DEVO MEET WILLIAM BURROUGHS: ‘DAVID BOWIE WOULD NEVER MAKE AN AUDIENCE SHIT THEIR PANTS. WE WOULD.’
According to Isler’s intro, Burroughs was on hand to promote Cities of the Red Night, his first novel in a decade, while DEVO was between albums. Their most recent effort was New Traditionalists, released several months earlier. Oh, No! It’s Devo wouldn’t hit the shelves until the end of 1982.
By the way, “DEVO” is here defined as the two main spokesmen for the group, Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, who are both identified as fans of Burroughs in the intro to the piece. Unexpectedly, almost as soon as the interview is underway, Casale goes into a lengthy explication of DEVO’s goals and methods. Casale cites Burroughs’s 1974 conversation with David Bowie in Rolling Stone about “sonic warfare” and then the Casale and Burroughs speculate as to how much abuse it’s proper for an artist to put his or her audience through. Death is too far, surely, but “making them shit their pants”?
Really, contra Robbins, the entire interview is worth a read. Casale/Mothersbaugh on one side and Burroughs on the other both have passionate, precise takes on the malaise haunting the capitalist West, but they disagree on some things and have no compunction in pointing that out. For instance, Burroughs blandly asserts that a great deal of positive change has occurred in recent decades, a view that Casale finds to be nonsense.
Here’s the Trouser Press presentation of the interview, followed by the NME version: