By Mark Guarino
Moby became America’s favorite DJ thanks to Play, a 1999 smash he followed up with albums that spanned electro-pop to strummed singer-songwriter fare. On the sample-heavy dancefloor blues and chilled techno of Last Night (Mute) he steps inside the DJ booth again.
For Last Night, you’re not going to tour but instead, do one-off DJ dates. Why’s that?
Basically, from 1999 to 2005 I was on tour a lot. But it ended up making me really unhappy. Performing live is great but that’s only 90 minutes to two hours a day and the other 22 hours are spent sitting in catering reading USA Today, being depressed wishing you could go home. So it’s not a reaction against playing live, it’s a reaction against touring … Whereas DJing you can be much more flexible. Basically you just show up and play records.
In the cult movie Pittsburgh you admit your love of porn and cheat on onscreen girlfriend Illeana Douglas. A way to shatter the Moby persona?
Maybe it was disconcerting that being an asshole boyfriend came so naturally to me. It amazes me that people do think of me of being this earthy, crunchy, yoga enthusiast, sensitive vegan who is asleep by ten every night because I’m really just a lecherous drunk.
You also complain about your singing in the movie. You also don’t sing on Last Night.
I love singing. Almost every night that my friends go out drinking, it ends up with us doing karaoke or back in my apartment singing cover songs. I love singing but I recognize that my voice is really limited … honestly, when so many people sing better for me I don’t know why should be the one singing.
The new songs sound cinematic and I know you also do film scores. How do those really intensive moods come about?
Even though it’s filled with electronics, (my studio) has a cloistered, monastic quality to it. It’s quite small, if you put more than one or two people in there, it gets claustrophobic. So whatever emotionally is going on in the rest of my life, it gets left behind when I go in studio and start working. It’s probably one reason why I work a lot. Work for me is the best anti-anxiety and anti-depression I’ve ever encountered.
So much has changed in the music industry since the days of Play. Where do you fit?
I feel like we’re thankfully living through the last death throes of bad corporate music. That whole world of manufactured bands and teen pop artists, I just don’t think it’s going to be around for much longer because it’s just not that profitable. There was a period in the late 90s where you could invent a boy band and sell 10 million records. Now you invent a boy band and they sell a couple hundred thousand records. And you have to spend all that time hiring producers and hiring vocal coaches, stylists and makeup, etc. I just don’t think there’s enough money in the world of pop music to continue justifying all these soulless boy bands or whatnot … I’m hopeful as music because less profitable, the people who are in it only for profit will go off doing something else like sell mufflers.
You campaigned for Kerry in 2004 — Who’s it going to be in 2008?
Regardless of George Bush’s political bent, the truth is, it was just an inept administration. Whether or not I agree with them ideologically, they just did a bad job running the country. This might sound boring but what excites me is the thought that we might have a president who is actually competent. And I think Hillary, she might not be the most exciting person in world, but she’s very competent. What worries me is Rudy Giuliani as president. Because as a New Yorker, when he was mayor, he’s a lunatic. It’s not even a matter of competency; he’s really emotionally unstable. It’s almost like almost like we need a period of boring, just get-the-job-done leadership.