Back in 1974, Devo were just a bunch of art school kids playing music in a basement in Akron, Ohio. In that space, the band would come up with songs like “Space Girl Blues,” “Midget” and “Buttered Beauties.” But, those songs wouldn’t get a chance to be played outside that basement. That is, until now.
Mark Mothersbaugh told Radio.com the decision to trot out these older songs (written between 1974 and 1977) in the form of a 10-city tour and then a concert film called Hardcore Devo Live! was not only to celebrate their 40th anniversary as Devo, but to mark the passing of longtime member Bob Casale, who died this past February.
Though these songs were written right before Cassale joined the band, he was the one who thought Devo should resurrect these early creative efforts for the fans and maybe even for themselves. Mothersbaugh says getting a chance to play these songs has been fun, explaining they’re “Devo at our most pure.”
“We didn’t have a record deal, we were just entertaining ourselves,” he says. “We were trying to decide what we were doing and what we were about. We didn’t even see ourselves as a band yet. We were still thinking it was more like an art movement or an art idea.”
Directed by Keirda Bahruth, the film is split into two halves: The first includes material the band is playing for the first time in over four decades, while the second includes songs that the band would end up playing the first time they hit the stage at CBGB’s in 1977.
“We had a very good crowd reaction,” Mothersbaugh says of that show. “I think nobody was expecting to see a band onstage wearing yellow hazardous waste clean-up crew outfits. It was kind of the antithesis of what you saw in there. Somehow it was complementary in a lot of ways.”
They will premiere the film Friday, October 10 at the CBGB Music & Film Festival in New York City. It’s only fitting then that Devo are premiering the film at a festival celebrating the gone-but-not-forgotten NYC institution.
“I think CBGB’s in the ’70s and ’80s was like what the cabarets of Paris and Berlin were in the ’20s and the ’30s,” Mothersbaugh says. “It was a meeting place, a melting pot. Every decade there’s places where people collaborate or all get together for socializing and checking things out. I think a lot of it has been deferred to the internet now, it’s a lot less about physical location than it is about just an ideal and a concept. So there may not be an equivalent to the physical location to CBGB’s, which was kind of like what the Whiskey A Go-Go was in the ‘60s, but, I’m just happy that the heritage, the history and the legend has been protected and celebrated in this way.”
Before the debut of Hardcore Devo Live! later this week Radio.com decided to ask about the other firsts in Mark Mothersbaugh’s life.
First Concert You Saw
The first concert I really recall seeing was David Bowie and Iggy Pop opening for him. It was Spiders From Mars at the Cleveland Auditorium. I have to say it was the most amazing experience and Iggy was impressive. He would jump off the stage and everyone would get out of the way and he’d land on the ground and bounce back up and keep singing.
First Show Devo Ever Played
The first few years we played places [in Ohio] it was during a time period, the mid-’70s, where clubs did not hire bands that played original music. So, we had a couple primordial versions of the band that played at different art festivals at Kent State and then when we played clubs it was often in the guise of a cover band. So we never ended up finishing our full set from the evening because we’d end up being like a lightning rod for hostility.