Mothersbaugh, Dell Make Their Mark

NEW YORK The music of Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of Devo, is everywhere, just not in traditional places such as record stores or contemporary radio.

It’s in children’s mouths, in the form of a Hasbro toothbrush that plays a remake of the band’s best known song, “Whip It,” called “Brush It.” Later this year it will be heard in an as yet unnamed video game that director Steven Spielberg is working on for Electronic Arts. And it will be included in the scores of various movies slated to come out over the next year.

Currently Devo’s music in the form of the song “Watch Us Work It” is helping to promote the new Dell XPS laptop in a spot called “Engine” from Mother, New York, that broke this week. It is the first major release from the band in 17 years. The song will also be available for download through iTunes.

The independent agency connected with Mothersbaugh through Gerald Casale, a member of Devo, as well as a commercial director, who helmed spots for former Mother principals Linus Karlsson and Paul Malmstrom when they were at Fallon, Minneapolis. Casale directed Miller Lite commercials for the team and Mothersbaugh scored the music through his Los Angeles-based music house Mutato Muzik.

Music video and commercial director Jonas Akerlund of RSA Films directed “Engine.” In the spot, women who look as though they’ve escaped from Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” music video build a giant engine that is transported into the Dell XPS.

To read Barbara Lippert’s critique of the commercial, click here.

“When they [Mother] were putting this project together, Gerald played some of the songs we were working on,” said Mothersbaugh. “They liked ‘Work It’ and gave it to the [producers] Teddy Bears to remix.”

For Dell, working with Devo gave the computer maker a chance to redefine its image. “Our previous work focused on ‘speeds and feeds,’ which is all the processing power and the specs of a computer,” said Bob Kaufman, client representative, based in Round Rock, Texas.

“We are trying to portray a different kind of image than we did in the past. We’re highlighting personalization and how technology meets the need of our customers. Devo and Dell are both proven, they’ve been around a long time, and both are innovative and distinctive,” he said.

Mothersbaugh and the band returned from a European tour last month and plan to release a full-length music video for the song.

“We could do a whole Devo/Dell album, although there’s not an album’s worth of material yet,” said Mothersbaugh. “We’ve been looking for how we would release it.”

Mothersbaugh dismisses the aesthetic of CDs and laments the near disappearance of vinyl records. “There’s something physical and intangible about vinyl that were lost,” he said. “Jewel cases are the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. It made the music look like it belonged at a 99-cent store.”

Mothersbaugh also has harsh words for the Web. “Now, with the Internet, for all things good and bad, kids don’t have respect for things they can download. We’re just looking for a delivery system that makes sense for us,” he said.