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Play Time for Moby

[whitespace] Moby
Corinne Day

Ultra Vivid: Moby's mind moves as fast as his beats.

Electronic-music star lets the spirit move him on new full-length album 'Play'

By Amanda Nowinski

MOBY IS AN UTTER misfit in the electronic-music scene for three reasons: he's a pop star; he's a devout Christian; and he's never popped a hit of e. Famous, religious and drug-free--these are not qualities that one normally ascribes to the active participants in house and rave culture, where spirituality is born of "feelin' it" and "losin' it" on the dance floor. Needless to say, Moby is sick and tired of the media-intensified frigid-raver stigma.

"All the clichés that follow me around--that I'm a Christian Puritan or whatever--are all only half true," he insists. "I drink, I don't take drugs, but drugs don't bother me. I'm just too afraid of messing up my brain."

As he breezes through his 280th in-depth interview in the past six weeks, it's clear that Moby's gray matter has suffered no "candy flip" decay. His highly articulate, thoughtful speech runs faster than 127 BPM, and whether the house crowd likes his pop-rock-oriented techno or not, it is undeniable that he is an obsessively driven, highly productive musician. In less than a year, Moby whipped out more than 200 tightly composed tracks in preparation for the 18-track Play, his newest full-length album.

Marking a shift from Moby's trademark white-pop-techno style, Play (V2/DNA) is full of hip-hop break beats, heavy bass lines and old, scratchy samples of traditional African American music. Although the hip-hop rhythm presence on Play is clear, Moby adds his own distinct techno flavor by speeding the hell out of almost every track. Still, the songs evoke a bluesy sense of longing and romance, as in the almost poignant "Honey" and "Find My Baby."

Moby is ready to discuss his current nod to black culture. "The African American community in the 20th century has produced the best music of the 20th century," he declares. "For me to not be influenced by black music would be weird. Blues, jazz, rock & roll, house--that's all music that comes from the African American community. For the most part, white people tend to make the best music when they're being directly influenced by black artists."

Although Moby's musical training began at age 8 with acoustic guitar and music theory, the Connecticut-raised artist didn't veer into electronic music until his late 20s, after stints with the speed metal Vatican Commandos, the anarchist noise group Flipper and then the critically acclaimed 4AD band Ultra Vivid Scene.

It was the rave scene that attracted Moby to techno in 1989. "The rave scene totally inspired me--it's physical and it's spiritual," he explains. "You're out dancing until 8 in the morning, and although it's a very visceral act, there is at the same time something very celebratory and spiritual about it."

MOBY'S FIRST SINGLE, "GO!" in the early '90s, launched him into world-wide raver fame and, at the same time, helped to introduce electronic music to teenage American pop culture. Nonetheless, Moby insists that because of racism and homophobia, electronic music in America did not get the attention it received in Europe.

"I think people are more open-minded about electronic music now, but certainly in the early '90s, when I was making more disco-oriented things, I encountered resistance," he explains. "I'm neither straight nor gay, I'm pretty much bisexual, but I found there was a large resistance to dance music because people associate it with gay culture and black culture and Latino culture."

"It is kind of sad," he continues, "that the only way dance music culture has been accepted in the U.S. is when white people have done it. I'm white, so I can't really complain, but the roots of dance music are gay, black and Latino. It's weird that I've gotten a lot of attention when there are so many gay, black and Latino house producers from New York who never got any attention. "

Moby's pop-star take on the electronic medium, however, has been quite different from the anonymous, underground style of most producers. "I approach this music from a slightly more conventional perspective," he explains. "Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, Orbital and the Underworld tend to approach it from a more conventional rock & roll perspective, which is going out there and touring, making videos, doing photos and interviews. All that certainly makes it easier to be visible."

And Moby is certainly visible. A pioneer in the pop-culture recognition of some electronic producers, Moby has a voice that continues to run loud--almost as loud as the sound system at a rave, in fact.

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From the May 27-June 2, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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