Mark Mothersbaugh

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Mark Mothersbaugh
Mothersbaugh holding a microphone to his mouth, wearing a bright yellow costume
Mothersbaugh performing live with Devo in 2007
Born Mark Allen Mothersbaugh
(1950-05-18) May 18, 1950 (age 66)
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • record producer
  • music programmer
  • author
  • visual artist
  • Nancye Ferguson (m.; divorced)
  • Anita Greenspan (m.)
  • Mai Li Margaret (adopted)
  • Hui Hui Hope (adopted)
  • Robert Mothersbaugh, Sr.
  • Mary Margaret
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • synthesizer
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • minimoog
  • Mellotron
  • omnichord
Years active 1972–present
Associated acts
Mark Mothersbaugh's signature

Mark Allen Mothersbaugh (/ˈmʌðərzbɔː/; born May 18, 1950) is an American singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, author, and visual artist.

Mothersbaugh's music career spans more than 40 years. He came to prominence in the late 1970s as co-founder, lead singer, and keyboardist of the new wave band Devo, which released a Top 20 hit in 1980 with the single "Whip It". The band has maintained a cult following throughout its existence. Mothersbaugh is one of the main composers of Devo's music, and made major lyrical contributions to the band's songs. He is one of only two members (along with bass player Gerald Casale) who have been with Devo throughout its entire history.

In addition to his work with Devo, Mothersbaugh has made music for television series, films, and video games via his production company, Mutato Muzika, most notably as the composer for the popular long-running animated series Rugrats for its entire 13-year run, as well as all three theatrical films. He also has had a solo career which has included four studio albums: Muzik for Insomniaks, Muzik for the Gallery, Joyeux Mutato, and The Most Powerful Healing Muzik in the Entire World. In 2004, he was honored with the Richard Kirk award at the BMI Film and TV Awards for his significant contributions to film and television music.[4] Additionally, Mothersbaugh was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Kent State University in 2008.[5]

His lifelong interest in creating multimedia art pieces has resulted in gallery exhibitions of items such as his "Beautiful Mutants" photograph series, postcard diaries, art rugs, sculptures, and musical instruments created from salvaged organ pipes and bird vocalizations. He has married twice and is the father of two adopted children.

Early years[edit]

Mark Allen Mothersbaugh was born on May 18, 1950, in Akron, Ohio. He is the son of Mary Margaret ("Mig") and Robert Mothersbaugh, Sr. He grew up with two younger brothers, Bob and Jim, and two sisters, Amy and Susan.[6][7] His father appeared in early Devo films and fan events as the character General Boy, and his brothers participated in the band, although Jim's tenure was brief, appearing only on several early demos.



Mark Mothersbaugh performing live with Devo at the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, in 2007

Mothersbaugh attended Kent State University as an art student, where he met Devo co-founders Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis. In early 1970, Lewis and Casale formed the idea of the "devolution" of the human race after Casale's friend Jeffrey Miller was killed by Ohio National Guardsmen on university grounds during what came to be known as the Kent State shootings.[8] Intrigued by the concept, Mothersbaugh joined them, building upon it with elements of early post-structuralist ideas and oddball arcana, most notably unearthing the infamous Jocko-Homo Heavenbound pamphlet (the basis for the song "Jocko Homo").[9] This association culminated in 1973, when the trio started to play music as Devo.

Devo performing live at Festival Hall, in Melbourne, in 2008: Gerald Casale and Mothersbaugh

Following the commercial failure of their sixth studio album Shout, Warner Bros. dropped Devo. Shortly after, claiming to feel creatively unfulfilled, Alan Myers left the band,[10] causing the remaining band members to abandon the plans for a Shout video LP, as well as a tour. In the interim, Mothersbaugh began composing music for the TV show Pee-wee's Playhouse and released an elaborately packaged solo cassette, Musik for Insomniaks, which was later expanded and released as two CDs in 1988.

In 1987, Devo reformed with new drummer David Kendrick, formerly of Sparks to replace Myers. Their first project was a soundtrack for the flop horror film Slaughterhouse Rock, starring Toni Basil, and they released the albums Total Devo (1988), and Smooth Noodle Maps (1990), on Enigma.

Devo had a falling out and played two shows in 1991 before breaking up. Around this time, members of Devo appeared in the film The Spirit of '76, except for Bob Mothersbaugh. Following the split, Mark Mothersbaugh established Mutato Muzika, a commercial music production studio, along with Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale.[11] Mothersbaugh meant to further a career as a composer. Mothersbaugh gained considerable success in writing and producing music for television programs (starting with Pee Wee's Playhouse and perhaps most famously with Rugrats), video games, cartoons, and movies (notably working alongside director Wes Anderson).

In 2006, Devo worked on a project with Disney known as Devo 2.0. A band of child performers was assembled and re-recorded Devo songs. A quote from the Akron Beacon Journal stated, "Devo recently finished a new project in cahoots with Disney called Devo 2.0, which features the band playing old songs and two new ones with vocals provided by children. Their debut album, a two disc CD/DVD combo entitled DEV2.0, was released on March 14, 2006. The lyrics of some of the songs were changed for family-friendly airplay, which has been claimed by the band to be a play on irony of the messages of their classic hits. Mothersbaugh doesn't rule out the idea of the band gathering in the studio, eventually, to record a new Devo album."[12] The album, Something for Everybody was eventually released in June 2010, preceded by a 12" single of "Fresh"/"What We Do".[13]

Devo was awarded the first Moog Innovator Award on October 29, 2010, during Moogfest 2010 in Asheville, North Carolina. The Moog Innovator Award has been said to celebrate "pioneering artists whose genre-defying work exemplifies the bold, innovative spirit of Bob Moog".[14] Devo was scheduled to perform at Moogfest, but Bob Mothersbaugh severely injured his hand three days prior, and the band was forced to cancel. Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale collaborated with Austin, Texas, band The Octopus Project to perform "Girl U Want" and "Beautiful World" at the event instead.[15]

Other work[edit]

In 1989, Mothersbaugh and other members of Devo were involved in the project Visiting Kids, releasing a self-titled EP on the New Rose label in 1990.[16] The group featured his then-wife Nancye Ferguson, as well as David Kendrick, Bob Mothersbaugh, and Bob's daughter Alex Mothersbaugh. Mark Mothersbaugh co-wrote some of the songs, and produced the album jointly with Bob Casale. A promotional video was filmed for the song "Trilobites". Visiting Kids appeared on the soundtrack to the film Rockula, as well as on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Since Devo, Mothersbaugh has developed a successful career writing musical scores for film and television. In film, he has worked frequently with filmmaker Wes Anderson, scoring half of his feature films (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou[17]). He also composed for The Lego Movie.[18]

His music has been a staple of the children's television shows Rugrats, Beakman's World, Santo Bugito and Clifford the Big Red Dog. He also wrote the new theme song for the original Felix the Cat show when it was sold to Broadway Video, some music for Pee-wee's Playhouse in 1990 and the theme song for the Super Mario World TV series for DIC Entertainment in 1991. The character design for Chuckie Finster on Rugrats was based on him.[19]

Mothersbaugh is also known for producing music in video games including Sony's Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series (both music scores were created by Josh Mancell), and creating music for EA Games' The Sims 2. This work is often performed with Mutato Muzika, the music production company he formed with several other former members of Devo including his brother, Bob Mothersbaugh.[20]

Mothersbaugh composed "Having Trouble Sneezing", the distinctive music in the award-winning "Get a Mac" commercials for Apple Inc.[21] He composed the score for the first season of the television series Big Love but was replaced after one season by David Byrne of Talking Heads. Mothersbaugh has also composed the theme music for the American television show Eureka, broadcast on the Syfy channel. He currently composes the score of the Cartoon Network's TV series Regular Show.

In 2013, Mothersbaugh appeared on an episode of The Aquabats! Super Show!, an action-comedy series by the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba! starring the Devo-influenced band The Aquabats, playing the eccentric scientist father of one of the main characters, Jimmy the Robot.[22]

Mothersbaugh and Casale have also produced music for other artists including Toni Basil.[23]

Visual art[edit]

Although best known as a musician and composer, Mothersbaugh has also been successful as a visual artist. In November 2014, Mothersbaugh summarized his career for an interviewer, "I've done over 150 art gallery shows in the last 20 years."[24]

On February 6, 2014, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver) announced a retrospective exhibition to bring together the first comprehensive presentation of Mothersbaugh's art and music from the beginning of his career in the early 1970s to 2014. This nationally touring exhibition was accompanied by a publication, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, published by Princeton Architectural Press.[25]

In regard to on-camera work, Mothersbaugh hosts a drawing segment on the Nick Jr. television series Yo Gabba Gabba! called Mark's Magic Pictures, teaching children how to draw simple pictures. The pictures often come alive at the end of the segment through animation.[26]

Personal life[edit]

At the age of seven, Mothersbaugh began wearing glasses to correct his severe myopia and astigmatism. Over the years, he took an interest in designing his own distinctive eyewear for use in Devo shows. He favored a particular set of stainless steel frames for regular use made by a Los Angeles shop called LA Eyeworks, and says he purchased as many pairs as he could find because they tended to break or get stolen by fans.[27][28] In a joint venture with eyewear manufacturer Shane Baum, Mothersbaugh has designed his own branded frames for sale, made of beryllium with a stainless steel chrome finish, in three different styles as of 2015. The Baumvision press release states that the unisex model "Francesca" is named for one of Mothersbaugh's pug dogs which is a simultaneous hermaphrodite that is also called Frank.[28][29]

He has been married twice. His first wife was actress Nancye Ferguson, who can be seen briefly performing with him in the 1999 superhero comedy film Mystery Men. His current wife is Anita Greenspan, who runs the film music managing company Greenspan Kohan Management with Neil Kohan. The couple has two daughters from China, Mai Li Margaret and Hui Hui Hope, who were adopted after Greenspan learned of the practice in that country of female children being abandoned because of their gender.[7]

Mothersbaugh is a collector and connoisseur of song poems[30] and unusual or vintage musical devices. He is the owner of Raymond Scott's Electronium (although it is currently not functional).[31]

Honors and awards[edit]

Mothersbaugh was honored with the Richard Kirk award at the 2004 BMI Film and TV Awards. The award is given annually to a composer who has made significant contributions to film and television music.[4]

On May 10, 2008, Mothersbaugh was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Kent State University.[32]

On May 28, 2016, Mothersbaugh was awarded the key to the city of Akron during a ceremony at the Akron-Summit County Public Library.[33]



Years Title Notes
1986–1990 Pee-wee's Playhouse
1991–2004 Rugrats with Denis M. Hannigan, Rusty Andrews and Bob Mothersbaugh
1992-1995 Adventures in Wonderland with Josh Mancell
1995–1996 Dumb and Dumber
2000-2003 Clifford the Big Red Dog
2000-2001 Grosse Pointe
2003–2008 All Grown Up! with Bob Mothersbaugh
2004-2005 LAX
2006 Big Love
2010-2011 Blue Mountain State
Glory Daze
2010–present Regular Show with John Enroth and Albert Fox
2011-2013 Enlightened
2012–present House of Lies
2013–2014 The Carrie Diaries
2015–present The Last Man on Earth
2016 Bordertown
2016 Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade[35] Ice Age TV special


Year Title Director(s) Studio(s) Notes
1987 Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise Joe Roth 20th Century Fox N/A
1988 Slaughterhouse Rock Dimitri Logothetis Arista Films N/A
1992 Frosty Returns Evert Brown, Bill Melendez CBS Productions, Broadway Video Animated television special
1994 It's Pat Adam Bernstein Touchstone Pictures N/A
The New Age Michael Tolkin Warner Bros. N/A
1996 Happy Gilmore Dennis Dugan Universal Pictures N/A
Bottle Rocket Wes Anderson Columbia Pictures First collaboration with Wes Anderson.
The Last Supper Stacy Title Columbia Pictures N/A
1997 Best Men Tamra Davis Orion Pictures N/A
Breaking Up Robert Greenwald Warner Bros. N/A
1998 Principal Takes a Holiday Robert King Walt Disney Television
Television film
Bongwater Richard Sears Alliance Independent Films N/A
Dead Man on Campus Alan Cohn Paramount Pictures N/A
Rushmore Wes Anderson Touchstone Pictures Second collaboration with Wes Anderson.
Halloweentown Duwayne Dunham Disney Channel Television film
The Rugrats Movie Norton Virgien
Igor Kovalyov
Paramount Pictures
Klasky Csupo
1999 200 Cigarettes Risa Bramon Garcia Paramount Pictures with Bob Mothersbaugh
Can of Worms Paul Schneider Disney Channel Television film
It's the Rage James D. Stern Silver Nitrate Pictures N/A
Drop Dead Gorgeous Michael Patrick Jann New Line Cinema N/A
2000 The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Des McAnuff Universal Pictures N/A
Rugrats in Paris: The Movie Stig Bergqvist
Paul Demeyer
Paramount Pictures
Klasky Csupo
2001 Glass, Necktie Paul Bojack E.I. Independent Cinema N/A
Camouflage James Keach Sunland Studios Direct-to-video film
Sugar & Spice Francine McDougall New Line Cinema N/A
Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge Mary Lambert Disney Channel Television film
The Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson Touchstone Pictures Third collaboration with Wes Anderson.
2002 Sorority Boys Wallace Wolodarsky Touchstone Pictures N/A
Welcome to Collinwood Anthony and Joe Russo Warner Bros. N/A
2003 A Guy Thing Chris Koch Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer N/A
Thirteen Catherine Hardwicke Fox Searchlight Pictures N/A
The Even Stevens Movie Sean McNamara Disney Channel Television film
Rugrats Go Wild Norton Virgien
John Eng
Paramount Pictures
Klasky Csupo
Good Boy! John Robert Hoffman Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer N/A
2004 Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen Sara Sugarman Walt Disney Pictures N/A
Envy Barry Levinson DreamWorks Pictures N/A
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Wes Anderson Touchstone Pictures Fourth collaboration with Wes Anderson.
2005 Lords of Dogtown Catherine Hardwicke Columbia Pictures
TriStar Pictures
Herbie: Fully Loaded Angela Robinson Walt Disney Pictures N/A
The Big White Mark Mylod Ascendant Pictures N/A
First Descent Kemp Curly
Kevin Harrison
Universal Pictures N/A
The Ringer Barry W. Blaustein Fox Searchlight Pictures N/A
2006 How to Eat Fried Worms Bob Dolman New Line Cinema with Bob Mothersbaugh
The Dog Problem Scott Caan Thousand Words N/A
2007 Mama's Boy Tim Hamilton Warner Bros. N/A
2008 Quid Pro Quo Carlos Brooks Magnolia Pictures N/A
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist Peter Sollett Columbia Pictures N/A
2009 Fanboys Kyle Newman The Weinstein Company N/A
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Phil Lord
Chris Miller
Columbia Pictures
Sony Pictures Animation
First collaboration with Lord-Miller.
Falling Up David M. Rosenthal Anchor Bay Entertainment N/A
Circle of Eight Stephen Cragg Paramount Home Entertainment Direct-to-video film
2010 Ramona and Beezus Elizabeth Allen 20th Century Fox N/A
2011 Saving Private Perez Beto Gomez Lionsgate
Pantelion Films
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked Mike Mitchell 20th Century Fox N/A
2012 21 Jump Street Phil Lord
Chris Miller
Columbia Pictures
Second collaboration with Lord-Miller.
Safe Boaz Yakin Lionsgate N/A
What to Expect When You're Expecting Kirk Jones Lionsgate N/A
Hotel Transylvania Genndy Tartakovsky Columbia Pictures
Sony Pictures Animation
2013 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 Cody Cameron
Kris Pearn
Columbia Pictures
Sony Pictures Animation
Last Vegas Jon Turteltaub CBS Films N/A
2014 The Lego Movie Phil Lord
Chris Miller
Warner Bros.
Village Roadshow Pictures
Lego System AS
Third collaboration with Lord-Miller.
22 Jump Street Phil Lord
Chris Miller
Columbia Pictures
Fourth collaboration with Lord-Miller.
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar David Douglas Warner Bros. Pictures
IMAX Corporation
IMAX film
2015 Pitch Perfect 2 Elizabeth Banks Universal Pictures N/A
Vacation[36] Jonathan Goldstein
John Francis Daley
Warner Bros.
Village Roadshow Pictures
New Line Cinema
Regular Show: The Movie J.G. Quintel Cartoon Network Studios
Saerom Animation
Television movie
Hotel Transylvania 2 Genndy Tartakovsky Columbia Pictures
Sony Pictures Animation
Forever Tatia Pilieva Foreverland Productions N/A
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip[37] Walt Becker 20th Century Fox
Regency Enterprises
Bagdasarian Productions
Scrat's Cosmic Scrat-tasrophe Mike Thurmeier 20th Century Fox
Blue Sky Studios
Ice Age Short film
2016 Pee-wee's Big Holiday[38] John Lee Netflix Netflix original movie.
2017 Thor: Ragnarok[39] Taika Waititi Marvel Studios N/A
TBA MIB 23 James Bobin Columbia Pictures N/A

Video games[edit]

Year Title
1996 Crash Bandicoot
1997 Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
1998 Crash Bandicoot: Warped
1999 Crash Team Racing
2001 Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
2003 Jak II
2004 Jak 3
2004 The Sims 2
2007 MySims
2008 Boom Blox
2008 MySims Kingdom
2009 MySims Racing
2009 MySims Agents


  • My Struggle (as Booji Boy)
  • What I Know Volume I
  • Beautiful Mutants



Main article: Devo discography

Solo albums[edit]

Studio albums
  • Muzik for Insomniaks (Cassette, 1985)
    • Later released on CD as Muzik for Insomniaks, Vol. 1 and Muzik for Insomniaks, Vol. 2 in 1988 by Rykodisc
  • Muzik for the Gallery (LP, 1987)
  • Joyeux Mutato (CD, 1999, Rhino Handmade limited edition; reissued 2000 by Rhino to regular retail)
  • The Most Powerful Healing Muzik in the Entire World (6-CD Set, 2005)


  1. ^ Long, Pat (May 2, 2009). "Pat Long meets new wave 80s oddballs Devo, who are intent on making a comeback". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Devo". AllMusic. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ Steinberg and Michael Kehler (2010), p.355
  4. ^ a b "BMI Hands Out Over 100 Awards at Annual Film/TV Gala". Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ "America's Best Colleges 2010". Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Mary M. "Mig" Mothersbaugh". August 31, 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Gruskoff, Jen (March 3, 2010). "A Vision of Family". Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ Paul Vermeersch: A brief history of Devo, Part 1, October 21, 2014, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  9. ^ Songfacts, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  10. ^ "Alan Myers Obituary". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  11. ^ Are you not Devo? You are Mutato, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  12. ^ Abram, Malcolm X (August 18, 2005). "Still DEVOlutionary". Akron Beacon Journal. Archived from the original on October 26, 2005. 
  13. ^ ChadGrisly. "SOMETHIN.jpg". 
  14. ^ "MoogFest 2010 Announces Devo as Recipient of Moog Innovation Award". September 8, 2010. Archived from the original on November 12, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  15. ^ Pareles, Jon (November 1, 2010). "Honoring the Moment When Music Met Moog". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  16. ^ The Spawn of Devo: Visiting Kids, April 26, 2012, retrieved August 13, 2015 
  17. ^ "Mark Mothersbaugh". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 17, 2007. 
  18. ^ "The Lego Movie (2014)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  19. ^ 8 Cartoon Characters Inspired by REAL People, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  20. ^ Are you not Devo? You are Mutato, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  21. ^ Roberts, Randall (December 7, 2007). "Are You Not Devo? You Are Mutato". LA Weekly. Retrieved October 31, 2008. 
  22. ^ Sagers, Aaron (June 14, 2013). "Mark Mothersbaugh joins 'The Aquabats! Super Show!'". MTV Geek. 
  23. ^ Devo-related 45s, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  24. ^ Hesse, Josiah (November 8, 2014). "Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh Still Loves Fucking with People". LA Weekly. Retrieved November 8, 2014. 
  25. ^ Mark Mothersbaugh Myopia, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  26. ^ Matheson, Whitney (November 14, 2014), Stream Baby Stream: Where Can My Kid Learn to Draw?, retrieved August 4, 2015 
  27. ^ Peskowitz, Josh (June 11, 2010). "Eye Glasses of the Day: Mark Mothersbaugh's". Esquire. Retrieved June 20, 2010. 
  28. ^ a b Raymer, Miles (October 2, 2014). "Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh on his new eyewear line, revisiting old work". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Mothersbaugh Eyewear" (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  30. ^ NERDIST Podcast Episode 130: Penn & Teller; Penn discusses his involvement along with Mark & Tom Ardolino of NRBQ with collecting song poems (starting at 08:17 in the podcast).
  31. ^ Mutato Muzika: Diamonds in the Basement (video). Gearwire. April 3, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  32. ^ "America's Best Colleges 2010". Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  33. ^ Garrett, Amanda (May 28, 2016). "Mark Mothersbaugh gets key to city, unlocks creative door for his hometown, Akron, to see his world". Akron Beacon Journal. 
  34. ^ "Klasky-Csupo, Famed Animators Team for NBC". Animation Magazine. Fall 1990. Retrieved August 4, 2015. 
  35. ^ Lloyd, Robert (March 18, 2016). "TV Picks: 'Pee-wee's Big Holiday,' 'Ice Age' Easter, eagle-cam". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  36. ^ "'Vacation' Reboot to Feature Music by Mark Mothersbaugh". Film Music Reporter. April 29, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Mark Mothersbaugh Scoring 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip'". Film Music Reporter. Film Music Reporter. November 6, 2015. 
  38. ^ "Mark Mothersbaugh Scoring Netflix's 'Pee-wee's Big Holiday'". Film Music Reporter. Film Music Reporter. October 12, 2015. 
  39. ^ Gonzalez, Umberto (August 22, 2016). "'Thor: Ragnarok': Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh to Compose Score (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 

External links[edit]