Interview: Mark Mothersbaugh on The LEGO Movie

In addition to being one of the founding members of the seminally subversive New Wave/post-punk/genre-free rock band Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh has also been spending decades scoring some of your favorite children’s TV and Wes Anderson movies. Starting with “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” in the late 1980s, and most recently writing the music for the recent hit The LEGO Movie, Mark Mothersbaugh has never taken a break from his music career, often fitting in gallery shows and other solo projects into his prolific output.

CraveOnline sat down with Mothersbaugh to discuss his inspirations for The LEGO Movie, the techniques he employs to bring Legos to life, his art, and the Church of the SubGenius.


CraveOnline: In The LEGO Movie is centered around a really obnoxious pop song called “Everything is Awesome.” I know you didn’t write that, but how much did it inform your score for the movie?

Mark Mothersbaugh: I did a lot of recording for it, and produced a couple versions of it. But the song – it was a clever idea for a song, and to take credit for it would be wrong. It’s [writer/directors] Phil [Lord] and Chris [Miller], it was their idea. It was in the script. It was supposed to be this irritating, obnoxious mnemonic kind-of commercial to get everybody going in the morning! Remind them to get out there and work, work, work! It’s kind of an evil song. Until you get to the end of the movie – and the story is revealed – and it takes on this ironic kind of… instead of being about an irritant to drive people forward – like another version of caffeine – it turns into something where it’s about people collaborating to create something that’s bigger than just themselves. To work together. In a co-operative way.

So it has this whole other meaning by the end of the film that I thought was very clever on the part of Phil and Chris.


For sure. When it’s being used in its dystopian context, it felt very Devo-ish to me…

I didn’t play on the version on the soundtrack. There’s one version in the film and I didn’t play on that, but pretty much everything else in the film I ended up playing on. And I recorded Tegan and Sara over here. I was involved in the whole thing. I just like the song! It’s one of those that I’ll be glad when I can get it out of my head.


How did you become involved in something as strange as The LEGO Movie?

Can you tell me anything about the original version from five years ago?

You know what, they make you sign these non-disclosure things, but it’s enough to say that it was mostly live-action, and the animation was – it all took place in a bachelor’s dirty apartment. It was a totally different story. There’s not one thing that seemed similar.


A lot of your movie scores have been kid-friendly. Have you sought kid-friendly material, or has that been luck of the draw?

Luck of the draw. You know, the movie that came out before this one was Last Vegas, so that was totally different. And the other director I work with as much as I work with these guys is Wes Anderson. I’ve done like four and a half of his movies. So I don’t just do kids’ stuff. But I did get into it early on because of “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” I found out that, in kids’ music – unlike in pop music and unlike in adult films – kids are much more receptive to mash-ups. Conceptual mash-ups. Like, you can mix Chinese computer rock ‘n’ roll. And mix that with a little bit of Beethoven. Or even some clog dancing music. And they’re along for the ride. They’re like “Okay! I’ll check this out!” So it’s kind of an enjoyable area to get to work in.