Music News

Phoenix Circuit Bender Corey Busboom Creates Funky Instruments for Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh

Corey Busboom and one of his photo theremin creations. Click here for more photos of Busboom's and Ryan Avery's works.

Last week, local artist and musician Corey Busboom got a rather interesting phone call.

It was from Mark Mothersbaugh, the eccentric frontman for 80s hitmakers Devo.

The legendary keyboard player wanted to purchase, sight unseen, a dozen of his circuit bent instruments that Busboom is about to showcase at an upcoming art exhbition at the Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix.

Needless to say, Busboom was absolutely shocked.

A D.I.Y. synthesizer that Busboom built into an answering machine.

Mothersbaugh's interest in Busboom and his madcap machines began after the Devo godhead member purchased a microphone built into a telephone handset (similar to what Bob Log III uses) that the funky Phoenix artist was selling on eBay. (It isn't the first time Mothersbaugh has been involved with out local scene, as he exhibited his twisted series of photo-manipulations at Perihelion Arts a few times over the past couple years). Busboom specializes in devices such as these, taking old toys, appliances, and playthings and making them into musical instruments (colloquially known as circuit-bending).

One such gizmo he dreamt up was lo-fi synthesizer made from Radio Shack breadboards (and his own twisted genius) which was then installed into the shell of a 1960s adding machine. Busboom sent this homebrew synth to Mothersbaugh, who then rang him up inquiring about any other circuit-bent or homemade instruments he might have in stock.

One of Busboom's photo theremins built on a tennis racket.

Busboom says Mothersbaugh paid him approximately $1,400 for all 12 pieces, which is a far cry from the 12-packs of Sprite that he sometimes accepts in exchange for his work.

"There's been a few times I've sold instruments to people and gotten some Sprite in return," he says. "I went on the wagon from caffeine and it's the only kind of soda I drink right now."

Some of the many instruments that are showing at the Trunk Space this month and will later be shipped to Mothersbaugh include several freaky-looking photo-theremins mounted on tennis rackets and other DIY sound-making devices created from kids toys, cigar boxes, and other various and sundry thrift store junk.

Ryan Avery and his series of silkscreened prints of Wayne Michael Reich.

Busboom is sharing the exhibition (which is titled "Do You See the Rose in the Trash?") with downtown Phoenix art freakazoid Ryan Avery, who will be showing some oddly-inspired recent works. In addition to an 80-pound ball of ugly ties and some Polaroid photographic collages, he'll be displaying more than three dozen silk screened prints featuring the face of fellow downtown artist Wayne Michael Reich.

In my 2006 feature on Avery, Reich was described as being something of an outspoken nemesis to the 21-year-old musician and artist. The two were frequently at odds over Avery's penchant for outrageous (and often disruptive) performance art and music. While their feud, which was also depicted in the 2008 documentary on Avery called Hi My Name is Ryan, has cooled off somewhat, Avery says the exhbition is something of a playful joke.

As such, the prints feature "severly out-of-context" quotes taken from the outspoken Reich's MySpace site, including the following:

- "Our art scene sucks like a catholic priest @ a boy scout jamboree."
- "You're poor? Not my fucking problem."
- "I'm too pretty for prison."

Part of me is hoping the show will piss Reich off something fierce, and perhaps will lead to a second documentary: Hi My Name is Ryan: The Revenge of Wayne. I know I'd pay to see that.

"Do You See the Rose in the Trash?" will be on display at the Trunk Space (1506 Grand Avenue, 602-256-6006) through February 19.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.