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Interview with Tony Pemberton: Are We Not Men: The DEVO Documentary

Submitted by Catherine Weiler on July 10, 2012 – 10:30 amNo Comment

Among the recently started campaigns on Kickstarter, we found Tony Pemberton. Tony began the campaign for his documentary, Are We Not Men: The DEVO Documentary, on July 3rd with the hopes of raising $25,000 to cover post-production costs for the film. He already raised over $35,000 with 28 days to go until the campaign ends. We had the opportunity to speak with Tony about the documentary and his influences.

Q: Where did the inspiration for this documentary come from? What was it about this project that called to you?

Tony: I grew up in Toledo, Ohio and was always looking afar for cultural influences, my thought was similar to Devo’s that Life was Elsewhere to be had, but when I saw their debut performance on SNL, and heard them sing “What’s round on the ends and high in the middle, Ohio” my jaw dropped and I felt it was the first time I could say that the strange culture of subversion that my friends (albeit very few) and I found interesting was right there on stage in front of America.   This galvanized me as a youth to be more confrontational, and push back at the rather conservative background of Toledo. Devo was always a symbol for me.

As a professor, I was lucky that Viktor Sveda, an assistant Wrestling coach at Montclair State University where I was teaching asked me to help produce a DVD of Devo archives that were owned by the old supporters of Mark Mothersbaugh.    At that point, I started asking why no one had made a documentary about DEVO in general, and then went out to meet Mark and the band and somehow that’s where we began.    I got very lucky, as I think many other people had come to them about this.

Q: Who do you expect your audience will be? Who are you trying to reach out to with this documentary?

Tony: I expect the audience will reach further than the fan base of the group.   Devo the band might be known to some people as a one hit wonder via Whip It, but their story is one that crosses over key political points of America’s past, with so much irony and craziness.    This is, as Iggy Pop says, the most original voice and image of the New Wave era.   The audiences will probably be like their crowds, some in their 40’s and 50’s, and the rest of the people are in their teens and twenties who have rediscovered Devo via youtube etc…

Q: What is the draw for your audience? What makes your documentary unique?

Tony: Our documentary is unique as it has access to very specific archive material, and we’ve followed the band for about four years.

Q: Did you draw influences for this documentary from other films? Which ones? Are there any specific directors you draw inspiration from?

Tony: My influences for this film would be Devo’s original film “The Truth about Devolution” Erroll Morris’s Fast Cheap and Out of Control, mixed with other Verite type films such as DIGG! By Ondi Timoner. Wow – now I set the bar really high.  But those are my favorites.

Q: What specific locations or people are featured in your documentary? What is their significance to the project?

Tony: Featuring new interviews with contemporaries (Iggy Pop), Toni Basil, the talking heads, and followers (Dave GrohlTony Hawk), the official documentary reveals the truth about this important and misunderstood band with rare archival film, private home-movies, and recent concert footage.

This film is significant in the subversive statement that the band and the film will ultimately stand for in the end.   In the words of Gerald Casale (DEVO)   “Devolution is now more real than ever”.

If you are interested in donating to Tony’s campaign on Kickstarter, you can visit its official site here: http://kck.st/MUkIKW

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