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Mark Mothersbaugh says 'Lego Movie' soundtrack draws on EDM history

MoviesEntertainmentScienceHistoryArts and CultureThe Lego MovieMusic Industry

He's best known as a founding member of Devo, the plastic-domed new-wave band that gave the world "Whip It." But musician Mark Mothersbaugh has flourished in a different guise in recent years: composing for film, television and video games, including the poppy and propulsive soundtrack for new animated hit "The Lego Movie"

In other words, everything's, well, awesome?

"I'm definitely a visually inspired guy," Mothersbaugh said on the phone from his studio in West Hollywood when asked about the movie. Seeing "all those little blocks making waves and explosions and clouds," he said, sparked his creativity.

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Like the Phil Lord and Chris Miller movie, which combines state-of-the-art 3-D animation and decidedly low-tech plastic bricks, Mothersbaugh's score straddles two worlds, weaving together circuit-bent electronic sounds and traditional orchestra music.

In developing his sound palette, Mothersbaugh was "all over the place," he said, using a phrase that could just as easily describe the movie's colorful, kinetic visuals.

"I sampled a lot of analog gear because that's where I started off, like Minimoogs and old analog modular pieces," he added, nodding to his Devo days.

But although Mothersbaugh is now 63 and identifies as "an old geezer" — "There were Lincoln Logs [not Legos] when I was a kid," he notes — that didn't keep him from making use of modern electronic sounds as well. While combing through sound libraries, he picked the brains of electro-house purveyors Deadmau5 and DJ Aero.

"The Lego Movie," Mothersbaugh said, "encompassed the widest range of the history of electronic music of any film I've ever worked on."

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For many filmgoers, the musical takeaway of the film is its infectious theme song "Everything Is Awesome," particularly the version by Tegan and Sara and the Lonely Island. Mothersbaugh did the arrangement for that track, as the artists came together at the eleventh hour.

"It just happened at the last minute, so it got crazy," Mothersbaugh said. "We had hours to get it finished so it could make it in time for the mix and final dub of the movie."

The movie also reunited him with Lord and Miller after scoring their two previous films, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "21 Jump Street." The three share a similar sense of mischief, as one might expect from a rock musician with a history of wearing vacu-formed headwear and a filmmaking duo that finds wit in potentially silly setups.

"They have this ability to find projects where you could walk into it thinking of it as a problem, or you could walk into it thinking of it as a perfect opportunity," Mothersbaugh said. "They're very optimistic, and that helps their process a lot."

Another part of their process is keeping open minds — even while approaching the finish line. "They're still juggling up until the last minute to find the perfect fit for the whole project," Mothersbaugh said, "so the final mix is even a surprise for me at the end." 

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