On Wait For Me, Moby’s latest, and perhaps quietest, most cinematic album, the unassuming, million-selling DJ/producer renews his love affair with New York while embracing the simple life.
Image: Alex Cao
I’ve come of age with Moby. He graced the cover of the first magazine I ever edited, and his music has been the soundtrack of so many life-changes. I remember getting test pressings of “Go” and “Next to the E,” and later watching them explode on the rave scene. When Play was released toward the end of the electronica craze of the late ‘90s, its critical and commercial success helped legitimize the music in America. 18 was a star-studded affair, and it contained “At Least We Tried,” a wrenching song inspired by news footage of a man and woman falling hand-in-hand from the burning World Trade Towers. With 2008’s Last Night and Last Night Remixed, Moby wrote a virtual love letter to New York and rekindled his ongoing affair with dance music. A return to DJing has revealed that he’s not as young as he used to be, as he admits during this conversation at his apartment/studio in Little Italy.
You Can Always Go Downtown
I was living uptown, and I got really lucky that I was able to sell the place that I had bought after it being on the market for 17 months. Every time I found a buyer, the co-op board rejected them out of spite to punish me. It’s a fancy co-op board, and they hate turnover. They want people to buy an apartment and stay there for 50 years. I was there for two years, and I didn’t like it up there. They also have really strange criteria when deciding who can get into the building. But I finally sold it in October, and I rented an apartment down in Chinatown. For the longest time I lived and worked here, but I really don’t like living and working in the same place. I start to get that Ted Kaczynski syndrome—all of a sudden it’s 10pm, and I haven’t had any contact with any human beings. Now I’m down on Orchard and Canal, so my commute is walking up here. There’s something really healthy about walking to work. I stop at Gimme Coffee on the way, and I feel a sense of solidarity with everyone else who is commuting. Even when I had the apartment uptown, I spent all of my time here. That’s one of the reasons why I got rid of it. I would sleep uptown, then hop on the B or D train—I always forget which train to take and sometimes wind up on 125th Street—then I’d spend 10am to midnight here. My old place was sort of like a hostel. Being in Chinatown is sorta remote, but I love it because the majority of people down there are Chinese, and they have no interest with you if you’re not Chinese. There’s the Chinatown for tourists, where the signs are in English, but all of the signs are in Chinese in the area where I am. I find it really interesting, because I feel like a tourist, and I discover something new every time I walk out my door. There’s a store that sells nothing but paper replications of things people can be buried with—paper Rolexes, Armani suits, Mercedes Benz’s, and huge stacks of money called Hell Notes for buying your way out of hell, apparently. I went into the store, and they were all laughing at me in a polite way because I clearly had no idea what this is about. Something that’s no normal in their culture is so different for me.
Waiting Is The Easiest Part
I’m probably the worst person to deconstruct the creative process. When you do anything, if you publish a magazine or make a record, part of it is your creative expression. But part of it is like a time capsule or snapshot of the time and context in which it is made, and a lot of times we’re not even aware of that. When I made a rave record in 1991, I was just making what I thought was a fun rave record. Now I go back to it and it just reminds me of that time when George W. Bush was President and kids were wearing big baggy pants and waving glow sticks, which they still do. So in ten years, assuming that I will be alive, I will look back on this record and remember this specific time and context, which I’m not aware of right now because I’m in the middle of it.
“Putting out About Last Night and the DJ album was really fun; if anything, it was too much fun. I’m 43, and I’m not supposed to have that much fun.”
Putting out About Last Night and the DJ album was really fun; if anything, it was too much fun. I’m 43, and I’m not supposed to have that much fun. Physiologically and neuro-chemically, my liver isn’t young and pink anymore. When I was 23, after staying up until 6:00am, the hangover would be gone by noon. Now the hangovers were lasting 24 hours, and they were soul-destroying. It would be 5:00pm the next day, and I would just be crawling out of bed. Whatever fantastic fun was had the night before was destroyed by lying in bed where every cell hurts. So maybe this is a hangover record.
It’s the first time in my life where I’ve had the clear demarcation between work and home, so I suppose that’s why it’s more of a quieter, domestic record. In the past, I’ve had the studio over there, then come out here [to the living room] to listen to it so it was always being evaluated in a work context. And now, I go home, go to sleep and listen to [the music] I did the night before. It’s a Sunday morning, 9:00 record for when it’s raining outside. It’s certainly not a party record, unless it’s February and 6:00am and everything is wearing off.
That’s What Friends Are For
I know that DIY is a much-used acronym, but I recorded [Wait For Me] here. All of the vocalists are friends of mine; the woman who shot the press photos is also a friend, and I drew the album cover image on a piece of copy paper using a Sharpie. The whole thing is just simple. I don’t want to get in trouble by criticizing other people—because when I’ve done it in the past I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble and have learned my lesson after a few hundred times, and I don’t need any more enemies….it is an interesting accomplishment when you’re hated by complete strangers—but I’ve seen a lot of more established artists putting out records and pretending that it’s 1998. They’re putting out these huge, expensive records with huge, expensive videos and doing two-year long tours. If that makes them happy, then great. But it seems like times have changed. To me, back in the ‘90s, there were so few media outlets that you had to made noise in order to get noticed. Now everyone is noticing everything, so big noises just seem garish to me. It feels unnecessary. I can’t think of an artist having a big campaign in the past ten years and the music benefitting from it.
I never can judge what I’ve done until time has passed. I think it’s a little more honest than some of the records I’ve made. For the album Hotel, I focused so much on the craft of the record, not on whether I wanted to listen to it. So when I finished it, I was so impressed with my engineering skills—that kick drum sounds awesome!—without stopping to think if it was an album I wanted to listen to. I like some of songs, but it’s a mainstream sort of a craft-oriented record that I honestly don’t want to listen to. I was on a major label, and I felt that was the type of record I had to make. With this record, it’s more honest and the type of record I want to listen to right now. Who knows, that might change. Talk to me in ten years.
as featured in Issue 27