Utterly DEVO-ted

Hot Chip, Metronomy, Santigold and more talk about how DEVO have influenced their musical lives.

Music Feature
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(Photograph by Frederike Helwig)

In the August issue of Dazed, we feature legendary New Wave pioneers DEVO who are back in the studio making their first album in 20 years. We asked twelve bands to give their thoughts on the art rock antagonists. PLUGS, DATAROCK, MY TIGER MY TIMING, LISSY TRULLIE, THE BLACK KEYS, RUMBLE STRIPS, METRONOMY, THECOCKNBULLKID, HOT CHIP, SANTIGOLD AND POLYSICS all talk about DEVO’s influence on their musical lives. Click on the next five pages to read all the interviews.

Read the full feature on DEVO in this month's issue of Dazed.




What is your favourite DEVO song of all time, and why?

Joe Goddard: I like 'Be Stiff' alot.  The changes in rhythm, the weird 'surf' guitar sound.  The urgent vocal performance, and the vocal melodies, which are unusual and intensely polyrhythmic, whilst still being very catchy, it has energy. 
Alexis Taylor: Timing X is my favourite piece of music by Devo - not a song as such, as it is instrumental, but it is possibly the best and most exciting minute of sound I have ever heard. The time-signature is so odd for a disco tune, the rhythm of the synth riff, and the sound of those drums - both are just incredible - I could listen to it forever. It is followed closely by 'The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise' and 'Be Stiff', as runners up. The original drummer is my favourite drummer - I can't believe how he played; the tightness with the emphasis on such unusual phrasing and patterns.

What is it about DEVO's style that first excited you?
Joe Goddard: All of the things that most people like about Devo; their complete visual and sonic identity, which was and still is very different and enticing.  Freakish, warped, comic, colourful, intensely cynical of capitalism's supposed fairness.  They clearly felt like outsiders in the area in which they grew up, and as youngsters we could identify with that.  You knew you would probably like the people that danced when Devo came on.  I suppose their imagination is what is most exciting about them.
Alexis Taylor: I like it when they had fake slicked back hair the most - looking like figurines. I also like their fondness for yellow and Mark's choice of frames. I love their mixture of absurdity, wit and utter seriousness and aggression.

How have they influenced you?
Joe Goddard: Where they have 'Poot' and 'spuds' we have 'grubs' and the 'dome' dance.  Alexis and I have side project called 'Booji Boy High'.  We aspire to some of the strangeness that they so effortlessly achieved, in synthesizer sounds, rhythms, attitude, imagery.  We fail generally.
Alexis Taylor: I have never tried to write any music like them, or base my appearance on them (although people might not believe that! - more about Cavafy myself) but I have been influenced by them in so much as I have wanted to make our live shows as exciting as theirs looked at the start of their career - with them lined up at the front of the stage, spilling over the edge almost, and barking out their deranged songs. I guess I want us to be as good as them, but not like them! They encourage you to BE STIFF. That's fair enough.

What do you think their impact on wider popular culture is?
Joe Goddard: They are constantly imitated; the way they mixed classic American cultural references with unsettling images and their own outlandish style is copied constantly, but nobody has bettered it.  It is ironic that they were disgusted by the final stages of capitalism but at the same time their 'brand' was incredibly strong.
Alexis Taylor: They taught us that we are all Devo. But not everyone was listening.

Do you think that mankind has de-evolved as they predicted? How?
Joe Goddard: Witness the mournful sight of a businessman chewing on a processed sandwich fresh from the fridge with a vacant, almost disembodied look in his eye and I think we all know the answer to that one.  Witness people buying stuff that they don't in any way need and will not in any way improve their lives and then having to BUY a space in a storage facility to house all of said junk when there is no space left in their own houses and we all know that de-evolution is alive and well in our global community. 
ALEXIS: Read Gullliver's Travels or A Modest Proposal and you may think there was little to de-evolve from...

And finally, do you own an Energy Dome (the red flower pot hat)?
Joe Goddard: It’s in storage currently.  I may get it out at some point.  
Alexis Taylor: I did. I bought one at a gig in New York the day we mastered our album, The Warning. But I gave it to Owen (Clarke, from hot chip), who i think uses it to store receipts now. I wish I still had it.




What is your favourite DEVO song of all time, and why?   
Santigold: It’s too hard to just chose one. I'd have to say: 'Mongoloid', 'Gut Feeling', 'The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise', but I have many more favorites.

What is it about DEVO's style that first excited you?   
Santigold: Well I was a really young kid when I first saw Devo and it was in the whip it video. To a kid they just looked so fun and amazing with those red hats, like cartoons. The video was really funny and random and their music is also so kid friendly and fun. It just drew me in.

How have they influenced you?   
Santigold: In so many ways. I love the way they write songs. Their music is always quirky and very minimal. The melodies are very poppy and easy to sing along to, but the lyrics are always smart, funny, and a bit sarcastic. I try to do that with my songs, to create poppy melodies but with the lyrics taking you somewhere thoughtful and unexpected. 

What do you think their impact on wider popular culture is? 
Santigold: I think they inspire current artist to keep the art alive in the music. The industry has changed so much, its so hard to move fast enough to keep up with all the content demands that the internet imposes on a new artist. Everything Devo created was quality art, from the music and videos, tot he album covers. That is an inspiration to true artists.  

Do you think that mankind has de-evolved as they predicted? How?   
Santigold: Yes, in many ways, though not in every way. I think that the fact that Obama is our president is evidence of the opposite, though the financial crisis we're in, the state of the environment, the level of disease and poverty, and the general quality of art in our culture are all evident of our culture's de-evolution.

And finally, do you own an Energy Dome (the red flower pot hat)?
Santigold: No, I don't. Should I get one? The only place I'd ever wear it is to see them perform. If they promise to keep touring I'll get one.


Click on the next page for interviews with Polysics and Metronomy.
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