The Mastermind of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh, Shows Off His Synthesizer Collection

Mark Moth­ers­baugh’s stu­dio is locat­ed in a cylin­dri­cal struc­ture paint­ed bright green — it looks more like a fes­tive auto part than an office build­ing. It’s a fit­ting place for the icon­o­clast musi­cian. For those of you who didn’t spend your child­hoods obses­sive­ly watch­ing the ear­ly years of MTV, Mark Moth­ers­baugh was the mas­ter­mind behind the band Devo. They skew­ered Amer­i­can con­for­mi­ty by dress­ing alike in shiny uni­forms and their music was nervy, twitchy and weird. They taught a nation that if you must whip it, you should whip it good.

In the years since, Moth­ers­baugh has segued into a suc­cess­ful career as a Hol­ly­wood com­pos­er, spin­ning scores for 21 Jump Street and The Roy­al Tenen­baums among oth­ers.

In the video above, you can see Moth­ers­baugh hang out in his stu­dio filled with syn­the­siz­ers of var­i­ous makes and vin­tages, includ­ing Bob Moog’s own per­son­al Mem­o­ry­moog. Watch­ing Moth­ers­baugh pull out and play with each one is a bit like watch­ing a pre­co­cious child talk about his toys. He just has an infec­tious ener­gy that is a lot of fun to watch.

Prob­a­bly the best part in the video is when he shows off a device that can play sounds back­ward. It turns out that if you say, “We smell sausage” back­wards it sounds an awful lot like “Jesus loves you.” Who knew?

Below you can see Moth­ers­baugh in action with Devo, per­form­ing live in Japan dur­ing the band’s hey­day in 1979.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Thomas Dol­by Explains How a Syn­the­siz­er Works on a Jim Hen­son Kids Show (1989)

Watch Her­bie Han­cock Rock Out on an Ear­ly Syn­the­siz­er on Sesame Street (1983)

All Hail the Beat: How the 1980 Roland TR-808 Drum Machine Changed Pop Music

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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Comments (8)
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  • JS says:

    Mark isn’t the only “mas­ter­mind” behind Devo — he’s half of the main cre­ative force between Jer­ry Casale and Mark Moth­ers­baugh, (and going fur­ther back into Devo his­to­ry, it was actu­al­ly Jer­ry and Bob Lewis who start­ed the con­cept before Devo was real­ly a work­ing live band).

    Jer­ry deserves at least as much cred­it for what made them Devo.

  • Kris Pistofferson says:

    Jer­ry’s Mom

  • william says:

    “mas­ter­mind”? haha­ha

    he wish­es. devo was­nt ever his idea no mat­ter how much he tries to steal it.

  • Fabian says:

    That “jesus loves you” device is a Crit­ter and Gui­tari sam­pler called the “Kalei­doloop”

  • bob lewis says:

    Any­one who thinks MArk is the “mas­ter­mind of Devo” has nev­er heard Flossy Bob­bit.….

  • BW says:

    Mark is the only one who is doing any­thing musi­cal­ly sub­stan­tial after Devo. The guy is reach­ing mil­lions of ears right now and is going to go down as one of the best film scor­ers of his gen­er­a­tion. Does he deserve all the cred­it for Devo? No. Nev­er­the­less, the guy is a genius.

  • Kilgore says:

    Sure, just leave out that he wrote the music for Rugrats…

  • Jane says:

    That was his broth­er Bob

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