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xmag.com : October 2000 : Moby


I've been in the music business for over 10 years now, but I'll admit to the fact that every now and again, there's an interview that makes me nervous. Not that I'm worried I'll ask a stupid question, make an ass of myself, or have toilet paper stuck to my shoe. . . but anxious due to sheer artistic talent and history behind the hype. My interview with Moby fits that description.

His name is Richard Hall, but everyone (his Mom included) calls him Moby. I purchased his first single, Go, back in '91 and succeeded in packing many a dancefloor with it. This was a man who had his visage plastered on a billboard in Times Square, someone who had contributed to soundtracks from James Bond to the X Files, and had written numerous essays on how humankind can better save the planet. A deeply spiritual man, non-drinker and militant vegan, I was convinced that he was a hell of a lot more intelligent than I could ever pretend to be.

"What I have to say to you legions of Limp Bizkit and Korn fans
is that there is life outside of angry white people."

Arriving at my "job," he stared up at me through wire rimmed glasses, shook my hand sincerely, and gave a quiet, yet firm "hello." I was able to breathe a bit easier. He was, after all, human. . . Having shaved his head more recently than the stubble on his chin, he looked comfortable in a T-shirt, sweats and scuffed white sneakers. He was a mid-thirties guy you might play basketball with. . . And from time to time, a small smile would creep across his face; I never knew why.
DJ Anon: You've been on tour for quite awhile now.
Moby: Pretty much 14 or 15 months now with about 4 months to go.
DJA: How do you do it?
Moby: Well, it helps that I love what I do, and I'm really lucky because basically I'm traveling around the world playing music and touring with people that I really like, so it's not too demanding. I mean, occasionally going without sleep can be a little rough, but still, you know, it's better than working at Burger King.... I mean, I'm not trying to slander people who work at Burger King, because I've done crummy jobs myself in the past.
DJA: What would you say was the worst job you ever had?
Moby: Washing dishes is rough, because you go home and you smell like you've been hosed down with fish guts. And then there's the heat, and you're always getting burned; washing dishes is probably the worst job that I've ever had.
DJA: Right; and I can also imagine some sort of strange industrial accident occurring with the dish
washer and a finger.
Moby: Yeah, you've got the steam tray and all this stuff coming through, but that was a long time ago that I washed dishes. Stuffing envelopes in a basement for 9 hours a day, that was pretty rough, too.
DJA: Tell me about your live show.
Moby: It might sound really arrogant, or immodest, but I think that the live show that we put on is just remarkable. We have a really phenomenal light show; there's six of us on stage. It's very dynamic. Very passionate. I know that sounds arrogant, and if so, I apologize, but basically my ethos is that when I perform, I like to put onstage what I'd want to see if I were in the audience... because most shows that I go to, I'm either bored to death, or I'm just annoyed. Most live shows fall into one of a few really bad cliches, so I try to avoid those bad cliches. You have, like, the "dour rock cliche" with the four guys onstage not talking and staring at their shoes...
DJA: Actually, New Order tend to do that one a lot.
Moby: Yeah, the "northern English rock cliche." And then you have the "metal rock cliche" with these misogynist pigs telling girls to show their breasts and stuff. And then you have the "electronic cliche" of one, two or three guys at the back of the stage hiding behind a pile of equipment.
DJA: I don't know; I kind of like the "electronic music cliche."
Moby: Sometimes, if it's in an "anti-performance" ethos, it can be interesting... but, I remember I went
to see the Chemical Brothers a few years ago--and I love their music-- and I was looking on stage but I couldn't see them. There's this big wall of equipment and occasionally you see a little head bob up, and I was like, "And I paid $35 to see the top of someone's head?" I felt a little cheated.
 
Skipping ahead, as we talked about music more, some of Moby's musical bias became keenly obvious...
Moby: What I have to say to you legions of Limp Bizkit and Korn fans is that there is life outside of angry white people. There is indeed a lot of music made by people that are not angry, with little patches of facial hair, and some of it's actually pretty nice; so broaden your horizons.
DJA: You never seem angry.
Moby: Oh, I get angry sometimes.
DJA: Well, Animal Rights, wasn't that an angry album?
Moby: That was kind of an angry album, a little bit self involved.
DJA: The punk departure I think sort of took everyone by surprise.
Moby: Well, I spent many years in the early 80s playing in hard core bands, and the seminal moments of my life were spent seeing Black Flag, The Misfits and Bad Brains... and I love loud, noisy punk rock and heavy metal; it's possible to like all of that and like delicate R&B as well.
DJA: Interesting. I never would have figured that; I wouldn't have pegged you as a Black Flag fan.
Moby: Oh yeah, I even have a scar on my face from a Black Flag show; you see this?
DJA: Wow. What happened?
Moby: It was during the song "Give Me Some
More" off of Damaged, and I was, as they say, "moshing in the pit," and accidentally bumped heads with someone.
DJA: You're not exactly the tallest or largest guy in the world; I couldn't imagine you moshing in a pit.
Moby: Oh, when I was 15 or 16, that's all that I did... I'd even stage dive; I've got this scar on the top of my head... not a big one, but, from diving off the stage... and you expect people to catch you and suddenly... oof! They just all suddenly disappear. So, I have my war wounds from the early hardcore days.
DJA: Have you seen The Beach?
Moby: Yes.
DJA: How did you feel about how your song "Porcelain" was used in that film?
Moby: I went and saw the movie at 3:00 in the afternoon in the Beverly Center--it's this mall in Los Angeles--and I was one of three people sitting in the theater. And it didn't do much for me, but I thought that when they used "Porcelain" it was pretty gorgeous. It was the sort of one utopian idyllic moment in the movie.
DJA: Do you ever get worried about how people are going to use your music in soundtracks or commercials?
Moby: I've had pretty good luck in the past. Most of the time when people have used my music in movies or TV--the X Files used a bunch of my music, as you know...
DJA: Yes.
Moby: For the most part, people tend to use the music that I make really well, and I don't worry about it too much.
DJA: You don't threaten to beat them up or anything like that?
Moby: I'm a small person. I can't threaten to beat
anyone up. I'm a pacifist as well. I'm not going to pull a hip-hop move and go into someone's office and beat them up with a bottle of champagne; that's just not my style.
 
After a little more of this banter about bludgeoning instruments, Moby waved goodbye to me and the unseen audience out there in FM rock land. After all, he had a concert coming up in our fair city. The sold-out show at the Roseland that evening delivered everything that Moby had promised during our time on air. Sandwiched in among the sweaty masses, I was treated to the delightful Rave anthems of "Every Time You Touch Me" and "Next is the E." High points were definitely "Go" and a wonderful acoustic rendition of "Porcelain" that he played as an encore. Little Moby was a bundle of energy with constant arm waving and onstage aerobics, pausing only now and again to hit a sample on a keyboard, or to make light conversation with the crowd about how hot the room was. Complete with a Black Sabbath cover, energized dance hits, and slower melodic moments of introspection, the show found me wishing that Moby had exposed more of his own wisdom that night from the stage. Surprisingly, the show was devoid of preaching about animal testing or the destruction of the rainforest. Has his sensitivity left him? Later, it occurred to me that he had delivered what he promised. He had avoided the cliches he spoke of and staged a show of fun and enchantment. Despite being on the road for 14 months now, this could have been mistaken for one of his first shows. No preaching, no agendas. Just the hits. Just Moby.
"What the public reproaches you for, take precious care of; it is you." --Jean Cocteau

 

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