon. Eventually they lost their tails and body hair as well as their innate ESP sense. They became psychotically smart apes at odds with the natural environment, and perpetually obsessed with survival. it's a better story than the Bible as far as DEVO's concerned.

Wil: It's generally known that you were on hand at the Kent State Massacre. To what degree did you witness what occurred? How did that apply itself to the whole de-evolution concept?

Gerald: I was literally in the middle of it. I knew Alison Krause and Jeffery Miller, two of the murdered students. We were all running from them as they shot tear gas at us for protesting Nixon's decision to bomb Cambodia. I saw the huge M-16 exit wound in Alison's back. I almost passed out. I was no longer a hippie as of that day. I would not have started the idea of DEVO unless this had happened. Because marshal law had been declared by the right wing republican Governor Rhodes one hour before the killings, the National Guard was exonerated. They got away with murder.

 

Wil: Where do de-evolutionists fall in the political landscape? Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? Eco-fanatics? Or do those terms not even apply?

Gerald: Exactly, the terms of labeling typical of politicians and the media are at the root of the problem. Good ideas are good ideas and stupid ones are stupid. Period. Any idea that attacks First Amendment rights is stupid. Any attempt at political correctness is stupid. People are different. So what? We're all DEVO.

 

 

Wil: What's your take on the 2000 election? One more step down the scale? (On a side note, I recently came across reports that DEVO would be at the 2001 Inauguration, but it turned out that the "DEVO" they were referring to was some sort of sports mascot.)

Gerald: It was groundhog day. The forces of fear and hatred won with the help of a corrupt Supreme Court. They went for a right wing military junta much like people in South America do. They want to go back in time because they fear the future. People voted against the environment, against women's rights, against world peace, against balancing the budget and against themselves. They did this because Gore was so inept that he couldn't even sell a winning platform. The media was able to easily convince the public that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. That's almost true. But with Gore there would not have been an abrupt increase in the suffering and pain in the lives of average people that there now will be.

 

Wil: Some sources, including Rolling Stone, saw the DEVO aesthetic and the early albums as fascistic. What was your response to that? Can you even begin to explain the irony of it all to someone making such claims?

Gerald: That's easy. The world is upside down. The slick lifestyle consumer media are the fascists. The whole world is in the hands of marketeers like Michael Eisner who's only purpose is to render all content meaningless so that people will consume unquestioningly. They are a cynical force. It's the pot calling the kettle black once more. Besides these corporate morons and their consumer stooges no longer understand irony.

 

 
Wil: Do you still preach the De-evolutionary philosophy with the same tenacity you did when the band was going? Or do you find yourself thinking "maybe it was all a load of crap?"

Gerald: It was a load of the most exquisite crap that had the good sense to make fun of itself, unlike The Backstreet Boys.

 

 

 

 

Wil: Was there ever any connection between DEVO and Saturday Night Live? Laraine Newman was in some of the video work you guys did, and I've heard tale of Dan Ackroyd expressing remorse because he voted to not have you appear in a particular season of the show during the seventies. Of course, you ended up doing the theme song for the Dan Ackroyd film, "Doctor Detroit".

Gerald: We appeared on SNL in October of 1978. Mark began dating Laraine. Belushi snorted the entire contents of the first gram of coke I ever purchased. Dan said he was sorry he threw away the DEVO video I had sent him a year earlier.

 

 

Wil: It's said that at one point certain record execs suggested that you have Johnny Rotten come in and be the singer for DEVO. Ever wonder about what might have been?

Gerald: That's absolutely true and was an absolutely stupid idea. We were a unit. Five punk scientists with a plan. We didn't need a guy who didn't realize anarchy and rebellion were obsolete except as cartoon consumer hooks.

 

 

Wil: Looking back on the seventies and eighties, they really seem like more rebellious times than today. Today, it seems it's considered rebellious for a rock band to maintain the status quo and work with the classic rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums). The odds of the media embracing a band that's pushing the "design rock" concept, like DEVO or The Talking Heads did, seems small. Do you think we've seen the death of that sort of movement, that sort of individuality? (I guess this question can be summed up in "what do you think of today's music scene?")

Gerald: I totally agree. Today's music scene would make Jimmy Hendrix die again. Imagine if he was here to watch Lenny Kravitz emote through "Fly Away"

Wil: I can't help but look at a lot of the activities you guys have been up to lately, the music for commercials, the mainstream video work, the general embracing of corporate culture, and think, "This seems very un-DEVO." Your thoughts? Am I missing the boat?

Gerald: Not at all. Personally I do what I do to survive having lost our voice in the marketplace, Mark thinks he's doing what he wants to do. DEVO was what I wanted to do but it became impossible to do it alone. The forces that killed it came from the outside and the inside.

 

 

Wil: I've heard that in some of the early film projects DEVO created, you would insert subliminal messages into the frames. I had an old friend who worked at a adult theater and we used to write messages onto the individual frames of the porn films, along the lines of "Dance" or "Start Singing." Near as I could tell, we never got any results. Did your DEVO sublims ever call people to action?

Gerald: We never did. We just liked to feed popular paranoid fantasies. The truth is you don't need subliminals to manipulate the spuds.

 

Wil: It could be argued that World Wide Web will eventually encourage the rise of the lowest common denominator by bleeding world cultures into one blander whole. (Very DEVO!) Or it could be used as a tool that increases individuality. Any premonitions which of those two possibilities will occur?

Gerald: Some things never change.

 

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