A FEW MONTHS back at ARO.space, Moby did something extraordinary. The New York underground techno artist-cum-mainstream electronica guy appeared at what was supposed to be a low-key local listening party to coincide with the release of his new album, Play (V2). Usually, such a "party" consists of frazzled regional music biz types handing out promo items—key chains, posters, cassette singles—to a crowd that's conversing too loudly to fulfill the "listening" end of the deal.
Kitsap County Fairgrounds, Bremerton, Saturday, August 7
Mingling with guests in the plain, angular surroundings of ARO.space, a bespectacled Moby exuded calm, even when a fanatical group of followers surrounded him and made vague allusions to their religious worship of him. Eventually, he excused himself and took up residence behind the turntables, spinning a couple hours' worth of records.
What was he doing here in the first place? Moby's an anomaly. When he finally attained recognition for his work as a dance music maestro several years ago, he cut a hard-rock record. Now, when rap-tinged hard-rock is all the rage, he comes out with a new album that mixes groovy beats and soulful samples.
The record, already named one of the 20 best of the decade by Spin, has put Moby in a strange spot. Suddenly his tuneful music gets played on radio stations alongside aggressive songs that he doesn't necessarily condone. He is also invited to play festivals with bands that stir up far more violent controversies than he has in becoming a popular electronic crossover. Like his peers in this emerging category, the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, Moby was among those on the opening night's electronic stage lineup at Woodstock two weeks ago, two nights before the massive festival's finale of rioting. Since then, disturbing reports about rape and mosh-pit casualties at Woodstock have surfaced. Moby spoke with Seattle Weekly from his home in New York a few days after he and his two-man backing band played to 40,000 people at the now notorious event.
Seattle Weekly: How would you describe your experience at Woodstock?
Moby: For me, it was great. We played in the dance area. The main stage had bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn, and they don't attract the nicest bunch of people. They attract a bunch of thick-necked frat boys. The nice thing was, we went on at two in the morning, so all the meatheads had gone to sleep or had gone back to the camp.
What do you think of the popularity of bands like Limp Bizkit?
I didn't like gangsta rap, and to me this is the white-boy equivalent.
Yet because your album's becoming popular, you're getting played on the same stations as these type of bands.
I respect a lot of these bands to an extent, and I like some of their songs. It's just the whole ethos of testosterone. And too many angry white guys. I'm sure that a lot of people who like Limp Bizkit are really nice, interesting people. But when you go to Woodstock and see—the only way I can describe them is thick-necked frat boys. These are the same kids that used to beat me up in high school.
I find it especially intriguing that your music, like the existence you seem to lead, is kind of stripped-down, which is in opposition to our increasingly cluttered society. Is this accurate?
I don't consider myself to be enlightened. I don't follow any specific spiritual discipline or spiritual path. I think it's more trial and error. If I watch too much TV, I get depressed. Buying things doesn't make me happy. Filling my life with consumer stuff doesn't make me happy, but I haven't embraced nonmaterialism.
Do you think that Play has caught on because you combined old sounds, such as field recordings, with what's thought of as the modern esthetic, electronic music?
I'm sure that has something to do with it. On its most simple level, one could say that I made a nice record and people like nice records. I made a very personal record that's melodic, beautiful, and warm, at a time when very few warm, melodic, personable records are getting made. I'm very proud of this record, but it definitely stands in sharp contrast to a lot of the stuff that people are inundated with.