“I’ve actually been in San Diego twice in the last three weeks.” It’s Moby on the phone, checking in with the Reader ahead of his appearance as keynote speaker at the seventh annual San Diego Music Thing. “Last weekend, I deejayed at Tramps Like Us [at Valley View Casino Center], and two weeks before that, I deejayed at a private party for the people who put Tramps Like Us together.” He talks about a friend’s new vegan restaurant in the Gaslamp. “She’s an old friend from New York. I’ve been spending time there as well.”
His take on the San Diego music scene? “I’m sort of blissfully ignorant of where music comes from. At one point in my life, I stopped being aware of the geography of it.”
Moby, approaching 50, has sold over 20 million albums. He is considered one of the dance-music pioneers of the 1990s. Talk turns to current projects: “I’m finishing my next record. I’m making it in a climate where people don’t buy records anymore. Some find that depressing. I find it liberating. For one thing, I don’t have record executives breathing down my neck. Since there are no expectations that it will sell, I’m free to record what I like. Otherwise,” he says, “I’m feeling a bit like Don Quixote. Few people buy records, but even fewer people listen to them.”
We talk about how modern-deejay culture, of which Moby is a founder, eventually eclipsed the live-band experience.
“My feeling is — and I’m annoyed at myself for having such a wimpy answer to your question — music has to prove itself in a live context. The audience cares more about the emotional content of music than in how it’s produced. We’re entering a nice world...we’ll call it the Coachella world. People go to Coachella to hear live music, but they love deejaying.”
Moby’s also writing an autobiography of his time in New York, in particular the decade from 1989 to 1999. He calls them interesting years. “I’d first thought about having a ghost writer, but it seemed wrong not to write my own book, right? I was afraid if I didn’t that I might invoke some wrath and there’d be this angry spirit of Herman Melville on me.”
(Moby, born Richard Melville Hall, is a descendant of Melville, author of Moby Dick.)
“I’m approaching the 25th year anniversary of making records. Sometime in the future, I’d like to do something orchestral, something without drums, maybe. I have this way of creating audiences,” he says, “and then I alienate them.”