Gil Moore first found success as the drummer and vocalist behind the Canadian rock band Triumph. He cemented it in the business world, as CEO of Canada’s biggest recording studio, Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario. For decades, Moore’s been surrounded by art and industry, recording the work of Drake, Guns N’ Roses, Katy Perry and others. It’s given him a unique perspective on what powers creativity.
Moore, 68, spoke to Disruptors co-hosts John Stackhouse and Trinh Theresa Do about virtuosos, hardship and the merits of “the long slog.”
The Triumph song, Magic Power, begins with: “I’m young, I’m wild, and I’m free.” Do you need to be young, wild and free to be creative?
I don’t think there’s any boundaries on creativity, age-wise. In fact, I feel more creative now than I did when I was younger, if only because I think about things more. You consider things in a more complex way. That leads to creativity, I believe.
Isn’t 27 that legendary age when creatives peak and it’s all downhill from there?
It’s a narrow creativity when you’re younger. You’re seeing the future through a straw. I know that’s the way I was when I was growing up. My father said to me many times, “Gil, you’ve got a one track mind.” I think it’s terrific to have focus. But over time you need to have a bigger lens into the world around you.
Take us back to your youth. When did you realize you were creative?
I don’t know that I did, I always thought I was a pretty slow learner.
Aren’t creative types usually slow learners?
That’s all over the map. If you have someone that’s a virtuoso, which I was not, then you can see that explosive growth in their talent. Then you have the rest of us who, as Gordon Lightfoot once famously said, it’s 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. Through repetition and gaining skills you’re able to harness creativity. Shoulda, woulda, coulda eventually loses out to someone who really does the 10,000 hours.
Wasn’t there a point where you realized you had a gift? You make it sound like it’s a long slog.
I’m going with the long slog. I never really believed I had any particular skill. I think a lot of times a great creative moment is just that culmination effort and the skills that have been developed. Some people call it luck.
What’s the difference between someone who found mainstream success and someone with comparable skills who ends up being a busker?
If it was just about creative skills—I’m just talking about music right now—it would be easy to define success because you would look at the performance capabilities. But that isn’t what happens. Circumstances come along that have nothing to do with those skills.
Who’s the most creative person you’ve known in your career?
I was very close to Buddy Rich once in my life. He played drums in a way that I just think is inconceivable for most people, drummers included. It was a fury and a storm that he could somehow emote through his hands and his legs. It was like a mystery of nature, what he could do on those drums and cymbals. I couldn’t wrap my head around it other than to just…we’re back to that word virtuoso again.
What is it that makes someone incredibly creative?
Determination has a lot to do with it. I don’t think that someone’s creative and they just wake up and the sun shines on them. I was reading about Warren Buffett today. What does Warren Buffett know about creativity? A lot of people would say, “What are you talking about? Investors aren’t creative.” Hell yeah, they are.
What did you learn from Warren Buffett?
Patience. That knee-jerking and quick reactions lead to failure in life and in business, interpersonal relationships especially. Having patience and being able to listen to others, process the information and then make what I’m going to call a measured response. I don’t mean calcifying through fear. I just mean that patience to really digest the information, let it marinate and make a creative decision.
How do you come up with lyrics that inspire and stay with people for generations?
I think sometimes it just comes out of thin air and it’s really nice when it does. And you can’t really explain it. I don’t know that there’s a system, although I would say that if you talk to individual writers, they will typically have more of a system themselves.
What role does pain or hardship play?
I think fear leads to creativity. I think hardship leads to creativity for different reasons. It goes back to the flight or fight response in animals; it almost has to turn on the creative spigot. Where creativity is extinguished is in the area of anger. And there’s a lot of anger that goes with a pandemic. The minute the human mind switches into anger, the ability to create goes right out the window. You just become a cement block.
Can you speak to the role of technology in creativity?
Technology has democratized access to production and to the supply chain and the means of distribution. For those that take advantage of it, the opportunity is at a high-water mark right now. But in some respects—I’m going to use Instagram as an example—emulation can become addictive or a very negative outcome of the influencer society.
What’s the role of creativity in a post-pandemic world?
There’s a new normal that’s going to emerge, and I think it can be good. It’s creativity that’s solving this problem right now. Look at those folks at big-pharma companies that are producing these vaccines.
We weren’t prepared enough. So maybe this will spark a tremendous response from big thinkers as to how do we not repeat that mistake or ignore it. Maybe climate change, for example, is going to benefit. Maybe we’re headed for a great era of creativity that’s brought on by having suffered through something that we would have been wiser to not have ignored as a global community.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
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