Wearing a Devo T-shirt wasn't cool on the Hand Middle School playground.
The bullies let Buck Sanders know that the New Wave band, best known for its 1980 hit "Whip It," was for sissies.
"I loved Devo, but I was embarrassed," said Sanders, who didn't have many friends at the school. "I never wore that T-shirt again."
Today, the Columbia native has plenty of people to tell him he's cool. That's what happens when you grab an Oscar nomination.
Sanders was nominated for original score by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his composing for "The Hurt Locker," an Iraq war bomb squad drama that is leading in off-screen buzz - not all of it good - heading into tonight's ceremony. (The other original score contenders are from "Avatar," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Sherlock Holmes" and "Up.")
And you'll never guess who Sanders will be sitting next to: Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo's lead singer. (Mothersbaugh also composes music for television and film, including this year's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.")
"It's sort of like poetic justice," said Sanders, whose agent is married to Mothersbaugh. "He's the only celebrity I'll let myself geek out over."
Some who hung out in the late '80s music scene here might remember Sanders, a 1989 Dreher High School graduate, as a guitarist for the speed metal band Sovereign.
Sanders still has a T-shirt that lists Sovereign sharing the stage with Hootie and The Blowfish and BOA (Bachelors of Art), among other bands. The latter featured Jam Room owner Jay Matheson, who recorded Sovereign's last demo before the quartet - Sonny Bishop, Kevin Williams, Kyle Snell and Sanders - moved to Los Angeles after Sanders' graduation.
"They were kind of billed as a Christian metal band," Matheson said. "Very Metallica oriented."
In 1988 when Matheson opened Jam Room, the recording studio now on Rosewood Drive, Sovereign was one of the first bands he recorded using eight-track equipment.
"That was the first year I was doing stuff," Matheson said. "If you listen to it now, it doesn't sound impressive. But back then, it was state of the art."
Sanders wasn't stumped when metal stardom didn't happen because he had a developed interest in music. He credits his parents for letting him hang out on school nights with motorcycle-riding rockers and for instilling a love of film scoring by, among other things, buying him versions of the scores to "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
He also mentioned Robert Newton.
"That guy was really just so influential in me being a musician," Sanders, 38, said of his local guitar teacher. "He really helped me find my own voice as a musician."
Newton said Sanders was one of his best students.
"I pushed him . . . and he met me halfway," Newton said.
MUSIC INTENDED TO GO UNNOTICED
Sanders' musical voice led him to Marco Beltrami, the composer who received a co-nomination for "The Hurt Locker," the film directed by Kathryn Bigelow that is tied with "Avatar" - directed by her ex-husband James Cameron - for the most Oscar nominations with nine.
Beltrami, who scored Wes Craven's clever 1996 slasher film "Scream," asked Sanders to work with him on the two sequels. They've worked on several films, including "3:10 to Yuma" - Beltrami received a nomination - and "Hellboy," creating moods and intensifying action.
But their work on "The Hurt Locker was supposed to go unnoticed.
"Kathryn's intent with the music was to have it seamlessly blend with the sound effects so that you wouldn't necessarily hear an entrance of a music cue or its exit," Sanders said.
"The Hurt Locker" is a riveting story with a time bomb-like tick, tick, tick that synchronizes with your heartbeat.
"The feeling we were having while we were watching was really influential to how the music came out," Sanders said of the minimalist tones and sounds. "It's a documentary experience where you feel like a member of the group."
Sanders and Beltrami, who are scoring a new film by "Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro after the Oscars, haven't worked since Feb. 2, the date nominations were announced.
"The month that you're nominated, you can't get any work done," said Sanders, who has been attending champagne lunches. "It's like a full-time gig."
Sanders also had to be fitted for a Ralph Lauren Black Label tuxedo. His wife, Dominique, who is eight months pregnant with their first child, will be wearing a maternity gown made by designer Rosie Pope and Harry Winston jewelry.
"You can buy houses in L.A. with that jewelry," said Sanders, who lives in Malibu.
Tonight, Sanders will hang out with film stars, an exclusive bunch of back slappers, but he isn't one of them. He's not even cool enough to have his own Wikipedia page.
But in four years - at Dreher's 25-year high school reunion for the class of 1989 - he could bring something nobody else has: an Oscar statuette.
At the very least, he'll have a photo with that guy from Devo.