Prepare to Devolve this fall
BY KEEGAN PROSSER
American new wave act Devo first stepped into the scene in the ‘70s, as an exploration of the Vietnam War and the violence that surrounded it. Known for its use of science fiction, humor and political commentary, the act has recorded some of the most well known pop to date (“Whip It”) while continuing to push boundaries with quirky, art rock sounds.
The Scene caught up with co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh to talk about the evolution (of the de-evolution), and their headlining tour with Blondie.
SCENE: Devo is know as one of the pioneers of the music video. What were you guys doing that helped to define videos?
MM: We were making films before records. We didn’t see it as being something separate. Sometimes we would conceptualize films before we even made the music to go along. We thought we were going to be something else – we wanted to be like the Akron, Ohio, version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. We talked about [creating] a network that showed films and music fused together – as part of the same. And MTV took a small step in doing that.
SCENE: Can you speak to the message behind “Whip It?”
MM: We had just come back from a world tour, and we were surprised to hear what people thought about our foreign policy. They thought [Americans] were irresponsible. I think the idea behind “Whip It,” was “You can do it, Jimmy Carter, and you can change things in the world”. I think he was in a similar situation to our current president – in that it’s hard to be one person trying to do the right thing. So it was our “Jimmy Carter, you can do it” song.
SCENE: In addition to making music with Devo, you’ve scored countless films and television shows. How does this process compare?
MM: It’s totally different. Devo is dearest to my heart of anything. When you are an angry young man, you make a statement. This is who I am, what I think, why I’m angry. That’s what Devo was to me. But when you’re scoring a TV show, there is a quicker turnaround.
SCENE: In 2006 you released Devo 2.0, a project that had kids performing to your songs. How did this project come about?
MM: We always kind of liked the idea of the kids arena [because] kids don’t have pre-conceptions of pop music. The kids thing was just something easy because with Peewee’s Playhouse, I was able to do these sound effect-laden things that Cyndi Lauper sang on. In the kids arena, you didn’t have to write [a song] like something they had already heard. Doing music for kids was never something foreign to Devo.
SCENE: You will be stopping by Chateau Ste. Michelle winery with Blondie. How did this paring come about?
MM: Blondie was a great band back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We were fans from the first time we saw them – and kind of felt like they are kindred spirits, in their own way. So we’re fans of theirs. I think it will be an interesting evening.
Devo and Blondie play Chateau Ste. Michelle at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7. $50-$113; 14111 NE 145th St., Woodinville.