Interview with Moby

Moby by Travis Schneider ©

Moby by Travis Schneider ©

Richard Melville Hall, universally known as Moby is one of the most celebrated electronic music icons, with over 20 million records sold in a career that spans 30 years.

He is also one of the strongest advocates for animal rights and veganism, a talented photographer and cartoon artist, a skilled singer, songwriter and producer, and a pioneeristic DJ.

Moby’s fifth album Play, released in 1999, dominated the charts around the world for two years, got all the tracks licensed to films, TV shows and commercials, was included in the Rolling Stone magazine’s ranking of the 500 greatest albums and eventually became the biggest-selling electronica album of all time with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide.

The release of Play was followed by many other studio albums which led Richard to receive accolades from the MTV Video Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards and the DanceStar Awards.

Moby’s 19th album Reprise features his most famous hits and successes – including the classics Porcelain and Natural Blues – all re-envisioned in new powerful versions with arrangments for acoustic instruments and philharmonic ensembles, showing how different anthems and dance tracks can be adapted over time to endless possibilities and contexts.

Moby Reprise CD cover album

Reprise by Moby

The LP was recorded with the Budapest Art Orchestra and includes duets with renowned artists like jazz and blues music star Gregory Porter, Jim James of the American rock band My Morning Jacket, country music icon Kris Kristofferson, Rihanna’s co-songwriter Skylar Grey and many others; there is also an acoustic version of David Bowie’s Heroes featuring Mindy Jones as a tribute to Moby’s long-term friend and mentor.

The recording was released together with MOBY DOC, the thought-provoking documentary film about Moby’s life by Rob Bralver, narrated by both the illustrious Academy Award-winning filmmaker David Lynch and Moby himself, where the multi-platinum performer reflects on his traumatic childhood, unstable personal life, past alcoholism and newly-founded sobriety and good health.

Moby and the dog - Footage from Moby's documentary "Moby Doc" - © to the owners

Moby and the dog – Footage from Moby’s documentary MOBY DOC – © to the owners

He also discusses his friendship with David Bowie and the inner roots of his genuine love for animals and nature.
MOBY DOC is a piece of work that won’t leave you indifferent just like Richard will leave you wanting more and more of his jokes and clever remarks after you will have heard him speak for an hour at a press conference.

During the media briefing that offered the opportunity to arrange this interview with Moby, the Grammy-nominated artist was grilled with questions, some of which made sense and some of which were about how to prepare a vegan dish, and he eventually shared some very personal and beautiful memories of David Bowie, of whom he said:

So, my favourite musician of all time is David Bowie. The first job I ever had, I carried golf clubs as a caddie just long enough to save money to buy some David Bowie records. I was almost 13. Then, in 1999, we became friends. And he and Iman [Bowie’s second wife and widow] actually moved to an apartment across the street from me in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. So we were friends. We were neighbours. We went on tour together, we had holidays together, and we had this one, phenomenal morning where he came to my apartment, and we sat on my sofa – I had this green mid-century sofa. And we played an acoustic version of his song Heroes that was just the two of us. On a beautiful Saturday morning, drinking coffee and playing Heroes. And I still can’t believe that this happened, that I was able to play the greatest song ever written with the greatest musician of all time. And so the version of Heroes that is on Reprise is a testament to the song, a testament to David Bowie, a testament to my friendship with him, and it’s supposed to be almost like an emotional hommage to this moment of happiness, sitting on my couch playing Heroes with David Bowie.

Moby and David Bowie - Footage from Moby's documentary "Moby Doc" - © to the owners

Moby and David Bowie – Footage from Moby’s documentary MOBY DOC – © to the owners

Richard, what do you think of the current state of music compared to what you’ve grown up listening to?

Moby and David Bowie - Footage from Moby documentary "Moby Doc" - copyright to the owners

Moby and David Bowie – Footage from Moby’s documentary MOBY DOC – © to the owners

Well, that’s a hard question for me to ask because I’m old. And there’s an inherent bias that we the old people have towards the music that we grew up in – like I do find myself wanting to say things like “These kids today…” but the one thing I will say is, when I was growing up is that music was so central to our lives. When I was 16 years old, to be able to listen to an album you would have to work for two weeks to save up enough money to buy an album, and then you took the album home and you listened to it. You sat on the floor of your bedroom and you listened to both sides of the album and then again both sides of the album, digging into the deep tracks, etc. And I will say, I think that most kids today – which is, of course, a dangerous thing for an old person to say – but most kids, based on what I’ve observed, use music as a background while they are DMing on Instagram and posting TikTok videos and watching Netflix, and maybe doing their homework and vaping and looking at Snapchat if that still exists and texting their friends and they’ve got like eight screens going on in the background. So the music is playing, but really, for a lot of people, I think it has become the ancillary background to ten other things that are going on. And I must say, I, loved growing up at a time when you paid attention to music without distractions.

In 2008, you took part in Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace – did this project serve its purpose in the end and will there ever be a follow-up?

Moby and the Dalai Lama - Footage from Moby's documentary "Moby Doc" - © to the owners

Moby and the Dalai Lama – Footage from Moby’s documentary MOBY DOC – © to the owners

If I’m being honest, I was very tangentially involved in that project. I believe they asked for a song, and I gave them a song for free. One of the more interesting aspects of that was that I got to hang out with the Dalai Lama, and what I learned is the Dalai Lama has a great sense of humour. Maybe I should keep this to myself because I don’t want to cause problems but what I also learned is that, by definition, human beings are human. The Dalai Lama is a wonderful inspired and inspiring man, but he’s human. You know, we hung out, and he was lovely but human, and that made me realise that there are these people in our world who are alive now or have been alive in the past but we venerate them and we give them superhuman abilities, but I believe that there is something about humanity by definition and we are all human. You can gain wisdom around your humanity, you can accept your humanity but I don’t think anyone can ever technically transcend humanity. If I ever get to meet the Dalai Lama again, I might ask him about that, because he’s called His Royal Holiness HRH Dalai Lama and I don’t know what his perspective is, if he sees himself as divine or just a human who has phenomenal insights and wisdom around the human condition. So, I don’t know whether there’ll be a second one, a follow-up. I don’t know and I mean, obviously, you know, the situation between China and Tibet is long-standing and complicated and not getting any better.

Do you believe musicians have a responsibility to draw people’s attention to matters like press freedom issues, human rights abuses and armed conflicts?

Moby by Travis Schneider ©

Moby by Travis Schneider ©

I hope so. I mean, the greatest musicians of all time have used their voices to draw attention to issues. Obviously, some of the greatest have been able to write phenomenal songs around it, like Public Enemy wrote Fight The Power, Marvin Gaye with What’s Going On and Mercy Mercy Me, The Chambers Brothers and so on. But what I’d say now, what I think is interesting is that musicians have so many new ways of communicating – you know obviously, interviews, and then Zoom calls and social media. And I do think, even if a musician like me isn’t great at writing issue-oriented songs, I should still try to use the audience that I have to address important issues.

Moby - 'Natural Blues' (Reprise Version) ft. Gregory Porter & Amythyst Kiah (Official Music Video) - © to the owners

Moby in the official music video of Natural Blues (Reprise Version) ft. Gregory Porter & Amythyst Kiah

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