Moby

Sobers up with a new al­bum

Esquire (Singapore) - - Portfolio -

Elec­tronic su­per­star Moby never planned a life of fame, but it came knock­ing when his 1999 al­bum Play sold more than 12 mil­lion copies world­wide. Up to that point, New York-born Richard Melville Hall played in clubs building eu­pho­ria through synth beats, gospel and the blues.

The six-time Grammy-nom­i­nated star pushed elec­tron­ica to the main­stream with hits like ‘Why Does My Heart Feed So Bad’ and ‘Porce­lain’, but was also at his most frag­ile while his ca­reer was peak­ing.

Now, at 52 and 10 years sober, he isn’t mak­ing mu­sic to please record la­bels—in fact if Moby’s lat­est stu­dio al­bum Ev­ery­thing Is Beau­ti­ful and Noth­ing Hurt (see fac­ing page) is any­thing to go by—he’s on an ex­is­ten­tial va­cant lot pon­der­ing what Al­bert Camus called ‘the ab­surd’ in The Myth of Sisy­phus.

“It’s ironic that I was at my most de­pressed when from the out­side it looked any­thing but,” says Moby, who lives in Los An­ge­les and has a home in up­state New York.

With chart suc­cess came a par­ty­ing life­style of drugs, sex and binge drink­ing that cre­ated a mon­ster within.

“I didn’t re­ally like my­self when I took it too far. I didn’t know when to stop drink­ing, I couldn’t stop with just one,” he says. “I would keep go­ing un­til I couldn’t re­mem­ber any­thing and that life isn’t re­ally good for any­body.”

He wrote a mem­oir Porce­lain in 2016 re­veal­ing the sor­did de­tail of that de­bauched life­style—the ti­tle in­spired by Bob Dy­lan’s Chron­i­cles and Patti Smith’s Just Kids au­to­bi­ogra­phies.

“I was a notch in some­one’s belt,” ex­plains Moby of his drunken sex­ual en­coun­ters. “I didn’t like that feel­ing and wanted to end that pat­tern of hav­ing sex with strangers right away. I tended to date women who were emo­tion­ally un­avail­able—ex­actly what my mother [El­iz­a­beth] was when I was grow­ing up.”

Born in Har­lem, Moby moved to Con­necti­cut at the age of three—a year af­ter his father died in an al­co­hol-re­lated car crash in New York. He was raised by his mother and ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents.

“As odd as it might sound, my mother never men­tioned my father grow­ing up,” says Moby.

“I have pic­tures of him, but I know al­most noth­ing about him other than he was get­ting a mas­ter’s de­gree in chem­istry at Columbia Univer­sity and had been in the mil­i­tary.”

His mother was a pain­ter who worked in ad­min­is­tra­tive jobs to pay the bills—they lived on wel­fare hand­outs and food stamps. She re­mar­ried a gentle­man called Richard when Moby was 22—a year af­ter he moved out of home.

“Richard was bright and very thought­ful, but prior to that my mother had ques­tion­able taste in men. She dated Hell’s An­gels and out-of-work mu­si­cians. I re­mem­ber she nearly got stabbed to death in the kitchen when she tried to break up with her mo­tor­cy­cle mem­ber boyfriend,” he says. His mother died from cancer in 1998 a year be­fore Play came out.

The well-known veg­e­tar­ian, who was raised a Chris­tian and to this day still has a cu­rios­ity about re­li­gion and faith, owns a ve­gan bistro in Sil­ver­lake called Lit­tle Pine Restau­rant and re­sides in the Los Feliz neigh­bour­hood.

Moby ad­mits he hasn’t been able to hold down a re­la­tion­ship longer than 10 months even though he’s been linked to some big names, in­clud­ing ac­tress Natalie Port­man, in the past. These days he spends his days fo­cused on mak­ing mu­sic. “I don’t care if no­body is buy­ing it, I will never stop mak­ing it,” he says.

He moon­lights with the crème of the crop for in­tel­lec­tual con­ver­sa­tion—from din­ner par­ties with fem­i­nist Glo­ria Steinem, artist Lau­rie An­der­son and celebrity crushing Hil­lary Clin­ton. Moby is any­thing but a brag­ger; in fact, the soft-spo­ken artist is more than per­son­able and happy to get the con­ver­sa­tion shift­ing from mu­sic to pol­i­tics and fem­i­nism.

“If we don’t start em­brac­ing ma­tri­ar­chal val­ues and al­most ex­clu­sively al­low­ing women to run the planet we’re doomed if women don’t take over,” he of­fers.

He’s a Demo­crat sup­porter with a bone to pick. “Pa­tri­archy

I can’t stand on my own any­more I can’t stand in the stain of the bro­ken and poor I can’t break what I held and it never was true In the mir­ror what I said was a lie to you And me and ev­ery­thing I see And ev­ery­thing I could Tried so hard to be good For my­self, for you, for the hid­den and di­vine For ev­ery­thing But I can fail just so many times In this dark­ness, please light my way —From ‘This Wild Dark­ness’

has run its course…look at some of the lead­ers around the world in­clud­ing the United States,” he says.

“These toxic men in power are an­gry, racist and misog­y­nis­tic. If you ever need to see an ex­am­ple of pa­tri­archy in its dy­ing days just look at Don­ald Trump.”

His 15th stu­dio al­bum is a les­son in life’s doom and gloom, but Moby isn’t de­pressed any­more. His ren­di­tion of ‘Like A Moth­er­less Child’ is a metaphor for the per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal. He fell in love with the song 10 years ago while hav­ing din­ner with New York friends Lou Reed and An­der­son.

“A fa­mous New York chore­og­ra­pher Bill T Jones joined us for din­ner that night and spon­ta­neously got up and did a dance while singing ‘Moth­er­less Child’. That’s when I fell in love with that song,” he says.

“The new al­bum is about the lone­li­ness and dys­func­tion of our species—not in an aca­demic or crit­i­cal way. It’s a gen­tle look at the ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis that has at­tached it­self to the hu­man con­di­tion.”

This was life and this was safer Al­ways strange, and al­ways stranger A la­tent hate but so much later I’m never safe from all this dan­ger The de­mon’s eyes and de­mon satyr I was bait but what would bait her? Don’t know my needs, don’t know my way sir —From ‘Like A Moth­er­less Child’

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