Alan Myers: Drummer with art-rockers DEVO

 

The drummer Alan Myers was described by DEVO’s “chief strategist” and his bandmate Jerry Casale as “a human metronome, the catalyst where everything clicked.”

They were a post-modern, satirical group dedicated to exploring “de-evolution”, the notion that American society was regressing, a concept that Casale and his friend Bob Lewis embraced while studying at Kent State University in Ohio in the late 1960s, and went on to score unlikely but influential hits on both sides of the Atlantic, most famously in 1980 with the synth-pop classic “Whip It”.

Born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Myers took up drumming in his teens. His unusual style, relying as much on what he left out as the fills he played, owed a debt to John “Drumbo” French of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. He joined DEVO in 1976. “We were mostly in garages writing songs. Alan brought everything to life,” said Casale, the band’s bassist, who had by then drafted his brother, Bob II, on guitar to play alongside the vocalist and co-writer Mark Mothersbaugh, and his brother, Bob I, on lead guitar. Myers replaced another Mothersbaugh brother, Jim, in what became the definitive, yellow boiler-suit clad line-up of DEVO that graced the covers of the New Musical Express and Melody Maker in 1978.

By then, the British music press had fallen for the discordant sounds emanating from Akron, Ohio, “Rubber Capital of the World” and DEVO’s hometown. The Stiff label licensed the group’s “Mongoloid”/“Jocko Homo” single and their jerky, disconstructed, version of  “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” which made the most of Myers’ motorik beat and rejuvenated the Rolling Stones’ critique of consumerism. Including rerecorded versions of all the aforementioned, produced by Brian Eno, and issued by Virgin in Europe and Warner Brothers in the rest of the world, the band’s 1978 debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are DEVO! is now acknowledged as a landmark release.

The quirky group also tapped into the mainstream with their adaptations of ‘’Secret Agent Man’’ and Allen Toussaint’s ‘’Working In A Coalmine’’ as well as the albums Duty Now For The Future (1979), Freedom Of Choice (1980) and New Traditionalists (1981), when they replaced their trademark energy domes – red flowerpot hats, in fact – with plastic wigs approximating the hairstyle of the late John F Kennedy. Myers also played on the less successful albums Oh, No! It’s DEVO (1982) and Shout (1984) which relied more on drum machines, a fact that led to his departure the following year. “I begged him not to quit DEVO. He could not tolerate being replaced by the Fairlight and autocratic machine music. Losing him was like losing an arm,” said Casale, who also recalled the drummer’s interest in Tai Chi. “Some bands would be doing drugs and drinking. Alan would find quiet places backstage and do a full session of Tai Chi.”

DEVO broke up in 1991 but reunited four years later with session drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese, a disciple of Myers, in his stead. In 2010, they issued their first studio album in 20 years. While his former bandmates went on to soundtrack the children’s TV series Rugrats and direct videos and commercials, Myers worked as an electrician and occasionally gigged with his wife or daughter. He died of brain cancer.

Alan Myers, drummer: born Lebanon, Pennsylvania 1954 or 1955; married (one daughter); died Los Angeles 24 June 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test