Mark Mothersbaugh is just a simple farmer-scientist father to a robot. Sure, some folks might know him as a leading member of New Wave band Devo, or as a soundtrack composer (who gave us the familiar sound of a Wes Anderson movie), or even as Mark the art teacher on “Yo Gabba Gabba!” But, as seen in the exclusive clip below, he is now part of musical super hero lore as Jimmy the Robot’s dad on “The Aquabats! Super Show!”
Four decades this year after Devo debuted — which still remains active and released the ode to Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus in the August 2012 single “Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro! (Seamus Unleashed)” – Mothersbaugh will appear on the episode airing this Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT on The Hub as Mr. Goodman, devoted farmer-scientist, husband and father.
Over the years Motherbaugh has become as well-known for his work on movie and TV soundtracks as his involvement with Devo. In addition to his work on Anderson’s films and recent flicks like “21 Jump Street” and “Hotel Transylvania,” he’s composed music for shows such as “Eureka,” “Big Love,” “Shameless” and “Enlightened.” And on the kid front, Mothersbaugh and Devo partner Bob Casale produced (and performed on) an album for “The Powerpuff Girls” and the “Rugrats” show and movies.
Of course, parents (and a lot of college students) know him as the teacher of the “Mark’s Magic Pictures” segment on “Yo Gabba Gabba!” the trippy children’s show. Gabba Gabba was created by the same team behind “The Aquabats! Super Show!” Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs (aka The M.C. Bat Commander in The Aquabats), so Mothersbaugh’s involvement in the show is not an act of heroics.
But the monster worm that he and the musical super hero team must face off against this Saturday is a different story, and in the following Q&A, Mothersbaugh talks about joining heroes, composing for heroes and the job security of kids recognizing him.
MTV Geek: How did you get involved with “The Aquabats! Super Show!”?
Mark Mothersbaugh: I’ve been an Aquabats fan for a very long time … There are members of The Aquabats that are creators and movers of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” and I was an actor on that show. When they went on to doing “The Aquabats” show, I think I was a logical enlistment. They already figured out they could get me to work for minimum wage so they signed me up.
Geek: What’s the appeal of a super hero band for you?
Mothersbaugh: As a band, they’ve been in Southern California for quite a few years and they just have this great use of pop energy, and to me, they remind me of Kidrobot come to life or those toy stores where they specialize in Japanese plastic toys and three-dimensional cartoonist art toys. They kind of remind me of the theatrical rock-and-roll version. I’ve always been a fan since I found out about them and I think they worked, in the really old days, with one of the other Devo members. I think Bob produced a record for them and when I did an album for “The Powerpuff Girls,” it gave me an excuse to call them up and have them do a song on that album. So we’ve kind of had some artistic interaction through the years, and this was just fun.
Geek: You’re playing Jimmy the Robot’s dad, so does that make you a robot?
Mothersbaugh: No, I’m a scientist farmer who needed an extra pair of hands on the farm, and in the lab, to help out. So I built Jimmy. It was an immaculate conception.
Geek: In this episode, Jimmy’s mom gets swallowed by the giant worm, but did you also want to get swallowed up?
Mothersbaugh: Well someone had to rescue her, so I thought I’d better stick with my husbandly duties and try to be the one who went surgically in there. Luckily for me, I took enough biology classes when I was studying to be a farmer-scientist that I already dissected a few earthworms before. So I knew exactly where to go to find her.
Geek: Did they write this part specifically for you?
Mothersbaugh: That’s a question you’ll have to ask them, because those are closely guarded secrets. They don’t even tell me about them. I really don’t know how that came about, but I think maybe I’m the father figure they wish Jimmy would have had.
Geek: Do you like super heroes outside of The Aquabats?
Mothersbaugh: My interest towards super heroes goes more towards what would be not the strong and silent. I’m less interested in the Batmans, Supermans and Spider-Mans of the world, and more interested in mutations, super heroes that might show up on an episode of “Futurama.”
Geek: So if you were to write music for a super hero, you’d lean more towards Kif than Zapp Brannigan on “Futurama”?
Mothersbaugh: I like writing music for all sorts of things, including super heroes of all shapes and sizes. I wouldn’t be against working on even the biggest of all super hero movies, but there’s a place in my heart for like Booger Man and Finger Boy, and things like that.
Geek: Well they are supposedly remaking “The Toxic Avenger,” which The Aquabats sang about in the song, “I Love The Monster,” so maybe that’s the super hero movie for you…
Mothersbaugh: Toxie! That’s getting closer now, you see, on that reach.
Geek: Have you ever been approached to compose music on a super hero movie?
Mothersbaugh: I think a lot of times, especially in the past, directors and studios have sensed my power and feared me. But I don’t know, they might be coming around now. As you get a little older, they feel like they could handle whatever radiation I have that I’d be bringing to the project.
Geek: Are there any super powers you would like to have?
Mothersbaugh: I’d like to be able to travel to a part of the universe where the ribbon of time is more like a bow, where it folds back on itself and you could jump the track and go to another part of time – instead of this one, which is on one long, straight road, which is kind of predictable.
Geek: What’s your reaction to being thought of as more of a soundtrack composer, and one who has done so many kids shows — and now thought of as Jimmy’s dad – and less as a member of Devo?
Mothersbaugh: I think it’s a little bit of security in case I fall on hard times. If I need a place to crash for the night 10 years from now, there might be some kid that goes, “Oh yeah, he wrote the music for ‘Rugrats’” or “He was Jimmy’s dad in ‘The Aquabats’” and “You can sleep in our garage for the night, Mr. Mothersbaugh, but just for the night or two and then you’ve got to go back out.” No actually, I’ll tell you what’s been fun, because of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” I can sit in airports and there will be a two year-old with a binky in their mouth and in a stroller, and they’ll start screaming “Yo Gabba Gabba!” and their parents will have no idea what their kid is talking about. I get to have a private moment with the child sitting across the aisle, even without a permanent Sharpie marker and mustache.
Geek: Will you compose the soundtrack to my life?
Mothersbaugh: How much time commitment are you looking for? A sliver of a life is easy, but it depends if you have a 90-minute feature film in you, or are just an 11-minute Cartoon Network short.
Geek: Do you have any final words about The Aquabats?
Mothersbaugh: The Aquabats are coming into their time and I think all super heroes need to be aware of that. Mark my words: Aquabats are on the ascent.