De-Evolution is Real!

Intro

These conversations are lightly edited chats.

Chris: Let’s pause and talk a bit about who we are and what this project is.

Jon: Oh, good call.

Chris: Nothing too dumb, but just dumb enough to be legit Devo. My name is Chris, this is Jon, and we know each other.

Jon: Accurate so far, haha.

Chris: I live in New York, Jon lives in Boston. Let’s quickly talk about what this blog is: we are going through each and every Devo release, song by song, and stream of conciousness reviewing it. Or maybe review is too hard a word? Bring insight, feelings, soft serve ice cream?

Jon: Yeah, just discussing is maybe a more apt word.

Chris: I like that. We will discuss.

Jon: /rant when appropriate. (later albums)

Chris: Yeah, spoiler alert, not looking forward to some of this shit. And we’re doing this deep dive in chronological order. Not necessarily order of release, but order of output. Like, we’re discussing Hardcore first, even though that collection came out much later.

Jon: Yeah.

Chris: The material was generated in other forms in the early-mid 70s.

Jon: Yeah, trying to track the development as a band more so than how they chose to release shit.

Chris: Right, exactly.

Jon: I wonder if we should do side-project stuff down the line? Martini Ranch and whatnot?

Chris: Jon, you do have some experience in reviewing artist material, in that you did a one man blog reviewing every Insane Clown Posse release.

Jon: Hahaha. True. I didn’t get SUPER far, but I got a few albums deep.

Chris: I commend you for that much. What inspired that and why did you stop? Or, rather, how did you last so long?

Jon: Haha. I dunno! Maybe I just got burned out

Chris: Fair enough.

Jon: If I were getting paid to do it, I woulda kept it up for sure, haha.

Chris: lol shit man, we’d all do a lot of things if we’re getting paid. Before we get any more sidetracked, how did you first get into Devo?

Jon: I’ve been into Devo since I was a child who had a cool older sister. She had a couple albums and the Men Who Make the Music VHS tape, which I took to watching a lot. The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize remains my favorite video to this day, I think.

The Men Who Make The Music

Chris: She had tapes? CDs? Vinyl?

Jon: Tapes, mostly. Until I took up the helm in highschool with CDs and eventually Vinyl.

Chris: Cool. What got her into it?

Jon: I dunno! Being around for it when they had their biggest hit, and sticking with them afterward I think.

Chris: Right, right, makes sense. And it just clicked with you. “Devo = Jon music”.

Jon: Pretty much, yeah! Haha. Weird jerky dudes in jumpsuits with prominent synthesizer use.

Chris: Yeah.

Jon: Plus all the imagery in that tape spoke to me too.

Chris: What was that imagry?

Jon: It was clearly low-budget as hell, but still extremely fun and taken seriously by those involved.

Chris: Right right.

Jon: “General Boy” (Mark’s dad) issuing decrees, the band wearing weird masks or talking to a sleazy record exec..

Chris: These are art weirdos.

Jon: Not to mention the actual music videos.

Chris: Yeah. So you got hooked on an entire experience. Video, audio, the two together.

Jon: Definitely.

Chris: I got into Devo much later. I had of course heard whip it.

Jon: Oh, yeah that was inescapable kinda, haha.

Chris: And probably some other singles. But the first time I heard them for real was when I was working at a health food store in my mid teens. A coworker would play whole albums.

Jon: Oh right! that one rad dude.

Chris: (He later became a DJ in Chapel Hill)

Jon: Oh sweet! good scene there, i’m told

Chris: He was really into all this interesting music. I had had my musical awakening at that point with stuff like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath…all this 70s rock. That was the kind of shit that had hooked me up until then. But this dude at the health food store was in total control of the boom box, and he would play Iron and Wine, The Shins, Kristen Hersh…things that sometimes did not jive with the mood of the store. Like, he played the entire album of, who was it, Ani Difranco? The album where she covers all those misogynistic songs.

Jon: Tori Amos, hahaha. Although I can see Ani Difranco doing that too.

Strange Little Girls album cover

Chris: Ha right, Tori Amos! Either way, not a lot of people buying puffed rice and green smoothies that day.

Jon: Also, oh man, Kristen Hersh is great too. /Throwing Muses.

Chris: Yeah! He was playing 50 Foot Wave at the time. The rock side project of hers. I remember so much of that music. Such an informative time for my brain.

Jon: Clearly! That’s so awesome.

Chris: Even though if you asked me at the time, I wouldn’t have said any of that music was “my” music. I think I was still internalizing all this other hard rock music that finally got my adrenaline pumping. But I really appreciated this new music. And that’s when I first heard Devo.

Jon: I can see it livening up a health food store a bit.

Chris: Yeah. He played Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. And that was poppy and weird and herky-jerky, and had enough of a through line from the 70s shit I was listening to before that it landed with me. However, it just lay there in my brain, dormant, for years. I didn’t get really into Devo shit until much later. 2010, in fact, when their new at the time album came out and I was like, “Oh yeah, I like this”. And then I went back. And was like, “Oh wait, this is great”.

Jon: Oh interesting! I didn’t know that Something For Everybody was your proper gateway album. (sorta)

Chris: Yeah, sorta. I had groundwork, and I was friends with you by that point and we were talking about it, so that made me go back.

Jon: Oh! I also went with my first real girlfriend go with me to see them in NYC in 2004, right after a breakup. It was a long and awkward trip. (They made a limited run of CDs from that show—I should pick it up sometime)

Young Jon and friends

Jon in the middle

Jon: Pic from that very show, which was rainy as hell, haha. Outdoor concert. The rain somehow stopped JUST as long as Devo’s set.

Chris: Nice! You went right after you and your first GFs breakup?

Jon: Haha yeah. We got tickets way before the breakup. And she was the one who could drive, so she still did. Kind of a trooper in retrospect. But it was such a shit first NYC trip. We drove in to the city, saw the concert, and left the city. All I saw was central park in the pouring rain. It was a sweet show though. Yeah Yeah Yeahs opened up for them, and Stellastarr, a band I immediately forgot.

Chris: Nice. That’s a band I never knew to remember. But wow, that’s pretty nuts. In that pic are you broken up? I guess that’s at the show, so yes. You look super young, dude.

Jon: Haha. I was! 17.

Chris: Shiiiit. You usually look the same. Always.

Jon: Yeah, before the ability to grow sweet beards I always looked like I was 13.

Chris: The dude on the right looks like he’s plotting something.

Jon: Hahaha. He’s the only kid at my elementary school who also knew/liked Devo. We’ve been friends since like 2nd grade because of that/the Ramones/other bands we got into bizarrely young.

Chris: Nice, nice. And is that an Iron Chef shirt?

Jon: it SURE IS. I think I still have it somewhere. It’s ratty as hell

Chris: Haha. Were/are you a big Iron Chef fan?

Jon: Yes and yes. I recently started watching it again actually. A+ stuff.

Chris: Bit of a reset: What are you hoping to get out of this discussion of Devo?

Jon: An excuse to revisit some of the stuff I’ve forgotten about / also the stuff I haven’t bothered with yet (the Recombo DNA comp, EZ Listening Muzak in full, etc). Also just a fun project to have.

Chris: Nice.

Jon: /an excuse to use de-evolution.band as a URL.

Chris: That’s a big part of it. Both of those, for me as well. A big incentive for me is to have a (potentially) creative project with you. Not to get too sappy right off the bat.

Jon: It’s welcome!

Chris: Sick.

Jon: I’m obviously stoked to have a thing to work on, with an excellent person to work on shit with.

Chris: Sweet, man. Yeah, I always have a blast talking to you, and now this is an excuse to do that, but with More Focus™. (I imagined More Focus being said in a booming announcer voice with lots of reverb). Finally, who is this blog for? The hard core Devo fans? The casual observer who is curious about Devo?

Jon: I dunno! Mostly Devo fans who wanna see what us chuckleheads are saying, and probably wanna fight us about it.

Chris: I like it.

Jon: I can’t see the casual listener popping in for long.

Chris: You heard it here first, folks! If you wishy-washy about Devo, get the fuck out! But in a warm, inclusive, stay if you want way.

Jon: Haha exactly.