Moby Sees Diversity in Techno, Tolerance for All

MOBY

The Crimson: How do you feel that if someone was walking down the street and mentioned your name [in conversation], that a passerby might instantly recognize your name and know who you are?

Moby: I think it's, on one hand a little bit overwhelming, on the other hand it seems quite natural. [I'd have] a variety of responses. The degree to which I'm a public figure is very manageable and it's very nice [that] it enables me to meet people and I don't have to question people's reasons for them wanting to get to know me.

I have some friends that sell millions of records and I think it would be kind of depressing to sell records to people that you wouldn't want to be friends with. Most people who buy my records--most Moby fans--are very smart, very aware, very wonderful people...so when I meet them, we become friends.

C: I assume that you sold more records when you released the Mission of Burma cover single ["That's When I Reach for My Revolver"].

M: No, that was actually one of the lower selling records I've had.

C: So that single didn't do too much? A station like WBCN would play that single now, but they had never played Moby music before that. Do you feel that exposed you to a different audience?

M: Oh yeah, definitely. But it's nice because it didn't translate into millions of sales, it was just sort of like robbing the base a little bit in a very nice, manageable way.

C: So you think maybe it brought in people who wouldn't have been exposed, but that, now that they are, maybe they really like it and really get into it.

M: Especially because my background, as far as making records, is sort of more in an electronic/dance realm and the Burma cover was a rock song...so it's those people who wouldn't otherwise be exposed to electronic dance music. But then again I make so many different types of music I think I'm a fairly confusing artist.

C: Are you confused or just confusing?

M: Oh no, I'm not confused at all. I just like lots of different types of music and I don't feel the need to do one type of music at the exclusion of anything else.

C: Are you trying to cover a lot of bases?

M: I'm just interested. I love playing punk rock and I love playing disco and I love writing classical music...that's my background: I've been playing classical music since I was nine years old. And I played in hardcore punk bands, I was a hip-hop DJ for awhile and techno DJ for awhile. I've done a lot of different things and I like to bring all of that into the music that I make.

C: Seeing that you have so many different styles, do you think that your music has evolved along the way or just gone in cycles?

M: It's a combination of the two. I think it's hard to say because I don't think the music I'm doing now is quantifiably better than the music I was doing five years ago...some of it is, some of it isn't. I can't point to a evolutionary process.

C: Do you have a favorite album or style?

M: No. I love everything.

C: Everything you ever made?

M: I don't like every song I ever wrote.

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C: Do you think playing the club scene or club circuit is different than Lollapalooza?

M: Yeah, when you play festivals, when you're playing Lollapalooza, you're playing the people who probably wouldn't come see you in a smaller venue. They're both nice; playing a show like tonight [at Axis] is nice because it's fans. There's a much stronger connection between myself and them than there would be at Lollapalooza or a festival where you're playing in front of 60,000 people.

C: You're more political than most [music artists]. Do you think you combine politics with your music or keep them separate?

M: Oh, quite separate. Music is good at conveying ambiguous emotional states, at least for me. Some people have written great protest songs, but what I like to do is sort of let the music be ambiguous and have liner notes and interviews that are much more straightforward and prosaic.

C: Some people would say that techno music is sometimes simplistic or repetitive and boring. How would you oppose that?

M: For one, I don't think of myself as a techno musician. I make techno music but I also started studying classical music when I was nine years old, studying music theory and I play lots of different things.

People who say that techno music is overly simple should go out and buy a classic rock songbook and you realize that almost every classic rock song has maybe four chords. People have been dismissing wonderful music by saying it's simple forever. Most people thought Billie Holiday [was] terribly simple and not worth listening to. Early rock and roll people said was too simple and wasn't music; early hip-hop same thing.

There are always idiot snobs out there that are going to evaluate music from really arbitrary criteria. To me, the only valid criteria for evaluating music is how does it make you feel, how does it affect you. There's no such thing as objective criteria applied to music, it's all subjective. If it makes you happy when you listen to it, terrific. All this notion that music has to be complicated to listen to, I think that's absurd.

I can run rings about almost any other popular musician in the world when it comes to music theory or background, and I love really simple music. I love just a kick drum, a high hat and a simple bass line to me is transcendent because I allow myself to like it.

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After a short excursion into the pop merit of the Spice Girls, Moby continues to question the everyday listener's sense of music.

M: People are idiots--I don't know why people don't allow themselves to be happy. There are so few things in the world that can make you genuinely happy, so why not just be as open-minded as possible. It drives me crazy when people dismiss things out of prejudice. You can take the same liberal college student, NPR-listening person who would consider themselves very open-minded and very tolerant, [they] would never give the Spice Girls a chance. To me that's just blatant prejudice.

We were just in Burlington, Vt., and before that Boulder a few days ago, and that type of smug liberal intolerance drives me up the fucking wall; like people who preach the virtues of tolerance unless you disagree with them. I believe so strongly in freedom of speech...for everybody. You should be allowed to represent in words whatever you want because they're words. There's a big difference between writing about child pornography and making child pornography.

Being in a place like Boulder, where there are supposedly liberal, tolerant people, once you scratch the surface, they're so intolerant. I think a lot of contemporary academic climate is the same way.

Many examples surface from the depths of Moby's experiences. He concludes with an all-encompassing maxim.

M: Tolerance has to cut in every direction, and tolerance means tolerating people that believe things opposed to what you believe.

C: Do you take heed of what critics say about your music or your performances?

M: I do to an extent, but I try to avoid negative criticism, because for the most part, it's just hateful.

C: Hateful towards you?

M: Yeah, a lot of times it's not constructive and I certainly wouldn't prevent people from writing what they want to write...but I don't see the point of exposing myself to something that's just going to upset me and it isn't constructive. I care about it, but I don't want to read it.

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