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Moby talks about music, artistic success, and commercial success in this video.
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Host: So between your high school and when you started playing and then in the 90s when you started getting recognition, you were playing at, while you were doing music, so is this was like a stretch of perseverance until you got a big break because you really did not care about a big break.
Moby: No, I mean, the first label I got signed to is called Instinct Records and the first single that I put out was called Mobility and it sold 2000 copies and then the next single, this was 1990 and then the next single in 1991 was Go and all I wanted for Go was that it would sell 4000 copies. Like that, I remember really being excited at the thought that it might sell 4000 copies and then it went on to sell over a million copies and it became one of the Rolling Stone's top 200 records of all time and it was like and it's just a weird record that I made in my bedroom and so ever since then, I've just been sort of baffled by what's happened and I guess one of the things about not expecting success is it gives you the liberty to experiment and something like, for example, the Animal Rights album, which was commercially a failure, to me was a success because I liked it and I guess if you do not expect much, then you can't be disappointed in terms of success.
So if I put out a record and it sells well, Great. If I put out the record and it does not sell well, that's fine too. As long as it's an interesting record that I like and that hopefully some other people like. I think the worst case scenario is if you put out a record and you want commercial success and you do not have it and you end up compromising the artistic process to pursue commercial success and nothing works out. So then you comfort, like so you have made art that does not have inherent merit and you also no commercial success like that's the worst. I would rather make weird underground records that no one likes but that I like that do not sell well than really chase after radio-play and commercial success.
Host: Yeah, you have to represent yourself to a certain extent. Can you tell us about the ratio of risks versus compromises that you've dealt with.
Moby: It's weird because I can get excited working on just any aspect or any part of the song production process I can get excited about because I am an engineer and a musician and a producer. So if someone comes to me and says, Oh! Produce this bad song for this bad band. I can get really excited trying to make the kick-drum sound fantastic. So sometimes I almost forget about the song and I just focus on little bits of minutiae within the song.
Moby: I am sorry.
Host: Yeah, no it's okay because we are talking about compromises, risks...
Moby: Okay, compromises. So..
Host: Risk versus compromises.
Moby: And it's strange because compromise is not always a bad thing. I think sometimes you can learn from compromise. Like, sometimes artists get very attached to a specific way of doing things and to change that way of doing things could be perceived as a compromise but sometimes change is how you grow. I mean there have been times like there was one song I had written years ago that I thought was a good instrumental and someone to my record company criticized it and said, You know what, it's and okay instrumental but if you added vocals to it, it would be a lot better. And I was actually getting angry. I was like, it felt like a compromise to add vocals to it but then I tried it and I added vocals to it and the song ended up being a lot better. So, to me, the greatest enemy to the creative process is rigidity. You know, like deciding that there is only one way of doing something and you are going to stick to that no matter what but the same time, if you are too flexible then you loose your sense of self and your identity. So it's all, I mean I guess in any part of the creative process it's balance between like the demands of the art versus commerce because if you just pursue art, you end up with obscure 20th century classical music that no one wants to listen to and if you just pursue commerce, you end up with pop music that is a less so less and vapid.
Moby: So but if you can combine the two, you end up with the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin.