Devo talks Bowie, Miles Davis, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters and more on Apple Music Hits

Article Contributed by Apple | Published on Friday, October 22, 2021

On stories about David Bowie

Gerry:  "Yeah, more than one more than one. He's an amazing human he was ... and is in my mind, he's alive. A guy like Bowie, because of the body of work he left and the legacy he left,... he's alive. One of the standout moments, when we hung out, Mark and I hung out with him in New York to plan the first record that ended up not happening with him for other reasons... It happened with Brian Eno...And that was his idea as well. We went to see this modern dance group and we were out in the limo. I recognized the limo from "the man who fell to earth", the film I'd seen and loved. And he's just casually mentioned something at some point when we were sitting there in the sushi bar down by the Gramercy park hotel.."So Miles might stop by"... It's like "Miles?" And in comes Miles Davis... And David introduces us and Miles wants to know why David's interested in, in Devo. And I started giving Miles the Devo wrap, and you just can see he wasn't having it...shaking his head and David... It just made David laugh and they're having a big laugh about it. And it was, it was wonderful.”

On working with Soundgarden on the video for "Blow Up The Outside World"

Gerry: "Well, I heard it and it was an incredibly depressing five minute and 22 second dirge. And soon enough, even before I wrote the treatment, I found out that they were breaking up and that this would be the last thing they ever did together before I even wrote the treatment. That was incredibly depressing too. Cause I really liked Chris and I really didn't want to hear that they were breaking up. So I wrote that treatment, knowing that they knew more than me and sure enough, they picked it and it was so amazing because there they were on set and they each had their own dressing room and they each had their own kind of representatives. And so I was told by the manager do not have the A.D. come and get them out of their dressing rooms unless you're absolutely ready to yell “action." I don't want them having to stand out there with each other, waiting and waiting.

It's going to make them very uncomfortable. I'm thinking, "Jesus, God!" So it was a hardcore atmosphere on the set yet individually when I go to each of their dressing rooms to talk about what we're going to do in the next scene, they're so incredibly smart and polite and communicative each on their own. And, and Chris, there was something very, very brooding dark there and he was the deepest of them all. And I didn't know what the hell was going on, but you could just feel it. I mean, it poured into you right from his eyes and no wonder, they picked my treatment. It was the right treatment for their last song that they would ever do - the last video they would ever do. And it kind of captures exactly what Chris must have been thinking of when he wrote those lyrics."

On the video for Foo Fighters "I'll Stick Around"

Jenn: Is it true that you did this video for just $60,000?

Gerry: "Yes... And I did it in a very short day because they were four hours late to show up to the soundstage. Eight Hours. I worked with an outfit called "run and gun" out of Chicago that were a bunch of kids at the time that were experimenting with, uh, early CG editing in laptops... At a time when everybody was just using very expensive editing facilities. And they created that thing that looks like a germy ball floating around chasing Dave and everybody, it looks like ....You know what it is, you know what it was, it was the AIDS virus. I got it from a medical book. That's what the AIDS virus looked like. But, but what nobody knows is that what that viral ball represented, that menacing ball ...that represented Courtney Love. Yep. I'm here to tell you for the first time... I'll tell you why I did that. When I heard the song, I immediately assumed that what Dave is talking about when he said, "I don't owe you anything" and knowing the problems they were going through with Courtney, I made the assumption -It was about Courtney. And I have the naive temerity, being the kind of guy I am that you know, is kind of, what's the word untethered on some level. Um, I asked him, I said, "Hey, Dave is, you can tell me, is this about Courtney?" And he goes, "my lips are sealed". So I just rolled with it."

On “Freedom of Choice” being lost in translation

Mark: "New Traditionalists was the album we recorded right after Freedom of Choice... And Freedom of Choice.. We finished recording it and we immediately went to Japan to tour. And while we were there, I had a friend in a band called tThe Plastics, Hajime Tachibana this great artist. And he, he was a visual artist for, um, Ryuichi Sakamoto, uh, also for his solo projects, but he was, but he also did solo albums and I wrote songs for Hajime and uh, I produced albums for him. And, um, we got over there and I'd been outside already been to Japan a few times and he says, "Hey mark, guess what?" And I go, "what?" And he goes "your album in Japan. The title is Psychology of Desire" because there's no trans direct translation of the title. So.. We're there in Japan. And we're on one of the shows. We go to a sushi bar late at night, the band, and there was a couple of businessmen sitting at the end of the table. And one of them comes over and goes, "my symbol big". And his partner looks over and goes, "no, his symbol small." And they're laughing. We we're just going, "what, what does that mean?" And then we're looking at his tie and he has this tie that has a hand holding a pen, like a fountain pen. And it's got a sleeve. And the sleeve of that with the hand is the tie bar, a gold tie bar. And on it, it says "New Traditionalist." And we're like looking at that and we're going "New traditionalist! That's a really good phrase." That's kind of like, you're starting new traditions. You know, if you're a new traditionalist and that's what we want to be, we want to be new traditionalist.

We liked that phrase. And so we remembered it when we went back to the U S and wrote the next album. So we come back out on tour in Japan again, the next year. And my friend Hajime comes over to the hotel, he's got a moped and he's going to drive me around Tokyo. And I go, "did you see that? We wrote a song called 'the psychology of desire'." And then he goes," oh yeah", I go "how did you, did you translate that in Japanese to Freedom of Choice?" And he goes, "ha ha... You know, and he's like, kind of weird... and I go "you know what? We got the title for ...the New Traditionals was an inspiration from these two business guys We met at a sushi bar. And he goes "title of new Devo record, not so good." and I go, "what do you mean?" He goes, "well, New Traditionalists... It translates in Japanese to 'yuppie'." I go, "what?" And he goes, "new Devo album in Japan is titled 'yuppie'." I could not believe that that was... That was like the most awesome, weird thing I heard connected to a New Traditionalists."