Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia

To give a proper introduction to Mark’s work and to lead the conversation today, we have found just the right man to unpack the complexities before us, Adam Lerner. Not only curated the major retrospective, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, which is currently touring the country, but he authored the book by the same name, which incidentally, you can get a copy of. It is in the lobby. Nicholas Books is there with copies of Myopia and other things. Both Mark and Adam have signed copies of those books today so they are out there for you. In his day job, Adam Lerner is the Director and Chief Animator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. He has curated dozens of exhibitions and projects with contemporary artists such as Barnaby Furnas, Liam Gillick and Christian Marclay. He’s also showcased the non traditional talents of astrobiologists, shamans, and pigeoneers. In a 2011 article in The New York Times have stated that Lerner’s work to engage audiences is reshaping the model for the contemporary art museum, thus the title, Chief Animator. Adam is going to begin by giving you the background story, the story behind the man before he asks Mark to join him. So please join me in welcoming Adam Lerner. Wow. Hello. Wow. Thank you, Cristina. That was amazing. And what a wonderful opportunity this is. It’s really exciting to be here and talk about Mark Mothersbaugh. And I hope that if you enjoy the talk, then you could sort of after seeing the movie, read the book. Here we have books, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, that we worked on that coincided with the exhibition that I curated. So many people here probably know Mark from this. From Devo, right? The band with the funny red hats. You know, “Whip It”, their version of “Satisfaction”. Of course, anyone who is about my age definitely knows them. They were a number one hit band and Mark was the frontman of that band and the co founder. Maybe, sort of more advanced students of Mark Mothersbaugh, they might know something like, oh, that he also did the scores for many Wes Anderson films like Life Aquatic and others. Maybe even more advanced, I guess sort of the graduate students of Mark Mothersbaugh, might know that he scored Pee wee’s Playhouse and the Pee wee series, Rugrats, exactly, all of this. And maybe even the sorta like professors of Mark Mothersbaugh might even know that he did visual art. But what I’m here to do before is to sort of set the stage so that everybody is on the same level as to what Mark’s career was about, and then I’ll invite Mark out and then we’ll talk and then he will give color to it all, I’m sure. You know Mark as a composer musician but he started off as an artist. He enrolled at Kent State University in 1968. And there you see him from when he was a student looking like a hippie, as you should in 1968. And he was at the time very inspired by artists like Andy Warhol and he would make things like these decals that he would put up around campus. And, this was actually before there was such a thing as street art and there really wasn’t graffiti. And so this was actually pretty radical a way of doing things. And he caught the attention of other students who were artists on campus and well, then things started to take off from there. So, if some of you know your history and can do your math, then you know that if Mark was at Kent State University, enrolled in 1968, then he was there May 4th, 1970, when the National Guard opened fire on student protesters to the Vietnam War, killing four of them. And this was a traumatic moment, not just for the students on the campus, and for people like Mark who were protesters there and people who saw their friends die next to them, but it was a traumatic moment for the entire country. And Mark and his group of artist friends did what people did in the 60’s when they had an idea or had a thought that they liked, they formed a collective. And they formed this collective around the idea that the world, as they saw it, was not evolving. It was devolving. And that’s why they formed the band Devo. Oh, I love it. And I love it. God bless you. People are just finding that out. Because that’s the thing, we all know of Devo as the band of with the funny red hats. But many people don’t know the deep philosophical, historical origins that went throughout the band. And in fact, they really didn’t see themselves as a band. They saw themselves more as this art collective around the idea of devolution that made films, music, visual arts, had performances, dressed in costumes, and the whole package was Devo. So here’s Mark and his fellow co founder of the band Gerry Casale in Gerry Casale’s apartment. Soon after the shootings and the school was closed down, and they’re both playing music, and they’re both wearing masks. Mask play was a kind of thing that they did, and interestingly Mark found one mask that he called Booji Boy and, when he wore this mask, he was a sort of a man child grotesquery that he so identified with, it became a kind of life long alter ego. And after wearing this mask, he didn’t go back to any other masks and that became the mask for him. But the idea of the mask is very important, maybe not just because of this, but there’s something about the influence of this idea of the grotesque, the monstrous, on his whole aesthetic sensibility. So if you see the kind of art that he started to make after May 4th, 1970, you can see some of these influences, like these postcard sized collages and prints that he would make, where you can see this sorta Dadaesque, surreal combination of the figure with the gas mask and this cosmic environment. You see the oxygen mask and this character and this moonscape, or this other medical image. So these were important parts of what defined his sensibility at the time, but what’s crucial is that he was seeing himself in the early 1970’s as as much a visual artist as anything else. And as I try to understand who this character, Mark Mothersbaugh was when I was curating the exhibition, I had to go through about four storage spaces filled with materials. I should just tell you a side fact, is that as a curator, you are really happy when you work on an artist like Mark Mothersbaugh, and you’re like, “Oh my god, this is amazing, nobody’s ever worked on him before in any serious way, like this is great, I could be the hero”. And then after two years of going through hundreds of boxes and materials that haven’t been opened in 40 years, I’m like, “I really wish another curator had done some work on Mark Mothersbaugh.” Anyway, so when I was trying to figure out really what was the thread that runs through all of his works, I saw this aspect of grotesquery, this aspect of the monstrous, the mutation, the mutant, that he was interested in. And this character that was very much defined by these masks. But I saw this whole other side that I couldn’t quite make sense of. And so I looked through his journals and I would see pages like this where he’s obsessed with grids, or these highly structured mathematical layouts, matrices. Here this fake accounting system that he has in these various colors, or this here. And by the way, when you see pages in a journal like this, that’s when you understand this. So Devo as a band was the expression of this artistic idea, this obsession with mimicking the ordered, methodical nature of our capitalist, consumerist society. These characters look like they were produced on an assembly line. But Devo was not just the aspect of order, Devo was also Booji Boy. And so many of you who know Devo as the band with the funny red hats, would not know necessarily that Booji Boy, Mark’s alter ego, was in fact an icon of Devo, just as much as the sort of ordered uniformity was an icon or symbol of the band. And in fact was often part of their press, especially in the early days. So, here you see Mark, as Booji Boy in the video, it’s actually the film that won at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De Evolution. And that film, which was then circulated throughout the country as the Ann Arbor Film Festival winners, were packaged and then sent on the road. And that became then the launchpad for the band’s success. And ultimately lead to them signing in 1978, their record deal. But I want everyone to understand that Devo was both the sort of uniformity that you would see in an image like this and these figures on the right, with their highly robotic movements, and their overly mechanical stance and choreography, and then it was also this character who is free from that, this character who was a little bit of a monstrous character, but also a little bit of a mutant and a little bit free. And so the philosophy of de evolution was very, very, central to what they’re thinking about, because evolution as a principal, of course has its structure, has it’s order, things continue according to their own internal logic in the same pathways until you get to a mutation. A mutation then creates the possibility for there to be change. So it’s the mutants, it’s the monster, it’s the freak, who actually creates change in the world. The freak who creates the possibility of newness. And I think that… Yes, that’s it, give it up. And that is the underlying tension. So, I realize that there’s not one thing that underlies all of Mark’s art, it’s two things. It’s this utter tension always between mimicking the orderly uniformity of our society and breaking free of it. So you see that in all of his arts and so, from the 1970s on, he made art very often at a very very small scale, these are postcard sized works, using these absurdist and grotesque characters very often as the central elements. Now he makes between one and 50 of these a day. And he has amassed right now over 30,000 of them. And they became the basis of all of his art. So, from these, he then makes prints, he makes sculptures, he makes rugs and videos and even musical instruments. And that’s the basis of the exhibition and the book that I curated and worked on with Mark. “Myopia” is this body of artistic material, that travelled to six museums and then its last venue is gonna come up in the spring in New York at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU and I hope you have a chance to see it then. But here would be an example of one of the prints that he would make based upon an earlier postcard like drawing. But he would also do all sorts of other works that carried the same tension between the mutation and the orderly. Like these series of photographs that he began in the 1990s that he called Beautiful Mutants, that have this sense of order, this sort of repetition of the same but also this creation of a mutant. And they’re funny but they’re also a little disturbing. And then he takes them in all different directions, even into sculpture. Like you see two Scion car or these two rumped my little ponies. And he even creates mutant instruments like these, what he calls, orchestrions, these music making machines that he makes out of recycled organ parts. Let’s here it for the organ. Alright. And the sounds are atypical for any instrument. So it’s basically using that philosophy of it’s your mutation that makes, that creates newness so it’s because you have these found objects that he composes for, he can’t work within a normal scale that you would within, say, a piano. And so therefore he’s forced to make, create new kinds of sounds. And that’s the way in which your disabilities also are the source of your specialness. And so this is, for example, what it would sound like. I think I just took that recording from my phone, by the way, that’s why it sounds so awful, it was just in a gallery. But, anyway, what he uses, he uses both the organ pipes and also he created one music making machine out of these bird calls, about 100 bird calls that he’s been collecting over the years. And all of this idea, of the mutants and his interest in how it is your disabilities create your sense of creativity. Actually I feel like it all came together for me when I found this one work of art that he made in 1975, looking through 30,000 of them and there’s one that just, it all came home. I’m not sure if you’re gonna feel this but I’ll see. And it was this one here, it was just these legs, these kind of 19th century medical illustration like legs with these braces. So it’s clearly somebody who’s disabled, who’s at a disadvantage in some ways in the world. And it’s the thing that corrects your disadvantage that in some ways is the source of your specialness. We know that because, you probably can’t see it, but on top of those legs, it says self portrait, 1975. So there’s this other side of this, though, which is that Mark doesn’t just find the sense of creativity in the mutation but also he finds the creativity in that thing that we saw back which made him be attracted to the Booji Boy mask. And that was his obsession with childhood, that it’s the child that’s able to also escape from the strictures of our modern society. And so you have this sense of childlike play and freedom in Booji Boy but also in so much of his art throughout his life. Like these roly polies that have a sweetness to them that’s really undeniable. And he makes, of course, these prints, original prints and paintings out of those figures. And then you see his sense of, I don’t know, audacity, combined with his sense of play. And his interest in spectacle even, in a work like this, which is the world’s largest ruby that Mark carved into something like a soft serve ice cream cone. And also maybe it looks a little bit like a pile of poop. And also a little bit like a Devo hat, an energy dome. And that’s exactly the kind of surreal pop slightly comical sensibility that he brings to all of his works. And this was work from 2014. And all of the postcards were on display, these is an example of the 30,000 of them. Now I’m going to have Mark come in and tell his story directly. Thank you. Mark. Mark, do you want to come out here? Thanks. There’s no avoiding it. A clean stage is a mean stage. Great. Well, the audience is a very unenthusiastic audience. So you’re gonna have to think of some really great things to get them excited. I can’t see ’em. They’re there. Are you there? I think they’re there. I had this thought a couple minutes ago while I was listening to… I was thinking. This could be a good conceptual piece where, like after you finish, about six or more people each take a turn at it, until we’ve finally finished the whole thing with, and I never have to… Would you like to do that tonight? Like you know the Chief of Police could come out and talk about my driving record, how it’s okay. Could be worse, not so bad. Super. Well, I’m sorry that I’m here instead of the Chief of Police. But why don’t we give color to the story that I told. If you can, by starting off in the early days. Describe for us the scene for you, around the time that Devo was founded. What were your interests? What was going on for you? Okay, He’s referring to the 70’s. The very beginning of the 70’s. I started at Kent State in 1968 and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing there, but I knew I loved art and wanted to study art. And I had hated school for kindergarten through 12th grade ’cause somehow I was the guy with a “kick me” sign on his back. ‘Cause I had thick glasses and I was the shortest, skinniest guy in the school with a big light bulb shaped head. It went on year after year. So I just thought school was the worst idea ever. And then I accidentally ended up at Kent. And it was a totally different thing for me, it was like I went from… And it was a great time to be at Kent. It was a very exciting atmosphere there. I went from having nightmares about going to school the next day to finding out that kids at like 3:00 or 3:30 they’d be looking at their watches and the bell would ring and they’d dart out the door, and head off to their activities for the evening. That meant I had the whole art department to myself. In the first year I was there I found out about printmaking. It became a passion for me. I really liked school. I was there… And I remember in 1970, in the early spring, there was… SDS did some thing where they said, “Hey come watch us Napalm a dog on campus.” And I was like, “I’d like to… What is that? How can you do that?” On TV we watched the Vietnam war everyday. And so I saw that we were dropping Napalm on Vietnam. So I went to this demonstration of what Napalm looked like. There was this poor little dog shivering on a table. These guys were talking about… They said, “Let us explain to you how it works.” And they told you that when Napalm touches the skin, it’s amazing property is it just keeps burning. It goes right through you. It just can like burn a path in your body. They said, “We’re gonna show you what it looks like by putting some on this dog.” And they go, “Is anybody here gonna stop us?” Of course everybody said, “Yeah.” And then they said, “We don’t really have Napalm, it’s against the law.” They were talking about how many people that had Napalm just dropped on them, that were just villagers. And I went home and thought, “I can’t think of a single Vietnamese person I wanted to kill.” And I thought, “I would be bad at that. I wouldn’t be the right person ’cause I couldn’t put my heart into it.” So I was happy to be at school. And when kids there organized to protest the war in Vietnam, I joined in. And they shot students and killed ’em, some of them, a bunch of ’em were just wounded. They closed our school down. There’s this guy I’d met about six months earlier, Gerry Casale, and he’d come up to me one day. He was a grad student and I was a sophomore, I think at time, he had said, “Are you the guy putting up pictures of astronauts holding potatoes all around campus?” I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “What’s a potato mean to you?” And we started talking and he had this whole idea that like, “You know, I feel like I’m a potato in the vegetable kingdom. I’m not a glamorous like Richard Gere,” or whoever he used as an example at the time ’cause it was 1978, so it was probably pre Richard Gere. But he says, “We’re not asparagus people or eggplants people. We’re like proletariats. We’re from Akron… We’re from Kent, Ohio.” He was from Kent, I was from Akron. And he says, “We’re from Ohio, and potatoes are like dirty and asymmetric, but they have eyes all around and they can see everything. And I was like… I was like, “Alright, I like this guy.” So we started doing artwork together. We were making posters for different events that were going on at Kent and I was helping him with his grad student project. I printed little decals of little green potato men for him, so that he could put them on these blow ups of kids that were in his high school graduation class. And he was kinda like this smarty guy. Anyhow, so they shut the school down after the shootings and he would come over to my house and we would make music ’cause we couldn’t go to Kent till… It was May, May 4th and then they shut the school down until September, middle of September when the new fall season was there. So he would come over and we’d talk about what was going on in the world and we would make music and we’d talk about art and we decided that what we were observing wasn’t evolution but rather de evolution. And we decided… One of the things we had in common was that we both loved all the art movements in Europe between World War I and World War II. So we were fascinated with the Dadaists and the Bauhaus Movement and Futurists and suprematists in Russia that preached, “Man over nature.” And we found all that stuff very fascinating and we thought, “Well, okay, let’s be an agitprop group.” That’s what we kinda wanted to be. And we were also influenced by the artists that were current at that time, the Rauschenbergs, but especially like Andy Warhol, ’cause he was a painter, and he was a printmaker, and he was a photographer, and he made movies, and he produced the Velvet Underground, and threw great parties, and we thought, “Yeah.” We liked the idea of not being about a specific technique, your art, that your art could be an idea and you could use whatever medium was out there that best expressed your idea. What was that? It was like some sort of an exotic bird or a… Let’s hear it for conceptual art. And then it clapped at the end. Okay. They’re lovin’ it. Let’s go on. We could have a couple more people come out and do different testimonials. Yeah. Is the Chief of Police here? So when were starting Devo, things were happening that had never happened before. Everybody had always had vinyl discs. But I remember Chuck Statler, who went to school with us at Kent, came over one day and he had a copy of Popular Science Magazine. And on the cover was these young Americans, smiling, and, “Wahoo.” And one of them was, either the guy or the woman was holding up this silver, reflective, what looked a 12 inch LP. And on Popular Science Magazine it said, “Laserdiscs. Everyone will have them by Christmas time.” And so we read about it and they’re like, “Not only do you get an album of music, but you get visual art.” And we thought, “This was invented for us. Laserdiscs were invented… We’re the perfect band, sound and vision, that’s what we do.” It’s like artists are gonna take over pop culture, rock and roll is gonna die. It was 1974, something like that, and we were ready to celebrate the death of rock and roll and pop music the way it was, because now artists were gonna… Anyhow, so we made our first film. We made our first film and we finished it in 1976. I remember, Gerry and I started a graphic design shop in downtown Akron, and one of the many things that we did to make money is, there was a Rust Oleum company that wanted T shirts printed. So we came up with this logo, “Rust never sleeps.” And I found these rusty letters and I took that logo and we bought just… They wanted like 100 shirts or something and we were gonna make like a dollar a shirt or something as profit, which would go a long way towards the $3,000 that we needed to make our first seven and a half minute film. But I had only bought exactly enough shirts, ’cause I didn’t wanna cut into our profit too far. So I started printing on things around my house ’cause I was printing in my basement. And I printed on a pair of my underpants on the seat of them. It said, “Rust never sleeps” and thought that was better than they… I was thinking, “Oh, they should give out underpants instead of T shirts.” “That’d be funnier,” ’cause you know it’s like the underside of a car and everything. Anyhow, they didn’t… I never showed it to them because it probably wouldn’t have helped to make the sale in the end. But we made $3,000. It took us about six months. And then we shot this film in Akron. Gerry and I came up with the concept and Chuck directed it and he put together a team of people to help us make this film. It was like the “Little Rascals.” We hadn’t really done this before. We just kinda… And we had two songs, “Jocko Homo” and a really twisted version of “Secret Agent Man,” a Johnny Rivers song, and some interstitial footage. Well, we finished it in 1976 and there was no such thing as MTV yet. That was a long ways away. But we were like, “What do we do with it?” So we would play at some club where our 12 or 13 friends that knew us, would come down to the club on a Friday night and we’d put a sheet up on the wall and we’d borrow a 16 millimeter projector from the library, take it out for the weekend, and then show the movie and then we’d go on stage and play. And Chuck said, “Why don’t we… ” Yeah, this was 1975, so Chuck said, “Why don’t we enter it in The Ann Arbor Film Festival?” Which we did. So we’re like in a basement in Akron and Chuck’s like more together about this stuff than us and he puts together this film and sends it out. And wouldn’t you know it? We got first prize film short. Yeah, The Truth About De evolution. So anyhow, so… That was kind of in some ways, that was the start of recognition for Devo, because that film then got added into a circuit of short films that had won in film festivals around the country and it toured. And art students went to these kind of things, film shows for film shorts. And so the people that were seeing our movie around the country were a lot like you guys probably, but a long time ago. And when it got out to the West Coast, there was this magazine called “Search and Destroy” and another mag in San Francisco and another one in LA called “Slash.” And they were both the current art scene, music scene of those respective cities, and both of them printed up stills from the movie and put them in their magazine. And at the same time, there was people in the record business, the record industry, saw these films and they went, somebody from A&M records said, “I just signed The Tubes. These guys look like another version of the Tubes.” “I better check them out.” So Kip Cohen sent us a check for $2,000 to pay for gas for us to drive an Econoline van full of equipment and six guys. We took our sound man Ed with us, and we drove out to LA. We did a… What do you call it? A showcase. We did a showcase. All the punk fans in LA showed up. And then the headliner that had just got signed to, I don’t know what label, maybe A&M, The Clowns. Really, there was a band called The Clowns that were heavy metal and they had like striped bell bottom pants. In retrospect I think I probably would appreciate it more now than I did then. We just made fun of them back then. But nobody showed up to see them, and he was kind of like, “That’s interesting that all these kids showed up to see Devo.” But then the next day he told us, “Well, I couldn’t hum any of your melodies when I got home and I think you guys should just go back to Ohio.” And so we were like, “We’re not listening to you, Mr. Record Company Executive.” And you know, it’s… I don’t know, I kind of… I’m not telling this story in a linear fashion, but it’s… Oh, you did a really good one. You were actually… Yours was very articulate, and it made sense. But anyhow, so it’s like… Why I told you the story about Kent State is because we were these idealistic kids and kind of like just warning you mom and dad, kind of like the kids are today right now. We were very… We felt like we could change things in our country. And after everybody got shot, not at just at our campus, but there were problems on other campuses in the country, it kind of became obvious right away that if they don’t like what you’re saying, it was easy to put you down and rebellion was obsolete and was not a way to change things. And I remember, we were thinking like “Who does change things in this country? How do things change in America at this point?” And I was listening to the radio and it was Pachelbel’s Canon which some of you know what it is, it’s like this very beautiful piece of classical music, and set to music was, “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.” And I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s Madison Avenue, that’s who changes things, and that’s… And they don’t do it through rebellion. They do it through subversion. They lure you in, they enter your bloodstream and affect your DNA from inside.” And so, that’s kind of what gave Devo the interest, the idea of subversion, that’s how we’re gonna change things. That’s kind of what gave us the idea that we wanna go out to Hollywood and see if we were strong enough to exist in that toxic scenario. And we did get signed, we got a record deal. And we were kinda like a trophy band for Warner Brothers, who were making so much money they could sign trophy bands. They had like Frank Zappa for a trophy band, and they had Wild Man Fischer, and they had Captain Beefheart for a trophy band, and then they had Devo. And we were like a… We were just this… “Yeah. They’re weird.” It’s like, we told ’em we’d make life sized cut outs of ’em and put ’em in all the record stores. And they said, “How much would that cost?” And we said, “$5,000.” And they said, “Can we have the money and make a film?” And we’re like, “What would we do with another film?” They wanted to make a film for the song “Satisfaction”, what are we supposed to do with that? And we never… Anyhow… So, it kinda went good ’cause we had a couple of albums, three albums, they didn’t pay any attention until all of a sudden, the song, “Whip It” got on the radio. And it got started playing in clubs and it went international. And it was maybe the dumbest song we ever wrote. But we were doing what we thought was a Devo version of a funk album. It’s true, we did. We thought it was an R&B record, we wanted to make an R&B… So that was kind of, for us, that was pretty… That was about as R&B as we could get. And that changed the scrutiny. All of a sudden, we made this record company millions of dollars ’cause they didn’t give us hardly anything and we didn’t care, we had decided that we were going to take salaries out of the money we made from the record company that was equivalent to what you pay a school teacher. And so, we were kinda cool with that idea. And that’s how… And so, that meant we had money to invest in experimenting with electronics, experimenting with film, experimenting with visual images, and costumes, and staging, and choreography, so we could put our money into our art. Can you just describe on that path, what Booji Boy’s role was in your terms in Devo? Yeah. Or not. You don’t have to. It’s okay. I was Booji Boy. I am Booji Boy still, but Booji Boy… Back in Akron, we entertained ourselves. None of us really could be enthusiastic about bowling, which was the prime source of entertainment in those days in Akron, and we never really were bowlers. And so, what we did do is, we’d go to novelty shops, Bob and Gerry and I, and we’d buy masks, and then we’d become characters. He liked to be the all knowing China man who knew everything, and Bob Mothersbaugh was a clown, who was a mischievous clown sometimes or he was just a janitor. And then I kind of gravitated towards Booji Boy and I did it for a specific reason. Before Devo, I was just a dumb kid floating around in Akron and I was a church organ player at my parents’ church. And I kind of lost… I felt like I wasn’t getting answers when I asked people things about stuff, and it was one of those… It was a good church where it stressed the work ethic, that was it. That’s was, the best way to get close to God, was through work, so that part stuck with me my whole life. There were some people that had dropped out of our church and they had said, “Hey, you wanna come to a dinner at our church?” And I was like, “Free dinner.” My girlfriend and I, we thought, “Okay. Well, we have a date where somebody else is paying for the dinner. How bad can that be?” So, we went to this Steel Workers Union in Cleveland, it was like about 500 people in the room, it was big and it was a cafeteria kinda room and we ate. And then afterwards somebody got up and started talking and I remember going, “Uh uh, okay here’s where we pay for dinner.” And this guy got up and he started talking about Christ returning to earth, and I remember just kind of listening, going I know this story really well. And he’s saying “And when Jesus returns, he will… And it totally freaked me out. I was just sitting there going, “What the hell?” And everybody in the room is fine, they’re all enthusiastic, and then as soon as he… He does that for about 30 seconds and sits down. And somebody instantly pops up in the audience and they translate and the translation was something to the effect of, “The end times are near, we can expect revelations to take… It is already taking place and blah blah blah.” And he sits down, somebody else pops up and they have their own… And then they sit down and somebody else interprets it. And I just remember being so impressed. And thinking the idea of surrendering your intellect to the spiritual world was really intriguing to me, I really loved that idea. I’d already, through science fiction or some magazines or somewhere I’d heard, “Well, you know the human only uses 10% of his brain.” And we’d already made jokes about that when we were rehearsing with Devo, or doing things, where we’d go “Yep, there’s a lot of people not even using that much.” But I was wondering what’s the other 90% up to? And so I had this thought that maybe the 10% that we know is the most boring part and the 10% that helped us get dressed this morning, and brush our teeth, and show up for work or school, and then make it over to this room here tonight, and then is gonna get us back home, and we’ll get our clothes into the dirty clothes hamper or wherever they go, or maybe on the counter to wear tomorrow and then… That’s the boring part of your brain that has to be the babysitter for the other 90% that’s interesting, and maybe that’s where inspiration and ideas and art comes from. And so I was really… I became very interested then in artists that were… Especially interested in artists that were doing stream of consciousness artwork and even just crazy people on the street that were shouting. I remember where I used to just walk a little faster, I started slowing down and listening to a rancher with a shopping cart yelling things, and I would just be looking for clues. So anyhow, I had this mask Booji Boy, and I found out when I put on this mask, it freed me from being Mark. It gave me an opportunity to explore this other place and to explore my own version of what I thought that they might have been hinting at or might have really been dead on at the church. I don’t know, I only went there once, I never went back, I felt like I got this incredible information and started off on my own research and… So Booji Boy became this character in Devo that was kind of a “agent of chaos” because we were really… In some ways because my band… Nobody was really a great musician, I kinda had the most training of any of us, and the other four guys, they couldn’t play an instrument and sing at the same time. So we worked really hard on getting our songs really precise, but Booji Boy could be this character who could, at least once during the evening, kinda go off into this freeform place, he could be stream of consciousness. And even to this day, if Devo does a concert somewhere, our encore will be a song that Booji Boy will come out and sing. And somewhere near the end of the song, there’s a place where he’ll tell a story. And none of us including me even know what the story is gonna be, or what he’s gonna do or what he’s gonna say. And something its just an activity and sometimes it goes way too long and I’m looking over and the guys are looking at me like “Come on, let’s finish this, this isn’t very good.” Or sometimes you look at them and they’re laughing and they can’t believe it and they’re enjoying it. But it was always some part of what was Devo and I kind of practice that as much as I could, in the non structured part of my life. And in many ways there’s a similarity with the way that you make visual art because making one to 50 of these postcards a day and collecting over 30,000 of them is kind of a way of accessing your unconscious mind. Yeah, it’s… That’s how I work, I don’t know why, I can’t really totally explain it, I’m trying to do my best. But yeah, you’re right. You were sitting backstage with me and you looked at post cards and one of them you liked I think. I don’t remember which one it was. I liked a lot of them, I just… These are from the last couple of days, ’cause I haven’t been home yesterday. Can you talk a little bit about in many ways the origin of your feeling of being somehow different, this character that became the basis of your visual art, even the reason why we call the book and exhibition “Myopia,” would you make sure that you tell that story so everybody understands that part of you? Say that again. I’ve been in a band and writing music for films for 52 years. The glasses story. The what? The glasses story. Okay. Okay. We’ll go back a few years before Kent State. There were five kids in my family. My dad was a traveling salesman and he sold fire alarms in southern Ohio to farmers. How did that work? And this one is true too, he sold Niagara Cyclo Massage Pads and they were vibrators basically, but they were giant and ugly like a robot version of a vibrator and it was the craziest stuff he sold. But he would be gone for five days, my mom would be going crazy with five children in Akron and he’d get home and we’d see him for a few minutes here and there. And somehow through all that, nobody noticed I was legally blind, that without my glasses, to this day, I can’t see the big E on an eye chart from further than like six to eight inches. And I just thought that’s the way everybody saw things, ’cause I’d hear a knock on the door, I’d run over there, somebody’d come in, I’d get right up in their face, I’d go, “Hi, Grandma!” And then I’d know that the red blurry blob that was walking around in my field of vision, the red blob that looked like a Monet painting out of control was Granny, ’cause you’d hear her voice and you’d know it was her so then I didn’t have to do it to her again that day, but I was always just a little bit tweaky. So, anyhow, I’m in second grade and I hadn’t really fit in the first couple of years and the teacher would say, “Mr. Mothersbaugh, would you add up the numbers on the board?” and I’d go, “What’s a board?” and all the kids would laugh again and then she’d go, “All right young man, stand up and go to the corner.” And I’d get put in the corner and I’d go, “How do people know the right answer to that? That’s the weirdest thing.” Other people, they ask the same thing to them and they know exactly what to say and they’d just move on to the next thing and they ask me and then it’s like this. Anyhow. So, near the end of second grade, it was like the last month of second grade, somebody said, “You know, maybe… They just gave me a letter and I took it home and it told my parents maybe I should get an eye test and so they did and they found out it was correctable, it was myopia, and so I got my first pair of glasses at I think somewhere like May or June of… It was right before the end of school of second grade and I got these glasses that looked like Coke bottles. But I walked out of this office building and it was the most amazing experience I ever had in my whole life. I looked and I was at a hill that we used to sled ride and we were at the top of the hill in a car and I could see Newberry Elementary School, the school I had been going to for two years. I had never seen it before. And I saw the woods I walked through every day ’cause our housing development was on the other side and I knew the streets to walk down and I knew the woods I could walk through. I never saw what the woods looked like before and I saw houses. I had never seen a roof on a house or a chimney with smoke coming out of it before. I had never seen telephone wires, I had never seen birds flying. I saw clouds, I saw the sun for the first time in my life all right in one moment. It was amazing. It totally was this joyful moment in my life. I was so happy. Anyhow, so the next day I was at school and I was drawing a tree, ’cause I’d never seen a tree before. I’d only seen the trunk of a tree which I frequented the one in our front yard, in shocking situations where one minute you’re running with abandon and the next minute you’ve met the tree again. Like, “Wow!” And so I had never seen how beautiful a willow tree was, and so I was drawing one and this teacher that had spanked me, picked me up by the ear, sent me to the office, given me detention, I will not be a jerk in class, stuff like that, 100 times. She said, and I didn’t even see her say it, I just heard her say it, she said, “You draw trees better than me.” And is anybody here a school teacher? I wouldn’t even know if you were because I can’t see anybody’s hands, but I can tell you this, be careful what you say to kids ’cause… I never wanted to be a dad because I thought, “Oh man, I will say something really fucked up and they will remember it later on and they’ll blame everything that went wrong in their life on this thing that I don’t even remember I said.” Anyhow, but she said this thing to me and I went home that night and I dreamt I was gonna be an artist. That was the day I started wanting to be an artist. It was summer of, must have been… How old are you when you’re in second grade? Yeah, so it was like 1950 plus, however many years that would be, so… So anyhow. So it makes sense that somebody who felt like he never knew the rules, would become obsessed with rules, as well as be obsessed with the one who’s outside, the outsider to the system. Don’t worry about it, it wasn’t that important. Just like mouthing off. Let’s go back to the story. Take it back to the 70’s and… No, no. After Devo’s major period of success, you then have this transition in your career in the 1980’s, where you begin to score for movies and television. Can you describe how that happened? Yeah. We signed with Virgin Records in Europe and we signed with Warner Brothers for the rest of the world. We wrote 12 songs, rehearsed them, went in and recorded them, came up with an album cover, or album art, rehearsed them, designed a stage show and choreography, and made some films to go with the songs. And then went on tour. And then a year later, we’d write 12 songs, rehearse them, record them, make a video, put together a tour, and go out and tour. And a year later, we’d do it again. And we’d done that six times and then we got in a… I don’t even know exactly how or why, but we got in an argument with Warner Brothers and said, “We’re leaving!” We signed with this other company that we thought was young and dynamic and turned out to be a bunch of dummies and they went bankrupt really quick. So, with about a dozen other bands, we were just trapped in limbo and a friend of mine, Paul Reuben, called up and said, “Mark, will you score my TV show?” I said, “Sure, I got time.” He sent me a tape on a Monday and I wrote about 12 songs worth of music for a TV show. On Tuesday, I recorded them. Wednesday, we packed everything up, and shipped it out on Thursday. Friday, they cut it into the TV show in New York and then, Saturday, we watched it on TV. And then Monday, he sent me another tape and I went, “Sign me up for this job! I love this job, where you get to write an album’s worth of music every week.” I got the bug and it was also because there was nobody… Paul and the director were in New York, and I’ve done over, I don’t even know how many TV shows, maybe 75, I’ve written theme songs for like 50 or 60 TV shows. And believe me, I never had this situation come up again where there was nobody from the network that was keeping an eye on everything. So, he’d send me these tapes and I could write whatever music I wanted. It was this incredible situation and the show was successful. I’d kind of accomplished what Devo was trying to do, which was, we thought, “If we wanna be subversive, we have to get into the belly of the beast”, I thought I was in there now. I felt like I could be this agent, affecting the DNA of America, ’cause everybody’s watching TV and their brains are like bubble gum, just sucking everything up and you could go like this to brains. I started writing things that were based on music that influenced me and that I really liked. Right away, I got offered commercials. The first one was a Hawaiian Punch, I’m picking Hawaiian Punch, ’cause that’s the one it was. I remember, I wrote the music and it was loosely based on at something that Devo had done at a live show with a video of robots dancing in sync. One of them was out of sync and we’d timed things so I wouldn’t have to look. I could point a gun and shoot it and it would explode, while we were playing. They had these dancing robots in this Hawaiian Punch commercial and there was a drum solo about five or 10 seconds before the big ending hits in and it went, “Doo doom, ba doom ba doom”, and over that I went, “Sugar is bad for you!” I just said it, just like that. And Bob Casale goes, “Are you crazy? What are you doing?” And it was also because of this film we put in the Ann Arbor Film Festival. ‘Cause the other place we played it was in the Akron Art Museum. And I remember after we showed it, this woman came up and she was really angry and she went, “I know what you’re doing. I see what you guys are up to.” And we’re like, “What? What is she talking.” And she goes, “I saw the word obey and the word submit, flash subliminally.” And Jerry and I looked at each other and went, “That’s such a great idea.” So I did this music for this commercial and put, “Sugar is bad for you.” And we had to take it over to Dailey and Associates, the ad agency that was putting out… That had the campaign for Hawaiian Punch. And Bob and I are sitting there in this room with six or eight executives, or the creatives I guess is who it mostly is, and maybe somebody from Hawaiian Punch was there, I can’t remember. But the music’s playing and everybody’s watching the film and they’re watching the robots dance and then it cuts to humans dancing along with the robots, just like in the Devo concert. And it gets near the end and I just started turning bright red, ’cause I was already embarrassed of what was gonna happen, and Bob Casale’s looking at me like, “You’re such an idiot.” And it gets to the end of the commercial and it goes, “Sugar is bad for you.” And the commercial ends. And I look at these guys and they’re tapping their pens on the table like this. They’re like executives at a commercial agency, and soon as it’s done the one guy goes, “Yeah! Hawaiian Punch hits you in all the right places!” And Bob and I just looked at each other. Bob goes like, “You’re so lucky, you got away.” So we got all these commercials. And of course because I was doing Pee Wee’s Playhouse and I did Hawaiian Punch then you get people… They try to pigeonhole you the minute you do something in Hollywood. “Oh, I know what they do, they do kids stuff.” So I got Keds commercials and Mountain Dew, really some of them were just things you really couldn’t like. So we just started putting something in like, “Question authority.” Or, “Your parents aren’t always right.” That was a good one. And we just got away with it. We just kept doing it for a long time. And it just made me really get kind of excited about this job I was doing ’cause it’s like I’m talking to people. And then with TV shows and films it would just turn into be this great gig ’cause I could just look at a picture and whatever music I felt like writing, I just wrote it. The people would come in, the directors and they’d go, “You know, I just really want this movie to just… This is a romance, I really want the romantic elements in this film to come through.” And they’d tell you all the stuff and you’re looking at him going, “He’s wrong.” And then as soon as he leaves, I’d just write whatever I wanted and then the next day when I played it for him, I’d go, “This is what you asked for.” And they went… It’s so abstract to talk about music, if you ever try to talk about music with a director or producer, you know what I’m talking about. They don’t know how to talk about it so they go, “Yeah, that’s what I asked for.” You can convince them. And they’re just happy that they have something on their film, so they can turn it in on time. So you scored… That was great. I drank coffee right before I came out here, just so you know. So you scored over 150 films and TV shows and video games and cellphone rings. So over the last four years, three or four years, visual art has been a bigger part of your life. How has that changed the creative landscape in your mind? Okay. I know you’re saying it’s a bigger part, and you’re absolutely correct. But I scored four movies last year. But still did museum shows. How many museum shows did we do? We did at least a couple. We did five. Six. Yeah. We did a bunch of museum shows. You have to go there, and get everything set up, and then do performances. ‘Cause we have a six sided keyboard I wrote music for, that I took to the museums. And it’s just a stupid awesome instrument that… It looks really good on a screen too. Why am I telling you that? Oh, anyhow. So I’d always done… Okay, so working with Hollywood, what happened was I was an artist from a kid, but I was like, because of the stream of consciousness attraction, and loving people that spoke in tongues and loving people that kinda acted crazy and people that could’ve been clues on to what’s going on in the other 90% of the brain. It’s like that… Uh oh, what was I thinking? You are talking about visual arts, and the place of visual art in your… Oh yeah. So with visual arts… It’s a good thing I was paying attention. It became something that was private and that I protected in some ways. Gerry and I collaborated on… I think most all of the graphics and all of the films and all of the costume and things, we did them ourselves. We were like the little rascals of pop music at the time or not so pop music or art music or whatever we were. ‘Cause we did everything ourselves. We didn’t hire directors from fancy production companies to come up with the idea of like, I’m imagining this stuff like there’s a band, sitting at a table at a record company and they’re acting kinda bored and this guy comes in that’s a big time director of commercials and goes, “Okay, here’s a red rubber ball. Somebody drops it and it bounces and then cuts to another scene and the ball bounces in and it goes by somebody with a lawnmower. And then it goes by a girl on the back of a horse”. And then one of the guys in the band goes, “Uh, that girl, that’s gotta be my girlfriend”. And the guy, “Yeah, of course, it’s your girlfriend”. He goes, “Okay”. And so, they agree on a stupid rock video and one more mindless baby picture for our record company gets made. But so I didn’t want, I wanted something that I felt like hadn’t been invaded. And so, I had started, I was into Mail Art when I was in the late 60s, I found in the late 60s that there were people like Robert Indiana and Jasper Johns and Irene Dogmatic and Image Bank and Ant Farm and all these people that if you sent them a postcard and you did art on it, there was a chance they were gonna send something back to you. And if you’re like this 18 or 19 year old nobody in Akron, Ohio who paints apartments to pay his way through school and you’re like, “Nobody knows who I am or what I am. I’m nothing”. And Robert Indiana sends you a postcard that he drew on, it’s like you feel like you’ve been recognized and so, I started making these, and with my vision, it was much easier to work on things that I could get close too, ‘Cause right now when I go like this, there’s, you guys can’t see me unless you’re in the upper balcony. There’s two exit lights up there and my prescription is radical enough, it makes them bounce like six or eight feet up and down ’cause I’m looking at everything 100% of the time that my eyes are open with glasses on, I’m looking at it through like a fish eye lens. It’s like looking in a doorknob. That’s part of correcting extreme myopia and it’s a trade off. So, never climb on the back of a motorcycle if I’m driving. So, postcards became this great thing ’cause then when Devo started happening, if we were driving places, I could still be doing that while I’m sitting in a taxi, or I’m on an airplane, or I’m waiting at an airport, or I’m backstage somewhere. I could still do these drawings and I was recording things that were going on and at some point, I realized it was a diary and that I was writing lyrics and coming up with ideas for album covers and things that maybe I should hang on to them instead of mailing them away. So, I was also this geek stamp collector when I was in high school. So I knew that you could go to a stamp shop and they had these archival red albums that would hold 100 cards. And so, I started buying those books and every time I’d finish the 100th card, I could then put it on a shelf and I started that in the early 70s. And I still do it to this day. I just showed you some cards that I was drawing backstage while we were sitting there waiting. Did I accomplish what we were… It’s fine, it’s great. You were talking about the role of visual art recently. Oh, okay. So, after we did those six albums where… It was so frustrating to work with the record companies ’cause we’d say, “Hey, we wanna have a pop out postcard on the front of our second album, Duty Now for the Future”. And the record company said, “Well, we’re not gonna pay for that. That’ll cost you 10 cents”. And we’re like, “But you only pay us 48 cents for each album we sell”. And they go, “Now it’ll be 38, if you want that”. And we said, “Do it”. So we put out a punch out postcard and almost nobody ever punched them out, it’s like when kids, when Devo fans over the last 30 some years come to me and want me to sign that record, I almost always punch it halfway out and sign the back of it just so they even know that there was a punch out thing. So when I started printing again, ’cause printing was what I loved in college, it became my love, ’cause it was before computers and it felt like it was instant grat ’cause when all the kids left school at 3:30, I could start printing and I didn’t have queue up with other kids to burn a screen and then print a color and then when it dried, I’d start another one. I could print a whole print in one night and it was like, that was pretty instantaneous in those days. So I started printing again in the late 80s and the first thing I did is I printed with all fluorescent colors and Phosphorescent ink on top of that. All things that the record company would have said, “Each one costs you 10 cents,” and I said, I’m printing everything in fluorescent and phosphorescent. So, I got that out of my system after about 30 some prints, but I always protected that side of me and I didn’t wanna get involved with museums or galleries cause I thought, that’s gonna be like being with a record company. I know it will be. So, I avoided it and I did gallery shows with pop up galleries. And I did about 125 during a 10 year period starting about 15 years ago. I did some up here in… Ann Arbor. Yeah in Michigan definitely a number of places in Michigan and Detroit and Saginaw and Ypsilanti. And it was always this kind of thing where it would be a couple of kids, they were getting out of college that year and they were gonna get a job. They were gonna be doing graphics for somebody, maybe Kmart or maybe JC Penny or some company would hire them to do the graphics in the newspaper every week or they would help them do graphics for a catalogue, but before they did that job they still had some time and they were gonna show people right here in Saginaw that we’ve got some of the best street artists as there are in the world. We’ve got people right here in our little city that are just as good as Shepard Fairey or Banksy or any of those guys. And they would find some part of town. They wouldn’t be where all the other galleries were, they’d go out into a warehouse district where they could get some dump of a room and call it their gallery and they’d put out flyers and 30 of their best friends would show up with skateboards and they’d have one keg of beer and nobody from the Saginaw Bugle would show up and so nobody knew who they were and they would eventually, all these galleries, they all eventually die out. Except for maybe there might be a few of them that manage to avoid that but most of them, all of them just died out. But for me I had a friend of mine who was out of work and he needed a job and I said, “I got a job for you. Get Juxtapose Magazine and look in the back to these little half inch high ads that cost 20 bucks a piece and look for galleries, little galleries all over the world, and call them and ask them if they wanna do a show.” He started doing that and we’d call these galleries and they’d go, “Mark Mothersbaugh? The guy that writes the music for Rugrats?” And he’d go, “Yeah.” ‘Cause they wouldn’t even know who Devo was, they were too young to even know what Devo was. And, “Why does he want a show here?” And he’d go, “He likes your gallery.” And these kids were excited about art the way Devo was when we started. ‘Cause by the time I got out to Hollywood and was doing films, then it’s like you’ve got directors and producers showing up at your studio, and all they do is complain about the contract they have with whoever the studio is, and they just talk about all the things they hated about the movie, and it was just kind of… Although I could go off and do my own thing with the music, I still had to listen to them and so, it was kind of nice to have a little time with these kids that were like still inspired and still loved art. And it was good for them because they could call the Saginaw Bugle who had refused to do an article about them and they could go, “We’re doing a show with Mark Mothersbaugh.” And they’d go, “You mean the guy that wrote… ” If they’re young, the guy that works at the Saginaw paper, he might go, “You mean the guy who does music for Pee wee’s Playhouse?” And then if they were a little older they’d go, “Oh, you mean the guy from Devo?” And anyhow, they’d say “That’s so weird. Why would he show at this dump?” ‘Cause it was in some part of town where the art buyers were not gonna go. Dentists were not gonna take their wives to this weird warehouse district to go look at art, but we could get some people to show up at their gallery and it would get them an article in the Saginaw Bugle for the first time and it was this thing where it was symbiotic and I was really happy with that. I was really totally fine with that existence and then some big gallery guy from New York called me up and said, “Hey, are you represented? I hear you’re doing shows” and I said, “yeah, I don’t have any representation, no I just do it myself.” And he said, “Well, I wanna look at your art” and he came over and he looked at it and he goes, “I can’t sell art for these prices. My clients need things that cost $50,000 or more. I can’t sell artwork for $300. That’s what you sell that for?” And so I said, “Well yeah I show at these small galleries right now and I get emails all the time where kids will send me a photo and they’ll say, I just bought my first piece of art this weekend and they’ll send me a picture of their living room or their bedroom or whatever room they stuck the art up in.” And he’s like, “Wow, you got a lot to learn” or there’s something wrong with you and it screwed me up a little bit cause then I was like, “Did I really mess up?” And so I was kind of in this place where I felt I had really made a big mistake maybe. And I thought I was doing the right thing, it made me question myself anyhow. And at the same time I’m doing Wes Anderson movies and doing things like the movie ’21 Jump Street’ or whatever movie I’ve done. At the same time that I can… Cause I figured out this way to write a piece of music, tell my engineer, “Okay put that into the film where it’s supposed to be.” And so while he was mixing it, I have this other room at my studio, I could go over there and I could take these cards that I work on. And if I found one that I really liked, like if I really liked this beetle being held in a… It looks like a diaper or something, a giant beetle in a diaper. I could scan it and then put it in my computer and work on it a little more, maybe add color and I have a printer there, so I could then print out prints and I just do limited numbers like a couple, two or three. So that this kid that was buying one inexpensively, he was getting almost an original but it wasn’t quite, it would be one of three pieces or something but it was still pretty limited. And it was a nice life but then this museum… Then what happened is I was on tour with Devo about five years ago and I was playing… I don’t know what this place was, if it was like the Convention Center or the ‘4 H Club Arena’ or something like that, I don’t know. Denver County Fair. Yeah, okay, there it is. And this guy called me up and he said, “Come over and check out my museum. I have the Museum of Creative Arts in Denver.” And I’d finished soundcheck and I thought, “I got like four hours before we go on, so why not?” So I walked down this long street and I was looking at Denver and thought, “Wow, what an interesting city.” And I got to his museum and the museum was great, it was beautiful and it was like all museums. I had already got to this point where I wrote off museums as these places where, “Oh, it’s for rich people. Museums are like… They’re multimillion dollar buildings with multi multimillion dollar art collections and they’re not about the real world.” And I met this guy and he wanted to talk about Bruce Conner. And Bruce Conner was an artist in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s who I’d crossed paths with. He became a fan of Devo when we were playing at this punk club called ‘Mabuhay Gardens’ in San Francisco. And I knew of him because I had seen some of his films, like his A bomb blast films where he made this film that does hypnotize… It’s mesmerizing the way you see these A bomb blasts over and over again. And I’d seen a couple other short films he’d done that were… So we hung out a little bit in San Francisco and he asked if he could make a film. He asked if he could have a copy, an analog tape copy of the song ‘Mongoloid’, he wanted to make a movie to it. And we’re like “Yeah that’s a great idea.” So we gave him this tape and he made this film ‘Mongoloid’ and he used found footage, this awesome found footage, some of it’s… I’ve only recently found out where the source material was but one of them was great, where there’s this housewife and she’s lifting up her hands with strings of goo and she’s on a ball, a giant gooey ball and it’s part of a roll on deodorant, and she’s on this giant ball and she’s like going “yeah!” Then there was a guy that’s at work and he sits back and starts to daydream, and a suitcase closes up over him and then whisks him away, and a split second later it opens up and it’s in Arizona, and he’s got sunglasses and a drink and now he’s in Bermuda shorts, and he’s relaxing. Just all these amazing pieces of footage and… So you’re saying that how we met? Am I way off? Oh. Yeah. So this guy, handsome, rugged. Good looking… Go on. Much more articulate than I’ll ever be, ever in my life and we started talking and I told him I said “Well, Bruce made that film, he was independent of us.” But we started talking and I told him that I was doing art shows and he got interested enough to come to LA and started going through these warehouses. I have multiple warehouses filled with art, I’d just make stuff and sometimes it got shown but almost never, cause I just was happy to do it. And he started looking at it and became interested in it enough that he suggested “What about doing a museum show?” and my initial reaction was, “That can’t be, what? Why would I do that?” And he talked me into it, he put the show together, and put this catalog together. And one of the things that really was so strong to me is, I found out that other than MOMA in New York, there’s probably no other museums in the US that are these bastions of multi million dollar buildings, multi million dollars collection. It’s just for the elite. What they are, is they’re NPR radio stations, most of them, and… Are you just telling people that I have to raise a lot of money in my job? Yeah. And I found out what his job is, and being a director isn’t just hanging out with beautiful people and drinking champagne with Sylvester Stallone or something like that. It’s, like, he’s got this really important job. He’s gotta go into his community and ignite the imagination of people that can help support the… They don’t wanna hear about me, Mark. They wanna hear about you. But not just you. There’s other… There’s a whole bunch… And every museum’s different. That’s what’s amazing. I’ve been to eight museums and I’ve seen places where they have a younger community, an older community, a mixed community, and each director has to be able to inspire the people in that community and it gave me a whole ‘nother appreciation for museums and a big part of that was the staff. At every museum I’ve been to, they all require these, usually young, but they’re of all ages, people that still believe in and love art and find it important to them and they think it’s important for the community and they work really hard, just as hard as these young guys that had these little… Harder in some ways. And I just found… Every single museum, it’s they attract people that love art and that are willing to roll up their sleeves and help a show get completed and mounted properly. And I have this appreciation for museums that I’m embarrassed came very late in my life. But I’m glad it did ’cause it changed my life. It changed the way I think about even my own art, so much more now, and the way I think about other people’s art. It changed it and I have to tell you that in the last few years I’ve been on one of the more gratifying, amazing act 17 or whatever this is now. Act 37 in my life, has been one of the most amazing places and I’m so lucky I got to do it. Thank you, Adam! So thank you, Adam. Yes. Alright. Thank you. Thank you, Mark. Mark and Adam, you guys are so fascinating and entertaining that we’ve eaten our Q & A time. Oh, we have. Okay then. If you guys are up for it… The only thing is I have to pay the bills and I only get this theatre for 15 more minutes. So do it. Line up now if you want to. We can have 15 minutes for Q & A. Yeah, okay. We’re doing Q & A. Okay. Alright. We can just all go out and hang out in the parking lot or something. It is raining still, I hope. Here I am. Hey, Mark Mothersbaugh, it’s Amy Yoakin! Oh, hi! Hello… And I have a question for you. Lady with white sunglasses and a cartoon on your chest. It’s a whistle for you. I’m sorry about your dad that he went away this year. Wanted to let you know. Thank you. Where else is your exhibit playing? ‘Cause that’s what everybody here wants to know. New York City… Yeah, it’s at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU and it will open in the spring, so check the website for the Grey Art Gallery at NYU. Are these underpants? Are these bloomers? Thank you. Mark, you have another question over here. This is so weird. My mom was in a rock band in the 80s and I have a picture of you two together and… Who’s your mom? My mom was Karen Maso of The Little Girls. This is… Do you know what I’m talking about? What does that mean? Oh, God. But we talk about this picture all the time. I just wanted to show it to you. This is kinda weird for me. Oh, that’s nice. Oh! And that was her boyfriend, Rodney Bingenheimer, the DJ. It was not her boyfriend! Oh, wasn’t? Oh, maybe it was. He thought it was her boyfriend. I’ll have to ask her about that but, yeah. Well, what are you doing here? ‘Cause that’s… I know where this was. This was in Santa Monica Civic. Yep! I grew up in Santa Monica. My family moved to Portland, Maine, a couple of years ago. I go to school here. I’m on my way to an audition for a thing and I just had to run in and… I don’t know… Give it to you? I don’t know. I printed it. I don’t know what I was doing. I’ll keep it but I don’t… Okay. Yeah, don’t show it to anybody. It looks like I have an adult diaper underneath my black shorts, but who knows? Maybe. Cool. This has been weird. Thanks! And your mom was cute. Yeah, I remember her. That’s awesome! We thought, “Rodney, he’s a DJ. He’s a famous DJ. He gets all the… ” Wait. Now we go to the left side here? Mark, I don’t really have a question for you. I just wanted to just tell you… You’ve just been there for some really pivotal moments in my life. I was in art school in New York, in ’79, and I went to a Devo concert, many Devo concerts. I think I probably even waited outside to assault you and the rest of the Devo guys but… Then many years later, in like ’86, I went to an art gallery in New York and I bumped into you. And it was another pivotal moment in my life, because I actually said to you, “Mark Mothersbaugh, you used to be my biggest fan. ‘No, I used to be your biggest fan.'” I got so flustered seeing you and… I remember… No I… You were really, really nice, and so I just wanted to thank you for being there and helping me in my life in various times. And I’m so happy to see you now that you’re doing wonderful, and I love your art. And I might wanna mention you pivoted very well coming down here, so your pivotal momentum is working finally. Thank you, thank you for saying that. Well, thank you Mark. Here’s somebody with a super high tech chair and I’m jealous, that looks super great. Do you believe in synchronicity? What? Do you believe in synchronicity? The question was “Do you believe in synchronicity?” Sure, yeah. He says sure. Who doesn’t. Hi. I have this postcard I made, can I trade you for one of yours? Does it have to have something on it, ’cause I avoid doing that to… I go to great pains to avoid this. Yeah, let me see what I got. No don’t do it ’cause then if I do it, it’ll set a precedent, and then every single person in the room, I’ll have to draw him a picture. I’ll never get to bed tonight, I can’t do it. I don’t have the… That’s fine. Keep that. Thank you very much for that. Here’s one, don’t show anyone. Okay, over here. That’s a good drawing though, now I feel guilty. Oh well. Send it to the curator. Nice drawing. I saw the Raymond Scott documentary a few years ago and… Which one? Raymond Scott. And you ended up with his keyboard and I forgot the name of it. The Electronium. Yeah, did you ever get it up and running? Because it was kinda sad in the film. I’ll tell you what’s happening now. Either, my brother Jim has this genius electronics guy that works with him, and they’re going to take it, or it’s gonna go to Brian Kehew from Moog Cookbook, I don’t know if you know that band, ’cause he’s very knowledgeable about this stuff, because it’s been to a couple different people. And when I first saw the keyboard… Does anybody know who Raymond Scott is? Yeah! Okay, he’s like, for those who don’t, he was like the Frank Zappa of Hollywood during the 30’s, or the Spike Jones before there was a Spike Jones. And he was in Bob Hope road movies, Road to Morocco, his band would be sitting there with turbans, and they wrote all this, he wrote all this music in the 30’s and 40’s, back before cartoon music was considered copyright able. They didn’t even let you copyright your music in those days, if it was for a cartoon. But his music got re recorded by Carl Stalling in all sorts of Looney Tune movies. And then, his current wife… Oh no, why am I saying current ’cause he’s been dead for quite a while, but his wife, who I think is still alive, was his second marriage, who married him in the late 70’s, and I went over to… A friend of mine was doing an article on him, and said, “Hey,” and I said, “He’s still alive?” And he said “Yeah, come on with me.” So we went to his house and he had had about seven strokes and it was over for him, it was so sad. But he ran around the house, he looked like Uncle Sam, and he was going, “Hello, goodbye, hello,” and he was just saying stuff like that, and she found out that he wrote that music because of Ren and Stimpy, ’cause they started getting ASCAP royalty statements, and she was going,”What’s Ren and Stimpy? What is that?” And so then when she asked him about it, he just said, “Oh, that was a long time ago.” And I went back into his laboratory, and everything was totally in disarray, it looked like it had been neglected for years and there are all these acetates from radio shows that his band had played on, and it would say like, “Ella Fitzgerald with the Raymond Scott Band”, and it’s the only recording of it. On this disc, and there were stacks of this stuff, and there was this guy that was like a gardener, who now was the caretaker, and he said, “Hey, you wanna hear one of them?” And he walked across the room to us and he went… Stepped on it and broke one and we go, “Oh my God, you just broke one of those, one of a kind acetates. He goes, “There’s 100s of them in here.” And so when he passed away a few months later, with a couple of other people, I helped get his intellectual archives collected, protected as best as possible, and it went to a university in the Midwest that specializes in that stuff. And the only thing they didn’t wanna take was the Electronium ’cause it weighs like a ton, and it was a work in progress. If you ever get really bored, go look up Soothing Sounds For Babies and oh my god, it’s so awesome. This three album set that he did where any… If you ever read articles about the Electronium, he said stuff like, “It’s the first musical instrument that writes music by itself.” And now that’s a big deal ’cause there’s some instrument now that wrote some horrible pop song I heard on NPR a couple of days ago, and it’s got lyrics and everything. But this stuff that it wrote was kinda like, it went… Record one was for babies zero to six months old and it went… And then record two is six months to 12 months with… And then record three, was 12 months to 18 months and went… Anyhow, so, yeah, we’re hoping that we’re gonna get it working. Well, thanks. Over here. And thank you for saving it. Can you do an impression of Chuckie Finster? No. I don’t have the right glasses but… That’s where that came from, anyhow. Awesome. Hi, what’s something that you never expected to come out of what you’ve created? Something that… I never expected? Yeah, you’ve had such a decorated life. You’ve done so many different things, what’s something that you never expected? Also, I love your shoes. Okay. I’ll tell you one for sure. I never expected for all these cards that I draw every day… I always was totally uncensored when I made them, since the early 70’s. I was totally uncensored and I would write things that I was really angry, or that I was really paranoid, or I was really sad, or I was really happy, or that I was being cynical, or totally not PC, or mimicking horrible things in the culture. ‘Cause I’d show ’em to… The only people that ever saw them, if anybody did, would be the other Devo guys ’cause we’d be on tour, bored to death, just sitting on a plane for 12 hours going somewhere. And he got me to put them in… To put all the books out on these… We put them on these low tables. We wanted it to look like a plane crash and then all the things that were part of the plane crash are all laid out, so the FAA could go through and try and figure out what happened. And so this one room had all these low… He put these low hanging lights over it that were great. I thought he was gonna use marijuana grow lights, ’cause it was the year that marijuana became legalized in Colorado. But he found these other ones that were really good. And we put them over top of these tables and… Is it the expansive photo of all of… Yeah. There’s photos somewhere. Did you say 30,000? Yeah. I showed it to them. The last photo of this… I love the symmetry in that as well. Yeah, I remember being like, the first time I saw it, I got sick in the stomach. I felt like I was the most naked I’d ever been in my whole life. And then I came around to loving that room the best. And that’s the room I wanted to sleep in, in every museum before they closed. That’s so nice. Thank you very much. Thank you. Hey, what did you have for lunch today? Oh, he knows. Veal Parmesan. Yeah. I went to that place that… What’s the name of the place? Dominic’s. Yeah, Dominic’s. Because it was connected… ‘Cause there’s all those amazing images from the Ann Arbor film festival, up on the wall, the old graphics, and it just kinda… That was my time. So I really love seeing all that stuff again. Cool. Hi, So I’m a local film photographer and I’ve been working on a community dark room project for the last year, and I’m in this tunnel of darkness, just like fighting through to the light at the end of it. And I just see that you’re further along in your artistic journey, so I’m looking to wiser artists right now, at this point, to journey through. So, I guess the question I have for you is with your vision and your family, you said it with such humour, and I’m one of the seven, I have the same vision problem, second grade too. So it was really freaky. And I’m not settled with it. You seem so settled with it. And I just wanted to know when you found that peace within yourself. I don’t know, like the tortured artist. But isn’t it what drives most of us to make our work? I guess we all have things… If you can find some way to use that energy, that’s the important thing. That’s what I think, whether it’s you never talk to your mom and dad again and never go to Thanksgiving dinner, that’s just as valid as anything else. Yeah, it seems like you use your cards though, as an outlet. ‘Cause I do a lot of self portraits and I use that as an outlet. So is that what… I guess that’s my question, how have you channeled your… How are we ever gonna see all your self portraits? Are you on the internet or something? Yeah. I’m on the internet. What is it? Well, I was gonna give you this book and my email address is in there. Play Bigger: How pirates, dreamers, and innovators create and dominate markets. Oh you win. Category king, you’re a category king. I’ll be doing readings out of this book tonight at bedtime. Check it out. You want me to use that one, this one’s too short for me. I’ll try and keep this succinct. I’m a musician and a multimedia performer that’s just starting out with a career in composing and scoring things. So I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your methodology and your train of thought in terms of when you’re scoring for television movies, ’cause there’s an element of synesthesia, for me at least, in terms of using visual stimuli. What do you turn to? Is it more like in response to the tape or the treatment directly, or are there other mediums that you use to sort of get the ball rolling? I look for things… In a project that I’m doing I just look for things that I find, whatever I find that’s exciting about somebody’s movie. ‘Cause the reality is, film and TV, I used to wonder how come there’s so many shitty films and TV shows that come out, how could there be so many? And then once I realized how the process works, there’re so many people that can screw it up along the way. There’s so many ways it can happen. Writers, actors, producers, people that are all trying… They think they’re doing the right thing or they think they’re… They might even be well meaning but they screw it up. And then it’s like I get a script and I sign on for a film and I go how… I go, “There was a great script. How are they gonna screw it up?” And then you see the first cut of the film you go, “That’s how they’re gonna do it.” So I just try to find something that for me, I think is something I can latch on to and inspires me. Have you written for film yet? Only my own, no one else’s. TV? Mostly plays, performance. Well, you’re in a good town, you’re in a good town for… ‘Cause there’s so many people that have projects that come here. It’s like you just… I think the thing to do is just find some of these people that need some music. And even if it’s not the best film, look at it and find something in there that you’d go, “I could make this film better. And even if I can’t save the film, I can write some great music anyhow.” And then just write really great music so that even if people go, “Did you see that film? It stunk, but the music was pretty good.” That’s what you… So you find that the things that inspire you that you pick out of whatever it is that you’re working on, that then triggers some sort of melodic… That triggers the ideation? It’s all different things. And I don’t know what excites you about writing music. Different things do for me. I like playing with eccentric instruments. Whether they’re electronic or old acoustic instruments. I bought this one dulcitone which is kinda like a cheap version of a celeste, only because there was two notes stuck at the bottom. There was a D sharp and a E natural that were stuck together, and I used that… I never fixed it, I kept it broken because… I think I used it in some show called Last Man on Earth. But I used that when I was writing some of the themes for Last Man on Earth and so you’d hit the one note and you’d always get two notes, and I always loved it about that instrument. And so I just look for things that are inspiring and try and match them up with something. Thank you. So we just have a few more minutes, Mark, so can you make your answers a little quick. Two questions, the first question is of all of the different things that you’ve done, do you have a favorite TV, movie, play, postcards. It changes, it changes all the time, everyday probably it changes. You could ask me and I’d tell you something different. I have an idea for something right now that I’ve done about, I’ve done like about 30, or 40 minutes of the music for it and I’ve got about five or 10 minutes worth of the graphics for it and it makes me stay awake at night, and I’m thinking about it and I might even have an investor but I don’t know ’cause it crazy people from China, and I can’t really tell how real anything they say is. And I finally just had to say, “If you put money in my bank account then we have a business deal but not until them.” And then my second question is of all the places you’ve been in the world, do you have a favorite place that you’ve been? Boogie boys play pen. That’s good, thank you. Hey Mark, we’ve never met in person but about 25 years ago we collaborated on a… I was one of the ad guys that you helped subvert Madison Avenue with, we worked on a NTW national tire warehouse commercial. But anyway, I don’t you, probably don’t remember that one. Anyway we had to… Choose your mutations carefully. We had to redo it because some musicologist thought it was too close to REMs, The End Of The World As We Know It. Anyway, that’s not the point. What I wanted to ask you is, you’re a musician and you’ve worked in advertising. There’s people like Neal Young who you’ve worked with. Think that’s bastardising as art and you’ll never do it and Bruce Springsteen, but or Bob Dylan, don’t have a problem with it. I’m wondering how you look at it and whether you just think that’s just another venue to create? Well, you pretty much summed it up right there. It’s just another venue to create. And here’s one of the things I do like about commercials is, it’s this area where you’re always anonymous. If you’ve got some odd instrument or some idea about something you want to try it out, try it out in a commercial. ‘Cause if it doesn’t work then they just don’t buy Duracell batteries. Or tires. Or tires, yes. Or they have to rewrite it. Hello, two part question. Did you direct the video for Whip It, and… Gerry did. Okay. Any hidden meaning? And what? Any hidden meaning? In Whip it? Yeah. I know, you think it’s about dogs, right? Well, it’s semi true that… Well, here’s the two things that kind of… How that video came about. We wrote the song, ’cause Jimmy Carter was president and when we’d travel around the world, people would say, “Well, we love America, but your president’s foreign policies are driving us crazy!” And so it was a “can do” song for Jimmy Carter. He unfortunately didn’t take it to heart, and so he just went back to his peanut factory. And what was the other thing? Oh, the other thing was we found this film, I think Chuck Statler found it. It was this funny film. And it was somebody from Las Vegas who wore a magician’s outfit and it was slightly burlesque. But he whipped pieces of clothing off of a woman and we were like,”That’s the worst thing we ever saw!” We were laughing so hard at it! We turned that into this whole thing where we had a Ronald Reagan view of America with cowboys and a log cabin, and Devo were dressed like boat people, if you remember the video. And it was… It was what it was. This will be the last question. Thank you. Okay. I’m sorry folks. This better be a good one! Mr. Little Guy! How did you get involved in Yo Gabba Gabba? Yo Gabba Gabba? Yeah. I have a little stamp for you. Oh, okay. Thank you. Devo. Abe. Are you Abe? Yes! Hey Abe! Okay, Yo Gabba Gabba. I get asked to do a lot of stuff and I don’t do them all but this band called the Aquabats, I had produced a song for the Aquabats for another TV show called Powerpuff Girls and so we became friends. They sent me a copy of their show and I thought, “Oh this is a really fresh show! It looks really great!” and it was… Every TV show, kids show that I got for years after Pee wee’s Playhouse. They’d go, “This is the new Pee wee’s Playhouse,” but it never was. And that was the first time I thought, “This is kind of a new Pee wee’s Playhouse. It was really great and fresh.” But they didn’t want me to do the music! Can you believe that? They didn’t ask me to do the music! What? I know! They said, “We want you to be the art teacher.” That’s how come I have a moustache ’cause I was painting them on every week to be the artist. And I draw like a… You’ve seen it! I draw an elephant and then I don’t do the trunk. I go “Hmm, what’s the one piece that’s missing? Then I draw the trunk, and then it comes to life, and either it gets big and chases me, or I get little and it chases me. And I’d draw potatoes on skateboards. But I just draw them really fast and we didn’t ever plan it out ahead of time. The one where I drew a cat doing something. I can’t remember what. It was the worst cat ever! And I know that there’s two year olds that are sitting in front of a TV with a binky in their mouth going “I could draw a better cat than that!” But I love the show, yeah. I love the show. And it got me a whole another audience. I could go to the grocery store and there’d a little kid in a stroller, in the aisle next to me going “Yo Gabba Gabba! Yo Gabba Gabba!” And the mother would be looking at all the magazines on the stand. And I’d look around and go ” You’re right kid!” We got a secret to Mom. And that was a fun show. We’re not making any more, but it was fun. And do you think… Thank you! Hey do you think… Did you see The Lego Movie or not yet? Yeah, I’ve seen The Lego Movie. Okay, do you think that The Lego Movie stole “awesome” from Yo Gabba Gabba? Yeah! Yeah? Maybe, I don’t know. There was other people saying “awesome” too so it wasn’t just… All right. Thank you guys! Everything is awesome! And hopefully it stopped raining. Thank you. I’m sorry, the theater wants the theater back.

Comments 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *