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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Joseph Cultice

Everything Is Right: Dance-music pioneer Moby

Even the Score:
Talking with Moby about ecstasy, movies and backpacks

MEET Moby. His early records ("Go," "Next Is the E," "Drop a Beat") jump-started rave music back in the early '90s. A seminal album, Everything Is Wrong, cemented his reputation as a techno pioneer and also created a new one: social critic with thought-provoking liner notes. As the techno culture accelerated into a commercial beast, Moby released a punk-rock album, Animal Rights, as a kind of anti-statement. His recent release, I Like to Score, is a collection of music he's contributed to movies. Live, Moby contradicts the sorry state of electronic music shows. He's an exuberant performer--playing keyboards, percussion and guitar with a real band. His show comes to the Edge on Tuesday (Nov. 18).

Beat Street: What's up with electronic music acts that hide behind banks of computers during a live show?

Moby: It's really boring. When friends of mine go to electronic-music shows, they have one of three responses. They come back and say it's the most boring thing they've ever experienced. Or they come back and say the light show was great and the music sounded great, but if you ask them about the performance, you realize there wasn't a performance. Or they come back saying they had the time of their life and it was the best thing they've ever experienced, and you realize they were taking ecstasy, so they're biased. At this point you couldn't pay me to see most electronic music shows. Orbital, Chemical Brothers--they make wonderful music. But live, unless you're on ecstasy, I don't see it making much sense.

Beat Street: Did you get more support or criticism for Animal Rights?

Moby: For the most part, the response was overwhelmingly negative. I was disappointed. I feel people weren't evaluating it on its own merits; people were being reactionary. I put it out for a variety of reasons. I like hard, heavy guitar music. I was a little frustrated being pegged as a "techno guy" when I'd been making music for 23 years. It's a complicated, difficult body of work. It's obscure and abrasive and really remarkable. I wanted to see how people respond to it.

Beat Street: When did you come around to dance music again?

Moby: When I was making Animal Rights, I was also making Voodoo Child, a quiet ambient record. I was still a little dissatisfied. About a year ago, I started falling in love with dance music again.

Beat Street: Before someone approached you for soundtrack work, did you view music in a cinematic sense?

Moby: No, and it's ironic, because for some electronic musicians that's their biggest goal. I just fell into it by accident. It's nice to go to a movie theater and hear music you've worked on.

Beat Street: During the height of the rave scene, everyone had backpacks. What did you carry in yours?

Moby: I never carried a backpack. I'm a little older, I'm 32, so that fashion side of the rave scene--I missed it. The only time I carried a backpack was to carry records.

Busy Boy

Ethnomusicologist King Raffi has moved his Friday modern-rock party to the Agenda Lounge basement. That makes three different nights of three different music styles on San Jose's South First Street club strip: Raffi spins disco on Wednesdays at the B-Hive, modern rock on Fridays and reggae on Sundays at the Agenda.

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From the Nov. 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro.

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