Here’s what happened when I sat down for an interview with Moby after his epic Ultra Music Festival set. Moby’s new album, along with a book of photos he shot while on tour and throughout the creative process, are both titled Destroyed and will be released on May 17. I asked him about the new album and his thoughts on the evolution of the electronic music scene.
Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind the new album?
The music was written usually in hotel rooms late at night, because I had had insomnia. So the ethos of the record or the aesthetic of the record is one of a city at 3 in the morning when everyone is asleep and you feel like you are the last person on the planet. It’s being by yourself, alone, in an empty hotel room, and how on one hand thatâ€™s disconcerting but it is also sort of comforting.
We have seen you DJ small basement clubs like 205 in the Lower East Side and have also seen you play on massive stages, like at Electric Zoo. What do you think of the evolution of the club/electronic scene in New York? With clubs like Terminal 5 and Webster Hall now having frequent electronic music events, what do you think about today’s state of affairs, and where it may go?
Well the first time I went to a night club in New York it was 1981, it was the Mud Club down in Tribeca, and in the early 80s I went out obsessively — to the Peppermint Lounge, to Danceteria, A-7, and all these really interesting clubs. And what made the club scene so amazing back then was how eclectic it was. You go out to see The Bad Brains and youâ€™d end up hearing Mark Kamins playing disco or a great early hip-hop DJ, youâ€™d hear Red Alert or youâ€™d hear Mr. Magic and youâ€™d get exposed to so much different music.
New York has always been such an important epicenter for dance music and electronic music because of Latino culture, because of African American culture, because of gay culture, because everything stays open till 4 oâ€™clock in the morning, and also because of drug culture. Electronic music is great, but boy does it make a lot of sense at 6 oâ€™clock in the morning when youâ€™re out of your mind on drugs in a basement somewhere. I mean, I donâ€™t drink or do drugs anymore, but I think for a lot of people thatâ€™s how they came to love electronic music. Itâ€™s about being out way too late and hearing some great piece of electronic music at 7 oâ€™clock in the morning in a basement in Redhook, somewhere.
How do you see the scene as differing today as compared to your earlier experiences?
What is interesting now is that electronic music is so event-orientated, like Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Zoo; itâ€™s so much less about the DJs than it is about the event. At Electric Daisy the production they have there brings 180,000 people and is arguably one of the biggest dance events ever. And the production was so much bigger than any of the DJs.
So the rise of dance music — I think technology has enabled more and more people to make dance music so there are so many more producers and DJs. And also the production technology, the lighting, the sound technology the video technology has really made the club experience and festival experience so much more powerful. So kids come out.
There are two types of media or art. There is art you can experience happily, comfortably at home and then thereâ€™s the experience you can only have outside your home. You can listen to a record anywhere, you can watch a TV show at home, you can watch a movie at home. You cannot recreate a festival experience at home. I think so many people spend so much time in front of their computers that this becomes almost the huge antidote for that. You canâ€™t download a festival experience.
The new album and corresponding book feature a lot of your original photography. Can you explain this new direction, although I know youâ€™ve been into photography for decades?
Iâ€™ve been a photographer as long as Iâ€™ve been a musician. I grew up shooting film because my uncle was a photographer for the New York Times, so he kind of showed me how to shoot film and develop film and print film. Itâ€™s only now that I felt comfortable showing people what Iâ€™ve been doing. So the music and the book–they make sense together. The book is about touring–the very disconcerting side of touring and emptiness of touring–and the music has that quality of loneliness and emptiness to it as well. In my mind it makes sense. I donâ€™t know if anyone else will see it that way, but I think they are related.
Moby takes a picture of everyone who interviews him.