A recent DEVO fandom YouTube-rabbit-hole led me to a late 80s interview with Robert Mothersbaugh, Sr., father of DEVO members Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh. I found myself enamored with this interview which was not in-and-of-itself emotional in any way, but it inspired great emotion in me, as a viewer, watching this extremely straight-laced midwestern granddad describe his sons’ band and his pride in their accomplishments. For as subjectively weird of a band as DEVO were, Mr. Mothersbaugh’s almost-folksy, matter of fact descriptions of the band and their philosophy are extremely charming.
Mothersbaugh, who played the character of “General Boy” in a handful of DEVO videos and short films, explains how he was originally roped into playing the character: He was given the part when another actor couldn’t (or refused) to make it to a DEVO film shoot and it just so happened that the military jacket costume fit him.
In the interview which takes place around the time of the Now It Can Be Told album, Mothersbaugh discusses his opinions on changes in DEVO’s sound, explaining that he feels the sound of the band at that time was returning more to their roots, and that it had previously become in his words “too mechanized”—probably referring to the albums Oh No, It’s DEVO and Shout.
He talks about supporting “one hundred and one percent” the fledgling band, which included not just his sons Mark and Bob, but also his son Jim, DEVO’s second drummer before Alan Myers. He goes into some detail about Jim’s invention of synthesized drums for the band before going to work for the Roland company, developing MIDI technology.
He talks a bit about his granddaughter, Alex, being in the DEVO offshoot band Visiting Kids.
When asked about his son Mark’s artwork, the elder Mothersbaugh describes his son as a “genius” and later describes one of his fondest memories as seeing his sons “entertaining” on television for the first time.
If you are a DEVO fan, this charming interview is well worth your time.