June 17, 1996 12:00 PM

Are these guys off their rockers? No, like many of the pop favorites on these pages, they’ve simply expanded their careers

Most people remember them for what they wore onstage: red plastic flowerpots as headgear—and bright-yellow nuclear decontamination suits. These days, four of the original members of the techno-pop group Devo (the name stood for “de-evolution”) don’t just wear suits—they are suits, “We’re now in life after rock and roll,” says Mark Mothersbaugh, 46, Devo’s cofounder and lead singer, who launched the L.A. music company Mutato Muzika (from “mutant” and “potato,” a reference to Devo fans, who were known as spuds), which composes scores for films, TV shows and commercials. “It’s a whole different monster.”

Or a brave new world. Compared to avant-garde Devo hits such as “Satisfaction” and “Whip It,” Mutato’s current projects seem defiantly mainstream. Mark cowrote the theme music for Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and, with his brother Bob, Devo’s lead guitarist, recently restored the soundtracks for more than 250 original Popeye cartoons. “Hike doing this,” says Bob, 43, a divorced father of two. “Partly because I never grew up.” In the decade after 1978’s debut album—Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!—the band released nine more LPs. But by 1990, “We ran into problems, both businesswise and tactical,” says Devo guitarist and keyboard player Bob Casale, a 43-year-old father of two and Mutato’s producer/engineer. “Our expenses went way up, but nobody had money to go to shows at that time.” Now that they’re considering playing a few dates on tins summer’s Lollapalooza tour, Devo has gotten some long overdue respect. “We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of rock and roll,” says Devo cofounder and bass player Gerald Casale, 47, who directs music videos and creates computer games. “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is in Cleveland, finally called to ask for a yellow suit of ours—and we’re from Akron.” Now they just have to find someone to remake their signature duds. “It’ll be a slimming tour if we do it,” says Gerald. “I used to lose three or four pounds a night when we played in those.”

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