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.
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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in February 2015.
The Philosophy & Music of Devo, the Avant-Garde Art Project Dedicated to Revealing the Truth About De-Evolution
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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