Scalp It, Scalp It Good

Devo conspirator Gerald V. Casale waxes cynical about the old days and a new retrospective

That may explain the appearance of Pioneers, the double-disc retrospective that Rhino released in May. Although the package is necessary, welcome, and overdue (containing hits, rarities, live tracks, and more), Casale admits to a little dissatisfaction with the result. "This is the package that they wanted to do," Casale says a little glumly. "I submitted my ideas, organized in a much more fulfilling and interesting way. They said, "That doesn't work for us at retail.' I love answers like that. But so be it."

That attitude is indicative of the relationship that Devo has had with labels throughout its history. Even with the success of "Whip It" and its impact on the video revolution, the band was constantly second-guessed, until it tired of the game and dissolved in the mid-'90s. Mothersbaugh traded pop music for TV-and-movie scoring, creating incidental music for Pee-wee's Playhouse, moving on to the popular Nickelodeon series Rugrats, and graduating to film. Casale has directed commercials and music videos, but with tighter playlists on MTV, labels have cut budgets to almost nothing and rely on a small pool of directors. Casale isn't one of them.

Although the band has mounted comebacks -- to create the soundtrack for the Smart Patrol CD-ROM game and for a few touring opportunities -- there is little hope that a reassembled Devo will create new music together anytime soon (although there is one brand new song on Pioneers, "The Words Get Stuck in My Throat").

"I would be making new records right now, but Mark's not interested, and if he's not part of Devo, it's not Devo," says Casale. "What we really need is Devo: The Next Generation."

As Casale looks backward with Pioneers Who Got Scalped, he looks simultaneously to a bleak new millennium that, to him, contains a faint whiff of the last one.

"Everything's moving faster, and the Internet allows for the fourth dimension of hucksterism to take place," he says with a laugh. "All creative people are reduced to "content providers,' and the corporation owns your intellectual property, even worse than before. Everybody's downloading your music for free, so you're getting totally screwed as an artist. Welcome to the future."

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