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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.
Mark Mothersbaugh: We are at beautiful Sunset Strip, West Hollywood. This is Mutato Muzika, ground zero for most of the things creative that I do these days. Well, come on into the building. I'll show you around a little bit. Be careful, there is a -- be sure to wipe your feet on a historic first rug. I walked across this rug for about six or seven years before I thought, oh, you know I want to put my visual art on rugs, not just the logo.
After I found this company in Kentucky that would make me these rugs, I just started doing them like every week. I started doing another drawing that I done. I turn it into-- Actually, let me see if I have-- I might have something in my pocket. Here's from the last couple of days. This is from yesterday while I was sitting at the Oscars, waiting for it to be over. I just do drawings everyday. And then if I find one I really like, I was turning them into rugs. It was so easy because I can do it in Photoshop.
I can just scan my artwork and then play with it a little bit. It's kind of nice when artwork is on a floor. You think about it differently, and then you know I still find time to be able to paint. While James is over there getting the score ready for the orchestra, I got time to do some painting before we have to go into the big sound stage. DEVO still works here. We are still semi-functioning as a band, pretty fully functioning. We have an album coming out. We are kind of a little bit all over the place here, and I kind of like it that way.
We are lucky enough to be in just about every area of music. Video games, commercials. Another one is TV shows and films, and they all have complexity. Sometimes they are self-contained, and at sometime in my life I've done all of those categories just by myself. But then there is no way one person can do it. You end up putting together a team, and there is a lot of specific jobs within that.
Hence all these little cells off to the side where we have people toiling away on their own on different specific projects. Here is a guy that I work with that helps make the big movie thing happen at Mutato. This is James at Mutato. He works on synthestration, orchestration and conducting. He conducts our orchestras. Albert, he has worked on lots of commercials. He has worked on lots of TV.
He has worked on film with me. He loves old time, like this Moog here is probably from the 70s, plus he has enthralled to more hi-tech electronics too. But over here is my admission of defeat when it comes to digital mixing. I ended up after going through a couple of attempts at going digital for a console, I went back to on old 80s analog SSL console, what DEVO used to record on back in the 80s.
This little guy here is an Ondioline. I was rehearsing in a place called Modern Music. Pink Floyd was rehearsing in the big studio next to us, and when they were done with their rehearsal, they were getting ready to go out on tours. So they had a couple of semis full of equipment. So they were picking stuff that they wanted to just jettison. And this was going to go in the trash. And I said "hey, what are you guys doing with that?" And they said "would you like it?" And I said "heck yeah." Once Midi came along, Midi kind of was to help instruments talk together and which was a really great thing, but what it took away was this kind of individualism that synthesizers in the 70s had.
Like this one here, the CAT for instance, would have just like one switch that would have some strange name on it. It would be unique to that instrument and you wouldn't be able to find it anywhere else. Now all the synths, they all control the same software, and they all control the same sample banks and so things are becoming more similar again. But like this keyboard, the keyboard itself, if you wanted tremolo, to get tremolo or vibrato, you wiggled your finger. The whole keyboard wiggles and so if you go pingggggg...
I just love that idea. It's like I wish that was on pianos, for instance. It'd be great. So this is kind of my studio. The building is circular, which has a lot of benefits that I found out through the years, and you could be walking around and forget where you are going, but it's not a problem because you just keep going because eventually, you'll remember where it was you were going, and then you just turn off in that room. That brings us back to the lobby, which means we've gone full circle around the main studio.
And that's it, Mutato Muzika.
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