INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Now NOVEMBER 18, 2009 - by Jason Keller
The two most important records in Devo's new-wave canon are their vanguard debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, and 1980's mainstream-cracking Freedom Of Choice, which taught us the importance of whipping it. Co-founder Gerald Casale brings Devo to Toronto for the first time since 1984 to play a two-night stand at the Phoenix, where the band will perform Are We Not Men? on Monday (November 23) and Freedom on Tuesday (November 24). Casale discusses these two landmark albums and why he wears red plastic hats.
What do you recall about recording your 1978 debut?
It was recorded in the country [outside Cologne, Germany]. There was nothing to do, and it was cold as hell. We were driven to this farmhouse every day, and Brian Eno came in and started pulling out his Oblique Strategies cards, and we huddled in the corner freezing. It was a real stark experience.
Why was there friction with Eno?
It was more of an impasse. He liked beauty and we liked industrial brute. He kept trying to put in harmonies and beautiful synth lines, and we're going, "That's not our music."
Obviously you had strong ideas about Devo's music early on.
Devo started as a concept. The music was architectural and idea-driven. None of it was accidental then. We had a philosophical and aesthetic point of view; we had a manifesto. Yeah, we knew what we wanted.
Something clicked on Freedom Of Choice. Why do you think it was your most successful album?
We lucked out. We made some music we wanted to make and it was music people wanted to hear. That's always nice. Devo never sat around asking, "What would people like?" We're incapable of that. The idea was to use our R&B influence: Detroit sounds, gospel, the roots music we grew up with in the Midwest [Akron]. I know it isn't obvious, but that's what we grew up on. It became robot R&B.
Is this when the energy domes were donned?
I designed those based on an art deco ceiling fixture I stared at while in Catholic school. I hated every moment of it. I was afraid of the nuns and priests. It freaked me out, so I stared at that ceiling fixture to take my mind elsewhere. I turned it upside down, made it red and put it on my head.