[F]ollowing a two year hiatus Moby’s new album “Innocents” drops at the end of September and Hunger TV had an exclusive pre-listen before exchanging a few words with one of the most innovative musicians in electronic and popular music.
Working for the first time with an outside producer, friend Mark “Spike” Stent, (Massive Attack, Bjork, Muse and Madonna) the album features many collaborators including alt-rock legend Mark Lanegan, Cold Speck’s and Inyang Bassey’s soulful voices, Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips, and indie-folk singer Damien Jurado. Moby named them “the innocents” and the result is an exquisitely lo-fi, idiosyncratic, emotional, melodic album that reflects his musical ingenuity and ability to retrofit antiquated styles and archaic sounds to the electronic age. He may be a raver at heart but this time around his music embraces human vulnerability and celebrate imperfections. Instead of taking off the mask, here Moby tells us why he never really needed to wear one.
YOUR PREVIOUS ALBUM, “DESTROYED” WAS RELEASED IN 2011, HOW WAS THE CREATIVE PROCESS LEADING UP TO “INNOCENTS”?
I tend to work pretty constantly which is not to say that I have a particularly good work ethic. I’ve been recently asked how I became successful and to me it comes down to two things: I love what I do and I don’t really know how to do anything else. When I hear about musicians who take about five years in between albums I am honestly a bit jealous because it makes me think that they have really interesting lives and can take five years off to not work on music. I love to do many things, meeting up with friends, play with the dogs but my favourite thing to do is just being alone in my studio working on music. I never think too hard, whether it is going to turn into an album and after my long tour for Destroyed, I was finally able to come home and start working on music. I mean it is so strange making albums in 2013 because very few people buy albums and the ones who do, don’t even listen to them all the way through. I still love making albums though.
THE NEW ALBUM HAS BEEN RECORDED IN YOUR APARTMENT, JUST LIKE 2009’S “WAIT FOR ME”. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BE ALONE WHEN MAKING MUSIC?
I guess this is because I am an only child and a solo musician so it feels very natural to be by myself in the studio. I like working with other people but somehow it feels unnatural and then when everyone leaves and I get to be by myself, it feels natural again. One thing that changed is that I moved to Los Angeles and this album is the first one I made in my studio in LA.
YOU REALLY SEEM TO ENJOY LIVING IN LA, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO OFTEN LABEL IT AS A “FAKE” CITY?
One of the problems with LA is that it’s so big and in many ways LA is the anti-city. When you talk about NYC, London, Paris, or Milan they all have a very clear centre that usually is the most beautiful part of the city and the farther you go from it the more run-down the city is. LA is the exact opposite; the middle of the city is the least attractive part and what happens is that people who visit it, like West Hollywood, see some really ugly aspects of the city and assume that everything in LA must look like that. All of the interesting and beautiful things about LA are on the outskirt where everyone lives so, unless you go there and have lots of friend who can show you around you’ll never see the nice bits.
THE VIDEO FOR “THE LONELY NIGHT” FLITS BETWEEN THE CALIFORNIAN DESERT AND THE ELECTRIC CITY EXPANSE OF LA. HOW DID THE CITY INSPIRE YOUR NEW ALBUM?
LA affected the album because so much weird music came out of here in the past forty years. Everything from Dr. Dre, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, to John Williams; LA is such a strange incubator for music. One of the very weird things about LA is that it has no cohesion. When you are in London you always know that you are in London, when in LA sometimes you feel like you are in Mexico, or in the middle of the desert, or in a urban environment. This lack of cohesion is part of what I love about it. It’s very odd and it would make so much more sense if people would think of it as a 150 different towns instead of a single city. LA County is the size of Belgium and this sense of vastness inspired the record. If I drive for ten miles behind my house I am in the middle of the desert, it stretches to Texas, whereas in European cities many other towns are close to each others. There is this sense of strange isolation, you have the Pacific Ocean on one hand, the huge desert on the other and LA is perched in this tiny little strip of land between the vastness of the ocean and the desert. A lot of the architecture and music definitely reflects this.
YOUR UPCOMING SINGLE “THE PERFECT LIFE” SOUNDS UPLIFTING AND JOYOUS COMPARED TO THE EPIC AND MELODIC NATURE OF THE ALBUM. ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY THAT A PERFECT LIFE MUST CONTAIN IMPERFECTIONS?
The song, in a weird way, was inspired by living in New York and having lots of friends who were drug addicts or alcoholics. By the way I feel sorry that we are talking about this because I feel like such a Southern California cliché. Anyway, the theme of “Innocents” is trying to look at and understand how humans make sense of the human condition. It is the one thing that we all have in common, we are all humans and we are all confused; yes there are some people who are not, but I am. The very act of being human is baffling, we are alive for 80 or 90 years in a universe that is 15 billion years old and we contemplate what significance our lives have and the whole idea that every single thing we know, every single person we know, at some point will go away. We try to have a good life without really knowing what it means to have one. That’s one of the reasons why I have always been interested in addicts; I mean I am an alcoholic myself. They are really almost distilling this question, “how do you have a good life?” and their answers are quite simple, it is one thing. For someone it might be heroin for example, they don’t need people, food, or sleep; they just need that one thing to have a perfect life. There is something very sort of simple, strange and reductionist about that but also… and I am not in favour of people being addicts, but there is a weird sad beauty to that. Like giving up on everything else in the world and just focusing on that one thing.
THE ALBUM IS AN INTENSE JOURNEY AND ON THE CLOSING TRACK “THE DOGS” YOU SING “THIS IS WHERE WE DIE / LIKE THE DOGS LEFT OUTSIDE”. IS IT A PESSIMISTIC NOTE ON THE HUMAN CONDITION?
I am trying to figure it out. We are seven billion people on this planet and we are all so busy; we try to fill our lives, control things, making them better for ourselves but underneath it all there is this sort of desperation and fear. It’s true for me as well and I really think, not to sound like some weird new age guy from California, the best response to this human condition is dealing with ourselves and other people with a great sense of compassion and understanding that just being human is really difficult for everyone.
“INNOCENTS” IS YOUR MOST COLLABORATIVE ALBUM TO DATE. WHAT IS THE UNDERLYING ELEMENT WHEN YOU CHOOSE THE VOICES TO SING IN YOUR MUSIC?
First and foremost my own very personal subjective reaction is very important. The moment I hear some voices I immediately have a strong emotional reaction and that is mainly what I am looking for; that subjective response and I guess a combination of looking for a voice that is beautiful and interesting but sort of strong and vulnerable at the same time. Living in LA you come across many good singers, a lot of them are very professional, they sing on commercials or at the Superbowl. It is hard to find people who have a really beautiful voice but also with a lot of character.
PHOTOGRAPHY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF YOUR LIFE SINCE YOU WERE TEN, AND YOU RECENTLY DIRECTED THE VIDEO FOR LEADING SINGLE “A CASE FOR SHAME”. HOW DOES BEING A VISUAL PERSON AFFECT YOUR MUSIC?
I really like the question; I wish I had a really good answer. The truth is, and I almost feel this is going to be a very disappointing answer, when I am working on music I am only thinking about making music and when I work on the visual I only think about the visual but I guess I only have one brain so the part of making music affects me emotionally and intellectually in the same way working on the visual would affect me. They are different mediums but they’re part of my brain. There is certainly a long tradition of musicians being very either artists or very concerned with the visual side of their work. I think of David Bowie or Madonna, and I guess the one thing that makes me different is that I’m never really using myself as a visual subject. The genius of David Bowie is that his art was always himself. I am perfectly happy being a bald middle aged guy behind the camera, I don’t think of myself as being the canvas or the subject, I’d rather just be the person who makes the music and take pictures.
THE VIDEO YOU DIRECTED FEATURES MASKED CHARACTERS. IT GOT ME THINKING OF LUIGI PIRANDELLO, AN ITALIAN DRAMATIST WHO DEVELOPED THE CONCEPT OF MASK VERSUS IDENTITY A LOT IN HIS WORK. ARE YOU TRYING TO REVEAL OR TO HIDE SOMETHING?
Obviously the mask represents a sense of hiding. One of the most heartbreaking things about human beings is the amount of time and effort everyone spends concealing themselves. The best thing about humans is when they are honest, open, vulnerable and true to who they are. Unfortunately people, myself included, have quite a lot of shame around who they really are or assume they can only present themselves in some sort of idealised light. Everyone wants to be seen as very smart, sexy, ironic, cynical, and the truth is that who people are underneath these masks and facades is just always more interesting. Think about it, if you go on a date with someone and the person you are on a date with would spend the whole time lying about themselves. It would be very depressing. When people are honest and open there is a good chance you might fall in love with them. The mask is the idea behind the reason why we are all spending so much time covering ourselves up and how unnecessary it is. We are only here for a short period of time and I just feel like the best things that ever happened on this planet are when people are being honest about who they really are.
WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?
It is a really good question, and if I’m going to give an honest answer unfortunately I’m going to sound like a complete Southern California cliché again. I am hungry for beauty, joy, nature, friendship, fresh squeezed orange juice, dogs, and amazing music. Those are the things at the top of my list. I wish I had a more esoteric answer but we have been having this conversation about humans being more honest and I figured I had to be.
“Innocents” is released on the 30th of September through Little Idiot / Mute
Moby will be playing only three shows for “The Innocents Tour” at Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of October
Each show will happen in two parts, with the first part consisting of songs from the new album, ‘Innocents’, and the second part being a ‘greatest hits’ set, including songs from Moby’s past records including “Play’ and ’18’.