fri 19/12/2014

theartsdesk Q&A: Musician Moby | New music reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk Q&A: Musician Moby

New York electro star talks airport fiction, addiction, photography and Lady Gaga

Moby, punk, electronic orchestrator and self-confessed nerd
Moby, punk, electronic orchestrator and self-confessed nerdSunny Khasla

Moby (b 1965) has been a presence on the dance scene and in global clubland for two decades. He is best known for the multimillion-selling 1999 album Play which, among other things, combined lush electronic orchestration with old field recordings of a cappella blues shouters. Moby's musical career, however, began at least a decade earlier.

moby1Born Richard Hall, he was raised in Connecticut, and moved to New York in his late teens. He played with punk band Vatican Commandos and gained the name Moby due to his very distant ancestral relationship with Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. The single "Go" in 1991, which sampled "Laura Palmer's Theme" from the TV series Twin Peaks, made him a hit with the UK rave scene and put him in the charts. Where most dance music artists at this stage avoided projecting a public persona, Moby became something of a music media favourite because of his strong opinions, notably his Christianity, veganism and abstention from drink and drugs.

His career ran parallel to post-acid-house club culture, and began to wane as the Nineties progressed, especially after he released an atypical noisy guitar record, Animal Rights, in 1996. From Play onwards, however, he was way more popular than he had ever been, so successful that Britney Spears asked him to work with her and Eminem dissed him in song. Along the way Moby has very publicly affiliated himself with socially conscious causes and supported the Democratic Party in the US. His new album, Destroyed, arrives alongside a book of photography, documenting his perspectives as he tours the world.

Moby walks into the central-London hotel suite designated for interviews looking casual. Salt'n'pepper stubble, trademark shaved head and glasses, about 5ft 7in, interested expression, lively dark-brown eyes - he never really changes. Since I'm lounging on the sofa I offer it to him but he prefers a hard-backed chair, saying that it suits him better due to a car accident that damaged his neck years ago. He's ready to talk to theartsdesk.

Watch the video for "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"

THOMAS H GREEN: Where were you DJ-ing last night?

MOBY: At a place called The Nest in Shoreditch. It was fun, dangerously overcrowded. It's apparently a very trendy club and I guess it would have been crowded anyway but it was extra-crowded, rammed to the gills with about 500 people outside trying to get in. It was so hot that even if you just stood still you were bathed in sweat. You're completely surrounded by people, everyone's jumping up and down having a great time, it's claustrophobic so you either have a panic attack and leave or just go with it.

I'm enjoying your new photographic collection. There are some cracking crowd shots - Brisbane looks craziest.

The Australian tour we did about a year ago had a very celebratory audience - I'm trying to say "pilled-up" in a more diplomatic way. We were touring around New Year's Eve so it was this festival that took place for many days round then. When we reached Perth the audience felt like they'd been up and on drugs for a week straight. For the last couple of years I've taken lots of crowd pictures. When you take a picture of a sober audience, they're all present, all looking in the same direction, all experiencing the same thing. When you take a picture of an audience that are out of their minds on drugs, their eyes are all unfocused and they're all having their own individual, solipsistic, radically different experiences. That's one of the reasons I love pictures of people on drugs.

One of the great things about rave events is that everyone doesn't ritualistically face the same way, towards the stage, like a gig. Instead, people dance facing in every direction.

Exactly. There's a double-page spread of a crowd in Los Angeles with confetti in the air. Unfortunately you need to blow it up a bit to really get the detail, but if you do and look at people's faces, it's an image of 40,000 people and none of them seem to be aware there are other people around them, everybody's eyes are going in slightly different directions.

Was there a particular book of photography you used to love when you were growing up?

When I was growing up, we were very poor - one of my mother's ex-boyfriends gave her a coffee-table book of Edward Steichen photos. It was the only big art book I had at that time and I used to go through it obsessively. Oh, and my uncle facilitated me being a photographer because he worked for the New York Times as a photographer and he'd give me his cast-off, hand-me-down equipment. When he stopped using a camera it would either languish in his closet or he'd hand it to me. He gave me an Irving Penn book and also one full of Diane Arbus photographs that I kept going back to. I used to look at them obsessively. This was pre-internet so the options were watching a crummy old black-and-white TV with a coat-hanger stuck in the top of it - which I didn't do - or listen to records, and the great thing about a photo book is you can look at it while listening to records, so I'd be listening to records I'd borrowed from my mum - The Doors, Buffalo Springfield - and going through my Edward Steichen book.

moby2An academic friend of mine uses a phrase, "The thingness of things", by which he means our attraction to the physical presence of books, records, DVDs and so on, but culture is moving steadily towards accessing everything virtually. What are your feelings about this?

This is going to be very Pollyanna-ish of me but I like both. Knowing I have a lot of art books by my favourite artists gives me a fear-based sense of comfort. I don't have to find them online, I don't have to open a PDF, I don't have to do something weird with a computer. I appreciate the idea that my Edward Hopper book and all the others are waiting silently for when I choose to experience them. I love having Donna Summer's greatest hits on vinyl but it would be a bit funny trying to play vinyl on an aeroplane between New York and Cleveland so it makes me happy that I can have Donna Summer's greatest hits on MP3 on my iPod... That was a very wishy-washy answer.

One of the things that comes across in your book is a sense of isolation. Do you get lonely on the road?

Yeah, on the road, not on the road - constantly. It's also an extension of growing up an only child. I spent a lot of time by myself and my entire adult life I've lived alone and worked alone, so whether it's loneliness or a familiar sense of isolation I don't know. A friend of mine who travels a lot, when he checks into a hotel the first thing he does is go down to the bar to make friends, meet people. When I'm in a hotel I spend all my time in my room, by myself, reading, buying old drum machines on eBay, taking pictures, listening to music. It wouldn't even dawn on me to go out and try and be social.

Songs I write and sing usually end up sounding like a nerdy teenage kid who listened to way too much Bowie

That doesn't sound like loneliness, it sounds like a man happy in his own company.

But then after a while Ted Kaczynski syndrome kicks in - he was the Unabomber. The problem when people spend too much time by themselves is they tend to go sort of crazy. If I'm in a hotel room by myself the first three hours are great - email, read a book, buy drum machines off eBay, then, all of a sudden, the next three hours start to get a little squirly and any hours after that you tend to feel like Martin Sheen at the beginning of Apocalypse Now, when he punches mirrors and starts to lose his mind.

Touring enforces a sense of isolation. When I'm home, in New York or Los Angeles, I can isolate myself but I know there are also lots of people I can spend time with if I so choose, and lots of familiar places. If I'm in Stuttgart on tour I don't have any friends in Stuttgart and I don't know where the nerds hang out so it further exacerbates that sense of isolation. The music on this record and the book are very much a product of that, sometimes to an extent I'm not even aware of. Some of the pictures in the book look normal to me and a friend will look at them and say, "God, this is really sad and lonely," and I'm like, "That's my quotidian existence."

Watch the video for "The Day"

I think my favourite song on the new album is "The Day", it's a kind of Bowie-ish number...

I grew up listening to Bowie and Joy Division and songs I write and sing usually end up sounding like a nerdy teenage kid who listened to way too much Bowie. There are worse people to be inspired by. That song was written in a hotel room in Madrid. Most of the songs on the record were written in hotel rooms when I had insomnia. Usually when a musician says their music is the product of being up late at night in hotel rooms, it means they've been having crazy parties, doing tons of drugs, finding strange people in their bed. For me it's insomnia at 4am and drum machines on eBay. That song was written at 4am and is mainly about living in New York and being a magnet for addicts. I've had my own personal battles with addiction but a lot of my friends are relapsing drug addicts so that's sort of what the song is about.

I'm fascinated by addiction, hopefully not in a creepy, voyeuristic way. For example, my friend Jessica Dimmock put out a book called The Ninth Floor. It's probably my favourite photo book of the last 10 years. She spent a couple of years living in a shooting gallery in Chelsea where all these junkies live and it's a document of that time.

If someone has enough money to buy a record, I'd rather they buy an independent record by a band putting out their first release than one of mine

Some of your best work is clearly inspired by intense experiences. The song "Extreme Ways" is a good example. It's a song I like although now it will forever be "the song in the Jason Bourne movies". I sometimes get this thing where I like a piece of music and then when everyone else starts liking it I react sniffily, possessively.

I'm torn. When I got White Stripes' first album I loved it and brought it to a friend of mine who worked at V2 Records. I said, "Listen to this band, they're great." He signed them and they became hugely famous and successful, and now I don't like them as much. Same thing with Radiohead. If everyone on the planet didn't like Radiohead I'd like them so much more. LCD Sound System - their music hasn't changed but as their success has increased my interest in them has waned. I completely understand that feeling.

Nick Drake is a perfect exmoby8ample. One of my first jobs was in a record store in 1981-82. The man who ran it was an obsessive Nick Drake fan so he forced me, almost at gunpoint, to buy all Nick Drake's albums. I loved them and for a good 15 years no one knew who Nick Drake was except for a few nerdy musos like myself. Then almost overnight he became this icon, which is great but a little hard when that private piece of music becomes egregiously famous.

To be fair, "Extreme Ways" was hardly obscure, it was on your album 18 which sold very well. However, having it as the end theme for all the Bourne films certainly took its exposure up a notch.

As a musician I love that fact that of all the millions of pieces of music on the planet someone saw fit to use one of mine in that capacity. In 1968, The Doors licensed "Light My Fire" to a Pontiac commercial. Apparently a lot of people at the time said, "Oh great, now for ever and ever people will think of Pontiac when they hear 'Light My Fire'." I guarantee no one thinks of Pontiac when they hear "Light My Fire".

Watch the video for "Extreme Ways"

If, with a snap of your fingers you could have your hair back, would you?

Yes, of course, even before the snap of the fingers. I'm relatively sanguine about being hairless, or rather, having hair in places I don't like and not having hair in places I wish I did. To be honest, though, I was a bad custodian of my hair. I bleached leopard spots on it. I would try and bleach it and it would end up this disgusting orange colour. At one point I had a shaved head apart from a little prong at the front. Baldness, for me, is basically the universe running an intervention and saying that I was such a bad steward of my hair it had to be taken away from me.

Over the last couple of albums your orchestral leanings have really been blooming. Are you heading towards writing film soundtracks?

Possibly. I love classical music and interesting orchestration so I try and incorporate that in the records I make. I don't know if it will necessarily lead to doing more film scores. The thing with film scores is there are so many musicians in LA who can write generic orchestral big-budget movie scores in their sleep. I'd almost rather leave that to them. If I were to do film scores I'd rather they were experimental and idiosyncratic or for weird movies no one might see. For a lot of people film scores are their bread and butter. I feel it's a little weird being this already successful, established musician taking work away from people who need it.

It's the same thing with buying records. If someone has enough money to buy a record, I'd rather they buy an independent record by a band putting out their first release than one of mine. Steal my record, buy someone else's, because I've already sold enough records.

I vowed to myself that, no matter what happened, I would never live beyond my means. It was a Scarlett O'Hara moment

When was the last time you were short of cash?

I grew up very poor. My mother and I were on government assistance and welfare until I was 18.

In Connecticut?

Yes, it's a strange place to be really poor. The town I grew up in - Darien - was one of the wealthiest towns in the United States, so being on food stamps there gave me issues I have to this day. When I was 20 years old I left home and was living in this abandoned factory. I went to the cashpoint to take out $20 and there was only $18 there. I panicked and suddenly it was like my childhood, where every Sunday my mother would have to borrow money from friends so we could go to the grocery store.

I vowed to myself that, no matter what happened, I would never live beyond my means. It was a Scarlett O'Hara moment - "I'll never be poor again!" Consequently I haven't worried about a bill since I was 20 as I've always forced myself to live quite far below my means. I once dated a woman who lived in London. She came to visit me in New York, saw my apartment and was baffled. She asked why I lived there when I could afford so much more. Some people get a lot of comfort from having nice things. I get a lot of comfort from knowing I'm not in debt.

Did poverty impact on your social interaction at school?

Yes, we lived in a very modest small house and when I had sleepovers with friends, sometimes their parents would come and pick me up. I would give the address of this nice house down the street and stand in front of it and wait for the parents to pick me up. I wanted them to think I lived in the nicer house.

moby4You got into punk quite early - did you get up to much suburban punk mischief?

Nothing too crazy. One springs to mind. We have a thing in the States called Homecoming that happens every autumn, a big dance and a football game at the beginning of the school year. Every year our school team would play our rival team, and there's a railroad bridge in town where they'd have a banner saying "GO BLUE WAVE" which was the name of our high-school football team. My punk rock friends, when we were 15, 16 years old, took that banner down, turned it around, spray-painted "ANARCHY" on it, and hung it back up. We thought we were the coolest people on the planet, that we'd struck a blow for punk rock freedom in suburban Darien, Connecticut.

And did it kick over the statues? Change society as we know it?

No, I think we just irritated a few people who had to turn the sign back round. Occasionally, if we were feeling really bad-ass, we'd wear the opposing team's colours. Oh, the scowls we'd get.

Is it true that you once played guitar with Ultra Vivid Scene?

I did. The year would have been about 1987-88. A friend of mine was dating Kurt Ralske who was Ultra Vivid Scene. He had made the first album Joy 1967-1990 [actually their second album - the first was eponymous] and it was great, wonderful. He had made it basically by himself in his bedroom and now he was going on tour and needed live musicians. I auditioned to be the guitar player and he hired me for about two weeks then fired me. He was very gracious about it. He said, "Your own career is taking off and I wouldn't want to impede its development." The truth is he found a much better guitar player. I remember MTV video-taped one of our rehearsals and aired it on a show called 120 Minutes. My girlfriend and I watched me on MTV in 1989 and that was the single most exciting thing I'd ever experienced.

Watch the video for "Porcelain"

If you could transport your consciousness back into your body just as you were talking with Mute Records about releasing Play, is there anything you'd do differently?

Oh yeah, so many things. First and foremost I'd do what smart musicians do and only have my music licensed to commercials in South Korea. Before Play came out I was essentially a has-been. The only reason I had a record deal is because Daniel Miller felt sorry for me and we were friends. Play came out to terrible reviews for the most part - I think Melody Maker gave it 1/10 stars. Mark and Lard, these DJs up north, started playing the song "Honey" and that was amazing, that they'd even know who I was and play one of my records. We didn't expect it to be successful and the only interest we got was from people who wanted to lease music for movies, TV shows and advertisements, so for a good year and a half we said "Yes" to everything because I just assumed no one was going to know about the record otherwise.

In hindsight I'd have been a bit more hesitant to license my music to commercials because the flak I've received for it is tiring. The irony is that now every musician on the planet is bending over backwards to license their music to advertisements, but I really didn't enjoy being the poster child/whipping boy for licensing music to adverts. All the cool indie rock bands are smart. They license their music to places where they don't speak English so the most credible indie band in the world, who'd never license their music to a commercial in the UK, in Taiwan or Portugal their music is everywhere. That's because they're smarter than I am.

People would think I was a clean teetotal vegan when I was an insane alcoholic who's drunk or hungover all the time

Except for Iggy Pop whose car insurance ads have rather reduced his cache of cool round these parts.

When I grew up as a weird CRASS-listening punk rocker I used to have this rigid worldview where I'd never license music to commercials, never be signed to a major, but I realised perhaps my rigid worldview was a bit adolescent. Then I had this epiphany. I was watching MTV with a bunch of my Marxist punk rock friends and they were all yelling at the TV because they were so offended by the music, videos and ads. I suddenly realised - the TV is not listening to them. They're complaining, no one's listening. If you want to change things, get involved, figure out how it works and change from within. It's dangerous because you run the risk of being corrupted, which happens a lot. But someone like Barack Obama, he's a punk rocker who wanted to change the system so he figured out how it works and now he's President of the United States. For me the most interesting historical figures are the ones who infiltrate the system and work from within, improve it, make changes.

[Hotel phone rings and rings - Moby leaps across the room and takes the receiver off the hook]

That was almost Pavlovian. Years ago I was in the studio and the phone kept going so I unplugged it and had one of the best days of my life. Now when I hear a phone ringing and ringing it sends me back to 1992 in my studio being driven crazy by it.

moby5Returning back to your pre-Play self...

If I could go back 12 years and give myself some advice, the second thing I'd tell me is that I don't need to be such a loudmouth who has opinions on everything. To be an advocate for a cause you can employ a degree of strategy and discretion. The old punk rocker in me felt that if I have an opinion I should yell it as loud as possible as often as possible. I realised that when you yell people respond to the yelling and not necessarily to the content. Thirdly, maybe don't take so many drugs, practise a little moderation - then again...

Are you teetotal now? Straight edge, as the old punks used to say?

I was straight edge when I was 16 then I became a crazy full-blown over-the-top alcoholic for quite a long time. The irony was I'd come to the UK and people would think I was a clean teetotal vegan when I'm an insane alcoholic who's drunk or hungover all the time. I sort of loved the fact I had a reputation for being clean-living. I was vegan but also a horrible drunk. As often happens when we get older, the consequences catch up with us. When I was 22 years old I could drink until 7 o'clock in the morning and the hangover would last three hours. A few years ago, before I stopped drinking, I'd drink until 7 o'clock in the morning and the hangover would last three days. After a while I was like, this isn't worth it any more.

So those are the three pieces of advice I'd give myself, but at the same time sometimes making mistakes and doing things wrong leads you to a better place than making the right decisions. If I'm relatively happy with how things have ended up I can't complain too much about the things that have led me to here.

You've toured with The Prodigy many times but what was it like when you first toured with them in 1992?

We were kids. This was when they wore their harlequin costumes. They'd play their show then maybe go back to a hotel room, smoke pot and play video games. Keith [Flint] had a one-night stand on the tour and so did I. On an entire six-week tour those two one-night stands were both gossiped about as scandalous. We were infants. The next few years for all of us, it went a little bit mad.

Also on that tour were [US-Canadian DJs] Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva, so we were all basically nerds who listened to electronic music in our bedrooms but never expected anyone to pay attention to the music that we made. We'd play a show and afterwards we'd be amazed that there were women in the audience. We couldn't believe it - girls have paid money to come to an electronic music show! When you collect Star Trek figures, read science fiction and listen to electronic music, you never expect to have any friends or romantic interests.

moby7You really consider yourself a nerd, then?

I worked in the AV club [audio-visual club: Nerd Central according to US high-school folklore] - I've read most of the Star Trek books, I've read all of the Dune books, even Chapterhouse. The Frank Herbert later ones are unreadable but I still slogged through them.

What are you reading at the moment?

When I travel one of my indulgences is trashy airport fiction, plot-driven mass-market stuff. I read a lot of police detective trash full of broadly drawn characters. I love them, I just finished one by Harlan Coben. The thing about mass-market airport fiction is it's really well crafted, so when you start reading it there's that sense of comfort and I know that for the next three days I'm in good hands.

So you don't fancy taking something like James Joyce's Ulysses on tour.

I tried on an early tour. It was such a mistake. I was going to Australia, there and back for two days, 22 hours in transit. I brought with me Aldous Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza and a book called Microcosmos about the history of bacteria [Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution by Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan]. I just remember sitting on the plane thinking, "I'd kill anyone for a Star Trek book at this point."

Towards the end of my drinking I started doing an awful lot of cocaine. Last Night was very much an alcohol-and-coke record

Your 2008 album Last Night is a joyful album, loads of fun, a tribute to New York nightlife, but the next two have been rather more melancholy. Does this reflect anything in your life or is it just a musical quirk?

I was always quite a heavy drinker and towards the end of my drinking I started doing an awful lot of cocaine. Last Night was very much an alcohol-and-coke record. I was trying to recreate the feeling of being in a bar or club at 1 o'clock in the morning with that perfect combination of alcohol and cocaine, that was the idea. After that I got sober, so Wait For Me and the new album are albums of sobriety. That's not to say sobriety is a sad thing but it's a more contemplative emotional thing. Also, I really like sad music. I like happy music but I love sad music. I like The Undertones but I love Joy Division.

Out of all your albums, do you have a favourite?

I do. In 1996 I made an album called Animal Rights that got terrible reviews and sold nothing. That's my favourite. A lot of my albums, the first half tends to be more accessible and the second half tends to be darker and more experimental so I generally prefer the second half of my records.

Animal Rights was an unexpected, almost wilful outburst of guitar-led punk from a musician associated with polished electronic music. It seems a perverse choice.

It's a clichéd choice. That's what musicians do. If you asked Keith Richards his favourite Rolling Stones record he's probably going to chose some obscure B-sides album that was only released in Singapore in 1978. He's not going to choose Exile on Main Street, because everyone likes it.

On Animal Rights you covered "That's When I Reach for my Revolver" with Mission of Burma, the avant-garde punks who originally wrote the song back in 1981.

The single coolest thing about being a public-figure musician is getting to meet your heroes. Sometimes it's not so good because you meet your heroes and they're not very nice, and that makes you not like their music as much. But mostly it's great being able to meet your heroes and work with them - playing with Mission of Burma; going on tour with David Bowie; playing a Joy Division song with Joy Division because I went on tour with New Order and on the last night of the tour we played "New Dawn Fades" together. Playing "Me and Bobby McGee" with Kris Kristofferson, that was a highlight. I just recently played bass with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark; I played "Walk on the Wild Side" with Lou Reed; I went dancing with Joe Strummer shortly before he died, a crazy drunken night in Los Angeles; getting drunk with John Lydon and asking if I could play bass with Public Image Ltd if they ever reformed. He said no but he actually said PIL would never reform. He lied. All these amazing stories that if you'd told me when I was 15...

Watch the video for "That's When I Reach for my Revolver"

It sounds like punk is a key touchstone for you.

I hope so. I'd be very sad if that wasn't the case. I love punk rock and hardcore. There's this bar in LA called Dragonfly and every now and then they do Punk Rock Karaoke. They put together a punk band who learn punk songs and people come up and sing them. [When I last went] the band had the guitar player from Circle Jerks, the guitar player from The Dickies, the bass player from The Adolescents, the drummer from The Dead Kennedys - an all-star punk rock band. They'd learned Stooges songs, Bad Brains songs, Damned songs. "New Rose" was amazing, the person who sang it did a perfect Dave Vanian.

I wouldn't expect anyone to understand my deep love for punk but it's where I come from. I hope that, even in my most self-involved moments, I still have a little bit of that punk don't-take-yourself-seriously, question-corporate-culture DIY ethos.

What's the longest you've ever stayed awake?

2001. August. I was on tour and I'd gone from the UK to Australia to the States, back to Europe, back to the States, Japan, all through the different time zones, and at some point my circadian rhythms and my body clock just broke and I stopped sleeping. I got to the UK in late August and just couldn't sleep. For a good week or more I was getting less than an hour's sleep a night.

Then the insomnia broke. A friend of mine took me to The Hamptons, the posh Long Island resort where conspicuous consumption goes to take steroids, wealth upon wealth, entitlement on entitlement, people driving brand-new BMWs and Range Rovers to the country market to buy celery. It's not somewhere I like. I went to Puff Daddy's White Party and got blind drunk and almost had to get escorted out, then went to this fancy fundraiser thing run by some hedge-fund manager and I hated it. I got in a taxi to go back to New York and fell fast asleep.

The name Laura Dawn crops up as someone you've worked with quite a bit over the years. Who is she?

Laura is a friend of mine, a singer. Her day job is as creative director of MoveOn.org, a big left-wing organisation in the States. By day she's out trying to advance the cause of progressive democratic politics and at night she's a blues singer. We've been friends for a long time. We have a rock band together called Little Death. She, her husband and I have been friends for such a long time we're at this point where we're more like family. We drive each other crazy sometimes but we like playing music together

She worked with you on your 2005 album Hotel.

She sang on Hotel and then they [Dawn and husband] toured with me. About 10 minutes into the tour they realised they hated touring. That made it a little awkward because for the next five months they were on tour. Some people aren't cut out for the rigours of touring.

Watch Moby (with Laura Dawn) perform "Lift Me Up" from Hotel

Hotel is not a favourite Moby album of mine but I didn't realise it had been so successful. It wasn't here in the UK, but it was massive in Europe.

In many countries it was as big or bigger than Play but in the States and the UK, nothing. Of all the albums I've made that's my least favourite. Most of my life my interest in making music was for the love of music, then after the success of Play I had a brief period when I really liked being a public figure. On Hotel I was almost more focused on the fame aspect. I wanted to produce an album that had the potential to be commercially successful. It's the only time in my life I've ever done that. I recorded it in a big studio with a really successful engineer [Brian Sperber] and ended up with a very slick, polished anodyne record that I just don't like very much. Some of the songs are nice but I'm disappointed I made such a conventional generic record.

Pursuing someone who downloaded music is not the way to save the music industry. Personally I'll help record companies when they give health insurance to their musicians

A few years ago you spoke out in public on behalf of a Minnesota housewife who was being sued for a couple of million dollars by the Record Industry Association of America for illegally downloading. How are musicians supposed to make a living in the 21st century if their art is regarded as free of charge?

That's a good question. I don't have an answer. Musicians are lucky, they can do a lot of things to potentially pay the rent. A musician can make records, write songs for other people, tour, make music for movies and video games, produce, remix, DJ - musicians are fine. A smart musician can figure out how to make a decent living. Record companies for the last 60-70 years have existed solely with the idea they could keep the lights on by selling pieces of plastic. That's just not the case any more.

I have to be diplomatic because I work with a lot of different record companies. I can only speak from my own experience. I make music because I like making music and I selfishly want people to hear it and don't really care how. I don't think the answer for the music and film industries is punishing the people who enjoy their output, so pursuing someone who downloaded music is not the way to save the music industry. Personally I will help the record companies when they give health insurance to all their musicians.

What do you make of Lady Gaga?

When I first met her she was a little club promoter in New York handing out flyers on street corners. There are lots of open-mike nights, Sundays in a bar with a band - she was always at those, a 21-year-old New York kid hustling. She was a burlesque performer and she'd host these nights at the Slipper Room, 10-15 people would attend. So kudos to her, to go from being a flyer girl to the most successful musician on the planet. And I like the fact she's been so outspoken about gay rights and gay marriage because she ran the risk of alienating lots of people by doing that. Her music is OK. I remember reading an interview with her once and she was talking about how much she liked Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. I don't know too many young pop stars who are familiar with Jeff Koons. She's equal parts pop star and situationist.

moby6What else do you have forthcoming apart from promoting this book and record?

The moment anyone says "promoting your book and record" I wince because I hate the idea of promoting anything. I like the idea of talking to people and drawing some attention to work I've done but there's something distasteful about going out to shamelessly shill. In terms of things forthcoming, though, 2012 is the big election. Obama's announcing his candidacy soon. This is the big one, this is the Lord of the Rings election. The right wing in the US are so well funded, so crazy and so atavistic that everyone progressive in the US has to do their utmost to keep them out of power.

Your career has interconnected with that of David Lynch at regular intervals. Do you have a favourite Lynch moment?

Oh yeah, lots, but my favourite, favourite one was at Christmas last year. We spent Christmas together and I gave him a beautiful old lap steel slide guitar from the Fifties because he loves guitars. His eyes lit up and I've never seen him happier. His wife was a little annoyed at me. She'd given him a really nice present but he really liked this guitar. Also, my wedding present to him was DJ-ing at his wedding and at the end of the night he'd had a few glasses of wine and we were DJ-ing together, a nice moment.

It's oddly serendipitous how your career kicked off with the Twin Peaks-sampling "Go" and David Lynch has become a friend.

He's my hero and I'd do anything he asked me to do. If he came to me and said, "Oh, we're demolishing a factory in Gdansk, Poland - would you like to come and make coffee?" I'd drop what I was doing, go to Gdansk and make coffee.

Watch the video for "Go"

I'm relatively sanguine about being hairless. To be honest, though, I was a bad custodian of my hair

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