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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  • 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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