Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Devo: Voluntary Experimentation

It was not commen knowledge until more recently that the band Devo was born amidst the chaos of the Kent State shootings in May of 1970.
Devo consists primarily of two sets of brothers, the leaders being Gerald V. Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh. Both Gerry and Mark were members of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) whose primary cause was an end to the war in Vietnam. SDS had been banned on campus the previous year but its members were still active in the anti-war movement.
Gerry Casale was a senior and knew two of those killed, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause. Casale was among those being shot at that day (May 4) and saw his friend Allison dead on the ground.

Listen to this interview about Casale's relationship wth Timothy Leary and skip ahead 2/3 of the way into the interview to hear about witnessing the carnage.

Bob Mothersbaugh was burning the flag in front of the ROTC building two days before...

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Gerry and Mark met (wikipedia says 1970) but the official date of the band's formation is 1973. It wasn't until 1977 that things began to gain stream resulting in a record deal, first with Stiff then with Warner in 1978.
Devo has always described their music as subversive, that is, not fighting the system head on which would result in failure but to infiltrate the system and exploit it at every opportunity.
In their films they have always mocked the record industry as being decadent, self-serving and fascist and in turn the record industry has called Devo fascist and irrelevant.
It has been this band's hallmark, their use of the very industry and culture they are critiquing.
Devo's essential philosophy is that man is regressing, not moving foreward and thus the name De- evolution.
A pseudo-scientific book The Beginning Was The End (in which humans lost their psychic and empathetic abilities and gained a hyper-libidenous and warlike nature as a result of eating human brains) seemed to resonate with the band along with another book called Jocko-Homo (Ape-man).
In their earlier films and music there are sayings like "Biology is Destiny" and "God made man, but He used the monkey to do it-It's in the plan"

Another key feature is the use of technology (even though they described their music as "the sound of things falling apart"), especially synthesizers and video.
Devo worked closely with filmmaker Chuck Statler on their first film "The Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-evolution" made in 1977.

Jim Mothersbaugh (brother of Mark) built his own synthesized drums which he played in the first Secret Agent Man video and in 1979 he began working for the synthesizer company Roland. He says that he got to work on the development of MIDI, the system which allows diverse synthesizers to communicate with each other.
In the June 1984 issue of Keyboard Magazine is this question by Greg Armbruter to Jim:

"How do the technical needs of Devo affect the development of products at Roland?
A good example of that just happened. I told Devo that in a few months Roland was going to have a master mother keyboard, not the184 system, which would have a piano action and would control different synthesizers offstage. But Devo said 'We can't wait; we're ready for it now. We'll carry the expense.' So we developed it and built it just for Devo, and now we'll sell it (the MKB-1000 keyboard)."

Jim Mothersbaugh began working for a division of Roland called Roland D.G. (Digital Group) which contracts to the U.S. Military but now has his own company called Circle Prime Manufacturing in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. His company designs and tests electronic countermeasures for the military and is "the largest supplier of communications modules for pilots."

Devo hit it big with their song "Whip It" off of their 1980 album "Freedom of Choice." MTV (also birthed in Ohio) began playing Devo from its inception in 1981 due to the fact that the group already had numerous "music videos" in their portfolio, just waiting to be accessed.

It is in these videos that some very interesting symbols and visuals start to pop up. The first is the upside-down flowerpots, or "Energy Domes" which they wore on their heads. The resemble nothing less than ziggurats, the stepped pyramids of ancient Sumur. Flower Power came out of the 1960's as another way of saying peace, but it is more than that. Flowers are also representations of the individual chakras as well as the Rose, the symbol of the Rosicrucians, a secret society.
A certain flower, cannabis, gained its reputation at this time as well.
Just in case this seems far out check out this quote in a 2008 interview with Mark Mothersbaugh from

"At least we did cool things. We did the red energy dome, which was useful besides being an icon—it was a useful icon. You probably know this very well, but your orgone energy goes out the top of your head (At this point I realized he was being 100% sincere and I truly had to bite my lip a bit to keep from giggling. But still, I was in awe of the guy.) and it dissipates out the top, but if you wear an energy dome it recycles that energy. It comes back down and showers back down on you and, among other things, you remain manly, shall we say, for maybe another 150 years of your life, probably. I think that's a safe prediction to say that energy domes—if you wore them constantly, night and day—which I don't do, but there are people out there who do, not too many of them but there are some. We get e-mails from them, so we know they're out there, those people will probably live about an extra 150 years because of all that orgone energy that they're saving and not wasting away."

Studies have apparently been done concerning the preservative capabilities of pyramids, so the concept is out there, not just in Mark's head.
In the video "Devo Live 1980" in the interlude section of the song "Jocko Homo" the members of the band reform the letters of Devo to spell the word "Dove" which is an exoteric symbol for peace.
The dove can also hold a negative connotation when facing downward. Much has also been made out of the fact that Colombia is Latin for "dove" (see Columbia Pictures, Columbus Ohio, Columbine Shootings, etc...) and that the symbol can be traced to the Babylonian Queen Semiramis.

Mark Mothersbaugh makes what seem to be Masonic or secret society gestures throughout the "Devo Live 1980" video, especially in the song "Snowball." The argument can be made that these are Mothersbaugh's idiosyncratic art/creative movements meant to illustrate the words being sung, and in some cases this seems to be true. Still, there is something so strange about the movements he makes, one wonders where he came up with them, if not the imagination.

M.M. makes only one gesture in this video, so it's not the best example but here it is anyway. It's the diagonal chop across the chest...

Satanic Genius
Also around this time period Devo (but especially M.Mothersbaugh) begins an interesting collaboration with The Church of the SubGenius, a mock religion begun by Douglass St. Clair Smith, A.KA. Reverand Ivan Stang, in Dallas, Texas.
The Church uses phraseology from various sources (Christian Televangelism, Scientology and conspiracy lingo) and mixes them together in a Dadaist, stream-of-conciousness manner.
(The fact that Church of the Sub Genius only ridicules other groups and supposedly has nothing real to offer the world is very interesting, considering its large following.)
Subgenius material was sent out around 1980 or so and eventually began to be promulgated by the likes of Paul Mavrides (comix artist), Robert Crumb and Devo.
The Church of the SubGenius eventually did two videos with Devo "Love Without Anger" and "Are You Experienced?"
Many people who get into the Church are of the artistic persuasion, like Pee-Wee Herman who featured an image of "Bob" (the savior-figure of the church) in his weekly television shows.

People attend what are called "Devivals", regular get-togethers of followers. though it proclaims it has no belief system to follow, it is very popular and has a large, devoted following. The Reverand Ivan Stang often speaks at "Devotionals", where both Devo and SubGenius fans gather. Stang has since moved from Texas to Northern Ohio where many of their devivals take place. The Church has at least a loose affilliation with the Association for Conciousness Exploration (ACE) based in northern Ohio. Both Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson ("Bob" in the flesh?) were early friends of this group which now has its offices in the Masonic Temple Annex Building in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Stang says that the $20. to become an official Reverend actually is an official ordainment, " You'll be a real minister,able to perform legal marriages."!
More prestigious members/Reverends include Mark Mothersbaugh, SubGenious co-founder Paul Mavrides (Author of the comix the "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" and "Anarchy"), Robert Williams (Artist and creator of Juxtapoz Magazine), cartoonist Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, the late Rick Griffin (Grateful Dead cover artist), Jonathan Demme,Pee Wee Herman, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Gary Panter and Rudy Rucker.

Gary Panter, by the way, is the comix artist who designed Pee-Wee's Playhouse, which is full of occult symbols.

Check out this site which aligns the Church of the Subgenius with the pagans and other occultists.

Devo has also had a regular relationship with CIA asset Timothy Leary from the 80's until his death. And in case anybody is wondering where Leary is coming from, you should watch this video, coming from a Christian perspective.

Scroll down to the next to last two rows of pictures and check out the winged disc on the podium in front of Rev. Stang and in the next row up, Satan worshipper Oberon Zell.

Mark Mothersbaugh also pals around with Satanist Magister/cartoonist COOP (scroll down). Recently (enough) mothersbaugh composed some music for a COOP art gallery opening.

Although Devo has constantly critcised this world which is "falling apart" they are now intimately involved in it.
Mark scores movies and Mutato Studios (Devo part 2) contributes to insipid and insidious videogame soundscapes and musical scores.
Gerald Casale filled his bank account, excuse me, "subverted" some more by working with Disney, forming an all-kids band to perform Devo songs. Barf!

Here is some of Casale's latest video "subversion"...

Who and what is Devo trying to subvert? Nothing beats straightforward explanations even if it is dry and boring to the youth.
On the 1984 "Shout" album the group had "Chinese-American Friendship Pins". Nice idea, until you realize that Mothersbaugh Collects all things Mao, as well as having adopted two kids from China as well as his wife Anita Greenspan speaking Chinese. People can learn any language they want, it is just interesting that the aesthetic of Devo's jumpsuits resembles the blue uniforms of the Chinese workers.
Mark also put out a book called "My Struggle" and also collects Hitler memorabilia. Swell.
Skip ahead to the 2:30 mark. Is that "Hey" or "Hiel"?

So the question is, did all that time in the SDS lead to some "special" overseas influence?
Check out this recent (and brainless) band that claims to be influenced by Devo and even has Gerald V. Casale contributing some material. It's all about how China "is the future" and is superficially about ufo's and "conspiracies", but it is doubtful these fools have done any independent thinking of their own.

The name of the release is called "Submit to the Chip" and I bet it's supposed to be subversive, but subversive for which group of people? Casale recently has made some statements against the new world order, but so has Roseanne.

The first thought that comes to mind is that Casale and Co. (Disney?) put this group together as a way to link Chinese "coolness" and turn conspiracies into a fad associated with absolute morons such as these.

Here is a mock ufo TiVo/Devo documentary which makes makes me wonder to what extent these guys are involved in culture creation and manipulation. On the face of it this is a funny spoof, but is it like all the rest of the media, creating more confusion, distraction and mindless filler?

Whatever the true reality of the Devo machine, they certainly have strange bedfellows and associations or is that just the nature of the business?

Let's leave with this look at Alestair Crowley, just to keep "the business" in perspective...

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