Few artists played a more important role in the mainstreaming of electronic music than Moby, who brought the genre to the masses with albums like 1999’s Play. Earlier this month, the 51-year-old artist returned with his 13th studio album, These Systems Are Failing, in a conversation with EW, he seems focused on other things.
After casually noting that he “doesn’t ever want to tour again,” Moby elaborates on how he views his career. “If I don’t have to do tautological, repetitive touring, why not just excuse myself?” he says. “When I stay home I can read books and I can write books and I can work on music and I can go hiking and I can sleep in my own bed and I can see friends and I can run my weird little restaurant. All these things are so much more interesting to me than doing the same tour that I’ve done forever.”
Repudiating traditional industry constraints has freed Moby to explore his true interests, whether through making his most chaotic record in decades, publishing his memoir, Porcelain, earlier this year, or doubling down on his political activism.
When the conversation turns to Hillary Clinton, who Moby met through Democratic fundraisers in the early ’00s, he lights up. “I can’t say we became BFFs, but it got to the point where I was seeing her pretty regularly and we had continuing conversations,” he says. “I’ve always been really, really impressed by her.” And though he thinks a Trump victory is unlikely, Moby has been preparing himself for the possibility. “The only good aspect of that is that the apocalypse has to happen at some point,” he jokes. “So maybe if he wins that just speeds things up.”
Below, Moby opens up about what he admires about Woody Allen, which systems he thinks are failing, and why he’s voting for Hillary Clinton.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve called your new record “really loud and fast and shouty.” What inspired that creative direction?
MOBY: There’s something either depressing or emancipating about being a 51-year-old musician in 2016 making records. The depressing part is that I’m old and people don’t buy records. But the emancipating part is I can make records without any commercial concern. It’s nice if people like it, but the main joy and satisfaction I get from making records is actually just the act of making them. I made this loud, shouty record largely because I was listening to a lot of other people’s loud, shouty records. Specifically, a lot of the stuff I grew up with like The Damned and The Clash and The Buzzcocks and Killing Joke.
Why don’t you want to tour again?
In terms of bad jobs, it’s not a bad job. It’s just very repetitive. Most musicians, unless you’re Bruce Springsteen or the Rolling Stones, as you age you play the same songs to diminishing results. My dream would be to take a page from Woody Allen’s approach to touring, where he would just do a show at [the now-closed New York bar and restaurant] Elaine’s once a month. Maybe I could find some crappy bar in L.A. and just play music there every couple of weeks for 50 people.
Why did you bill this album as a collaboration with the Void Pacific Choir?
Two years ago I made a very choral record. When I listened to the album, I realized it wasn’t very good. I scrapped that record, but I kept the name, even though this record is not exactly a choral record. The truth is, the Void Pacific Choir is just me in my studio by myself.
These Systems Are Failing is a provocative title. Were you thinking of any specific systems?
Not to be too broad, but all of them. How we feed ourselves. How we educate ourselves. How we entertain ourselves. How we heat ourselves in the winter. There are many systems that are working really, really well, like online pet adoption. But then I look at our reliance on factory farming and our use of chemicals and our use of petroleum. I don’t know what leads us to sustain and maintain systems that are killing us.
Going into the presidential election, how do you think this politically oriented album intersects with our current political climate?
This is the first election that’s the product of our fractured, niche media. In ye olden days, media was really moderate, because the nightly news and newspapers had to appeal to Democrats and Republicans. Now, if you only go to Breitbart and you only watch Fox & Friends and Sean Hannity, you have a worldview that’s very Trump-centric.
I was playing around with an interactive electoral map and I realized that it’s almost impossible for Donald Trump to become president. I’ve known Hillary for a long time and I think she’s amazing. She’s made mistakes and she’s got her idiosyncrasies, but she’s smart and progressive and incredibly capable and hardworking. I’m not just a hold-my-nose Hillary voter, I’m an enthusiastic Hillary supporter.
What was the experience of writing your memoir like?
As a therapeutic exercise, there’s something remarkable about revisiting your past. Normally, if I’m in therapy and I’m talking about childhood, [I] gloss over things. When you’re writing a memoir, you really have to flesh it out. It becomes almost a form of psychedelic time travel — you’re not just revisiting [the past], you’re reinhabiting it.
How’s the second installment coming along?
I’m trying to write it write now, but the second book would be ’99 to 2008, ending with me bottoming out and getting sober. Degeneracy, alcoholism, debauchery, drug addiction, entitlement, narcissism, and bottoming out, that’s a story that’s been told many, many times. If I’m going to tell that story, how can I tell it in a unique way?