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Moby

by Mark Harris

If you know his music, then you know he has always been an explorer and an innovator. If you know the man, then you know he has deep-rooted spiritual and political views, which he doesn't mind sharing with his fans. "Lately I've been talking to my fans on the Internet, and reading the things they've written," Moby elaborates. "They're so smart and open minded. I'm really fortunate that most of the people who buy my records are people I'd be happy to have over to dinner."

   

photo by Cheryl Diaz

Born as Richard Melville Hall, Moby, as his moniker suggests, is a descendant of Moby Dick author Herman Melville. He emerged from the New York underground with 1990's techno trance track, "Go." Since then, Moby has successfully taken on the musical roles of punk rocker, metal thrasher, ambient guru, and soundtrack composer. His 1995 major label debut, Everything Is Wrong , seemed to combine the pulsating electronic energy of a massive rave with the spiritual energy and openness of a southern gospel revival. Then, much to the dismay of technophiles and dance puritans, Animal Rights , released in 1996, exploded with a barrage of screaming, angst-ridden vocals accompanied by enough bone-crushing thrash guitar riffs to clear a dancefloor in two seconds flat. Moby called it "an intentionally abrasive and misanthropic record."

   The following year's I Like to Score represented Moby's return to the dance arena, with his version of the James Bond theme reaching #8 on the U.K. charts. His most recent release, Play , successfully infuses electronica with everything from blues and gospel (sampled from actual field recordings made in the early 1900s) and hip hoppy techno to downtempo, dark, and brooding minimalism. As usual, he plays all the instruments himself.

   Moby called from Perth, Australia, in the midst of touring the world in support of Play .

How important do you think music is as a medium for presenting an artists political or spiritual views or messages?

I think it has the potential to be extremely important. The music that I make is not specifically political, but certainly the essays I include with the records are, and through selling hundreds of thousands of records, I've certainly been able to reach lots of people who otherwise, I wouldn't be able to reach. As far as I'm concerned, decreasing the amount of animal suffering in the world is essentially a part of my life's work.

As you mentioned, your essays express your views on such issues as human rights, Christianity, animal rights, and being vegan, yet you also include a statement that the essays are not really related to the music. Don't you feel that, as an artist, these views do affect your music?

Not specifically, but the essays, the music, and the live performances are all the product of me. I mean, they're all related in that sense, but when I write the essays, it really, in my mind, doesn't have anything to do with the music.

Do you remember what first made you consider being vegan? Was it health or more of a lifestyle choice?

Well, I'm 34 years old now, and I first became vegetarian 15 years ago. Essentially, it was the simple belief that I loved animals and I didn't want to see them suffer. That simple belief eventually led me to being vegan.

What do you think about the straight edge movement among young people today?

Well, when I was 16 years old, I was straight edge, and although I don't consider myself straight edge anymore, I think it is fine as a lifestyle choice, and I only take issue with it when people in it judge other people. My feeling is that it is never an individual's place to judge the lifestyle of another individual. Plenty of people have judged me negatively for being vegan and living a life the way I choose to live it. Others may live a lifestyle completely different than me, but I don't judge them for their lifestyle choices.

On Play , you use a diverse array of samples and influences. I understand that many of the gospel and blues vocal samples were actual field recordings from the early 1900's. How did you come upon them?

That's a very valid question, but I'm afraid it has a very uninteresting answer. I found them at a local record store.

Are there any new bands on the scene now that you particularly are attracted to or enjoy listening to?

Nope. Nope. I've got to warn you, my two least favorite things to talk about are me or the music that I make. I find that my answers to those questions are usually short and uninteresting. In general, I don't like talking about specifics too much. I like to talk about theory and ideas.

In that case, how about the Internet? Theoretically, how do you see the Internet affecting artists, fans, and the music industry in general?

People who otherwise wouldn't be communicating with each other are now able to communicate quite intimately, and they're sharing and disseminating information in really interesting ways. I think probably within the next 5 or 10 years, most of the music that gets sold in the U.S. will be downloaded.

You're calling us from Perth, Australia. What's it been like there?

Well, two days ago we were in Paris, yesterday we were in Bangkok, and today we are in Perth, Australia. This is my second time in Australia this year, and it's a wonderful place. It's a country basically the size of the United States, with 14 million people. It's huge and it's vast and the people are really wonderful.

Speaking of traveling to exotic and wild locations, you are doing a New Year's Eve show at the Cameo Theatre in Miami. What made you choose Miami as the place to bring in the year 2000?

Well, the people that are renovating the Cameo are friends of mine, and they made an interesting offer. I knew that I wanted to stay in the U.S. and I wanted to be somewhere where it would be warm on December 31, and there's not too many places like that.