I did this interview back in 1999 when I was helping out Radio-V. Play was everywhere; car commercials, radio, TV shows and it launched Moby right into the heart of mainstream culture. Moby and his management were crafty. They had decided to license music off of Play immediately. It’s catchy fusion of beats and old blues songs were instantly memorable and perfect for commercials. Soon, consumers were sending emails to Volkswagon asking what that song for the Jetta commercial was? Radio quickly took notice and added Play to their playlists on a number of formats and it rapidly ascended into the top forty. I caught up with Moby on the phone and we instantly clicked. The interview you’re about to read is pretty much verbatim.
Moby: Vegan, Christian, Proto-Punk, Self-Exposing Enfant Terrible who twisted bits of the Twin Peaks soundtrack into one of the first Techno hits (“Go”) is riding the crest of a newfound popularity with the breakthrough release of Play. Voted one of the top 99 albums of the Nineties by Spin,the opinionated, self-proclaimed, “little idiot” is also for better or worse plagued by a conscience that has led him to explore his relationship to Chrisitianity, Animal Rights and gigs in Kosovo.
Poised to be either a holy fool or feckless Techno-Messiah of the next century, Moby (aka Richard Hall) will always have something to say. The following is a small slice of the world according to Moby.
RP: How’s it going?
Moby: Oh, I’ve been travelling for the last six weeks doing interviews–becoming totally self-obsessed.
RP: Have you seen the Radiohead movie? They become more and more removed and isolated as the movie and tour unfold.
Moby: Musicians seem like a bunch of wussies. How can you complain about the interview process? I’ve had some really awful jobs. I used to wash dishes at Macy’s and worked in a gift shop in a mall. Doing interviews compared to washing dishes in Macy’s is like a day in the park. What’s so awful about being paid to make a record and then talk about it? It’s an interesting way to express your beliefs to a wider audience. A way to sharpen them too. As far as I know, I’m the only musician in the world that likes to do interviews.
RP: That seems to be a constant thread for you…self-revelation. Whether it’s an interview or taking your clothes off onstage, you’re into exposing yourself.
Moby: [Laughs]. One thing that interests me, and I hope I don’t sound like a quasi New Age guy, but I do love the idea of trying to figure out who I am. By sort of looking at me as the product of the context of which I was raised, versus who I am inherently I put myself in different situations. Like you find yourself drunk at six o’clock in the morning talking to homeless people. You’ll find yourself talking to someone who works for the FBI who kills people. You see how you respond to different situations and then you can come to a better understanding of who you are, or at least a better understanding of what you’re the product of.
RP: You seem to be more of a product of romanticism and the Beats with their need for experience, versus being hermetically sealed in a studio.
Moby: I’m torn because I love experience, but there’s a part of me that’s really provincial. Sometimes I really just love to stay at home and be in bed by ten.
RP: What about your beliefs and connection to Christianity?
Moby: My beliefs are very fluid. I have very simple, naive beliefs. I don’t really think of myself as a Christian in a conventional sense, but nonetheless I do love Christ. On a very simple, subjective and na•ve level, I believe that Christ is God. I qualify that by saying I’m thirty-three-years-old and the Universe is 15,000,000,000 years old so how can I really know anything?
RP: In some religious circles, Christ is portrayed as a fool. I’m wondering how you see yourself as a fool?
Moby: Well, one of my nicknames is, “little idiot.” And I think it’s quite appropriate because I’m little and I’m an idiot. I’m at my most idiotic when I take myself seriously–especially when I’m arguing with someone and I think I’m right and invariably I wind up being wrong. I’ll get all strident and didactic and six months later I’ll find out that I was wrong and made a complete asshole out of myself.
RP: But it sounded good in the moment!
Moby: Yeah, it’s really easy to convince ourselves of anything in the moment. But that’s also been the cause of a lot of awful things in history.
RP: It would have been easy for you to keep making records like “Go” but you chose to go in different directions–why?
Moby: It’s really what comes naturally. It’s not like I sit down and think about it too much. And if and when I do sit down and try to make plans, invariably they go wrong, accidents happen and things work out on their own. I’d hate to live in a world where I would plan things for myself and they would come true. My understanding of things is so limited. From a commercial perspective, If I followed up “Go” with dance records, it would have felt dishonest. There are enough musicians who do that (make dance records) so that gives me permission to go further afield.
RP: What was your relationship with Flipper like?
Moby: It lasted for two days. I was sixteen years old–so that would have been ’82 in Connecticut. They played two shows in Connecticut. And this was when Generic was out–Will Shatter had been thrown in Jail. So they could only do half the set. Before the show I recognized Bruce Loose and offered to write down the lyrics of Will’s songs for him because I had them memorized. In the anarchic Flipper style, he said: “Fuck it, why don’t you sing them yourself”? So for two nights, I sang Will’s songs for Flipper.
RP: How did that feel?
Moby: Oh, it was amazing. They were my heroes. Then the next thing I know I’m being carried around the audience singing their songs.
RP: What does it feel like to take your clothes off onstage?
Moby: Well I’ve done it so many times. The most fun time was when I was touring Italy with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We got into this routine every night and Flea would take off his clothes and run around while I was playing. Then I would take my clothes off and run around while they were playing. There was one time Milan where there was almost a riot. Flea and I were standing on stage naked jumping around and people threw bottles and coins at us. That was pretty punk.
But in terms of taking my clothes off, there’s so much baggage when it comes to nudity that I like to challenge people’s perceptions when I do it. But it’s also self-mocking because I’m not really a buff, sexy individual. So, I’m not presenting myself as a sex object. But it’s interesting to play with that kind of iconography.
RP: What was it like to tour with Traci Lords and Keoki?
Moby: Well what was that–the Enit Festival? I didn’t really have much contact with them. They were staying in hotels and I was staying on the bus. I’ve known Keoki for awhile. Traci Lords…well I don’t know too many porn stars and I’d never seen any of her movies, but I couldn’t help looking at her and trying to imagine five people having sex with her at the same time. Call me politically incorrrect, but this ancient part of my limbic system couldn’t help it. It was a little weird with Keoki because he and his friends were really into drugs at the time. Now I don’t have any problems with drugs—I just don’t take them myself.
RP:/b> Finally, what would be the one thing that you would want people to know about you?
Moby That I’m not a puritan!
RP: Based upon your imaginary relationship with Traci Lords, there wouldn’t seem to be any problem.