The past five years have seen an exponentially growing interest in Devo.
The past five years have seen an exponentially growing interest in Devo. The group, which formed in Akron, Ohio, in 1972, has ratcheted up its performance schedule from one live show in 2001 to 17 in 2005. Three new DVDs have been issued in the last 18 months, and the group's music is appearing with increasing frequency in commercials and movies such as "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" and "Raising Helen."
What's more, Devo's skewed musical sensibilities have taken root in breakthrough acts like the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and Interpol. Buoyed by this awareness, founding bassist Jerry Casale feels that for the first time in 15 years, the time is right for a new Devo album to be written and recorded, even going as far as to mention Alan Moulder (U2, Nine Inch Nails) as a possible candidate to produce the material.
"Devo has a unique sound and has written about unique topics," Casale told Billboard.com backstage after the group's sold-out Aug. 6 show in Los Angeles. "But we feel like right now, it is now or never for us." The group's last new studio set was 1990's "Smooth Noodle Maps," which failed to dent The Billboard 200.
But with reformations and/or new albums from seminal groups like Gang Of Four, Bauhaus and Mission Of Burma already dotting the 2005 musical landscape, Casale's sense of urgency is easier understood. With the renewed influence of electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and New Order also spilling over onto young bands of today, Devo may be keen to remind listeners that it was eschewing a path through punk and new-wave before either of those genres were even fully defined.
One sticking point is the willing participation of Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh, the driving force, with Casale, behind the group's material. Since the mid '90s, Mothersbaugh has become an in-demand soundtrack producer and is busy with myriad other projects, meaning he'd have to go out of his way to clear his schedule for a Devo album.
The band takes its name from the concept of De-evolution, which posits that human beings, rather than evolving, are actually regressing. The theory suggests that we see evidence of this in the declining state of world politics, in our progressive destruction of our environment and the degradation of the family unit. Devo has been writing about this for 28 years, and has seen its predictions come regrettably true. "We just want to apologize for being right," Casale said at one point during the concert.
Indeed, with war raging in Iraq and a polarizing president in the Oval Office, Casale is as impassioned as ever about the state of world affairs. "[President] Bush is an anti-democratic fundamentalist," he explained, touting "posturing and machismo as opposed to innovation and words with action."
The group's current tour hits Atlantic City, N.J., tonight (Aug. 17) and has scattered dates on the books through Oct. 9 in San Diego. Also on tap is a Jan. 13-15 stand in Agoura Hills, Calif.
A new DVD, "Live 1980," arrives Aug. 30 via Music Video Distribution. The set was taped Aug. 17, 1980, at the Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma, Calif.