Meet the Wipeouters - DEVO’s surf-rock alter egos

Meet the Wipeouters: DEVO’s surf-rock alter egos created for a children’s show

1 de maio, 2017 0 Por Artes & contextos
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Mark Mothersbaugh has quite the musical repertoire outside of being the co-founder, keyboardist and lead singer of one of America’s most inventive and beloved new wave groups – the almighty DEVO. In 1989, Mothersbaugh founded the production company, Mutato Muzika, which has also served as the band’s headquarters since its inception. Glancing at the company portfolio, Mutato Muzika (“mutato” being portmanteau for “mutant potato”) has produced music for hundreds of commercials, movies and TV shows, with credits for Wes Anderson films, Nickelodeon’s Rugrats, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, The LEGO Movie, and the soundtrack for the computer game, Sims 2 and much more, too much to mention.

In addition to the above, Mutato Muzika has also spawned The Wipeouters, the surf-rock DEVO offshoot with a rather vague existence. In the late 90s, Mark Mothersbaugh was approached by Klasky Csupo, Inc. the animation company behind Rugrats, to create the theme for their new extreme-sports themed cartoon series, Rocket Power which followed a group of SoCal kids who surf, skateboard, snowboard, rollerblade, BMX bike, play street hockey, and any other adrenaline-fueled sport you can think of. While their airborne stunts may sound intense, the adolescent complications they faced seemed to be the most challenging: math homework, getting grounded, bullies, confronting one’s fears and insecurities, and so forth. Mothersbaugh assembled his team at Mutato Muzika to record the theme to Rocket Power, which premiered on Nickelodeon in August of 1999.

At this point on the Devolution timeline, the band was, for the most part, pretty inactive. After poor record sales for 1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps and the dissolution of Enigma Records, DEVO itself pretty much disbanded in 1991. Over the years came a few one-offs, including their “Head Like a Hole” cover, the soundtrack to their CD-ROM adventure game “Adventures of the Smart Patrol,” and a few reunion shows beginning at Sundance, then the Lollapalooza tour, and onward. DEVO’s absence in the 90s, allowed Mothersbaugh to cultivate the success of Mutato Muzika as a commercial music production company powerhouse, establishing itself outside of the DEVO context.

Mutato Muzika located in West Hollywood, CA
Mutato Muzika’s lair located in West Hollywood, CA
And then came the Wipeouters. The mysterious group of surf revival Mutatos featured Mark Mothersbaugh (keyboards/vocals), Bob “1” Mothersbaugh (guitar), Bob “2” Casale (guitar), and Josh “not from DEVO” Mancell (drums). At the recommendation of Gabor Csupo, co-creator of the Rocket Power series, the Wipeouters released a full-length record called P’Twaaang!!! in 2001. Inspired by the works of the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale, the Trashmen, and the Ventures, P’Twaaang!!! features 48 minutes of hard-driving tubular guitar riffs, with wacky synths on top to give it that classic DEVOtional flair. Even if you had never listened to DEVO before, the music sounds much like the same band who brought us 1979’s cover of the spy-surf classic “Secret Agent Man.” In addition to the recognizable cast of spuds noted above, the record also features notable guest appearances from Jerry Casale, Jim Mothersbaugh, Robert Casale Sr. (father of the Casale brothers), and other members of the Mutato Muzika family.

While the project was kept vague and much information has been lost in the abyss of the early-2000s world wide web, one interview with Mark Mothersbaugh points at a fascinating, potentially-embellished backstory of the band. Apparently, years before DEVO was even a spud of a concept, the Mothersbaugh brothers and the Casale brothers formed The Wipeouters in the 60s while they all were in junior high. Some songs that were originally written during these early jam sessions were later repurposed for P’Twaaang!!!, including the theme to Rocket Power. Similar to the thrill-seeking stars of the TV show that later gave them life, this early incarnation of The Wipeouters had trouble competing with the woes of growing up. Their musical endeavors did not reach full realization until DEVO was formed in 1973.

The theme music to ‘Rocket Power.’ Written by Mark Mothersbaugh and performed by The Wipeouters.

The Wipeouter’s only music video, “Twist ‘n’ Launch,” directed by Chuck Statler (of DEVO music video infamy)

The Wipeouters – “P’Twaang!!!”

The Wipeouters – “Surf’s Up on Goon Island”

 

 

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