Richard Melville, the electronic singer-songwriter, musician, DJ, photographer, social advocate and bon vivant known as Moby, has made an indelible mark on dance music since the ’90s. Responsible for producing too many great songs, albums and soundtracks to mention, his astounding professional success — which includes selling over 20 million records and playing over 3,000 shows — hasn’t diminished his passion for music and creativity.
Earlier in the year Moby presented his well-received Innocents photo exhibition at Project Gallery in Hollywood, which followed his photography exhibition Destroyed presented in 2011. In July, he issued Moby and Darth & Vader “Death Star,” a hot dance floor collaboration with Brazilian electro-house producer Hugo Castellan, on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint. There’s simply no stopping this guy!
Articulate, funny and always a great subject to interview (Moby guest edited our one-year anniversary back in the day), we decided to switch things up and got producers who’ve remixed Moby in the past to collectively interview the master.
Below Moby fields their questions about a range of subjects, including nerdy studio talk about synthesizers (natch), why he meditates and unforgettable interactions with fans.
Moby and Darth & Vader “Death Star” is out now on Dim Mak.
I’ve experienced going on tour with you on the Area: One tour. I caught you several times dancing behind the speakers and loved that so much!! Are you still a raver or more a retired pop star?
— Timo Maas (remixed “We Are All Made Of Stars”)
Moby: I think I’m a raver and a recovering pop star. Being a raver seems healthy and worth doing enthusiastically for one’s whole life. Being a pop star just engenders entitlement and narcissism, so I’m happy to be more of a raver than a pop star. Also raving involves dancing whereas being a pop star involves throwing phones at people.
When in your career did the “OK, I have to be a frontman for this thing” realization happen?
— Big Black Delta (remixed “After”)
Probably in my basement when I was 15 years old. I was playing with a hardcore band, Vatican Commandos, and I liked the other musicians but I got tired of waiting around for them. So I never thought ‘I’ll be a frontman,’ but rather ‘I’ll make music on my own and stand on stage if need be.’ It’s kind of empowering being a frontman when you don’t care about being a frontman.
“A woman stopped me on the street recently and told me that my music helped her to get through the death of her sister. She started crying on the street and then I started crying on the street.”
What is your most used synthesizer of all-time? Not necessarily your favorite one. Why? Also, where is your favorite hideaway, your place to relax when on vacation?
— Mixhell (remixed “Isolate”)
My favorite synthesizer would be the Roland Juno 106. It’s not very fancy, but it does pretty much everything, from bass sounds to strings to leads. My favorite hideaway is my pool house, which sounds much more bourgeoisie than it actually is. I live in L.A., the land of pool houses.
How important it is for you to have another passion such as photography and how does it help in the composition of music?
— Mr. Dendo (remixed “Almost Home” and “The Perfect Life”)
Hmm, I’m not sure photography and music are all that related, but I love doing both of them. I just believe that life is relatively short and I’d rather spend my time making things than worrying too much about making things. If I focus on the enjoyment I get from making things I don’t worry too much about whether other people will like them or not, which is nice.
Meeting you well over 20 years ago, I wonder what you miss most about those early ’90s rave parties. Do you think we will ever see that feeling come back around now that our music has hit the mainstream?
— Tommie Sunshine (remixed “Ooh Yeah”)
I think I miss the provincial naiveté of the early ’90s. You’d show up at a rave in Milwaukee and the promoter would be stealing electricity from a light pole and his mom would be selling tickets and his girlfriend would be DJing and the whole thing felt completely DIY so I miss that — the smallness and innocence of the early rave days. And that we were all in the same boat, professionally, socio-economically, etc. — there was no stratification.
I read that you do transcendental meditation — I learned years ago but fell out of the habit — and was wondering how if at all you think this might have helped you over the years, especially creatively?
— D/R/U/G/S (remixed “Lie Down In Darkness”)
Oh, I do lots of different types of meditation: TM, Metta, Vipassana, etc. Honestly they’re all good. I can’t say one is better than the other. Meditation shouldn’t be hard work — it should be a relaxed practice that lowers stress and increases a sense of calm perspective. Because of meditating I spend less time worrying about stupid things, or so I believe.
Hello there, Moby. I wonder what you enjoy most about remixing other people? Also, do you have a favorite synth?
— Maps (remixed “Slow Light”)
My favorite thing about remixing other people is seeing how they construct tracks and songs. My favorite person to work with was Quincy Jones on the tracks from Thriller. I did a remix of “Beat It” and being able to open up the multi-tracks was a revelation. I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, but the way that Quincy recorded and produced the instruments on “Beat It” was really inspiring.
How can it be that you can’t be pigeonholed in a certain category of dance, but at the same time get the biggest respect from all the different scenes?
— Funkerman (remixed “The Day”)
Maybe because I’m old? It’s easier to respect people as they start wearing adult diapers. Although i’m sure there are lots of people in lots of different scenes who have absolutely no respect for me. My approach all along is to cluelessly just keep making music and not be too concerned with how it fits into what other people are doing. It doesn’t mean I’m a maverick — it just means that I happily have no idea what I’m doing but I wake up every day and keep working. P.S.: I don’t actually wear adult diapers. Just to be clear.
“I work hard on albums and I love making albums, but I never expect them to sell very much or to get much attention.”
I saw you in Beachwood but I didn’t want to creep up and bug you. What’s the most common question you get from strangers in the streets?
— Style of Eye (remixed “I Love To Move In Here”)
Most common question: How do I get to the Hollywood sign? And then I feel like an old Maine farmer. “Well, you can’t get there from here” as you probably know….
I have a vegan friend who comes round regularly for dinner. I cooked vegan chili too many times! Any favorite dishes you would recommend?
— Ben Hoo (remixed “Lie Down In Darkness”)
My favorite meal: quinoa and black beans with some olive oil and really good kimchi. It’s so simple and good and will help you live to be 8,000 years old.
What track would you consider your most significant accomplishment to date?
— Kris Menace (remixed “Ooh Yeah”)
Probably “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters.” Of all the music I’ve made it’s the one that I’m most proud of. When I first wrote it I ended up sitting on the floor of my studio crying. If a musician is never moved to tears by something they’re working on then they need to re-think what they’re doing, and how.
Hi Richard, I had the honor to be chosen to remix you two times, and I feel really lucky for that. There is a question I always wanted to ask you. I’ve followed your releases since your first record, “Go,” and I was really wondering if you would one day release a new club album, as I really think this is one side of your music that has been forgotten.
— Lifelike (remixed “Mistake” and “The Day”)
I hope so. The nice thing about making and releasing albums now is that no one buys albums. So there’s a new purity in making an album, as you can focus on the creativity and not worry about people actually buying it or paying attention. So I work hard on albums and I love making albums, but I never expect them to sell very much or to get much attention.
Your music is the soundtrack of many people’s lives and special moments. Do you remember any particular grateful message from somebody that really tugged at your heartstrings?
— Ramiro Lopez (remixed “The Last Day”)
Yes. A woman stopped me on the street recently and told me that my music helped her to get through the death of her sister. She started crying on the street and then I started crying on the street. There’s no better result from making music and putting it out in the world than knowing that you’ve reached people on a deep emotional level. I’d rather have one moment like that than sell 100,000 records.
“Feeling So Real” and “Every Time We Touch” were basically the tracks that got me into dance music! I remember listening to them and thinking the sounds were a cut above anything I’d ever heard before. What equipment did you mainly use on this early productions?
— Sharooz (remixed “One Time We Lived”)
Ha, thanks! But I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Basically: Yamaha SY 85, Roland Juno 106, Oberheim Matrix 1000, Akai S950, Akai S1000, a Soundcraft Spirit mixer, and a Yamaha SPX 1000 effects processor. Oh, and my super classy Alessis MMT 8 8-track sequencer, NS 10s and complete and utter cluelessness.
I watched a documentary about your drum machine collection. Are you aware of the old Vermona DRM machines from East German times (that’s where I was born)?
— Matthias Tanzmann (remixed “Porcelain”)
Oh yes, I have one. I very presumptuously think that I have the largest collection of drum machines pre-1983. I’m up to about 300 analog and early digital drum machines. Also I don’t think anyone else collects pre-1983 drum machines…so it’s easy to win a competition when no one else is competing.
How did you discover my music?
— Coyu (remixed “The Last Day”)
Hmm, good question. It’s an obvious answer, but probably Beatport. Back in the days of vinyl it cost $10 to buy an import 12″. So now that tracks are so cheap ($1.99) I just buy a lot of them and then see what I like. So I’m sure I bought one of your tracks and played it in my basement disco and loved it.
I enjoyed your photobook from all your travelling. Are you working on a sequel to that or do you have any other plans for a new photo project?
— Kasper Bjørke (remixed “Lie Down in Darkness”)
I just had a show in L.A. called Innocents. The idea being that the apocalypse has happened, we’re living in a post apocalyptic age, and there are new post apocalyptic cults. So I took pictures of the apocalypse and then invented a cult of innocents as the world’s first post apocalyptic cult. Deep down I want to be a cult leader, but I think I’d be a pretty crappy cult leader ‘cos I might not have the level of mental illness or charisma necessary
to effectively get people to wear track suits and kill themselves.
How would you like to be remembered and why? A dance artist? A musician? An eclectic composer? What do you hope to be your musical legacy?
— Basto! (remixed “The Day”)
As someone who made music that a few people loved. It might sound overly simple, but it’s true. Or maybe as someone who made music that a few people seemed to like — that seems more achievable. Or as someone who occasionally made music that sometimes made people cry in their cars and kitchens.