September , 1980
By John Liebrand
Devo’s a Joke, Right?
JAM: Devo's a joke, right? The philosophy of de-evolution is a crock that nobody in the band takes seriously and Devo is just a band put together for the special purpose of looking good on television, right?
JERRY CASALE: No.
JAM: Would you elaborate on that?
JAM: Do you like doing interviews?
JERRY: Some of them I like.
JAM: How'd you earn your first dollar?
JERRY: Washing cars.
JAM: Why the crazy get-up?
JERRY: Why the crazy get-up? I would deny that it's crazy. Wait a minute. Maybe I'm not in the mood for this, really. Why are you asking me those kind of questions? Why don't you ask Ted Nugent if he's a joke? Why don't you ask Van Helen if he's a joke?
JAM: I already have. Does anybody here want to do an interview?
JERRY: I'll do an interview if it's intelligent.
JAM: Okay. I've got a friend who likes Kiss. Why does he like Kiss?
JERRY: I don't even know him.
JAM: Do you like Kiss?
JERRY: This reminds me of the story where they blindfold Christ and ask Him who struck a match. Obviously, because Devo (pronounced De-VO, accent on the second syllable) doesn't represent some beer-drinking, Quaalude mindless rock and roll we get this kind of treatment. I mean, sometimes it gets tiring, you know? What you're trying to ask isn't even an interesting question. It's totally irrelevant.
JAM: Then you ask the questions and I'll answer them.
JERRY: You're missing the point! You're asking me why your friend likes Kiss. How in the hell should I know?!?! He could like Kiss because it represents everything that's disgusting about America. He could like Kiss because he's an intellectual aristocrat and he likes to see people being manipulated by ridiculous schemes like bologna and McDonald’s hamburgers. Your friend could like Kiss because he likes Gothic horror stories. Your friend could like Kiss because he's a subhuman pinhead. How in the fuck should I know?!?!
JAM: Then talk about de-evolution or something.
JERRY: De-evolution is depending on technology and having it fail on you. You see it at Three Mile Island. You see it in Iran. You see it at the Republican convention and you see it in Billy Carter.
JAM: You're dressing in these funny outfits to mimic society's absurd values, right?
JERRY: I've said it before, America is full of ridiculous people doing ridiculous things in ridiculous costumes and getting rewarded quite well financially and socially for it—including people who work for McDonalds and the US military—or people who wear double knit suits. We're no more ridiculous than all these people. In fact, what we wear costs a lot less and is usually made out of cotton or paper.
JAM: Then you're imitating society.
JERRY: Mutating society.
JAM: Okay, you're mutating society. But what do you hope to gain from creating a mirror image of just the society you loathe?
JERRY: The only valid function of an entertainer is to point things out.
JAM: Do you like the television pro-am, "All In the Family?"
JERRY: I hate it.
JAM: But isn't "All In the Family" doing the same thing you're doing by having Archie Bunker?
JERRY: No. He doesn't force the audience to make any conclusion. Total bigoted assholes watch that show and love it.
JAM: Your audience is filled with total bigoted assholes, people who work at McDonalds, and high school seniors swilling beer and wearing sweat shirts from athletic midwestem universities. What's the difference between Archie Bunker and Devo?
JERRY: There's a lot of difference between Archie Bunker and Devo. I mean . . .uh . .I uh . . .I don't even know how to pinpoint it. We're, dealing with a whole other universe, that's how different it is. Devo isn't sentimentalized. It's like a reductive synthesis.
JAM: Commercialism? Marketing? Advertising?
JERRY: It's a necessary evil. The things we sell on our album sleeves are atypical of your typical rock and roll merchandise and they are available mostly just from Club Devo for as low a price as we can manage without losing money. We only get a small percentage of the net and only the people who want to buy them buy them. We're not forcing our merchandise on anybody: Music is commercial. The terms are synonymous. You can't utter the word music without saying money in the same breath,
JAM: Sales figures?
JERRY: A couple hundred thousand each. That's not so much.
JAM: What did you do for a living before you could live off Devo?
JERRY: I was a counselor at a methadone clinic. I taught art at Akron University. I was doing catalogues for an industrial supply firm.
JAM: I bet you spend a lot of time in front of the boob tube.
JERRY: TV teaches you techniques. TV shows you what motivates people and what people are afraid of and what people are moved by. TV manipulates the audience, and it does it quite well. It's all very scientific.
JAM: Aren't you using all the things you hate the most to become successful?
JERRY: Technique is neutral. If there's a commercial that tells you people to be uptight about their butts and use a butt spray then there can also be an ad that says butt sprays are ridiculous.
JAM: You present yourselves as being real high-brow and avant garde. If your ideas are really all that high-brow and avant-garde, how come you're so popular?
JERRY: I don't see us as being popular.
JAM: I see you as being pretty popular, from looking at concert attendance, record sales and the like?
JERRY: We can still be high-blown and appeal to the masses. David Bowie did it. The Beatles did it. There is a level of primal universal truth that everybody shares beneath the layers of bullshit, bologna and Quaaludes. You can combine entertainment with inspiration. I mean, it isn't like the people are just a passive wad to be beaten into submission—Nixon did it—silent majority—baiting—patronizingdisenfranchising—overblown— art is more than a —
JAM: Say you fell into a sizeable amount of money and wanted to make an investment. What would you do with $100,000?
JERRY: I'd buy minutes of satellite time on television for worldwide broadcast. If I had more money, I'd purchase installments.
JAM: How about $10,000?
JERRY: Burn it.