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TALK: Moby

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Today, New York City’s favorite bald-headed, vegan, club-hoppin’, multi-instrumentalist, dance producer, Moby, will release his brand new album, Last Night (Mute)–although I’m sure it won’t be available in many outlets until tomorrow, Tuesday, April 1.

Moby sits down with Jim Shearer and talks about his new “quasi-concept” album, as well as explaining his ultra-violent “Disco Lies” video, Rick Rubin destroying his amplifier, and the joys of being a wedding DJ at heart…

Jim Shearer: I want to talk about your new album Last Night. This is supposedly a concept album–your journey from club-to-club in New York City?

Moby: Sort of–it is supposed to be reflective of a night out in the Lower East Side.

Jim: Can you take us through the night? What clubs are we hitting?

Moby: I guess it would start by having dinner with some friends and then you have a few drinks–and maybe you go to a party in someone’s loft and you drink more and you dance. Then you go to another party, and the bars and clubs don’t really start for me until, like, around 2AM.

Jim: Sounds good so far.

Moby: And then around 2AM, you know, stumble over to the Lower East Side, and there is this one bar that I have been going to for the last 18 years called Max Fish. It is sort of like, [one of] the original, scummy, indie-dive bars on the Lower East Side–it is never closed. If it’s a Tuesday night at 3:30AM, everything else can be empty and Max Fish is always crowded with completely degenerate people.

Jim: So I’m assuming the evening starts off very chill?

Moby: It starts out very innocent–innocent and naïve–and then it gets a little bit darker and more dance oriented. By the end, it is very quiet and calm and that is supposed to be, like, when you are stumbling home as the sun is coming up. I’m always hesitant to use the word “concept” applied to a record, because there is sort of the shameful history of concept records, but it is a sort of quasi-concept record.

Jim: Would you call it a dance album?

Moby: It’s a very eclectic dance record, so it is not really a club record, you know, there aren’t too many songs that have, like, an oomph, oomph, oomph, oomph, four-four kick, but it is a dance record for home listening.

Jim: Your “Disco Lies” video is pretty violent. I was wondering if any human rights groups protested this video?

Moby: Human rights groups? Or animal groups?

Jim: Human rights–a human being is murdered by a chicken.

Moby: You know what, the human rights people haven’t come, but my friends in the animal rights community all really like the video. I wish I could take more credit for the video, but I had almost nothing to do with it. My friend Evan Bernard, who I have known forever, we were trying to think of an idea for the video and we just couldn’t think of anything good. At the last minute, he said, “Okay, how about a blaxploitation of Colonel Sanders being chased through the streets of Mexico by a 10-foot-tall pimp-chicken, who then kills him and eats him?” I was, like, “Well that sounds great.”

Jim: I didn’t think you were going to take it as far as you did. The Colonel Sanders-figure really gets it at the end?

Moby: See, that is one of the fantastic things about the digital present. In the old days when you made videos you had to worry about MTV standards and practices. So now, the main outlet for videos is youtube and online, so you can kind of do whatever you want. That is what I liked about this video, because it looks like it’s heading in a violent direction. People are always kind of stunned at just how graphic it is with the Sam Peckinpah-ending.

Jim: You recently hosted a charity show in NYC where the Beastie Boys performed live. You requested “Egg Raid Mojo”, one of their earlier punk numbers?

Moby: Yes, well I grew up in the hardcore community in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I used to have a band called the Vatican Commandos and I was obsessed with Black Flag and I have got a scar here and a scar here (points to scars on his face) from Black Flag shows. The Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore band.

Jim: Did you ever see them play live in their Pollywog Stew-days?


Moby: No, but I must have been in a 100 clubs with them. The first time I met [the Beastie Boys] was, like, I don’t know, 10 or 15 years ago. Rick Rubin on the other hand, he used to be in a band called Hose, who were this sort of Flipper-inspired noise metal band. I played a show with Hose when I was 16 and they borrowed my amp and Rick destroyed it because he played so loud. I mentioned that to him recently and he was apologetic even 20 years later.

(left: Rick Rubin’s former band, Hose. They’re the ones that destroyed Moby’s amplifier.)

Jim: When you hit the road to support Last Night, will you be touring with a full band?

Moby: At times maybe. What I’m doing now is just DJing and it is so much fun, because you show up with records, play [music], and you get to down a few drinks and meet people. This is so much more civilized and organic than going on tour, living on a bus, and waking up in a parking lot with 20 or 30 crew members with you at all times.

I might put together some live show, like, maybe DJing with percussion. I don’t know? But the idea of going on a conventional rock-n-roll tour again, where you are living on a bus and waking up in a parking lot, I don’t really ever want to do that again. I don’t know? Maybe I could figure out some way of making it fun, but I stopped enjoying that a long time ago.

Jim: When you’re spinning, do you just play your stuff? Or other people’s stuff?

Moby: I mainly play other people’s records, because one of the greatest things about DJing is you get to take credit for other people’s work.

Jim: Yes, but the DJ also has to have a good shot selection.

Moby: I guess so, but as much as I enjoy DJing I always feel like a fraud, you know, because you are playing other people’s records for the most part. Even if I’m playing my own records, I tend to play remixes of my own records that someone else has done.

Jim: Are you a knob twister? Taking out the bass at certain parts of the song?

Moby: Oh yes. I have these new mixers that just do everything–they have all these effects and filters. You can almost play the mixer like a musical instrument. I get a little carried away to the point where I’m sure that the people in the crowd are getting kind of annoyed. They are just like, “Play the fucking record.”

Jim: What do you think about the iPod and computer setups? Is it a sad day for DJ’s? Or a happy one, since they don’t have to lug around crates of records anymore?

Moby: Most of the DJs I know will bring their laptop, plug it into a mixer, and just go from there. I DJ with CDs, because I’m basically a wedding DJ at heart. I used to DJ with vinyl, but I was traveling a lot, and when you are running through airports with, like, two metal flight cases full of records–whoa.

Jim: I hear you.

Moby: If you are a guitar player and you are flying to play a show in Belgium and you get off the plane and your luggage has gone to Singapore, you rent a new guitar. If you are a DJ and your records have gone to Singapore, you are just screwed. There is nothing you can do, so that is why DJing with CDs [is more convenient]. They are always with me when I travel, so that way there is no danger of losing them.

Jim: Do you have all of your music backed up on an iPod?

Moby: I have all the music backed up on a hard drive conveniently located in my studio in New York.

Jim: Because you record your albums at home, do your neighbors ever yell at you for making too much noise?

Moby: No, in fact, my neighbors are much loader than I am. There was one time I woke up on a Saturday morning and I guess my neighbors had been up all night. They were listening to banging house music at 7AM and I was so annoyed. I got up and I was going to go bang on their door and ask them to turn it down, but I realized they were listening to one of my records. And so it was like, “What are the karmic rules for this? Am I allowed to yell at my neighbors for playing my record loud?

Jim: Did you?

Moby: No. I just tried to go back to sleep.

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