Moby: 'I've always been potentially an annoying, opinionated loudmouth'
Electronic producer Moby has returned with a new project and pseudo-political manifesto Moby and the Void Pacific Choir.
In the press release for the new record The Systems Are Failing, the musician writes: "We're destroying the world, and we're still miserable. Fat, sick, stupid and anxious are no ways to live.
"These systems are failing. Let them fail. Change or die."
What makes this different from a Moby album?
I think a lot of people think of me as making sort of down-tempo quiet, electronic living room music and this record is much more of a fast, aggressive post-punk record and, based on the reactions I've had so far, people have been a little nonplussed at that.
What reactions specifically? Do people think you're crazy or are they applauding a brave new direction?
Both in equal measure, part of what led me to want to make a record like this, is the awareness that people don't really buy records any more and people especially don't buy records from 51-year-old musicians who are making their 15th record, so with those two things in mind there's also a sense of emancipation that comes with that.
You can either bemoan the fact that, in 2016 the audience for albums is quite small, but I see it as being really liberating because there's no external pressure at all. I'm not trying to sell records, I'm not trying to get on the radio, I'm honestly just trying to make a record that excites me and that I think is interesting.
You've been very commercially successful and some might say that puts you in the privileged position of not having to worry about it.
Yes and it would be hard for me to argue that. I would feel absurdly presumptuous criticising anyone else's choices, there are a lot of musicians who have children or alimony payments or sick relatives, so they need to make commercial compromises in order to pay the rent. I'm lucky because I live a relatively simple life and I can make whatever music I want to make without any worry about any commercial ramifications.
In your mission statement for this project you state: 'When some of my middle-aged compatriots try to accommodate the pop market place, the results are so anodyne and depressing'. Did you have someone specific in mind?
I did have people in mind but, in the interest of avoiding public feuds, I can't even begin to name names because in the course of my life, whenever I've criticised a fellow musician, it has ended up being something that I have truly regretted. But the truth is that a majority of musicians as they age don't do so in a graceful way. What I mean by that is, I understand that as you age, you want to hold on to your glory days and for most musicians that was decades ago, so you find yourself dressing the same way and touring and taking out your contact lenses so the audience will be blurry and look bigger than it is. If I don't have to go down that route, I'd just as soon not.
I have a feeling that on my death bed the last question someone asks me before I die will be about licensing music to advertisements. At this point, most of what I do and I hesitate to say this because it does sound a little self-aggrandising but it's sincere, is that most of the work I do now is non-profit.
I own a restaurant in LA and 100% of the profits goes to animal welfare charities and my only show this year is a fundraiser for an animal rights group. I don't mean that in a self-congratulatory way, I just mean my criteria has changed. How do my choices benefit the causes that I care about? So, if an advertiser came to me with a dump truck full of money to license a song, I would probably say "yes" and simply direct the dump truck to one of the organisations I work with.
I've always tried to employ that ethos when it comes to advertising, like "rob from the rich and give to the poor" or, more accurately, "take from corporations and give to those who work against those corporations". But even when I was being crucified for that, I really didn't want to talk about it because it seemed defensive. It made me uncomfortable trying to justify myself even if there was justification there.
With that and the Void Pacific manifesto, it sounds like you're having a conscientious mid-life crisis but, instead of buying a sports car, you're trying to right the world's wrongs.
I've always been potentially an annoying, opinionated loudmouth. I was raised by very active hippies with an idea that whatever you do, in so far as you can, you should try and make the world a better place. Again, I can't be so presumptuous to say I am making it a better place but at least I want to try. There's so much, especially in the public arena, of this shameless, endless self-promotion that it just makes me nauseous.
I don't want to be like them, there are too many horrifying pressing issues. Just putting out a new fashion line or lending your name to a perfume company would be fine if the world wasn't an inch away from catastrophe.
Is this your main creative drive now or will you go back to recording under Moby?
I made a record about two years ago that was very choral and so I used the name The Void Pacific Choir, which is a DH Lawrence quote because I liked it, but I scrapped the album and then started work on this one but I kept the name. But the truth is that it's me on my own so if I go back and record something under my name, it all seems kind of arbitrary to me.
Do you intend on touring the new album?
Dear God no. It's another thing that's emancipating . Most musicians put out a record with the intent of touring and my intention is to never tour again as long as I live because I hate touring. I love playing music but going to the same airports and the same hotels and the law of diminishing returns, as you age you play smaller venues and you try and play new songs but the audience just want to hear the hits which I understand because when I go to see middle-aged musicians, I want to see the hits.
But if I never ever go on tour again, I would be very happy.
Have you said everything you need to with this album?
I've already made the follow-up record, I'm just trying to figure out when my record label will let me release it. Part two is all ready to go but clearly record companies don't love middle-aged musicians who refuse to tour, so I can't be too haughty and high-handed with them. I have to rely on their good graces.
The debut album by Moby & The Void Pacific Choir is released 14 October 2016.