MIX (01/??/95)
LUNCHING WITH BONZAI


From: Misteradio (misteradio@aol.com)


By: Mr. Bonzai
  
MARK MOTHERSBAUGH: MUTATO MUZIKA

   Mark Mothersbaugh is carved into the big turkey of history as a
   founder of the indelible Devo, the international New Wave void-filler
   of the '70s and '80s. His distinctive eyeglasses, flowerpot hat and
   haute industrial couture have made him a pop icon whom youngsters
   instantly identify as "that guy from Devo."
  
   The band formed when Mothersbaugh teamed with fellow Kent State art
   major Gerald Casale, joined by Bob #1 Mothersbaugh, Bob #2 Casale, and
   Alan Myers. The name Devo is derived from THE TRUTH ABOUT
   DE-EVOLUTION, a prize winning film in the 1976 Ann Arbor Film
   Festival. Bog shots Iggy Pop and David Bowie soon became pals of these
   odd boys from Akron, Ohio, and their self-financed early singles
   "Jocko Homo", "Mongoloid", and a robotic cover of "Satisfaction"
   earned them over-and-underground status.
  
   More than simple musicians, Devo became multimedia mavens-making
   films, inventing fashions and philosophizing about potatoes. Brian Eno
   produced their first album (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo), Ken
   Scott followed on their second (Duty Now For The Future), and the
   groups third, Freedom Of Choice, (produced by the bombastic Bob
   Margouleff), included their 1980 worldwide homage to Osterizers, "Whip
   It". Their final album as a studio band was 1989's SmoothNoodleMaps.
   Mothersbaugh's credits also include playing keyboards for The Rolling
   Stones, programming synthesizers for Sheena Easton, and singing backup
   for Debbie Harry.
  
   Through it all, Mothersbaugh has kept quite busy with his production
   company, Mutato Muzika. He's also worked as the composer behind
   successful films, television shows, and major commercial campaigns.
   You might not have realized it, but you were tapping your toes to
   Mothersbaugh's snappy music for Lifesavers and McDonald's. He's also
   the large, synthesized brain behind shows like MTV's Liquid
   Television, the animated Rug Rats series, Beakman's World, and the
   award-winning Pee Wee's Playhouse.
  
   Join us now at Mothersbaugh's lab, Mutato Muzika, for a can of
   cappucino and a little conversation with the man from tomorrow...


BONZAI: This is a new console, isn't it?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Fairly new, yeah, about a year old. It's a CAD, but I
   think they call themselves CTI, actually. I don't know what they call
   it - it's kind of confusing. But considering it has 240-plus inputs,
   it was probably as reasonably priced as you could find out there.
   BONZAI: In your arsenal of tools and toys here, what is your main
   composition contraption?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: I'd have to say the Macintosh. I'm on Opcode Studio
   Vision Pro.
   BONZAI: Is most of your work not scoring for television?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: It's all over the place right now. We're scoring five TV
   series: AJ's Time Travelers for Fox, Future Quest for PBS, Medicine
   Ball for Fox, and Beakman's World and Kevin's Kitchen for Nickelodeon.
   BONZAI: How many people do you employ here at Mutato Muzika?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: We're flexible - we're like an accordion. It depends on
   how many projects are going on at the time. On Beakman's World, for
   instance, we have a composer named Denis Hannigan, who took over the
   project from me, and he's been doing it for the last couple of
   seasons. We're up to episode 65.
   BONZAI: All done here in your studio?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: He does it in Topanga Canyon and modems it over on
   American (sic) Online. He sends his MIDI notes over, and we've
   duplicated his studio in this setup. He doesn't have the gear to mix,
   but he has the gear to compose, so Bob Casale just sets it up for
   "Denis' Topanga Studio", puts the disk in, and mixes it here.
   BONZAI: What medium do you record to?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: It's everywhere now, because everybody has different
   requests. We go to 4-track 1/2 inch for a lot of the TV stuff, and
   commercials - for some reason they like that format. Some people like
   DAT with a 2-pop.
   BONZAI: What's a 2-pop?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: It's a film term, when in the old days two seconds
   before picture started there would be a pop on the visuals and an
   audio pop so that they could line it up on the KEM tables. So we give
   'em a pop on the tape, or we put a little dialog that they can sync up
   to ahead of time. Or else they want a DAT with time code. And some
   people want things delivered on ADATs, while others want 1/4 inch tape
   with center code. We also deliver in Tascam DA-88, because the pros
   haven't figured out what they like, the ADATs or the DA-88s. We'll
   supply anybody with anything they want.
   BONZAI: What kind of computer hard disk storage do you have here?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: We have all sorts of things, hard drives all over the
   place - inside the Quadra, free-standing gigabyte drives that get
   moved around. We have MO drives - four of these Pinnacles.
   BONZAI: Why do you need all the...?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Memory? Because we record a lot of our sounds and
   samples. And in this room, in one day, I may work on four different
   projects. We're scoring a couple of films right now, an independent
   film called "Flesh Suitcase", doing TV commercials; Today we did
   Kahlua; yesterday it was Gummy Savers. The other day, we did Farmer's
   Insurance.
   BONZAI: Are you the main composer on all the works?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: There are some projects where people request me. On
   commercials, it used to be just me, but now it's turning out that my
   brother Bob is beating me out on some of the demos. J. Walter Thompson
   in Chicago, for instance, they always request my brother because
   ---MIX MAGAZINE LAYOUT-SCREW-UP DELETED THIS PORTION OF THE
   INTERVIEW--- but there may be time available and a possibility where
   we put albums of music on Internet and people can download them for a
   fee.
   BONZAI: What pieces of your gear would make the readers drool and lust
   for the power?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: I would worry about people who drool and lust for
   equipment, but I guess that's easy to say if you're making payments on
   just about everything. I think it's a great time because just about
   any of these boxes can do all sorts of things. A Kurzweil, for
   instance, the K2000 - you can both sample and play samples and also
   play back patches that already exist. The Kurzweil and these Roland
   samplers are all connected to the same SCSI chain. You can load off of
   CD-ROMs into any of these, and they are starting to talk to each other
   somewhat. The Kurzweil can read the Roland MO disks. It's wonderful
   that all the new stuff talks to each other, shakes hands, and there
   are universal computer formats now so that you know you're going to
   get a piano when you make a certain request, no matter what software
   you're using or what piece of gear you have.
   BONZAI: Do you still use any of the old Moog synthesizers?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: We've got a big collection of old analog stuff. In the
   old days, people were trying to figure out electronic music - like
   this TVS-1 here is a mutant, an Oberheim with a great little
   sequencer. It's the filters - there's really nothing that accomplishes
   that sound in modern synth sounds. The old sequencers weren't
   quantized, so if you didn't exactly tune each knob, you could get
   microtones. You miss that when everything is so cleaned up, even if
   you don't want it to be.
   BONZAI: Any new stuff that we haven't heard about?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Actually, I'm interested in a new keyboard controller
   that throws away the concept of your seven white notes and your five
   black notes. It has what looks like those old stops on Wurlitzer
   organs that were like a little tab, like a little diving board, and
   there is a whole row of them in a horseshoe pattern. It has rows of
   seven, offset slightly. They had one at the last NAMM show, but it
   wasn't hooked up and working. I'm trying to get them to send me one.
   BONZAI: You had a couple of "Hard Core Devo" albums come out on
   Rykodisk a few years ago. Are there more things in the Devo beehives
   that people will have access to?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: I'm sure there will be. There are whole areas of our
   history that are parallel to what's going on now in music, including
   ambient and trance kind of stuff. There was a period of three years in
   between writing pop songs where our experimentation took place in an
   ambient, trancy kind of dance mode, as far as the style of the music.
   We have an archive, and it's just a matter of going through it and
   pulling out the best stuff.
   BONZAI: How many hours of Devo are in the Archives?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Timewise, there are thousands of hours, but you'd have
   to go through it to find what you'd even want people to know about.
   Some of it would be humorous, especially because so many of our songs
   that came out on albums were often different earlier. Like
   "Dumptruck", nobody ever heard that, but it became "Girl You (sic)
   Want" at one time and made the Top 20.
   BONZAI: You made a lot of money with Devo, but you spent it all on the
   production and touring, didn't you?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Yeah, we didn't know that you were supposed to keep some
   of it for yourself. We were totally having fun, making films that we
   financed ourselves, staging these great tours. We'd spend all our
   profits on an album having the record company do a die-cut, fold-out
   stand so you could fold this thing out of the back of your album and
   stand it up. That's the money that would have bought us our swimming
   pools and stretch limos.
   BONZAI: After that period when you were concentrating on your visual
   art, did you just decide to go and make some money?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: What happened was that Devo kind of broiled somewhere in
   the mid-'80s. We peaked commercially as far as music that related to
   the radio. Somehow in 1980, somebody thought that the guys who wrote
   "Mongoloid", "Can You Take It", and "Jocko Homo" should be allowed to
   sell out the Forum, Radio City Music Hall, play at big festivals and
   The Budokan, all over the world. It was great; it was a nice couple of
   years. I recommend it to anyone: Go ahead and be a rock star for a
   year or two. It's fun. Then after that, we wrote a song with John
   Hinckley. And it kind of turned back into where it came from.
   BONZAI: John Hinckley?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: You remember, he took a shot at Reagan and winged him.
   We had been reading the National Enquirer around the time that he was
   arrested. I liked the poetry that he was sending to Jodie (Foster),
   and we were at Cherokee working on an album called "Oh No, It's
   Devo!". It was kind of a dark period for us, anyhow, and we called up
   Bethesda Maryland Hospital where we read that he was staying. Wouldn't
   you know, just by being persistent and saying that we were with the
   band Devo - it either caught them off guard, or anyone could get to
   him - we actually got to John Hinckley and talked to him. He said that
   he was a Devo fan, which didn't make me feel good at first. He only
   bought the first album, so that was okay. We figured he had lost
   interest, so we wouldn't be next on his list. But he let us take a
   poem that he had written, and we used it for the lyrics and turned it
   in to a love song. It was not the best career move you could make. We
   had the FBI calling up and threatening us. They told us, "Well, you
   know he gets 500 death threats a week, and his fans are going to be
   your fans, and you better not publicize this song." Our record company
   called and said, "Wait a minute, we're getting calls from the FBI. Is
   this really the John Kinkly (sic) they say it is?" My manager said,
   "Mark, you can't do it. Neil Young never would have done it, Bob Dylan
   never would." None of his other clients would have done it. Tom Petty
   wouldn't. It was like, why did we do it? But if people told us we
   couldn't, that just gave us all the more determination...you know,
   Spinal Tap syndrome.
   BONZAI: When was the last time you guys performed together?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: About three years ago, we did a tour in Europe. It was
   Spinal Tap, deja vu. For me, I was in this horrible tour. Oh, it was
   okay, because the audiences were great and we hadn't played in Europe
   for a few years. They were excited, and it was fun, but we'd play in
   Sweden, and the next day we'd have to take a bus. It was supposed to
   be all planes, but the next day we were on a bus driving to Madrid.
   Stay there just long enough to play a show, and then we'd drive to
   Norway and then drive to Italy, then up to England. It was a
   ridiculous tour, and it went like that for 35 days. We were watching
   Spinal Tap in the bus and checking off the identical things that
   happened to us. "Yeah, they fucked our album cover..." We got up to
   about 30 check marks.
   BONZAI: Since you guys can so easily come out of the mothballs, I
   guess you must have billions of loyal fans?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: I don't know. There are people who grew up in the era
   when we were writing music. For me, it's the Stones and the Beatles,
   because that was my time period. Unfortunately, another generation got
   Devo instead of the Stones. [Laughs] That's their problem. But they
   are all over the place, yeah.
   BONZAI: As an artist, are you more or less fulfilled now?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: I'm in a nice part of my life, actually. I get to do all
   sorts of different kinds of things. I have an art show coming up in
   Detroit with paintings and prints. Musically, commercials can
   sometimes be great to work on, and sometimes they just suck.
   Sometimes, it's a bad idea from the beginning, but the best thing is
   that they only last a couple of days and everybody's really nice. What
   else...I'm working on CD-ROM projects, and I get to act. People call
   me up for the funniest stuff.
   BONZAI: What about your Muzik For Insomniaks? Any plans to release
   your solo music?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Yes, I'm starting a label, MUTMUZ, and the first
   releases just came out. And there will be some Devo things.
   BONZAI: Do a lot of kids apply for work here?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Yes, people are starting to find out about Mutato. They
   watch RugRats on Saturday mornings, or maybe they saw Michael Tolkin's
   The New Age. I guess they figure we're having some fun. Yes, people
   are looking for work on this planet.
   BONZAI: What advice would you give to the youngsters, composers in
   their formative years hoping to emulate your spectacular lifestyle?
   MOTHERSBAUGH: Learn your computer and remember your dreams.
   
   Q. Are we not men? A: We Are Bonzai

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