Devo guitarist Bob Casale, 61, died suddenly of heart failure last night. Known as Bob 2–because the band included Bob Mothersbaugh, the brother of Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh–Casale was also an audio engineer and was instrumental in creating the sound of projects ranging from commercials and video games to “Rugrats” and Wes Anderson’s films as part of Mutato Muzika, founded by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Casale’s brother Gerald posted to Devo’s Facebook page:
As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got. He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again. His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.
Devo was one the first “New Wave” bands–a more electronic sound and artier lyrics separated New Wave from punk, though often the terms were interchangeable to the media–and had a defined philosophical stance. Gerald Casale told CNN that the band’s name was derived from the word “de-evolution,” the idea that humans are regressing into a destructive herd mentality. The band was founded in 1970 at Kent State University just days after the Kent State shootings, when Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, both art students, wrote their first song as a reaction to the violence. They started performing at university arts festivals. In 1976 they released their first single, “Mongoloid,” backed by “Jocko Homo” on the B side. The follow-up was a cover of the Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
Wow, the first time I heard them! They were so funny and smart and irreverent (and to my parents less scary than punk rock, but equally as annoying!). Even cooler than being annoying to my parents, David Bowie and Iggy Pop were into them!
The band broke up in 1990, though Bob Casale and Bob Mothersbaugh continued to work with Mark Mothersbaugh who had opened Mutato Muzika, and the band reunited to record a song for the film Tank Girl and tour sporadically. I was lucky enough to see them on the 2008 tour–what an experience–people wearing their Devo hats and jumpsuits singing along and pogoing. It was rad!
It is stunning when someone you grew up listening to, whose music was an ongoing part of your life dies, and suddenly, unexpectedly. It is a great a loss to Devo fans, to music, and a even greater loss to Bob Casale’s friends and family.