Some bands are iconic just for their music and image, but Devo is an act that also became iconic for the very idea of what it stood for. "Devo" was the insult yelled by the ignorant at anyone who might be into punk rock in the late '70s and early '80s. The name is fitting, considering how Devo's concept and visually unmistakable style, along with its bizarre yet incredibly catchy songs (which are imbued with deeply irreverent humor and intelligence), have always been lost on anyone who interprets irony as negativity. With the 1980 single "Whip It," Devo went from the status of arty cult band to international pop group. We recently spoke with the group's "Chief Strategist," bassist Gerald Casale, about the church founded by Bob Dobbs and devolution in the world today.
Westword: How did you learn about the Church of the Subgenius, and what about it appealed to you?
Gerald Casale: Of course, as soon as we found out about the Church of the Subgenius — I think it was 1979 — we were immediately entertained, because any church that lampoons religion is our kind of church. I mean, I can't remember who said that "religion is the last refuge of scoundrels," but that's pretty much how we feel about people believing things blindly and repeating their beliefs blindly, and when you ask them why, they have no reasons.
As a matter of fact, they're angry because the point is that belief precludes having reasons: You're not supposed to question anything; you're just supposed to believe it. That never sat well with us from the time we were little kids. It's like being in your parents' house and doing something you think is completely innocuous, and pretty soon, you get smacked, and you're asking why, and they go, "As long as you're in this house, you'll do what I say." So you start plotting right then to get out of that house as fast as you can. We feel the same way about religion.
What do you think are the clearest signs of devolution you see in the world today?
Oh my god! Gadhafi, he's a good one, as far as people go. Sarah Palin. And then, just in general, the air, water — that's full of heavy metals — a contaminated food supply, genetically engineered food, animals shot full of so many hormones that we're creating bacteria that can't be stopped by antibiotics. By being un-self-regulated, human beings have pretty much done what you're not supposed to do, which is the proverbial: "don't shit where you eat."
Now we're approaching ten billion humans on the planet, and this is a big problem. We're the predators that nobody can stop. There's no other species that regulate us and keep us in parity with everything else. It was up to us to do it for ourselves, and we didn't. We took the shit in our own back yard. Now there's too much poop and not enough scoop.