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Creative Inspirations: Mark Mothersbaugh, Music Composer
Illustration by John Hersey

Mutato Muzika projects


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Creative Inspirations: Mark Mothersbaugh, Music Composer

with Mark Mothersbaugh

Video: Mutato Muzika projects

Mark Mothersbaugh: I think what happened with me is because my band was two sets of brothers, we were always used to collaborating and we were always used to everybody having something to say about it and always-- We always were thinking about the end product as opposed to "this is mine and I wrote that and you're changing it." There's no other way to do commercials than be ready to be a team player and to understand that somebody else has lived with this project a lot longer than you and they also have people they have to answer to, that have a whole another set of agendas from them.

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Creative Inspirations: Mark Mothersbaugh, Music Composer
56m 36s Appropriate for all Jul 23, 2010

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In this installment of Creative Inspirations, we meet music composer and DEVO founder Mark Mothersbaugh at home at Mutato Muzika, his studio on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. This is where he and his fellow spuds (Mutato combines mutant and potato) create some of film and television's most compelling music.

Mark reveals what drives his projects that have ranged from Clio Award-winning commercials, to Emmy Award-winning music for television, to soundtracks for popular video games. Mark shows us his stunning paintings and drawings that have been shown in galleries around the world, and shares his motivation behind being an artist working in various media, his fascination with mutants and symmetry, and using Photoshop to manipulate his work. He also discusses how the unique DEVO sound, look, and philosophy first came together, and why after a 28-year break, they came back together with a new album and tour.

Subjects:
Audio + Music Film Scoring Creative Inspirations Music Composition Documentaries Music Business
Author:
Mark Mothersbaugh

Mutato Muzika projects

Mark Mothersbaugh: I think what happened with me is because my band was two sets of brothers, we were always used to collaborating and we were always used to everybody having something to say about it and always-- We always were thinking about the end product as opposed to "this is mine and I wrote that and you're changing it." There's no other way to do commercials than be ready to be a team player and to understand that somebody else has lived with this project a lot longer than you and they also have people they have to answer to, that have a whole another set of agendas from them.

So, as we started building this company, it went from me doing most of the commercials to where I was doing the smallest percentage and everybody else was getting really good at it. John Enroth: My name is John Enroth. I do whatever Mark needs me to do. Mostly writing music, but that I do tech support. I do commercials, video games, and I'm helping him with the new movie he's working on now. Each project is definitely different. With more of the commercial stuff, it's such a fast turnaround that he'll just let us do what we want.

He'll give his examples and say what we should do and/or write a melody and have us do it but most of the commercials are just write something, turn it in, because we maybe having 24 hours to a week to turn something in. (Music playing) Mark handed me the music that went along with this. (Male singing: Jump up, jump down, jump to your left, jump all around.) And you can hear the fake drums. I put my own lyrics in and my own vocals.

They liked the music and were very nice to say, "hey can we get different lyrics? Maybe a different vocalist there?" They didn't go out of their way to say to say "we really don't like the vocals," but that's all right. It happens. So, we ended up calling a bunch of people that can actually sing and ended up getting-- and then I had-- they also wanted more energy and that sort of stuff and obviously with all the fake MIDI loops and stuff that was in the original, they were hoping for more of a fleshed out idea.

So it went from that to this. (Music playing) (Male singing: Jump up, everybody. Get off of your feet.) (Male singing: Jump all around. Sing a little louder.) (Male singing: Jump up and down! One more time.) (Male singing: Jump to the beat! Jump off your feet!) You know, and it goes from there. Albert Fox: My name's Albert Fox. I've been a part Mutato since '97. I am a music composer. I also do some sound design and basically whatever else needs to get them in terms of-- Basically my job is to help Mark.

If I could probably pull something up from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist here. It's a movie that he basically wrote a bunch of themes and then he had us help him with pretty much taking the themes and then fitting them to the picture. So at that it's more really like arranging and that kind of stuff, than it really is writing or scoring and an example of that. (Music playing) So this is pretty much like the thing that he had it written, the theme for that. (Music playing) I don't even know if this is the final but the finished version has that as-- At least until last part as the main part of the arrangement.

So then I had to take his melody, which is going to-- there's a bit of an intro and build up. (Music playing) Yeah this one, they wanted like older sounding drums. I think they have given us like the Postal Service as an example. (Music playing) So there's Mark's stuff layered on top. (Music playing) So more of his main melody and then my backing, backing stuff.

Working with Mark is great. I mean it varies from day-to-day. Sometimes he'll need a good synthesizer sound so you get thrown into that. Sometimes he'll say,"hey, I need you to help me record vocals or I need you to finger snaps or I need claps, gather over in the building and we're going do handclaps for this" or things like that. Sometimes it's collaborating with him, sometimes it's doing-- He'll do the music and I'll do the sound effects, whether it's a rock or 80s, orchestral and salsa or you name it or combination there of. There's that.

We get to do the wacky stuff and it's fun.

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