Devo’s Casale reflects on May 4, 1970, and now

Andrew Hampp

Mark Mothersbaugh from Ohio-based ’80s rock group DEVO performs at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., last August. GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

When Akron native Gerald V. Casale was asked to reflect on his days at Kent State, the university where his highly influential band Devo was formed, the first adjective to come out of his mouth was “bittersweet.”

“I was a student there during really the finest time of the university,” he said. “It was a powerful academic institution, but also one of great political consciousness. It had one of the most active SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) chapters in the Midwest.”

Casale worked during his freshman year for the Honors College, helping to select students for the new curriculum. He said it was a shock to watch two people – Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause – whom he had met and befriended through that process be shot within less than 25 yards from him.

“The week after that happened, I was in hiding from martial law,” he recalled. “The Record-Courier would print lies. Helicopters, vigilantes were driving around town. There were deputized hillbillies, rednecks with rifles hanging off their back, looking for students with long hair to kill.”

Seeing Kent State’s campus today after its state during the events of 1970 has been rather painful for Casale.

“It’s all cleaned up. The university bears no resemblance to the university I went to,” he said. “They got rid of all signs of what happened during 1970. It’s so perfect. It was another cleansing of reality.”

Today, Casale lives in Santa Monica, Calif. He said once he escaped Ohio, he just kept running until he got to water.

“I couldn’t go any farther because the ocean’s two blocks away,” he said with a laugh.

He still visits Northeast Ohio on occasion, particularly because his parents, brother and sister still live in the area.

Although the original Devo lineup is in what he calls a “cocoon state,” Casale has kept busy musically by starting up a side project called Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers. The band has an album, Mine Is Not A Holy War, due out in late June on Cordless Recordings, an indie label distributed by the Warner Music Group. For more information on the project, visit

Contact Campus editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].