Wonder what makes Moby tick? our chat takes in big trees, big thinking, and a couple of inspiring folk for good measure
“I’ve never actually met Brian Eno, even though I’ve done some remixes for him. What inspires me about his methodology is that he’s very utilitarian. He creates such fascinating, interesting, beautiful music and sometimes that can mean making something very unmusical, or simply helping U2 to write conventional rock songs, or it can be creating 15-minute long ambient soundscapes. When I was growing up I noticed his name was attached to so many of the records I loved, from Roxy Music and Talking Heads to Devo. It just seemed so interesting to me that this one person could be involved in so many ostensibly disparate types of music.”
“If I wasn’t a musician I think I’d be a philosophy professor. Existentialism is such an overused or misused word, but what it simply means is an attempt to try and understand what humans are capable of knowing. Being human means being separated from the objective truth of the universe. It’s this cosmic paradox since we’re also part of the universe. The best art and music is a response to that. Artists respond to this in a variety of ways, whether with nihilism, hedonism or monasticism. Trying to understand our confused and confusing unknowable place in the universe really informs every waking second of my life. Knowing that everything is ephemeral and will eventually be reduced to sub-atomic dust can create despair, but it can also create a sweet appreciation for the moment. So it’s both a lamentation and celebration of that ephemeralness.
“I have the most vague, undefined, but omnipresent faith. I’m consumed by faith, but I have no idea what I believe. In 12-step programmes like AA, the third step is to ‘turn our life and will over to the God of our understanding’ and for me that only makes sense if I accept that I don’t understand God. I don’t know who or what God is, but that doesn’t stop me from being completely obsessed with trying to understand.”
“I first visited the Sequoia Redwoods in Muir Woods close to San Francisco 15 years ago, and I was filled with this great sense of peace and the insignificance of my own life and that of humanity. You’re in the presence of these trees that aren’t aware of us and don’t care about us. They’re older than us, more beautiful, stronger and there’s something so liberating about that. Just being in the presence of such ancient, living, divine beauty puts everything into perspective. The magic of DNA is one of the single most fascinating, remarkable and awe-inspiring things we can know. The code that’s sustained life on this planet for 3.5 billion years. If you stop to think about what it’s capable of, it’s mind-blowing. Something that can turn a tiny little seed into a 300-foot-tall tree.
“The miracle of nature at work in the body for example, how it knows to process a meal and send some of it to the immune system, some of it to create more optic nerves or create more muscle tissue and so on. It all works so perfectly, and yet we ignore it so often. To me, a single cell organism deserves the scrutiny and worship of the entire universe. The problem with miracles is that there are too many of them, so we take them for granted. We live in a very anthropocentric world. We build cities and make culture that’s by and for humans. People do their best to pretend we’re the centre of the universe, almost like we’re still in some pre-Copernicus age, but humans are essentially messy and stupid. The first step in revering nature is seeing just how terrible humanity is.”
THE POWER OF MUSIC
“I had the great privilege of working with the late Oliver Sacks as part of his Institute for Music And Neurologic Function. Growing up with music I felt more connected to my favourite musicians than I did to my friends and family, but working with the Institute I realised just how miraculous music can be. It’s just air molecules pushed around differently and hitting your eardrums, but it has this incredible power for neuro-genesis, to decrease stress hormones, facilitate healing, not to mention just making people happy. The Institute looks at establishing music as a legitimate form of healing by producing data which proves its efficacy. The big pharma industry is mistrustful of music’s healing potential, because although it works, it doesn’t cost anything. Our healing industries are based around profit and it’s hard to make money from music in this way.”
“The remarkable thing about Gandhi, which we sometimes overlook, is the fact that until he reached middle age he did nothing that remarkable. He was a mediocre lawyer in South Africa who wasn’t making much money and didn’t know what he was doing with his life. But through intelligence, strategy and humility he was able to figure out how to get the British to leave India. It’s so inspiring to think that a failed lawyer could basically change the course of human history and alter the destiny of hundreds of millions of people. It just reminds me that every person on the planet is capable of really remarkable things. In the same way, it’s worth remembering that Barack Obama wasn’t allowed in the Convention Centre for the 1996 Democratic Convention because he didn’t have the right credentials. He ended up watching it on TV in a hotel lobby across the street.”
Moby’s new album, ‘Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt’, is out on Little Idiot