Gerald V. Casale ('Jihad Jerry' / DEVO)
'The De-evolution Is Back On!'
Devo (pronounced DEE-vo or dee-VO, often spelled "DEVO" or "DEV-O") was an American Rock group formed in Akron, Ohio in 1972.
Founders Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, and Bob Lewis were students at Kent State University at the time the National Guard shot and killed four students at a protest against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia - according to Casale, there would have been no Devo if not for the Kent State event.
Devo's big break came in 1976 when a short film of theirs won a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival; it was then seen by David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who championed them and enabled Devo to secure a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records. By this time Alan Myers had replaced Jim Mothersbaugh as drummer. After Bowie backed out due to previous commitments, their first album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was produced by Brian Eno and featured a radical cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and the controversially titled "Mongoloid".
The band followed up with Duty Now for the Future in 1979. They gained a new level of visibility with 1980's Freedom of Choice, which included their best-known hit, "Whip It", a danceable song whose video was played frequently on MTV.
Although they started out with a mixture of traditional rock instruments and electronic effects, during the early 1980s Devo adopted mostly or entirely synthetic instrumentation, becoming one of the first American acts to perform on stage using only synthesizers; they were also one of the first groups in the world to regularly use radio microphones and microphone headsets on stage.
During the 1980s, Devo produced the albums New Traditionalists (1981), Oh, No! It's Devo (1982), Shout (1984), and Total Devo (1988). The song "Baby Doll" was used in the film Tapeheads, and was credited to (and shown in a music video by) a fictitious Swedish techno band.
And now, deep into late 2006 one of the founding members of DEVO, Gerald V. Casale (who wrote songs, played keyboards/bass, directed all their videos, invented the red hats, sang "Beautiful World") has a new solo CD project to chat about - Jihad Jerry & The Evildoers, Mine Is Not A Holy War.
He has just released his first solo record as Jihad Jerry - a conceptual and political character pointing out the absurdities of our world through the majesty of song. With him on this quest are The Evildoers (featuring DEVO members Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, and Josh Freese.)
Chatting recently with Gerald, and taking it from the top, I first asked him to explain more about why the time was now right after all these years to record his first-ever solo project? "It was now or never. Year after year Mark has stonewalled collaboration on a new DEVO record. Since I was half of the DEVO song writing team I decided to go back to the roots that made me write music to begin with (Blues and R&B) and write simple more primal songs."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of your work with Devo and was thinking of buying this new CD 'Mine Is Not A Holy War,' how would you
yourself describe your sound? "My songs are rock and roll sonic weapons that point and laugh in a world on it's last legs."
Indeed your album title 'Mine Is Not A Holy War' is an interestingly
daring choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? "De-evolution is real! Look around. The tail wags the dog. Bush and Bin Laden are both anti-democratic Fundamentalists, ideologues who hold the world hostage. Decent, rational people everywhere lose. I fight such stupidity however I can."
And have you any fears with regard your chosen artist name that people
will boycott your new CD based on the fragile feelings we currently have for the Jihad theology and ideology? "Well, if someone can look at a guy in a ridiculous, retro, Sam the Sham style outfit flanked by two stripper singers and not get the joke then I suppose they're not my target demographic. I am satirizing and appropriating the language of radical "men of faith" because I find it insane."
If there was one track on 'Mine Is Not A Holy War' that truly
encapsulated Gerald V. Casale / "Jihad Jerry" at his musical and lyrical
finest, which one would it be? "The opening track says it all. "Now is the Time" is a simple statement of fact. For humans it's almost midnight. The carriage is about to turn into a pumpkin. We need a Hail Mary pass to bail us out."
With this new album featuring musical performances by other members of
DEVO (co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, and Robert Casale) doesn't this almost kinda make this the new DEVO CD?! "As drummer without peer, Josh Freese, said after finishing performing on all the tracks "It's the best DEVO record that never was."
With regard DEVO, who came up with the name, known in music folklore as a concept of "de-evolution" - the idea that instead of evolving, mankind has actually regressed, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society ... and what other band names could it so easily have been? "The concept of de-volution was hatched while I was still a student at Kent State University. The first examples we made (Mark and I) were visual art. Then came the musical application. There could never have been any other name. We were DEVO whether we wanted to be or not."
OK, once and for all, just what was the song 'Whip It' really all about?! "I really hate to disappoint but it was never about masturbation or S & M. I was writing parodies of motivational lingo in the style of Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" when I hit on the "Whip It" idea."
In 2001, you and your brother along with Mark Mothersbaugh reunited under the name the Wipeouters for a one-off surf release, 'P Twaaang.' If I had a signed copy of this recording and put it up on Ebay, would I at least be able to make a mortgage payment if it sold?! "Actually I was not invited to be part of that project. I wrote and sang lyrics for a number of the instrumentals on that CD under the misconception that they were to be songs for a children's TV show. I only found out about the CD after it was released. My favorite lyrics I wrote were for a psychedelic surf song I called "Hang Ten" using all Aussie agro surfer slang. Mark never used any of them except the lyrics for "Luna Goona Park" which I wrote and sang to honor my Labrador Retriever, Luna, who was murdered by a pyscho when she was 13 years old."
"I think 'P Twaaaang' sells for 20 dollars on E-bay!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover
today if asked ... and why?! "Gary Numan's 'Cars' because it is absolutely musically pure and has withstood the test of time."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "My god! If you don't like Penguins you need to vacation in Bagdad. They look like waiters in a 4 star restaurant and they walk like bluehairs in a wedding march!"
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for
the future "Such as the future may be!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Jihad Jerry's brand new CD, just answer this easy question: Devo's big break came in 1976 when their short film won a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. But what was the title of that short film?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before October 15th with your answer and the subject title 'JIHAD JERRY SIGNED CDs' to: email@example.com
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