Devo has something for everyone 

Mark Mothersbaugh had no idea his Hollywood neighbors were country rocker Shooter Jennings and actress Drea de Matteo until their 3-year-old daughter, Alabama, raced up to him recently, gushing and calling out his name.

“It’s true — Alabama is a ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ freak,” says the Devo founder, who hosts the “Mark’s Magic Pictures” segment on the popular kid’s program. “I’m starting a whole new fan base in the pretoddler set. In grocery stores, a mother will walk up, holding a baby, and say, ‘My daughter started going, ‘Yo Gabba Gabba!’ and she’s pointing right at you.’”

The co-founder and lead singer of Devo continues, “So whatever I look like in real life has unfortunately translated onto the TV.”

The iconic new-wave band has recently returned — two decades after its last album — with a new recording, “Something for Everybody,” parts of which will likely be played at the band’s concert at The Warfield on Friday.

Yet since he first composed the music for “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” in 1986, Renaissance man Mothersbaugh has been making a comfortable living doing TV and film soundtracks, often catering to kids, as was the case on his most recent big-screen projects, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “Ramona and Beezus.”

Mothersbaugh also is a talented fine artist who holds regular gallery shows. For him, it all started in second grade, when — legally blind at the time — he got his first pair of spectacles.

“I didn’t know you were supposed to see the roof of a house or the top of a tree, or clouds, birds and telephone wires,” says the impish 60-year-old. “But I saw all of those things within 10 minutes of getting my glasses, and once I could see things, I became obsessed with drawing them.”

Initially, the Ohioan kept his paintings secret. But once he launched Devo with the groundbreaking “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” in 1978, he began funneling his Mad magazine-meets-Man Ray art into album covers, promotional posters and stage sets.

It meshed perfectly with the band’s prediction of de-evolution — an atavistic regression of humanity that now seems all too real.

“Nobody took us seriously,” he says. “But we weren’t supporting it — we were only reporting it. And we assumed everyone would see it and change tack.”

Mothersbaugh thinks adults will enjoy his “Magic Pictures.”

“I’ll draw something like a potato riding a skateboard, and then I shrink and go into the animated picture,” he says. “And kids like it because — even at 2 years old — they’re looking at it like, ‘I could draw a better rabbit than that guy did!’

“The bar isn’t raised too high on my drawing class.”



Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $34.75 to $96.75

Contact: (800) 745-3000,

About The Author

Tom Lanham

Pin It

Speaking of Entertainment, Music

More by Tom Lanham

Latest in Pop Music & Jazz

© 2019 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation