We had the privilege to discuss everything and nothing with Moby, we find a starightforward man, committed and passionate. It's a bit of its course that we’re inviting you to discover where he talks about Chris Christopherson, semiotics or even the phenomenal success of " Play." Inspiring.
To start with a little insight of the beginning of your career. How was it growing up in NYC and how did that influence your music afterwards ? What were you listening in the beginning of your childhood, what was your biggest record and so on ?
One of the first records that I bought, because I grew up very poor in NYC, when i was 10 years old a friend of mine gave me 2$ and i bought a 7 inch single of a song called Convoy. Convoy was a theme song for a movie about trucks with Chris Christopherson and i loved this song. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I just thought it was the greatest song I’ve ever heard. It was my one record, and when I put it on, I would listen to it over and over and over.
Do you think that the sound of this record influenced you afterwards ?
I don’t know because it was a country western song, and I’ve never made country western. So if it influenced me, I don’t know how.
When you started going out, with all the disco scene going on at that time, did that influence you as well ?
Well, I started going out to bar and night clubs in NYC in 1981 and it was a huge influence. The scene was so diverse… You would go to a club like Danceteria, and you’d hear punk rock and hip hop and reggae and disco and new wave and you hear all these different types of music, with all those different types of people, you know black and white and gay and straight and asian, and latino all these people coexisting and it was awesome.
Also, Ny in the 80s was a really strange place, very poor, buildings were on fire, crack was everywhere, it was very different that the way it’s now.
So today you’re kind of titled as an electronic music artist and do you think that sound influenced you ?
Yeah, my background is very strange, because when I was young I played classical and when I was 13 I started playing in punk rock bands and going to clubs in NYC, I’d go to clubs to see punk rock bands and the dj afterwards would play hip hop or reggae or disco and it was an expose to all these different types of music and it was really interesting and challenging.
Because nowadays when i see your remixes, you have those edgy remixers, techno remixers etc. You have a great diversity of artists coming from different genres, is that a choice of yours ?
Yeah. The world of remixing, i find it very interesting because it’s very difficult to remix most of art, because you would hurt the original. You know, it’s hard to remix a building, it’s hard to remix a sculpture, it’s hard a film. Music, what I find interesting , is you can do different remixes and it doesn’t hurt the original. So it’s like a dialectic or a form of communication. It’s almost like the original song exists, like a lexicon and the remix is a linguistic extrapolation from that lexicon. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t but it’s an interesting process.
And do you see also as a way to revisit your work and maybe with a different point of view and perspective than when you composed it ?
To be honest with you, the main reason why I remix my own music, it’s because it’s just fun ! You know over the years I’ve remixed everyone from Daft Punk to Michael Jackson to David Bowie, it’s interesting to see how those people work, interesting to see what I can do interpreting their work.
Regarding this clubby sound we’ve just listened into your set. it sounds very contemporary. Is this something you’re after, hunting for new sound ? How do you proceed to do your selection ?
I go online and I find music. I don’t deejay that often. When I do it, it’s just fun, because I get to play music that I normally don’t listen to and also at home, I tend to listen to music on like a little stereo and you know, deejaying is really nice because for example I played at the Zenith earlier and to play techno on a huge sound system is just FUN !
When I’m home I listen to classical music and folk music and jazz and punk rock and weird electronic music. So I don’t really listen to this kind of music at home.
Maybe getting back more to your early productions, there was always something that struck me as a listener, it ‘s that there was a real link with your music that you were doing in the 90s and the trip-hop vibe that was going on in the UK with bands such as Massive Attack or Portishead… Was it some music that you were listening to as well ?
Yeah definitely. I’ve always loved Massive attack. Especially their first four albums., because they were borrowing from so many interesting genre, borrowing from r&b and soul music but also some weird rave elements and some dirtier industrial electronic elements but always with this very nice feminine quality. So Massive Attack and Tricky, Portishead… all these people did beautiful records and there’s no denying just how wonderful some of those records were.
Regarding your creative process, there’s something I found regarding Wait for Me. David Lynch mentioned in a speech on how you have to be isolated from the market and from the music industry to create art forms that are protected from the outside influence ? Was this your point of view at the moment and how challenging was that ?
Well, we live in a world where so many people make art or music because they want a career. And I won’t criticize that but to me art and music are more precious and potentially more beautiful and more interesting than a career.
And what happened with me in the 2000s , from 2002 till about 2008, was that I found myself thinking too much about career.
You know I was still trying to make music that I liked but I was thinking about radio and sales, and I heard this David Lynch talk and it just reminded me that I wanna spend my life thinking about music and thinking about human condition, beauty and emotion and I don’t wanna think about commerce.
If I make music and it sales, that’s OK. But if I make music that radios will play, that’s OK, but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is to try and make something that i really love. That other people might love as well.
And was this also why you made this punk rock album after the Gosingle ? Was that a form of rebellion ? How different was the approach ?
The album Animal Rights was honestly what I wanted to make.
There’s a lot of things online saying that you wanted to rebel etc.
Because I love playing guitar and screaming.
There’s this Sigmund Freud quote that says that « a cigar is just a cigar » and sometimes a punk rock records is just a punk rock records.
I guess, a lot of the musicians when I was growing up, Jon Lennon, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Neil Young, they were experimenting a lot you know. If you think of the Beatles, they made Revolution 9, Helter Skelterand Hey Jude… It’s like a wall of experimentation. When I made the album Animal Rights, I just made something different because I loved the idea of doing it.
Without the commercial pressure ?
Yeah I mean, it makes me sad when artists or filmmakers, or musicians make conservative work to satisfy commerce. Commerce is OK but Art is precious.
I can’t really criticize commerce because it’s nice to be able to buy sneakers, t-shirts, food in my refrigerator, I’m glad that it exists and so on. But art should be better than that.
So now you’re in a good position to keep on doing this ? You have the freedom of doing what you want !
Definitely. A lot of the music that I’m making right now is actually kind of like inspired by some of the new wave music I listened to when i was growing up. Killing joke, Magazine, Joy Division, ….. it’s been really fun making music like that.
I was wondering, getting back to when your big success happened in the late 90s. Because of the success of the record that grew organically ? How accidental was it ? How did that happen, how do explain that ?
I don’t understand it. Especially with the album Play, it was a weird record, made with weird musician in his bedroom, involving a lot of vocal samples. It really shouldn’t have ever become that successful. But somehow it did and I still fully don’t understand why.
Also, regarding the label you’re running, can you present the project ?
The Little Idiot label is not really a record label, because i’m the only artist on it. Here I license my music to Because.
How would you feel about scouting running a proper label ?
I’d rather start an Animal Rights charity.
I love music and I love how democratic the music world is but I don’t wanna do that and I love to have very little to do with the music business.
Intense approach towards internet, you’re using it a lot, twitting and facebooking a lot. For you how does that change the relationship towards your fans ?
Part of it is that I’m a lone child. I live alone and I work alone. I like being alone but I also really like connecting with people. And if I try to connect with people with the music that i make, essays that I write, pictures that I take, I like being somehow connected to people. My favorite thing about social media is that.
It’s to Connect and people respond and you get a sense of how people are reacting and it tells me more about what people like. That’s one of the goals of our lives, it’s try to understand ourselves better and try to understand people around us. In a strange way social network can do that. You can actually learn something about human condition. If I pay attention.
I don’t really use it only to promote myself, that would be depressing, I’m much more interested to try to use it as a vehicle for communication.
So can you give us something that you learned from that ?
People like animal pictures, people like cute videos on youtube, dogs and pumpkins.
It’s one thing that always interested me is the nature of semiotics. It’s the relationship that we have to symbols. Everything is a symbol, coke is a symbol of sugar, and so on. That building is a symbol of commerce and architecture.
And for the most part, when we live, we don’t spend too much time thinking about the symbols. We manipulate the symbols, we make the symbols, but we don’t think about why we have a relationship to them. And i find the dialectic inherent in social networking to be fascinating in what it tells me about symbolic meanings and symbolic representations.
You also have the same approach when you’re composing music ? You’re looking for that same experience ?
Music to me is much more emotional. I can deconstruct music, but in a way there are some things in life that are so magical that I almost don’t wanna deconstruct them too much.
Like sex, playing with a dog, listening to music, playing some music, jumping in a lake, like certain things, it’s fun to intellectualize them but sometimes more fun to experience it.
When you work in your studio at home, you have spontaneous approach towards composition then ?
Oh yeah. I tried for a lil while to have what I call a real studio. Meaning I lived in one place and I had a studio somewhere else. Because for my entire life, my studio has been my bedroom, or next to my bedroom.
So I had a real studio in LA and I’d leave my house and go to my studio and it made me sort of sad to not have my studio in my bedroom or next to it. So i sold that studio.
And in the house i’m in now, my studio is in one bedroom and I sleep in the bedroom next to it. I really don’t like being too far away from my studio. Like I don’t understand how people do, like my work life has to be so integrated to my daily life. Some people go to work, but i’d never leave.
I don’t mean in that type-corporate sort of way but my work is my « raison d’être ». Not proving myself to the world, not making money, but making things that are important to me and I think have potentially a beauty and a meaning to them.
So why would you ever take time off from that ? Everything is in service of that. It reminds me of an anthropologist study.
I was reading this Anthropologist, who wrote the story that he went to an island in south pacific and spent time with the natives and he ask the natives « Oh ! where are your churches, where would you go to warships » and they were completely confused by this. Because they said « why would you go somewhere to warship ? Warship is everywhere ». Why would you say that God only exists in that House over there ? When God exists everywhere.
Like why would I... If your work is you way of trying to make sense of yourself, why would you only do it in one place ? I don’t understand this.
I also regarding the strong power of the music, i really feel that it’s inside you. And how do you think that influenced your decision to be part of the Institute for Music and neurologicFunction ?
Oh yeah. It was started by Oliver Sacks who died recently. He was a neurologist
who started to look into the ways music actually affects the brain and immune system and the endocrine system. And what he learned is that music is a remarkably powerful healing modality.
It decreases stress hormones, it promotes neurogenesis (the growth of new neurones) and it’s more powerful than most medicine. But there are lots of things in our lives that are powerful healers but that we ignore because they don’t come from pharmaceutical companies. You know like an organic orange, playing with a puppy, sleep, music, affection, nature…. Like these things are really healing but people ignore them and instead they go to the doctor. I like doctors, doctors are good, but like, things around us they already have potential for healing. And that’s what Dr Sacks showed me in this institute and, i think it’s part of a broader movement towards, I’d say, like intuitive…
of saying i don’t need to go to the doctor and take a prescription to loo after my health. I can heal myself with friends, nature, divine, music, animals, food and so on. The world is healing and we shouldn’t ignore it. We shouldn’t ignore a puppy, an organic orange, someone you love or your favorite song to go to the doctor. You know because the puppy, the organic orange, your favorite song or someone you love.. They will heal you almost better than many medicines you’ll get from the doctor.
The way you’re involved into that institute, how does that work ?
I talk about music therapy, I give them money, I give them equipment, I help them with fundings, I help them with music motion, lots of different things.
My final one is : How are your drum machines ?
They are right now in storage. The house i’m in I don’t have enough space. I need to figure out what to do with them. Right now they’re in storage so thank you for reminding me. Because i don’t know where to put them.
Thanks very much.
Thanks for staying up late !