Luke Mosling: From Lead Artist to Label Honcho
Shifting from a career as one of hundreds on a team creating entertainment for the masses to a niche business that counts exactly one employee has its ups and downs.
Orlando, FL, crate-digger Luke Mosling, 36, grew up a self-described obsessive-compulsive music collector, but his ability to craft Brett Favre’s face from a series of digital pixels landed him in the world of virtual sports and superheroes. A musician himself, Mosling never forgot his first love and, a few years ago, he left a high-pressure job as lead artist at Electronic Arts to start a record imprint devoted to issuing (and reissuing) forgotten gems of the jazz, hip-hop, classical, and electronic genres.
Get In Media: Tell me about growing up in Wisconsin. How did you go from there to where you are now?
Luke Mosling: I listened to a lot of heavy metal at the time. That’s what my friends were listening to: Slayer, things like that. But at the same time I was starting to discover Velvet Underground, Sun Ra and a lot of the hardcore bands: Black Flag, Sonic Youth. And I’ve always had this collector side to me, too. I think I get it from my dad. My dad collects all this crazy stuff. So music’s always been kind of with me. Even though I was an English major (laughs). I was an English major with a studio arts minor, actually. But when I got to graduate, I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got this English major. Now what am I going to do?’ And that was around the time Toy Story was coming out and the 3D graphics [industry] was just starting to build. So I went to [Augsburg College in downtown Minneapolis] that just focused on graphics, computer graphics. I think [the program I worked on] was called PowerAnimator, which then turned into Maya later on. Actually, I used Softimage, which turned into XSI. That was about 10 years ago. Then I sent out my demo to every place you could imagine. [Maitland-based game designer Electronic Arts] called me and I came down here and ended up working there for eight years.
GIM: What was on the demo reel?
LM: It was about a minute and a half long, maybe two minutes. The first half, I tried to do this 1920s, black-and-white cartoon style. Rubber characters and things like that. The second half was a film noir, dark-alley kind of vibe to it. That’s how I got into EA. I was there a long time as a 3D modeler.
GIM: What games did you work on?
LM: Madden, NFL Street. I guess I started in 1998 and they were just coming out of Playstation 1 and into Playstation 2.
GIM: Were you doing motion capture, that sort of thing?
LM: It was more on the animation side, pretty much strictly modeling. The actual individual characters, faces, muscles, arms, cleats, shoulder pads. I did that for eight years, then I worked on Superman [Returns] for a while, then I moved into Tiger Woods and that’s when I left. It must’ve been 2008 when I left.
“It’s interesting: If you’ve worked anywhere longer than three or four years in the video game industry, you’re old-school.”
GIM: Did you leave specifically to start Porter Records?
LM: A little bit. As you know, the video game industry [requires] a lot of hours. It was getting to be too much. I think, for me, music was always more of a passion than video games. I had friends who could talk for five, 10, 15 hours about Final Fantasy. I’m like, ‘Video games are cool and all, but ….’ That was kind of my shift. I was doing the record label and the video game thing at the same time for a while but it was too hard. It wasn’t really working. The music thing, you know, I do all of it, from the artwork to the layout, picking up the boxes and the checks, promos, boxes and boxes.
GIM: Are you married?
LM: Yep, with two kids.
GIM: After almost a decade at EA, I’d imagine you were pretty well set.
LM: It’s interesting, if you’ve worked anywhere longer than three or four years in the video game industry you’re old-school. Which is such the opposite notion of what it used to mean to work at a company.
GIM: It’s a young man’s game?
LM: Yeah. They were always very good at keeping me up-to-date on a technology level, but it’s a young man’s game in terms of stamina. Saying, ‘Oh, sure, I’ll work all night and not see my kids for a few months.’ If you’re right out of school and a go-getter, then there you go. I saw a lot of my friends go through that same change of what’s important in life. I’ve definitely seen people tilt way off the scale in terms of what’s healthy and what’s not healthy.
GIM: What was your role by the end?
LM: I was a lead on some of the projects that oversaw the character modeling side. Dealing with the programmers and the artists to flow everything into the game. I was doing less art, which was kind of a bummer. There’s the whole other side of art that just deals with the conceptual side. Usually they just lock a couple of producers in a room and they feed the art team the ideas.
GIM: What did your family think about you leaving?
LM: They were supportive.
GIM: Did you have a business plan?
LM: Yeah, but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. If I could only make a time machine and go back, I’d do things differently. But I had stock options when I left EA, so I was able to roll that over to at least get [Porter Records] off the ground. With the music industry now, I always joke around that I’m a non-profit organization whether I like it or not. It’s so tough these days. If you’re going to get into the music industry, it can’t be a casual thing.
GIM: What gave you the kernel of an idea to start reissuing records?
LM: I had a friend of mine who found some records he thought should be reissued. He found the people who put out the records and I started talking to them, and I was like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re doing this for real!’ He was friends with this guy from Finland, Heikki Sarmanto, who I’ve been working with a lot. But Heikki’s mother-in-law lives about 15 minutes from here and he was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to be in Winter Park in a few months.’ I think all roads lead to Orlando at some point. I’ve met a lot of old jazz musicians that I’m been dealing with that are coming down.
GIM: What was that first record?
LM: It was called Natural Food. It was kind of a mix of soul-jazz and funk, R&B.
GIM: What made your friend think of you?
LM: I think we’d always been joking about it. He was a friend back in Minneapolis.
GIM: So you were always turning people on to different music?
LM: Yeah, definitely.
Table of Contents:
- Luke Mosling: From Lead Artist to Label Honcho
- Next: Mosling finds and reissues a mythical record
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