Moby Talks About His Love for Los Angeles
Credit: Eleanor Stills Photo
Moby really likes L.A. The producer/DJ/photographer and blogger moved here from his native New York three years ago, and the city, he says, suits him. He likes the people, the domesticity, the community, the aspirations, the artistic tendencies. He lives in Beachwood Canyon (in, he says "a modest castle"), and it was here, in relative solitude, that he made his forthcoming LP, Innocents.
Last night at Sonos Studio, Moby played a set featuring songs from Innocents, as well as a few of his best-known hits and a cover of Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." The acoustic show included Moby on guitar, along with a cellist and singer Mindy Jones, who was stunning. It was a simple, stirring performance (one that included an audience sing-along) and an apt reminder that while Moby is perhaps best known as a producer of electronic music, his work, at its core, is emotionally resonant, gospel-inspired soul.
Before the set, Moby chatted with KCRW's Chris Douridas about music, art and spirituality ("I am a New Age Southern California cliche," he admitted) before screening three new music videos, one featuring him and the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne roaming downtown Los Angeles in mariachi costumes and then hanging out at a rooftop rollerskating party.
We spoke with Moby about his career.
How have you changed since you first began releasing music?
When I first started selling albums, I thought I was just some weird accident person who was meant to teach philosophy at a local community college and be in a loveless marriage and make music in the basement that no one listened to. Instead, I somehow found myself making records. I spent years figuring out what that meant.
My career kind of bottomed out in the late '90s, and then the album Play happened. That made me think that I needed to figure out how to be a professional musician, so I forced myself to do things that didn't seem natural. Like there's this one album I made called Hotel that was very overproduced, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I did it, and I didn't like it, and I toured constantly until I finally admitted I didn't really like that either.
So, now, it's sort of like the personal and professional realization that life is short and there's no reason, at the risk of sounding like a cliché, to be disingenuous towards yourself and other people. Which all begs the question, on your deathbed, what do you want to remember? I would much rather remember being in the studio making beautiful music as opposed to looking back to worrying about how I looked at a red carpet event.
Did that stuff bother you?
To my great shame, it did. There was a time when I was concerned about those things. My Saul on the road to Damascus moment of revelation was in England five or six years ago listening to David Lynch talk at BAFTA. He was speaking about the creative process and said, "creativity is beautiful" and I was like, "He's right! That's why I do what I do." As hokey as it sounds, I don't do what I do to sell records or increase fame, I do what I do because I love that moment of creation when you make something that feels beautiful and wonderful.
Are you alone when you're making music?
It is a very sort of monastic and solipsistic process. I live up in Beachwood Canyon, and I have my studio in my guest house. Ninety-nine percent of the time it's me there by myself.
Does being alone affect you?
It probably does. As a species, we're not designed for it. I sometimes worry that if I spend too much time by myself I'll end up like Ted Kaczynski, but I'm an only child and I grew up alone and I've always lived and worked alone, so that's what feels normal to me. I love working with other people, but that's the anomalous exception.
You've lived in L.A. for three years now. Do you find it to be a lonely city?
It's easy to find stuff in New York -- bars, restaurants, community, everything is right there. You don't have to make to much of an effort to find what you're looking for. L.A., because it's such a weird petri dish of a city, in a weird way offers more, but requires so much more effort to find it. But also, in an interesting way, L.A. offers more community and more cultural opportunities, and I feel like people appreciate it more because it's so spread out.
I find L.A. to be lonelier and less lonely at the same time, and in equal measure. It's almost that it's inherently lonely that makes it less lonely.
Do you pay attention to things people say about you on the Internet?
I used to. When Gawker and Gothamist first started, I was very seduced by it, until I started reading so much negative stuff that had been written about me. Every time I read it, it upset me. I read this one comment on Gawker like, ten years ago, that said, "If I see Moby walking down the street, I will stab him to death and watch him bleed in front of me." At that moment I was like, "I'm done."
I think L.A.'s bewildering vastness led me to make a more domestic, provincial record. This album is certainly not a club record. It's not a big festival record. It's a quiet, domestic record.
L.A. does many things well, but it does domesticity really well. People have homes here, and most people really value that. People leave London or New York or Tokyo where they have no space or backyard or washer and dryer, and suddenly, in L.A., they have a house and a fireplace and a yard and a dog. I think people really treasure the simple domesticity they can have here.