A column dedicated to, and covering lesser known artists

If you heard Devo and think only of “Whip It” then you are probably one of the people I’ve been preaching to.

Devo is one of the most influential bands of our time, yet the mainstream has labeled them as one hit wonders and freaks of nature.

Devo has been buried under the sugar coated MTV buzz and their tombstone reads “different.” I was very fortunate to have a phone interview with Gerald Casale one of the founding members of Devo. He not only helped found Devo but directed all twenty of their videos. He might possibly be the most influential music video director ever. Gerald made music videos before MTV existed.

Even today he has continued musically with Devo and has directed videos for such bands as Rush, Soundgarden, and Foo Fighters.

If you have seen many of Devo’s videos you would think they were a bunch of clowns, but there was much more going on underneath those flower pots they wore for hats.

Tell me about yourself in three sentences.

Three sentences huh?


Let’s see … okay. I was born blue collar in the vast wastelands of North Eastern Ohio. I had a nose bleed seat into the horror of human nature. I was smart beyond my class and got to college on a scholarship only to watch two friends of mine be shot by the National Guard and then have their parents lose a class action suit. Years later where everything that was done to them and us in general and humans on a global scale turns out to be okay because power, and greed and mean spiritness run the planet.

Wow, this has already gotten more serious than I thought. This goes along with your Devolution theory I was reading about?

Well, I came up with Devolution because we were looking for a way to describe very distinctly the phenomena we saw happening which was that man is species centric and congratulating himself always while exhibiting worse traits than any other species on the planet and subjecting the planet and all the other species to his own insanity. We didn’t see progress, we didn’t see evolution we saw Devolution. We saw an unraveling of stability and consciousness and a celebration of stupidity manipulated by consumer capitalism and media where the mob rules. We started seeing that in the mid 70’s and it was partly a college prank and a joke, partly serious. Unfortunately as time went on it got much more serious and Devolution is real, it’s here all the stuff we joked about came true we didn’t want it to come true, but now we are living in the middle of it.

MTV generation?

MTV was just the symptom not the cause.

When you mention Devo to someone they might say “Oh, those Whip it guys.” What do you think of that?

Hopefully they would. That’s good at least they know the name. Ha ha.

I guess that’s true. You reached them on some level, right?

Well, exactly you can only do what you can do. An artist has only so much to say and so long to say it and then they are consumed and redefined by the culture and dismissed for maybe irrelevant, you know. Now if you’re maybe irrelevant you get to stick around and just make a lot of money


Then you get to play ball.

What word do you wish people would stop using to describe Devo?

I’m not sure I know all the words people use to describe Devo. I suppose you know, A**hole is one I would not like to hear that often.

I would doubt that. What’s the current state of Devo?

We never officially broke up. We have gotten together to do a concert here or there to do a song for a soundtrack or a movie or TV show or video games or so on, on a case to case basis. But Devo is not actively in a studio writing new material or planning a tour because Mark Mothersbaugh is not interested in that.

Well, that’s a shame.

Yeah. That’s the way it is.

What do you enjoy doing more the audio or the visual?

Well, to me from the beginning it was integrated. I never thought of it as separate. That was kind of at the center of Devo I would say. Devo was a multimedia idea from the beginning. We had actually planned on putting out laser discs that would have like ten films shorts on them. One laser disc a year. With all the new technology in 1975 this was our plan, we never wanted a record deal. We wanted to be like the Three Stooges except musical and tell stories and they were kind of conceived together the songs and the ideas that went with them were actually created and engendered simultaneously.

And you are supposed to have DVDs out in the spring?

Oh, yeah….well that’s another idiot story. Part of why record companies are suffering and why they are crying wolf now. Everything that goes on with bands is at best unfair and worst the word ownerish, which I think was created in the music business. Everyone gets ripped off. In other words it’s never a win/win situation unless you’re the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney.


So long before you make any money they’ve made their money back and then when they’re in the black if they’re in the black then they start finding many, many, many ways to rob you of your share of the profits as per contract. So they don’t even never pay you what they promised they were going to pay you anyway. Ha ha.

Sounds like you’ve had a lot of experiences with that.

So it just goes on and on and on. They own the masters of 99% of the bands perpetuity just like Devo. So that 20 years later when you want to release the music videos Warner Bros. records says well, yeah you tricked us man you own the visuals but we still own those songs that you cut the visuals to so if you want to put them out you have to give us the money and we’ll give you a little bit. And then Warners who now owns Rhino Records even though they’re really one company under one roof they have competing administrative branches who fight with each other about who gets to do what with the bands and their a** ****ing. You know in our case Rhino Home Entertainment…Rhino Home Video was going to put out our dvd’s and they’re still dealing with Warner Bros. on what the deal is between them. We are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens.