Press Pass LA sat down with musician Merlin Moon to talk about his journey as an independent artist in Los Angeles, the recent piracy of his latest unreleased album, and what’s next for this original.
Anyone who lives in Los Angeles and is pursuing a career as an entertainer knows there are hoops you have to jump through. This city has done a great job at luring in talent with the hopes of making their dream a reality. Then putting this talent through the ringer leaving only a few to emerge on the other side successful, and if they are lucky not jaded.
Merlin Moon, named Alex Pizzorni, will be one of those few. A Venezuelan born singer, who’s mellow sound combines 70’s rock (think Pink Floyd & Bob Marley) and electronica, with his own spirituality and life philosophy. Alex first found his musical inspiration through an alter ego in his dreams, a wizard with the moniker Merlin Moon.
Merlin Moon has now opened for Dave Navarro, The Smithereens, and The Wild Child. He has also performed alongside The Killers, The Cure, and more at the Coachella House of Hype at Coachella Music Festival. He released his first album “Stoned by Dreams,” to success garnering an online following that has eagerly awaited his followup album. But unfortunately, online success can be, in Merlin Moon’s words “pandora’s box.” Merlin Moon would soon be exposed to the pitfalls that face all independent artists, the “ying and yang” of Internet praise and rampant industry piracy.
JB: Tell me about your start in the music industry here in Los Angeles.
Merlin Moon: If you want to make music in today’s industry, Los Angeles is the place you are told you have to go. So I came here, after bouncing around many other places, but my music is a sound that’s not necessarily the most trendy. It’s more influenced by the bands of the 60s and 70s. Once here, I followed the rules and did all the things you are told to do to succeed. I played about 200 shows in the area; I met with the magazines; I went out every night networking. It was kind of like following a textbook of things to do if you want to get signed. It was a good experience, one that I think that everybody has. But they are not all trying to do what I’m trying to do in terms of the message of my music. So it the end, coming here was not necessarily what I had to do.
JB: If you could do it differently where would you have gone?
Merlin Moon: I might have been better served playing in places like Nashville or the U.K. where people still actually go out to clubs and listen to live performances. In Los Angeles, people are more influenced and driven by Pop music and Hip Hop they hear on the radio and are so overwhelmed by the amount of music available to them, that they don’t really care about going out and discovering and seeing what’s really going on with new artists. It makes it very hard to build an attachment to somebody who’s creating and playing new music.
JB: When you say that other artists aren’t trying to do what you are trying to do, are you referring to your focus on delivering lyrics with a certain philosophy on living?
Merlin Moon: Well in my school of art, and it’s not necessarily a ‘school,’ but the way I learned music it was always about that. The reason we decide to create music and put music out there is not because we want to say some random lyrics about parties and people without really saying something. But there are a lot of people who don’t have anything to say. So in other words, the scene was not very welcoming to me. A few times when I got really close to a break in my career my manager at the time advised me, “you have to make people dance, you have to do more upbeat music.” But that was not the music I wanted to make. But you get to a point, a dark place, where things aren’t fully working and you’re like maybe they are right, maybe I should change my style. At that time, I was convinced to work with this producer who was supposed to be ‘the guy’. You know the person who’s doing all the fun stuff with all the big names. So I decided to give it a chance. This producer came over to my house, with his big ego, and started changing everything around and wasn’t really focused on the music. He was checking his Facebook account and taking calls and after about six hours of that, I stopped the session and I told him and my band, without any disrespect, to please leave. I actually went straight to the airport and I took a plane home to Venezuela. That was about four and a half years ago. That experience was everything that could make me not want to make music anymore.
JB: How did you make your way back to L.A.?
Merlin Moon: Well I was laying down in my bedroom in Venezuela and there was this mango tree that I grew up with. It is right outside my window, so I opened the window and I got one of the mangos and I chewed it. I was like ‘Wow!’ I think I was gone so long that I forgot the taste of a real mango. You know they have mangos in L.A. and I thought they were good, but they were not good at all. It was like that with my music too. I had gotten so far away from myself and what I was trying to do, that I actually forgot what I had set out to do in the beginning. I had lost the ability to see what was good and what was not. That’s when I called Mind Medium Creative (MMC), the team I currently work with here in Los Angeles which includes Jonathan Dahan and Troy Johnson. We talked about making my music the way I wanted to do it. That was about four years ago and here we are today.
JB: How did you connect with MMC being back in Venezuela?
Merlin Moon: It is an interesting story. When I was younger, I was really into techno and house music, and I was a big DJ and very immersed in that world. A friend of mine named Luis Barajas had hired me to play this huge private party for Flaunt Magazine. When I moved to Los Angeles I met up with him and he introduced me to a writer named Andrew who did a nice review on me and my music and my love of film for Flaunt. Andrew also worked with Troy and John (of MMC) at the time. At my last show that I played in Los Angeles, Andrew came to see me perform and he invited me to meet Troy and John.
JB: Where is your music career at right now?
Merlin Moon: When I started working with MMC we picked a few of my songs and began working with some producers that MMC recommended. Through that path, we ended up working with famed producer Alan Parsons and his team and created an album. Around the time we were going to release that album, one of the people involved in the project who was working to take this album to a label, actually had a tragedy and was shot (and killed) near Sunset and Vine. It was such a traumatic experience for everyone that we put the project on hold. Some time after we started working with Leonard Brooks and he listened to the songs that we had, and he suggested I go back into the studio and put down some additional tracks. From that session is where my song “Believe” came out. For the past year and a half we have been organizing the video for this song. It was directed by Christopher Robinson and MMC has been meeting with media to decide who to trust to release this video exclusively. I’m letting MMC take the lead on the business side. I’ve completely separated myself from that and at this point, I’m only focusing on my music.
JB: Recently, your new album “Bohemian Side of the Sky” was released without your permission through a site called Grooveshark. Can you tell me how that happened?
Merlin Moon: Yes. I have a relationship with a top musician from the Vatican City, who was raised in the Vatican and has been studying there all his life. He has a different standard of what it takes for music to be good. We developed a friendship over the years and have always wanted to work together. He just graduated with his PHD and he’s coming to Miami for a few months to work on some of my songs that we’re going to do over with a bit more of a mature perspective. So we were having a call regarding this and he tells me that he is listening to my songs right now online. I was thinking how can that be. We never released the album and there are only a few copies and I know exactly who has them. But there was this website named Grooveshark that had my entire album, down to the order of the tracks. This was a big deal because we had decided to go back into the studio to redo some of those songs and here they were already on the Internet floating around. It is a huge blow having someone like Alan Parsons involved and all the money and time you spend on that content to have it just released without your consent and before it’s complete. We didn’t even know it was out there or for how long, so we don’t know how many people downloaded it or the extent of the damage. We discussed taking the route of suing the site but the thing is, we are trying to make music and push something optimistic and positive. Going the route of a lawsuit takes time and energy away from what is important. So instead we have had to reassess our entire marketing strategy and focus on releasing this one track which luckily was not leaked. We’re putting all of our efforts into that one song, and I am going back into the studio to redo an entire album now.
JB: What happened when you reached out to Grooveshark about the privacy breach?
Merlin Moon: I think that they have been sued so many times in the past, for example they lost a lawsuit to Universal, that they have developed a method to deal with this. They make you go through a process of filing a claim and prove that you are the owner of the copyright. They finally agreed to remove my album as an “act of good faith.” It was a low blow. We had someone as respected as Alan Parsons working on the album and we have a lot of access to the right people in the business and this still happened to us. So I know it is happening to a lot of other independent artists out there who have a lot less resources every single day. It’s a bigger problem.
JB: Will you still release that album yourself at some point?
Merlin Moon: I’m going to go back to the studio and revamp everything from scratch. It will essentially be a new album. Right now we are focusing on the one single that wasn’t leaked called “Believe.” Ironically the day the album was removed from Grooveshark was the same day that U2 released their album for free, so it was a good day and a bad day at the same time. It’s the ying and yang of life. Something good is always countered by something bad. When you have big bands like U2 and Radiohead- who are so big they can afford not to charge for their music- out there saying music is free, it is a real problem. How are artists launching their careers supposed to make a living, if we have bands giving albums away essentially saying that music is free and websites stealing content from lesser known talent. It’s a real issue in allowing the independent artists to grow in this industry.
JD: What’s next for Merlin Moon?
Merlin Moon: There are definitely a few labels at the table right now for me. We are putting together a strategy to release the single and mapping out our journey to take things to the next level. The reason I wanted to put this story out there is because it’s something that needs to be talked about. Essentially, right now in this business you have to thicken your skin and accept it. I want to change that. And I want to close this chapter and move on and focus on my work. For me it’s about purity when you are putting work out there. After all the effort that is involved in making an album you want to present your music correctly. When it is leaked that’s not the way you intended to present it. It was presented incorrectly from a company that decided to steal it. I cannot permit myself to have that album out there so I will go back to the studio and redo it and then present it in a beautiful manner. It will be even better because it will be a little more complete. It will include this experience in the work. This album is traumatized, like a wounded child, it’s been through a lot and that will come through in the music.
JB: What are your thoughts for the future of the independent artist?
Merlin Moon: The Internet is like a Pandora’s box. Once it is out there you have no control and listeners can have different versions of tracks in their media and not know which one they should really be listening to. I have a lot presence in the Internet, followers on different platforms. These numbers are important to labels but I don’t base my career around that now. We’re trying to do something with my work and my message that goes beyond. Piracy is an obstacle made my society created by the labels, the industry, the bands, perhaps the fans themselves. Someone created it and it perpetuates. If I am dealing with it, I can assure that millions of people are dealing with it too. I hope my music empowers people to know that if they take the road less traveled they’re going to have to overcome all these obstacles. But deep down inside each of us is the little boy with a dream. I know that will resonate and hopefully we will create a movement that is going to overcome piracy and allow artists to continue to make music.
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