Moby muses on his new album and on the state of humanity

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Moby (moby.com)
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Interview with Moby
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On Friday, March 2, Moby releases his latest album, Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt. In the run-up to the album's release, Moby spoke to Brian Oake and Jill Riley about what influenced the album and its themes, which emerge from Moby's thoughtful reflections on the state of humanity.

In the course of his conversation with Oake & Riley, Moby shared his thoughts on a number of topics. Interview highlights are below. Use the audio player above to listen to the complete interview.

Interview Highlights

Moby describing what inspired the album's sound:

"One of the biggest influences was an album I discovered pretty recently by an artist named Baby Huey. Baby Huey was an R&B artist, and Curtis Mayfield produced his one and only album [The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend] … When I discovered it, I became obsessed with it. I don't necessarily think that my new album sounds like the Baby Huey album, but in a weird, almost tangential way, it was the biggest influence for the record.

"The broadest and I guess biggest overall influence would be music from the late '70s, early '80s, that was largely electronic but still had a strong oftentimes female vocal presence, like Grace Jones or Marianne Faithfull. That period when conventional musicians and conventional producers were experimenting with really new, interesting production techniques: synthesizers and drum machines and tape delays, and creating sonic landscapes that hadn't ever existed before."

On what inspired the album's title and themes:

"I've been obsessed with politics. I was raised by hippies in the 60s, so I've been obsessed with politics honestly since I think I was in the womb. For most of my life, I thought the solutions would be political solutions, as they oftentimes are: think same-sex marriage and civil rights and the equal rights amendment. But underpinning all these systems — whether they're political or economic or cultural or spiritual — is who we are as a species. And I don't want to sound too much like a pedantic grad student, but what I've been thinking about lately is this question of: who are we as a species, and why do we keep making such terrible mistakes? Because up until pretty recently, the problems we dealt with were problems that were out of our control, but now what's so exasperating in the 21st century is that every problem that we face is a problem that humans have created. And that's where this title, Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt, came from. It was supposed to be utopian, not abstract utopian, but the idea that if we just simply stopped doing all these terrible things, we could actually create some semblance of a paradise here."

cover art of Moby's new album
Moby's new album is "Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt." (Courtesy of Mute Records)

On his recent posts in reaction to the Parkland, Fla., school shooting:

"To contextualize it and bring it a little closer to home, most of my family lives in Newtown, Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting happened. I've always been a proponent of very rational — I wouldn't say call it 'gun control' but let's say 'gun legislation.' To me, it's a perfect example of a very easily avoidable problem. Guns don't grow on trees; AR-15s don't just sprout up out of fields; someone has to make them, ship them, sell them. We regulate so many things, sometimes for really good reasons: getting a driver's license; adopting a child; even adopting an animal. These things have more regulation than buying a weapon that can kill hundreds of people just by moving your finger a little bit.

"It's so inspiring right now, the leadership — especially that's coming from these kids, they're so clear-spoken … I'm hoping that we see a radical sea change. I'm not saying someone who has a rifle for target practice; they're not the enemy. It's these lunatics with semi-automatic and automatic weapons who think they're the last defense against tyranny, and the issue is, they are tyranny. I am much more comfortable with our government and our military than crazy far-right people with automatic weapons."

On his acting appearances on Blunt Talk and Twin Peaks:

"It helps that I have no interest in being a professional actor. I'm not trying to build a career, and I live in Los Angeles, so logistically it's pretty easy to go to a film set or a TV studio … My criteria for picking the roles is simply if they've asked me and I have free time and it seems interesting. Blunt Talk, in particular, just how surreal and odd it was — because I'm not an actor — but to find myself acting with Patrick Stewart who is arguably the greatest actor of our time. The only thing I can compare it to is maybe some kid got invited onstage at Woodstock to play guitar with Jimi Hendrix.

"It's odd and it's fun and there's something liberating about acting when I have no professional aspirations. I don't see myself as an actor, and I don't really want to build a resume or career around acting."

On his admiration for the late David Bowie:

"I grew up, like most of us, obsessed with David Bowie, in love with David Bowie, and in the early 21st century, he became my neighbor and my friend. We had holidays together, we went on tour together, we would get coffee together. I spent Christmas at his house. Just as an aside, he gave me the best present anyone has ever given me. I was leaving his house at Christmas, and he said, 'Hold on.' And he ran down the hall and he came back, and he handed me a black fedora. And he said, 'Here — this is the hat that I wore in The Man Who Fell to Earth,' and just handed it to me and wrote, 'To Moby; love, David' inside the hat.

"… So I spent all this time with him, and ostensibly we were friends, we were neighbors. But every minute I spent with him, I felt like Mike Myers as Wayne in Wayne's World, that moment when he meets Alice Cooper and falls on his knees and says, 'We're not worthy.' Just keeping my blank together in his presence and trying to be normal in the presence of royalty, in the presence of the greatest musician of all time, it was really challenging."

David Bowie in New York
Moby says David Bowie "became my neighbor and my friend." (Jimmy King/Press)

On the stories suggesting he was contacted by the CIA:

"To be clear, it wasn't the CIA. It was some friends at different intelligence agencies around the world. Their concern was basically the Trump administration saw how, very tragically, the war in Iraq saved George Bush's presidency. George Bush had terrible approval ratings before 9/11, and so their concern is that the Trump administration is trying to gin up some sort of attack or something that can turn Trump into a wartime president. And so they asked me, with my large social media following, to just disseminate some of this information. And now, people come up to me asking me if I have a non-official cover. If you remember Mission Impossible, in one of them, Tom Cruise was trying to get the NOC list, and NOC stands for non-official cover.

"I mean, it would be exciting to be a spy, but for better or worse, I'm not a spy. Which is, of course, what a spy would say!"

On whether or not he'll tour in support of the new album:

"The tour at present is going to be three shows in my neighborhood in Los Angeles and two shows in my old neighborhood in New York, because, as a 52-year-old, middle-age musician, at this point, I'm just happier staying home and hiking than going out and going on tour. So maybe at some point, I'll go on tour again, but it might not be for a while."

Audio produced by Anna Reed; transcription by Luke Taylor.

Resources

Moby - official site

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