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Many DEVO fans know about Booji Boy’s Basement — or if they don’t they should. A revival of the old DEVO Bootleg Archive started by Mike Watters, Booji Boy’s Basement features loads of DEVO material, including demos, shows, video material, and material from related groups, like the Bob 1 Band (featuring Bob 1 and David Kendrick of DEVO) and Babooshka (Alan’s post-DEVO band), as well as loads of stuff from Mark Mothersbaugh‘s Mutato Muzika and, well, just about anything else you could imagine. The great thing about the site is that it’s sanctioned by the band — no worries about it being shut down or anything. In fact, Bob1′s given an interview to the site (and, in return, the site was instrumental in recovering the guitar used in the Girl U Want video. David Kendrick has also contributed some source recordings as well.
The Basement was started in 2004 by Alex Brunelle, Tom Chiki and Robert Lee (the latter two left to found The New Wave Vault) and re-designed/hosted by Rich Anderson — two hardcore DEVO fans, and it’s been going strong ever since, working to get this stuff out to devoted spuds, and always working on improving the quality of the source material — including putting lots of rare video material on new DVD compilations. (And, remember, if you happen to have any rare DEVO material that the Basement doesn’t already have — get in contact with them! New stuff is always welcomed!
Part the First
What’s your favorite T-shirt (or if you prefer not to wear t-shirts, your favorite article of clothing otherwise)?
Alex Brunelle: That’s a hard quesiton. I have a bit of pride in my t-shirt collection. But I have to say that my favorite t-shirt is a DEVO t-shirt, featuring Booji Boy as the New Years Baby from their 12/31/1982 concert. It was recently reproduced by Wolfgang’s Vault.
Rich Anderson: Tough call. I have far too many T-shirts. If I had to narrow it down, I’d say my well worn Booji Boy DEVO T-Shirt, followed closely by a plain black pocket tee.
At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?
Alex Brunelle: People still ask other people this question? Uhmm… “The Mesopotamians” by They Might Be Giants.
Rich Anderson: Again, tough call.
If you had the power to eliminate two films from the history of the world, what would they be?
Alex Brunelle: I’ve seen a lot of movies, and a lot of bad movies, but it’s hard to think of ones that I thought were so bad that they should be taken out of history. The angriest I can remember ever being at a movie was Soul Survivors, so I’ll chose that as one. And for another, I’ll say that I’d eliminate Slacker, but not because I don’t like it. (Although I don’t, really, but that’s beside the point.) It kind of changed a lot of people’s perspectives on independent film and it would be interesting to see an alternate history of independent film.
Rich Anderson: There’s always value in bad movies, even if it’s just as MST3k/RiffTrax fodder… though some barely make it to that level. The worst movie I ever willingly sat through part of was Like Mike starring Little Bow Wow, so let’s say that for the first movie I’d want to obliterate.
Alex Brunelle: But Like Mike had Crispin Glover! And anything that makes Crispin Glover a paycheck is okay by me. Doesn’t mean we’ve gotta watch it.
I have to admit that Like Mike wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be (saw it on a plane, actually watched it because of Crispin Glover). I mean, it didn’t mean it was a GREAT film, just not, well, absoLUTELY terrible.
What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?
Alex Brunelle: The Gear. It’s a band headed by comic book creator/writer/artist Mike Allred (Madman, The Atomics) that released an album as part of a multimedia project he did, and the music is sublime. A weird, sometimes psychedellic, album that bounces between straight rock, expriemental and glam. It’s great.
I don’t know if you can buy the album anywhere anymore, but a few tracks are available for download from his website here.
What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?
Alex Brunelle: Army of Darkness poster, Dogma poster, Mallrats blueprint, Futurama Bender poster, a Residents artwork printout, a fake poster for “The Bible II” and a poster for a rock show I didn’t go to, but looked cool so I took it off the telephone pole I found it on.
Rich Anderson: 1 DEVO Poster, New Traditionalists Era. 1 Star Wars Boba Fett “Power of the Force” figure in original packaging. 2 art prints, one of Princess Toadstool playing a guitar, and one of the hero characters from Godzilla vs. Megalon (yes, even Jet Jaguar, and that fucking kid.)
Alex Brunelle: Is that the New-Tra poster that came in the LP or the one of the guys standing?
Rich Anderson: The one of the guys standing. I have the LP poster, but I want to keep that in good condition.
Where is the place where you would do anything to be?
Alex Brunelle: New York City. A living, breathing cultural epicenter of the US.
Rich Anderson: New York City, close to the girl of my dreams.
What’s the strangest thing you own?
Rich Anderson: Tie: A Stereo Test record once owned by Cat and Girl artist Dorothy Gambrell, and a pair of loaded dice.
Alex Brunelle: I got this weird toy in Chinatown maybe ten years ago called Wee Boy. It’s a plastic figure of a little boy that you can fill up with water and when you pull his shorts down, water shoots from his crotch.
Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?
Alex Brunelle: My favorite thing that I’ve ever done was spend five days in California, going to DEVO shows and geeking out with friends.
Rich Anderson: I’m very proud of what I’ve done towards my Fifty-Two Stories project . I don’t like to toot my own horn much, but some of what I’ve managed to make under deadline pressure surprises me.
What’s your highest bowling score?
Alex Brunelle: I can’t remember, it happened in grade school. It was probably less than 150.
Rich Anderson: 190 in WiiSports Bowling.
Who’s your favorite visual artist (excluding yourself)?
Alex Brunelle: If we’re counting films as visual art, David Lynch. And maybe still David Lynch even if we’re not counting films.
Rich Anderson: Charlie “Spike” Trotman. She draws the amazing webcomic “Templar, Arizona.”
If you could make one band reconsider their decision to break up, which would it be?
Rich Anderson: Talking Heads. Don’t get me wrong. I love David Byrne’s solo stuff, and I love Tom Tom Club (never heard Jerry Harrison’s solo stuff), but a new Talking Heads album would be amazing.
Alex Brunelle: Men Without Hats. [Actually,] I’ve given a bit more thought to the question of the band I’d like most to see get back together, and I’m going to have to revise my answer to be Oingo Boingo. And that is not to say that I wouldn’t love to see a Men Without Hats tour. I would. I think they’re fucking great and that they produced probably the best synthpop album of the 80s. But man, Danny Elfman can write a rock song like nobody’s business. And Steve Bartek is one motherfucker guitar player. Really, as a guitar player myself, it’s like Bob1 and Steve Bartek as guys who can play anything and make it sound beautiful. John Avila is a badass bassist and Johnny Vatos still pounds his drums so well after all these years. It’s just that Danny really isn’t into it. And without Danny Elfman writing that type of music anymore, where are we going to get a rock song in 15/8 time? What are the five most recent films you’ve seen?
Alex Brunelle: This might be embarassing. License to Wed, Live Free or Die Hard, 1408, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and 28 Weeks Later. I also saw a midnight screening of Army of Darkness.
Rich Anderson: I don’t get to the movies often at ALL, so this list is going to suck dong. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, A Night at the Museum [dragged to it by family], Casino Royale I forget the last two. I really, really don’t get to the movies much.
What’re your top three movies?
Alex Brunelle: Toys: There’s something wonderfully sublime about the fabricated world of the toy factory in the middle of lush green fields. It’s all so fun and bright and weird that I just want to build it myself. Also, the name of the toy company is Zevo.
Willard (2003): Rarely has Crispin Glover given a more solid lead performance. I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like about it.
Forbidden Zone: It’s the Oingo Boingo movie. There’s a frog butler. And a topless princess. And a midget king. And the main character thinks he’s a chicken. I mean, come on.
Rich Anderson: The Royal Tenenbaums. I love Wes Anderson and could watch his stuff over and over. Ghostbusters (Widescreen Edition) and Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. I don’t have to explain.
Do you own any original artwork, and if so, whose?
Alex Brunelle: I have a drawing of a paintbrush that my friend Warren did hanging on my wall.
Rich Anderson: Technically yes. I have an ink commission by Charlie “Spike” Trotman coming to me for pre-ordering the first “Templar, Arizona” print collection, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
How are your DVDs/VHS/Betamax tapes organized?
Alex Brunelle: At school, DVDs are straight alphabetical, except for Star Wars movies and View Askew productions, which have their own sections at the end of the alphabetization. At home, where all my DVDs are, alphabetical for movies and then there’s a separate section for TV shows, boxed sets and series of films (i.e. Re-Animator) that are alphabetical.
Rich Anderson: Back row: TV shows, organized by title. Front row: Movies and Concert films, organized by title.
What is your favorite game?
Alex Brunelle: MONOPOLY.
Rich Anderson: Right now, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. I’m a Mac user, running hardware two generations out of date. Not much runs for me.
What sort of pie do you enjoy?
Alex Brunelle: Pumpkin, though I’m not really a pie person.
Rich Anderson: All of it, really.
If you could say one thing to David Byrne, what would it be?
Alex Brunelle: Please make another movie, because “True Stories” is awesome.
Rich Anderson: I don’t know. I’d probably choke up. I actually walked past David Byrne while crossing 5th Avenue in Manhattan. He was holding a cup of coffee, and I’d just purchased a CD of Grown Backwards earlier that day.
Have you ever watched short track speed skating?
Alex Brunelle: No.
Rich Anderson: No. Why would I?
Describe some horrible/otherwise amusing local commercials.
Alex Brunelle: There’s a store in Buffalo (where I’ve spent a lot of time because I have family there) called Value Home Improvement, which is like a hardware/furniture store, and they have a really classic, dinky jingle and at the end of all of the commercials, the store owner (who’s the promotions dude) does a little dance to it. It’s hysterical.
Rich Anderson: This would require me to watch more television than I do. Sorry.
What are your five most favorite books in the world?
Alex Brunelle: More favorites here? Come on, it’s like i’m meeting people online like back in highschool! Lessee… Not really in any order, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams and The Beginning Was The End by Oscar Kiss Maerth.
Rich Anderson: In no particular order: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami, Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace, Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams, Welcome to the Monkey House – Kurt Vonnegut (this has my favorite Vonnegut story of all time, “Harrison Bergeron”.)
What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?
Alex Brunelle: The Lion King musical.
Rich Anderson: Waiting in for an agent at Temple University’s Student Financial Services department. Words cannot describe the dullness.
If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?
Alex Brunelle: Boy: Kai. Girl: Thorn.
Rich Anderson: Philo. (Yeah, It’s a good thing I ain’t breeding.)
Alex Brunelle: Aww man, have a kid named Philo. There need to be more people named Philo in this world.
Yeah — I actually like the name “Philo”. Dude invented TV after all. AND saved U62 from the evil Channel 8!
Rich Anderson: But that would require me to do the whole parenting thing. Pass.
What would be a better weapon, a gun that fires dogs or a gun that fires cats?
Alex Brunelle: An interesting question. Dogs that could cause more damage are heavier than cats, and could therefore not go as far. Though, they would probably be able to overpower a person more easily than a cat. Cats can go the distance and scratch the shit out of you, but are also non-fatal and can be easily kicked. So dogs.
Rich Anderson: A gun that fires cats. A pissed off cat is like a Cuisinart.
What is your favorite meal?
Alex Brunelle: A properly-cooked steak with some buttery pasta.
Rich Anderson: Tie: Barbecued pork ribs, or my girlfriend’s father’s Red Beans and Rice recipe.
Would you trade your sanity to write something incredibly beautiful/perfect?
Alex Brunelle: Fuck no, there are plenty of others who will. I’ll read their stuff and keep my sanity, thank you very much.
Rich Anderson: You mean I have sanity? If I did, then gladly.
What is reality?
Alex Brunelle: What I live and what I percieve.
Rich Anderson: Regularly inaccurate.
Part the Second
How long have you guys been into DEVO?
Alex Brunelle: 21 years. And yes, for those wondering, that is also how old I am.
Rich Anderson: I got into DEVO around 2000, so a good 7 years, I think.
How’d you get into DEVO?
Alex Brunelle: My mom and dad were both fans, though my dad moreso than my mom. I was, in all honesty, raised on them. I remember listening to DEVO with my dad, and listening to the Hardcore albums specifically when they came out. He was excited about those. I also remember that I wanted to keep the longbox for Hardcore 2, but my parents wouldn’t let me because it had boobs on it.
Rich Anderson: Online friends in a chat room were fans, and I enjoyed it once I checked it out, but what really got me into them was a lucky chance rerun of their SNL appearance from 1978 on NBC late at night. You watch that performance of “Jocko Homo” and tell me you’re not suddenly more into DEVO than you were before.
Do you have any other bands you’re equally (or at least almost) obsessive about than DEVO?
Alex Brunelle: They Might Be Giants is pretty much the only consistent one. I used to be hardcore into the Residents, but my interest has kinda tapered off in the last few years.
Why do you think there’s so much crossover between DEVO fans and Residents fans?
Rich Anderson: Probably the similar aesthetic. That’s part of what got me into them. They were contemporaries, and you can hear some building off of each other in the Residents pre-Mole Trilogy works.
Alex Brunelle: Both bands have very overt agendas and they both have a mythology built around them. It’s a very pleasing thing to be able to sink your teeth into a band like that.
It’s interesting too, that it seems a lot of bands with substance (like DEVO or the Residents) often get taken as a joke band by the Public At Large — I’ve often had to explain what DEVO was really All About to folks, instead of “those wacky guys who wear flowerpots and sing songs about whacking off” (instead of, you know, “those brilliant, ironic satirists who wear flowerpots and sing songs about whacking off, just not the one you THINK is about whacking off”).
Alex Brunelle: I think that’s because a lot of bands with substance can easily be mistaken for bands that just have a gimmick to get attention. I can easily see where that would come into play with both the Rez and DEVO. With the Residents, it’s the whole annonimity thing and with DEVO, it’s the costumes. If you’re good at writing songs and you do something with the gimmick, you pretty much have a built-in cult following.
In a way, though — that must get frustrating too — you might have that built-in cult following, but you wonder at what cost — of people at large writing them off as a joke band when, without the gimmick, they might be more accepted…. but, then, of course, without that gimmick to latch on to, would they have gotten as far as they did in the industry?
Alex Brunelle: Yeah, it’s kind of a really irritating double-edged sword. And ne could even say that my music is kinda gimmicky, with the robot prop and all. I just try to develop things to warrant its inclusion.
What’s your favorite item in the Basement?
Alex Brunelle: Jeez, that’s a good question. Either the Bob1 Band show or the soundboard Oh No show.
Rich Anderson: The DVD of Central Park 2004. It was my first DEVO show, and despite the technical goofs and fuck-ups, it’s dear to my heart.
Having seen so much stuff, does there remain a Holy Grail for the basement to get?
Alex Brunelle: There is a soundboard recording of the semi-legendary 12/31/1979 show. Part of it is on the Recombo DNA CD and I’ve heard other parts of it elsewhere. It does exist, and it’s beautiful. Now if I can only get them to dig it out and give it to us…
Rich Anderson: DEMOS. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH DEMOS.
I love the Recombo DNA set, particularly the title track — I even covered it for one of the Not Necessarily Beautful comps. It’s one of those — many on that set — that I couldn’t believe that DEVO never released properly.
Alex Brunelle: Recombo DNA showed us that there were some really neat songs written during the Shout sessions (“Some Things Don’t Change” and “No Noise”) that didn’t make the cut for whatever reasons. And “Time Bomb” is kind of classic. And “Faster and Faster”. Damn, now I’m just thinking about how good at writing songs DEVO is.
What was it like to interview General Boy?
Alex Brunelle: It was really surreal! Like I said, I quite literally grew up on DEVO, and that included their the Men Who Make the Music and We’re All DEVO videotapes, so I was very familiar with the General as a character. He was the leader. DEVO answered to him. And to be sitting in his livingroom, just chatting with him while he petted his dog and hearing him say that he didn’t really think any of DEVO’s songs were about sex was just amazing. He still keeps horses, or at least he did in 2004. He said the next time I come back, I could have a ride.
How did that come about?
Alex Brunelle: He’s still listed, so I just called him up and asked if I could come over. He’s a very inviting fellow, I doubt that he’s ever said no to a fan asking to come over.
When reading The Beginning Was The End, did you get a sense of sadness from the book? When I read it, it seemed that WWII fucked Oscar Kiss Maerth up hardcore… sure it’s a racist pseudo-scientific tract, but it seems to come from a base of just horror and sadness of the atrocities of the war. (Sorta like Kent State on Jerry, I suppose, only Jerry didn’t, y’know, become a racist nutter.)
Rich Anderson: I don’t think so. I got the same vibe as I got from Chariots of the Gods [Ed. Note: If you decide to buy this book via the link -- for the love of god, get a used edition. Don't encourage them.], a sort of “Hey! Look at this theory I figured out. It explains EVERYTHING!” kook-vibe.
Alex Brunelle: I did get a certain sense that Maerth was really relenting a lot of what he percieved as humans as having done to this earth. He seemed like a noble dude, just kinda… severely misguided. And not very good at citing sources.
I have to agree — he didn’t come off as the raging racist asshole psychopath I was expecting. Definitely, as you say, severely misguided, but, well, I think “noble” is a good term. If he hadn’t died (and spoke German, a language I don’t know), it might be interesting to meet up and talk with him, even though we don’t see eye-to-eye.
Alex Brunelle: I really wonder if he’s still alive. It would be really great to read or hear his thoughts on DEVO, the state of the world today, etc. I mean, it had to have gotten back to him that a band based a good deal of their mythology on his one publication.
That would be interesting to hear — would he be angry that they’re sorta making fun of him, or would he see them as kindred spirits — or would he just be happy that his ideas are getting out there, even if it’s in a satirical way?
Alex Brunelle: If we’re to believe what we read about him, the dude became a monk. And in reading his book, you can tell that his point of view seemed very reasonable to him. So he’d probably have a very civil discussion with Jerry and Mark if it were to ever occur. I doubt he’d be mad.
What’s your favorite unreleased DEVO song?
Alex Brunelle: Ughh… More of this favorites nonsense. Probably “Shimmy Shake” or “Don’t Know What to Do-Do”. There’s another one called “Money Pit” that’s an early version of “Baby Doll” with completely different lyrics that’s absolutely wonderful, but I’ve only heard it and would have to listen to it more to really judge.
Rich Anderson: “Cyclops”, followed closely by “Toil is Stupid”.
Rich, when you say your favorite band folks haven’t heard of is the Numbers Band, do you include the post-Jerry stuff, too?
Rich Anderson: Absolutely. Jerry’s involvement was very limited, AFAICT. You can find more Numbers Band info at their official site.
Have you heard any of the Numbers Band stuff where Jerry had the bass turned way, way up?
Rich Anderson: Since Jerry played for ‘em before they even recorded a record, I’d say not.
I mainly was meaning about bootlegs from that era and all; not sure if much of that stuff was ever recorded.
Rich Anderson: I don’t even know of any bootlegs of the Numbers, period. It’d be cool to hear them with Jerry, especially if it’s the show where he slipped on the ape mask.
Since you’ve both seen DEVO live, are there any songs in particular you’d love to see them add to the setlist?
Alex Brunelle: Dude, we’re hardcore fans, we both have dream setlists that we’d love to see the band play. This is another very, very hard choice. I kinda got my wish when they put “Wiggly World” back into the set. But if I had to choose another, “DEVO Has Feelings Too”.
Do you think there’s a “best” DEVO era? In a way, I’d probably say my favorite stuff is the Hardcore-era, but that discounts the fact that Oh, No! is tied with Duty Now for the Future as my favorite album — not to mention that I’m like, the only guy ever who actually likes Shout. So, is divving up DEVO’s styles into “eras” a fool’s errand?
Alex Brunelle: DEVO is DEVO. They certainly evolved a lot over the course of 25 years (or shriveled up, as some might argue). I can totally understand erring on a certain side of a decade mark in terms of your preference for their style of songwriting at that time, but I think Jerry put it in a very nice way when I asked him how he feels about Shout now. “I feel the same way about it now as I did then. I think there’s good songs on the album, and I think it suffered from the overuse of the Fairlight synthesizer, but those songs were the songs that we wrote at that time and it couldn’t have been anything else than what it was.” Or something to that effect. Maybe I made him sound less eloquent. Or more. But that was the sentiment.
Rich Anderson: The best DEVO era is all of it. Like any band, there’s highs and lows. Dividing DEVO into eras really is a tricky thing as there’s no real clearly defined change except from Duty Now to Freedom of Choice… and that’s a THIN line. You can listen to the earliest of the hardcore stuff straight through to Smooth Noodle Maps, and you’ll notice that it’s a gradual change. A gradient, not a series of steps.
And, man, I like Shout too. I don’t like Total Devo much, but Smooth Noodle Maps is better than most people give it credit for.
Alex Brunelle: Yeah, that’s a very important point to make note of. If you listen to all of DEVO’s output chronologically (even the demos and outtakes and shit tracks), you can clearly hear the growth of their songwriting process, and its gradual change. It’s continued even after SmoothNoodleMaps. Listen to DEVO’s compilation output of new material since that album, like “Are You Ready”, “Go Monkey Go” and “Ohio” and you’ll hear that it’s a logical sonic progression from SmoothNoodleMaps. I really think SNM is one of their best albums. It’s tight, it’s incredibly boistrious and bombastic and the balance of synthesizer madness to nice, hard guitar is perfect.
I’m with you, Rich, on this one — Total‘s Oh-Kaaaay, but mostly for the songs that are on Recombo DNA, plus a couple (I really like “Man Turned Inside Out” for one.)
The thing I found really interesting about Total and SMN (which is definitely underrated) is that it seems that where the previous records were much more angry, cynical and detached — sort of like outside, alien observers on humanity, Total and SMN seemed a lot more… sad. Like DEVO realized they were still a part of it. I tend to think of it as Kent State catching up with them — almost like Jerry realised that it could have been him that died instead of two of his friends. Or, perhaps, that it was his FRIENDS that DIED rather than just a symbol of, well, devolution.
Rich Anderson: Perhaps. I can’t understand why the switch to those style songs. Maybe Jerry or Mark have some insights, but nobody’s bothered to ask.
Alex: “Man Turned Inside Out” is a deceptively touching song. I’d really like the Spudboys to put that into our set someday. Hm — yeah — I can really see that. I’ve also been fond of “I’d Cry If You Died” (that was the other one I was trying to think of when I mentioned “MTIO”, but blanked on. I know I’ve definitely felt like that — it’s a song about a very human emotional conflictedness that I don’t think I’ve ever really seen addressed. How you can feel complete hatred for someone, and yet still have the same crush on them as you always have.
A lot of Total is surprisingly emotional, but those ones tend to resonate for me the most. (That and “Plain Truth”… which is odd, because I think both “Plain Truth” and “ICIYD” are as close as DEVO ever got to maudlin — admittedly not a word you’d typically associate with DEVO.)
Alex Brunelle: “I’d Cry If You Died” is another highly underrated DEVO song. A lot of stuff on that album is filler kind of material. I mean, “Agitated”, “Sexi Luv” and “Blow Up” all barely have any redeeming qualities and the two singles are kind of throwaway dance tunes, but there’s something about certain songs on that album that went to places DEVO never really went before or since.
Those three songs are pretty much shorthand for the lows of DEVO amongst me and my friends, so it’s kinda good to see that it’s not just us! “Agitated” I never got — and I don’t quite get why they had the remixes done. “Sexi Luv” is totally forgettable, though I find “Blow Up” sort of charming in its goofy badness. I mean, really — “hot chihuahua?” Really?
Alex Brunelle: “Blow Up” is kinda charming for it’s ridiculousness, I suppose. “Sexi Luv” has a guitar riff I really like, but it could have been used for a better song. “Agitated” would have been a lot better if they had kept in an element from a demo version I heard: the guitar lick with the twiddly end part that happens before the words kick in was originally the first lead guitar lick from “I Been Refused”. It kinda rocked a lot.
On the subject of their more recent stuff, the thing I’ve found interesting is that they’ve really gone back to their earlier stuff with that new production, which is really interesting. Like “Huboon Stomp” is a Hardcore Era song — and is still relatively faithful to the demo/early version I’ve heard, but the new version could only be done by the current (or, well, then-current) DEVO. It might be interesting to hear them go back and record a bunch of the early hardcore-era stuff today. (Probably more as a Club DEVO exclusive record or something, since I’m not sure if something like that would really fly as a “real” album.)
Alex Brunelle: It’s been done, too, that’s something to note. There’s a very obscure 2001-or-so recording of “Recombo DNA” that was used in a promo for The Sims 2. It’s fully produced, there’s expanded lyrics and it’s really fuckin’ rockin. They could seriously make an absolutely killer rock album by picking up some of the pieces from 1976 or so and giving them a fresh polish.
Rich Anderson: I’d buy it in a heartbeat. One thing I love so much about Dev2.0 is the spitshine and polish on the old workhorse tunes. In a number of cases, the Dev2.0 versions (sans vocals) kick the original versions ass, like “That’s Good”, “Peek-A-Boo”, “Jerkin’ Back ‘n’ Forth”, and “Big Mess”.
I didn’t care for “Through Being Cool” 2.0, but some of them were, as you say, miles above the originals in terms of arrangement. It’d be cool to hear an alternate Dev2.0 disc with 1.0 vocals.
Alex Brunelle: “Through Being Cool” was a very odd departure from the original arrangement, especially in comparison to the rest of the disc. Musically, DEV2.0 is a really great disc. Except, though, if you pay attention, the drums are kinda lackluster. Or at least I think they are. And notice it’s neither Josh [Freese] nor David playing. Also, “Big Mess” was changed to the key of F from the key of G for I don’t know why. I think DEV2.0 overall is hilarious and I love watching the DVD.
As for Smooth Noodle Maps, I’m torn — like you, Alex, I really like the arrangements/production (the first I’d heard from it was when I found the “Post Post-Modern Man” 12″, and put it on thinking “Well, this is supposed to be the really terrible DEVO stuff, but hey, it’s DEVO, it’s got a cool sleeve, and it was only a couple bucks” and not only really liking it, but being surprised that I really, really liked it — and I had the same reaction to the full album when I finally got that. However — I don’t think all the songs themselves are quite up to snuff — about half are excellent, and half seem kind of like treading water (“Pink Jazz Trancers” has a cool sound, but as a song, I think kinda sucks. And “When We Do It” could have used a bit more in the lyric-writing department, f’rinstance.) But still, it’s sad that it was the last (to date) proper album — not that it was a bad note to go out on, but that they were on to something with the production.
Alex Brunelle: I completely agree with you about “Pink Jazz Trancers”. It never really clicked with me. There’s some nice riffs, but I don’t think it sustains. I also kind of refuse to acknowledge “Dawghaus” as a song that exists. Really, though, the first three tracks, “Jimmy” and “DEVO Has Feelings Too” are all just pitch-perfect neo-DEVO tunes.
I actually kinda like “Dawghaus”, but I think it might at least partially be in the same way I like “Blow Up” — I guess DEVO+Dogs=Awful Hilarity.
Alex Brunelle: I think the dog noises in the beginning are kinda funny, but that’s about it. And it’s not even Bob1 rocking that guitar.
Are there any DEVO songs you wish hadn’t been recorded? I think for me it’s a couple of their covers — “Bread & Butter” and “Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini”, which is odd since they so adeptly stripped it for parts for “Soo Bawls”.
Alex Brunelle: No, I don’t think there’s any songs I wish hadn’t have been recorded. Even the ones I don’t like I can find some redeeming value in. Like that weird squealy vocal in “Bread and Butter” or Mark’s ridiculous vocal performance in “Bikini”. They’ve all got something going for them.
Where do you stand on the great David Kendrick debate? I used to really not like his drumming — but I’ve grown softer on him. I don’t think he’s a bad drummer, but I don’t think he was really right for DEVO. Of course, he had some mighty big shoes to fill, but I thought his drumming with Sparks definitely fit what they were doing. (I think the first time I heard Angst in My Pants, I said something along the lines of “Hey, this sounds kinda like Total DEVO, only much, much better!”)
Alex Brunelle: I’ve talked with David Kendrick on a number of occasions. As you may or may not have seen, the interview with him in the Basement was conducted by me (my former partner was originally scheduled to, but was unable), I talked with him a lot in bringing him to DEVOtional 2005 and we’ve exchanged a/v goodies, like the only known recording of the Bob1 Band live. He’s really one of the coolest and most interesting people I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to.
As for his drumming with DEVO, I think he was hindered in a couple of ways. One is the obvious, he’s not Alan. Alan has gained a sort of legendary status, and not without reason. Jerry said this a number of times, he’s like a human metronome. He man was (and still is) a powerhouse. And when he came into DEVO, he wasn’t really in charge of the drums. I mean, he played them, and the vast majority of the drums on TD and SNM are acoustic (and not programmed), but I have heard demos from both TD and SNM that did have fully programmed drum tracks, and they didn’t sound much different. He didn’t really have much room to do anything. And he didn’t really get much of a chance to play on more songs he would have liked to be in the live set. I remember him mentioning specifically gunning for them to add “Space Junk” and “Be Stiff” to the 1988/1990 setlists, but it didn’t happen.
He may have played a few DEVO songs technically wrong (“Satisfaction” is not so great to listen to with him on drums), but the dude smacks the hell out of the skins. I had the pleasure of playing with him in the Spudboys in 2005, he came up and played “Happy Guy” with us and, I swear, I thought he was going to punch a hole in the snare he was hitting the thing so damned hard. He was really great. I think when it comes to the two albums he played on, nobody’s going to play as good as him. Same thing with the albums Alan played on.
Also, if you wanna hear David just rocking the hell out, check out his most recent endeavor, The Empire of Fun I think there’s an MP3 of “Swimming” somewhere on the site. Listen to it. It rocks.
Rich Anderson: David’s okay. I could take him or leave him. Gotta hear the Sparks stuff, though. Biggest problem I have with David is a matter of energy. Alan and Josh both attack the drums live ferociously. The tempos have to be thermonuclear, especially for the stuff from ’78-’80. Watching Land of the Rising Sun, it feels like a much more calm and relaxed performance, not nearly as intense as it should be.
I think he meshes much more with Sparks’ style (particularly check out Whomp That Sucker and Angst In My Pants – In Outer Space is another album that’s often pointed to as one of the best of that era of Sparks, though I prefer those other two discs.).
Alex Brunelle: I haven’t actually heard the two you reccomend most, but I have heard In Outer Space and I honestly can’t really pick out any sort of drum flare at all. It sounds like a lot of drum machines. I like the album a lot, though.
Interesting bit of trivia: in 1989 or 1990, the Visiting Kids (in which Bob1 and David played, along with Bob1′s daughter and Mark’s wife at the time, Nancye Furgeson) opened for Sparks.
On the subject, what about Josh Freese? He’s technically a great, versatile drummer, though I find he drums a little too “punk” for DEVO — of course, though, he cut his teeth with the Vandals, and most of the songs in the sets he’s played on have been early-DEVO heavy, which is perhaps the most “punk” of their stuff – even though that’s not quite the right musical term. Is he a good match for DEVO?
Alex Brunelle: I think he’s a great match in terms of his playing. He still plays the songs a bit differently than Alan (for example, hi-hats on every 1/8th note in “Smart Patrol”, instead of ever 1/4 note), but he plays them with expert precision. Asthetic-wise, he’s not enough of a nerd to be in DEVO.
Rich Anderson: Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. He’s one hell of a drummer, not quite as technically adept as Alan, I think, but Josh approaches the material with love and energy. See Alex’s point about him playing shows with only one hand. When I saw DEVO in Atlantic City, Josh was still crippled, but you’d never know it from the playing.
I think that adeptness-wise, that Josh is as good as Alan — I think it’s more of a stylistic choice. And his devotion is sooo not up for debate — he’s CLEARLY got the energy and the intimacy with the material (you can tell that as a young spud he practically wore out the grooves on his DEVO records — even if he didn’t basically say as much). Style-wise, though, I prefer Alan’s controlled complexity, of course, but I always get the impression that if he wanted, Josh could play note-perfect reproductions of Alan’s performances, but… well, that’d just be kinda silly.
Alex Brunelle: Yeah, that’s gotta be something that’s hard for him to deal with. Wanting to be truly faithful to the source material, but also leaving his own mark on the material. Josh and Alan in a drum-off would be legendary. They both play the fill during the intro of “Beautiful World” with one hand, keeping time with the snare and hi-hat with the other.
In terms of aesthetics, as Alex pointed out, that’s the one thing I’ve always found amusing about the other drummers — they just don’t LOOK right. The spudboys all look basically the same — part of the “potato” imagery, even — and so it’s kind of funny when you get, say, the “Post Post-Modern Man” sleeve where it’s all “DEVO, DEVO, DEVO, DEVO, Not-DEVO!” At least in terms of sheer looks, anyway.
Alex Brunelle: When I first saw the “PPMM” sleeve in 1993 or so (I think that was it. I got it at the same time as I got the first Ace of Base album.), I was confused as to who the hell this mysterious fifth guy was. But I think that, in concert, David looked enough like a spud that he fit in. He just didn’t have that midwest nerd look like the rest did.
Outside of Alan (whom I think we can all agree is a supreme drum ninja of the highest order), who do you think would be the best fit for DEVO, drumming-wise?
Alex Brunelle: I really can’t think of anyone better than Josh Freese. You need a person back there who not only gets it, but has a real appreciation for it. That’s the thing about both David and Josh: they LOVE DEVO. They really do. And they love when they get to play with them. Josh is the #1 most request session drummer in the music industry and he takes a gives up a big amount of money every time he plays with DEVO. He doesn’t make as much playing with them as he would with, say, NIN and he’s missing out on time that he could be playing in the studio on Avril Lavigne’s next album and he does it because he loves the band. I mean, the dude played played five shows with one fucking hand. I don’t think you’re going to find a more dedicated drummer who can play that well.
Rich Anderson: See above.
On the “Be Stiff” covers EP, who does the best job of it?
Alex Brunelle: This is a damn good question. Kudos, sir. I actually really like the Rachel Sweet version. It’s very de-vo.
Rich Anderson: Haven’t heard it.
What other projects do you guys have that you’d like to mention?
Alex Brunelle: I make music! I’m a film dork and want to go into filmmaking, so I make movies as well.
Rich Anderson: I’m working on Fifty-Two Stories, a personal project to write one short story a week. Also, since my podcast, 30 Minutes with the Lights Off died a horrible death, I’m working on a replacement, Difficult Listening Hour, and I’ll provide more info closer to launch.