When a movie soundtrack problem comes along, Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh must whip it into shape, and with The Lego Movie, he most certainly has. "Everything Is Awesome" hasn't left the head of anyone who has seen the film, and the new Batman theme might be the best thing since the sixties gave us "Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh."
We got the chance to talk to Mark about how you score when faced with a plastic brick wall. The answers may surprise you.
Luke Y. Thompson: Congratulations on being associated with such a great movie! Everybody is clearly loving it, and I've seen it twice already. Is there any difference, any sort of greater degree of fun, in scoring something like this - something you're pretty sure is going to be received well, versus something like It's Pat, where there's a little more anxiety that it might not?
Mark Mothersbaugh: You know what? I kind of got most of that. Can I just answer what I think you said?
MM: Should I couch it in a question, and then give an answer?
LYT: Any way you'd like.
MM: Then you can say, "That made no sense what he answered!" You were asking if there was anything special about - is there anything special about a movie like this, meaning The Lego Movie, that makes you score it differently than you would another film - is that it?
LYT: No, that isn't it. My question was is it more fun to score a movie where you kind of know that it's going to be very well-received, versus something like It's Pat: The Movie, where there is probably more anxiety that it might not be?
MM: Oh! Ha ha ha! Well, you know, I think that makes it easier. I think that makes it easier to know that they aren't depending upon you to figure out how to reinvent the movie. Sometimes you get to a film, and the script was pretty good, so you signed on, and then you get there, and you see it, and you go, "What happened?" And then the director comes in and goes, "Oh, the lead actor, he had diarrhea for the second week, the whole second week, and it didn't matter what kind of scene we were doing, he was grimacing the whole time because he was trying to hold it in. He pooped his pants on the third day. It took us out of shooting for three hours, we missed the sun, you've got to bring the sun out in the fight scene, and you have to make him look like he's actually happy that they're getting back together again."
So you get all of these things with some of these movies, where you're like, "Oh my god. How do we do that?" You can't save a movie, and then the directors are panicked. They're begging you to save them. And you're like, "I can only do so much." I can't reshoot your film for you.
But, you know, on a film like this, where I think everybody felt pretty good about it from the start. The script was pretty strong. There were a never times, I have to say - I can say that Warner Brothers was a little afraid that maybe I went too far with the electronics, and they were scared. I said, "Look, the electronics - I scored the whole movie electronically, but I also scored the whole movie with an orchestra, so when [directors] Phil [Lord] and Chris [Miller] are doing their final their final mix, they can adjust it one way or another if they want to, because they were already on 22 Jump Street, so I didn't get to have as much interaction as I had on the first three films I did with them.
They were busy, in New Orleans while I was down in Australia, recording. So I just thought I'm going to cover things - over-cover thing, so that's what I did. I gave them a lot of stuff to work with when they did their final mix, so that they could adjust it whichever way they want.
But yeah, the film - I felt like it was going to be a big film, from the beginning. Although, you think about Legos, and a big part of the country was, like, "You wrote a movie about Legos? That's got to be Barney. It's going to be a Barney movie for kids." So these guys are pretty great, the way they can take a property like that, and make it resonate with people of all ages. That's a pretty great talent to have.
LYT: How much of "Everything Is Awesome" was in the script? I know at the recent press conference I was at, they said it says in the script...
MM: "Everything Is Awesome" may have pre-dated the script. I mean, it might have existed ahead of time. Because awesome, and everything being awesome, I think it came out of a TV show I was doing for about three or four years before they started on The Lego Movie, and it's called Yo Gabba Gabba! for little kids, where about three or four times during the show, every episode, the host of the show goes, [enthusiastically] "That's awesome!" and all the kids scream. Phil and Chris and I were friends back then, and they were kind of paying attention to Yo Gabba Gabba! about maybe working on a film together with that. And then the next thing they went on to was Lego, and then, when I saw the script, "Everything Is Awesome" was already written into the script at that point, and they had already done a rough recording of it, so they already had a song pre-existing before anything was happening with animation yet. And then rough cuts for animation started coming in, and later on, the song got embedded in the film in a number of places.
And it was a very smart - not to over-talk about "Everything Is Awesome" - it was a very smart song, a smart idea. They had this song that starts off as an irritating piece of sound bite that they was used to, like, spur on the people of Legoland to conform and go to work every day, but by the end of the movie, it's like this evil sound bite turns into kind of an emotional moment when you hear the lyrics, and then, because of a turn in the film, it becomes ironic, and now it's about people working together an collaborating to do the bigger thing. So, they're pretty good writers. I think they deserve an A for this one.