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Devo Are Still Men

Devo headline a show at Humphreys on Saturday



    I recently had the chance to speak to Jerry Casale of Devo , who will play Humphreys Concerts By the Bay Saturday, about the formation of the band and how they have remained popular for 40 years.

    A singular event ended Casale's days as a hippie in 1972, but it was the catalyst for the creation of Devo and their theory of de-evolution. The Kent State shootings, a.k.a. the Kent State Massacre, occurred May 4, 1970, when an Army National Guard unit in Ohio fired upon students during an anti-war protest, killing four and wounding nine. Jerry was in the crowd and lost a friend several feet away -- he wasn't a hippie anymore. He actually spoke at the college about the experience just a few a years ago. It was the moment of "no more Mr. Nice Guy," according to Casale.

    Devo and their theory of de-evolution, which is basically that man has reached a plateau and is actually regressing, came shortly thereafter. The band started as more of an art project but was propelled to the collective universe with their hit "Whip It."

    Casale mentioned that the band's biggest moment, the one that really started it all, was when they played on Saturday Night Live. The week before, the musical guest had been the Rolling Stones, so what did Devo do? They performed "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." That track was on their 1978 debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo and was approved by Mick Jagger.

    "It changed everything," Casale said. "We went from playing small clubs to huge halls in the matter of a week."

    Casale has directed every single Devo video, as well as videos for Rush, Soundgarden, the Cars, Silverchair, Foo Fighters, Klymaxx ("Meeting in the Ladies Room") and A Perfect Circle -- not to mention the fact that he came up with the band's signature Energy Dome helmets.

    The band still plays all the hits from its career, which includes songs from its latest release, 2010's Something for Everybody. He says the best part is playing for the young and old, since the crowd spans generations at this point. They still sound as New Wave as they ever did and continue to inspire.

    As far as new music goes, he said, "thinking of all these songs that never made it past the demo stage -- the Devo Dumpster as it is known -- we've been talking about putting them out."

    Look for a special release from the band that you'll have to sign up for; it won't be released until the day after the purported end of the world: Dec. 21.

    "It's to prove that we are all still here!" Casale said.

    Tim Pyles hosts The Local 94/9, FTP show and the Coup d'Eat on FM94/9 on Sundays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. He also books local acts at the Casbah and hosts the weekly Anti-Monday League. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter @thelocalpyle. You can reach him directly here