Bob Mothersbaugh interview by Alex Brunelle & Tom Chiki

Who in high school gave you your nickname "Clown"?

I don't remember who gave me the nickname "Clown," and I still can't imagine why they did.

Can you provide some more information on the Jitters? All that is known right now is that it featured you and Jim, and that there are four (untitled) songs floating around.

Jitters was my band along with Jim [Mothersbaugh] and Greg Brosch on guitar and Greg Kaiser on bass. We played a lot of early Rolling Stones songs and Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters and Hounddog Taylor. Greg Brosch was one of my guitar heroes and taught me quite a bit about playing guitar leads. One Saturday morning, we drove up to Cleveland with 60 dollars and recorded a four song demo of original compositions. Mark [Mothersbaugh] showed up and played organ and piano on a couple of songs.

Did you have anything at all to do with the KSU protests?

I was taking acid at the headquarters of the Kent chapter of SDS the Friday that the riots started and looked out a window and saw riot police beating hippies senseless. So Saturday I returned to Kent to join in the protests and was photographed by the FBI helping to burn an American flag, which somehow burned down the ROTC building on campus. I was in school (high school) on Monday when the college students were shot.

Can you talk a little bit about your involvement in early songwriting (e.g. Baby Talkin Bitches, Shimmy Shake, Midget, Huber House, I Been Refused, 37)?

I didn't write "Baby Talkin Bitches", "Shimmy Shake" was a Jitters song written by myself and Jim [Mothersbaugh], "Midget" was something I wrote music for and Mark wrote the lyrics, "Hubert House" was from an article in the Akron Beacon Journal that Jerry found, he started singing and I was playing a guitar. "I Been Refused" is Jerry's song, "37" is tongue in cheek angst about thinking that if I was dumb I wouldn't feel bad about the horrible atrocities of life.

Can you talk about "Huber House" and "Shimmy Shake" specifically?

"Shimmy Shake" was young men being horny and frustrated with young girls refusal to accomodate us.

Was "Blockhead" entirely your creation? If so, why were you not the sole credit in the liner notes for the various releases it was featured on?

I wrote the music to "Blockhead" one evening in my basement, and Mark came over and heard it and asked if I had lyrics. I didn't, but said I wanted to call the song "Blockhead" after seeing a sinus spray commercial where the congested persons head was shaped like a block before using the spray. So Mark sat down and wrote the lyrics in about 20 minutes and we recorded him singing and beating a chain against a metal pole. I don't know if this version ever made it to any Hardcore or bootleg release, it didn't have a drum track.

This question relates to the prototype version of 'The Men Who Make The Music': in Akron, did you really crash cars and throw TVs out of windows on a regular basis?

I did crash one or two cars under the influence, but I don't remember ever throwing a TV out a window.

In a broadcast of a concert from Paris in 1978, it appears as though you kick an audience member. Can you clear up what happened there, if you remember?

If I kicked anyone at the Paris concert, it would have been in self-defense. Remember that 1978 was the begining of punk audience participation in which it was cool to spit on the band, throw bottles at the band, and try to yank musicians off the stage.

What's the story with your blue potato Ibanez guitar?

In the mid-80's, I developed a fondness for cocaine that turned into full-blown addiction. When the band stopped working, I ran out of money and one day I woke up broke, hungry and needing alcohol and drugs. So I pawned the Ibanez guitar for $250, which seemed great at the time. I really miss that guitar, even though it weighed a ton.

Click here for the happy ending to this story!

What was your role in the songwriting and recording process on Shout? How involved was it?

Very little. Mark and Jerry kept saying in interviews that the guitar was obsolete and wanted to prove it with the Shout album. I didn't really care what they said or did as long as I could get drunk and loaded.

Did you prompt the more prominent use of guitar on Total Devo and Smooth Noodle Maps or was that part of the evolution of the band's sound? And did you write the guitar parts or were they there from the demo stage?

Again, I contributed very little to Total Devo and SNM, I was unhappy about the process of writing with sequencers. I may have written some guitar lines but mostly it was just replaying what Mark or Jerry wanted.

What was your participation in the writing of "Blow Up"?

I don't remember much about "Blow Up", something about recording Jerry's or Mark's vocals into a sampler to pitch them down.

During the Smooth Noodle Maps era, was there any particular reason your post post-modern man suit was pink?

Probably because everybody else thought it was too gay.

How do you feel about the recent re-election of George Bush?

I did not vote for Enron/Halliburton, but I'm okay with it. Just surprised how out of touch with middle America I am. Shame on Ohio.