Devo's Mothersbaugh Talks "Tenenbaums"

Mark Mothersbaugh brings "The Royal Tenenbaums" soundtrack to life

By |

Mark Mothersbaugh says the score he wrote for The Royal Tenenbaums is a logical progression from the work he did on director Wes Anderson's two previous films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore.

"Bottle Rocket was a jazz quintet, a little bit quirky," says the former Devo singer. "Rushmore was a little more Vivaldi influenced, a lot more sixteenth notes. This movie, although the sounds are related to the last two movies, kind of branched out further. I'd never used any horns before. The core of it is a cello and piano. There's a lot of harp in this movie, a lot of harpsichord, an acoustic upright bass. There's some chamber music sounding pieces in it, a lot of odd percussion things. Sometimes Wes would even pick up some drumsticks when we were recording some of the pieces."

The Royal Tenenbaums, starring Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bill Murray, has been slapped with the nebulous "dramedy" label and deals with an estranged father's return to his family of prodigies. Due out December 18th, the film's soundtrack -- much like the acclaimed Rushmore soundtrack -- will feature a blend of Mothersbaugh's original instrumentals and rock songs, including cuts by Bob Dylan, the Clash, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, Nico and Elliott Smith.

Having worked together on a pair of previous films, Mothersbaugh says he and Anderson have developed something of a symbiotic relationship. "He was listening to French impressionist composers when he was writing the script, and I started writing music for him from that framework. I'd send him music, and while he was shooting the film he invited me to the set to watch how they were shooting, so I could get a feel for the movie."

Mothersbaugh says the pair's close working relationship makes for a substantially more powerful soundtrack than the record company prefab numbers that frequently pass as scores: "Wes is very careful about the songs he uses. He's very passionate about the music that goes in his movies. A lot of times the director gets pushed out of the loop and the record company wants all their artists on it and the result is the music is pretty interchangeable. He's listening to music when he's writing it and so the music as part of the film makes it all the more relevant. It doesn't sound like some unnecessary icing."

The Royal Tenenbaums track listing:

"111 Arthur Avenue"*
"These Days," Nico
"String Quartet in F major (Second Movement)," Ysaye Quartet
"Lindbergh Palace Suite"*
"Wigwam," Bob Dylan
"Look At That Old Grizzly Bear"*
"Lullaby," Emitt Rhodes
"Mothersbaugh's Canon"*
"Police & Thieves," the Clash
"Scrapping and Yelling"*
"Judy Is A Punk," the Ramones
"Pagoda's Theme"*
"Needle in the Hay," Elliot Smith
"Fly," Nick Drake
"I Always Wanted To Be A Tenenbaum*
"Christmas Time Is Here," Vince Guaraldi Trio
"Stephanie Says," The Velvet Underground
"Rachel Evans Tenenbaum (1965-2000)"*
"Sparkplug Minuet"*
"The Fairest of the Seasons," Nico
*Originals by Mark Mothersbaugh