Ron Mael

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Ron Mael
FFS Lollapalooza 2015-9 (cropped).jpg
Mael onstage with FFS, 2015
Background information
Born (1945-08-12) August 12, 1945 (age 76)
Culver City, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • record producer
  • music programmer
  • film director
  • Keyboards
  • synthesizer
Years active1963–present

Ronald David Mael (born August 12, 1945)[1] is an American musician, songwriter, composer and record producer.[2] He is the keyboard player and principal songwriter in the band Sparks which he founded with vocalist, occasional songwriter and younger brother Russell Mael in 1971. Mael is known for his quirky and idiosyncratic approach to songwriting,[3] his intricate and rhythmic keyboard playing style and for his deadpan and low key, scowling demeanour onstage often remaining motionless over his keyboard in sharp contrast to Russell's animated and hyperactive frontman antics. Ron Mael is also noted for his conservative clothes and unfashionable moustache. The Mael brothers are the founders of Lil' Beethoven Records.

Early life[edit]

Ronald David Mael was born on August 12, 1945, in Culver City, California. The Mael brothers grew up in Pacific Palisades – an affluent beach neighborhood of Los Angeles – with their father, Meyer Mael,[4][5] who was a graphic designer and caricaturist for the Hollywood Citizen-News,[6][7] and their mother, Miriam (née Moskowitz), a librarian. Much of the Mael brother's initial inspiration came from their father taking them to the cinema as children, where they developed an interest in film, visual arts and narrative. Meyer died when Mael was 11.[8]

After being educated at Palisades High School, both brothers enrolled at UCLA;[9] Ron began a course in cinema and graphic arts in 1963 while Russell studied theatre arts and filmmaking between 1966 and 1968.[10]


Ron Mael plays the keyboards and synthesizers and writes most of the songs for Sparks. When the band hit the peak of its popularity in the 1970s, he was well known for his strange appearance, often remaining motionless over his keyboard in sharp contrast to Russell's animated and hyperactive frontman antics. Ron's conservative clothes and unfashionable, Charlie Chaplin-esque toothbrush moustache attracted much attention, as does his current pencil moustache. Onstage, Ron alternates between playing the keyboard and engaging in comic mime routines, often in connection with projections on backdrop.

For the first two albums with Halfnelson/Sparks, Mael played a Wurlitzer electronic piano, but found that it did not stand up to road use because the metal reeds broke frequently. When Sparks relocated to the UK, Mael began using an RMI Electra-Piano, played through an Echoplex tape echo unit, and this distinctive sound featured prominently on their breakthrough single "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us", the albums Kimono My House and Propaganda and in their live shows. Since 1981, he has used various Yamaha and Roland keyboards and synthesizers live. That year, he altered the Roland logo on the back of his Roland Jupiter-8 to read "Ronald", which he has done on all of his keyboards since then. [11] He currently uses a Yamaha Motif XF8.

The pair appeared as themselves in the 1977 disaster film Rollercoaster, performing live. They also appeared in episode twenty-two of season six of the Gilmore Girls.

In June 2018, Edgar Wright announced he would be making a documentary on the cult pop-rock band Sparks.[12] He had covered the band's concert in London in May at O2 Forum Kentish Town. This concert would also be a part of the documentary.[13][14] The film, The Sparks Brothers, had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 30, 2021.[15]

Personal life[edit]

In 2017, a reviewer noted that while the brothers' biographies recount an LA childhood in which they surfed and were both models for mail order catalogues, their private lives are otherwise almost entirely unknown. "Well, we're in good company with Bob Dylan", was their reported response. "We feel the less you do know, it keeps the mythology and the image in a better position." Even to the question of whether they have partners or spouses, they refused to give an indication, insisting that "the vagueness is more interesting than the reality."[16]


With Sparks

Year Album
1971 Halfnelson
1973 A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing
1974 Kimono My House
1974 Propaganda
1975 Indiscreet
1976 Big Beat
1977 Introducing Sparks
1979 No. 1 in Heaven
1980 Terminal Jive
1981 Whomp That Sucker
1982 Angst in My Pants
1983 In Outer Space
1984 Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat
1986 Music That You Can Dance To
1988 Interior Design
1994 Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
1997 Plagiarism
2000 Balls
2002 Lil' Beethoven
2006 Hello Young Lovers
2008 Exotic Creatures of the Deep
2009 The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman
2017 Hippopotamus
2020 A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

With FFS

Year Album
2015 FFS


  1. ^ Easlea, Daryl (April 7, 2010). Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-237-7.
  2. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (November 1, 2002). The Great Rock Discography. The National Academies. pp. 214–?. ISBN 9781841953120. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  3. ^ Dye, David (2006). "Sparks: Elegantly Whimsical". Retrieved September 24, 2006.
  4. ^ "1940 United States Federal Census". Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  5. ^ Axelrod, Merry Anne. "Re: (It's A Samuel) Mael World". Retrieved November 8, 2012. [The author is a cousin of Russell and Ron; her father, Alvin, is listed as being Meyer's brother on the 1940 census]
  6. ^ "Myer Mael: "Roy Rogers" Object Record". Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  7. ^ "Harrietta Hughes on the cover of Republic Insider Magazine 1947". Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  8. ^ The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021 - Netflix Documentary
  9. ^ Welch, Chris. "Bright Sparks". Melody Maker. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  10. ^ Lorente-Darracq, Xavier. "RON MAEL AND RUSSELL MAEL - BIOGRAPHY". Graphik Designs.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "LIVE REPORT: Sparks". The Quietus. June 17, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Edgar Wright to Tackle 70s Cult Band "Sparks" in New Documentary". Collider. June 21, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "Edgar Wright's Next Film is Pop-Rock Documentary About Sparks". June 21, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Sharf, Zack (June 21, 2018). "Edgar Wright's Next Film Is a Documentary on Cult Pop-Rock Band Sparks – Exclusive". IndieWire. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Edgar Wright's 'The Sparks Brothers' Gives Cult Rock Icons Their Due
  16. ^ Lister, David (September 6, 2017). "Sparks' Ron and Russell Mael on their new album, collaborating with Franz Ferdinand and being mysterious". The Independent.

External links[edit]