Moby Interview

Check out the interview we cats did with Moby when we were interns, who was in town to promote his new album, Wait for Me. Lions and Lynch and Boyle, oh my! Click here for the French interview. (R.I.P.

How did your friendship with David Lynch come about?

David Lynch is one of my favourite American film directors of all time. In addition to loving his movies, I’ve always appreciated his creative process because there are a lot of conventional vernacular elements in his films, but they’re also deeply experimental and very idiosyncratic. We became friends a couple of years ago, and we’ve worked on a few things, and when it came time to put out the first single for this album, normally for an established artist on a major label, your first single is your most commercial, but as I’m now an independent artist, I wanted my first single to be arguably the least commercial single I’ve ever put out so I picked the song Shot In The Back of the Head, which is a strange instrumental that can never get played on radio. I sent the music to David and I asked him if he had any footage lying around and five days later he sent me the video, which he had animated himself, and it really did appeal to the old punk-rocker in me – the idea of having a first single that can’t get played on radio, and a first video that can not get played on MTV!

Your song Porcelain was is in the Film The Beach, which was scored by David Lynch’s collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. Are you a big fan of his work, specifically his work with Lynch, as you have sampled a theme from the TV series Twin Peaks in your song Go?

I only know his work with David and I’m a little embarrassed by my ignorance. I don’t know what Angelo has done outside of working with David but the Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me soundtracks, and the Julee Cruise album are phenomenal. They’re some of my favourite records ever made. It seems like just a remarkable partnership. He clearly understands what David’s trying to do because David is a great sound designer, but he doesn’t want to be a musician. He loves music, he loves working with musicians but I think he likes the idea of being more of a listener than a musician. My favourite thing that they’ve ever done is on the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. It’s a song called Pink Room and it’s a cello and a drum and some guitar. It has so much space and atmosphere to it.

And Fire Walk With Me is a very idiosyncratic film, following Twin Peaks, which in itself is very unique…

Yes I actually liked Fire Walk With Me more than Twin Peaks because it’s a lot darker. When it came out it really disappointed a lot of people, as with Lost Highway, and then Inland Empire is one of the weirdest commercial movies he’s ever made. I saw it four times in the theatre because I loved it so much, and so it’s almost this inverse thing where the less other people seem to like his movies, the more I invariably end up liking them.

Are you a fan of any other directors, composers, or their work on a particular film score?

I’ve done music for a lot of different directors: Michael Mann, Oliver Stone… and some are really adventurous with their use of music and do really interesting things. I think Michael Mann really pushes himself to use interesting music sometimes in very unconventional ways. Sometimes in quite conventional ways but him and Oliver Stone are people who are open to anything. The directors that I have no interest in working with are the people who just use very conventional score. At this point, I honestly don’t even know why they commission new score because it all sounds the same. In 1973 they should have just recorded five hours of stock score… there’s happy score, there’s sad score, there’s scary score, you know, but every now and then music is used in a film, and it becomes such an integral part of the movie and invariably it’s more challenging, like the score for Blade Runner, or even the music for The Godfather. When Francis Ford Coppola was making The Godfather, Paramount, I believe, tried to fire the composer – they thought the music was too ethnic and too dark. I think they also wanted to replace Al Pacino with Robert Redford, but luckily the studio was not able to implement it.

Do you tend to visualise as you compose?

No. I mean I like music, like the music on this album Wait For Me. One of the reason I like this album is because it creates almost a visual tabula rasa; it doesn’t seem like it’s imposing anything on the listener. It kind of just clears the slate and lets the listener project upon it.
But as far as director, apart from David Lynch, my favourite working director would be Takeshi Kitano, the Japanese director. I love his movies; I just think they’re amazing. Danny Boyle is becoming a really interesting filmmaker. Slumdog Millionaire, it’s strange… I thought the craft behind it was phenomenal, but I didn’t like the film that much. I was just kind of in awe of what an auteur he’s become, because when he started out, I got the sense that he was sort of a savant, like he didn’t 100% know what he was doing and now he seems like such a confident director. I’m really interested to see what his next project is because now he can do what he wants. There was also the 28 Days/28 Weeks Later franchise, and so he’s established himself as someone who can raise a lot of money to make a movie. He’s next movie will either be confused and commercial or phenomenal and interesting.

It seems as though the more money one makes for a studio or record company, the more creative license he or she is given on future projects.

It’s a trade off. If you make success, it can create a lot of pressure and confusion. There are some people who are really good at dealing with success – people who want success and then when they get it they know what to do with it. For myself, I never expected to have any success, and so when I’ve had records that have sold well, I’ve just been confused by it. It’s nice having an audience, but when you pursue success you have to compromise, and at this point in my life, it’s not that I don’t want to compromise, I’m just not good at it. There are some people who are great at artistic compromise; I’m just not one of those people.

You set up the site for independent filmmakers. Why did you set up a project to help filmmakers as opposed to struggling artists?

There isn’t much I can do to help up and coming bands and DJs apart from maybe setting up a volunteer legal service or something, because everyone needs legal advice.
The university I went to is called SUNY Purchase and it’s mainly a performing arts school, and they had a huge film programme. I think they’re actually the last school in the United States to have a major in experimental film, and so since going there, I’ve just had a lot of friends in the world of indie film. Their biggest recurring complaint is that licensing music for movies is really difficult, and I’ve watched my friends making small indie films. Someone sits down to write a book, it’s a difficult undertaking but it’s basically just him or her with a computer. I sit down to write music, again, it’s not an easy undertaking but there’s not a huge time and financial investment in it. To make an indie film is the most time intensive, money intensive, artistic undertaking I can think of. My friends make indie films, they mortgage their house, they sell everything they have, they take out ten credit cards, loans and all these things just to make an indie film, so is my way of trying to make their lives a little bit easy. It’s like saying here’s one part of the film making process that isn’t going to cost anything.

On the big budget side of the industry, your songs have been used in many movie. Could you give us your thoughts on the following collaborations:

Porcelain/The Beach

When the album it was off of, Play, first came out, it was kind of a failure. It didn’t sell well, didn’t get good reviews and no one really came out to the live concerts. Then a few things happened that brought my music to a bigger audience, and one of the big things was Porcelain and The Beach. The movie didn’t do all that well long term, but as far as I know, it was the first big Danny Boyle movie after Trainspotting and the first Leo DiCaprio movie after Titanic, so when it first came out everybody went to see it, and Porcelain was such a centre piece of the movie, and aesthetically it really worked. There’s this beautiful shot of the island and then the song plays and it works really well. Selfishly it also helped save that record from obscurity. I got really luck.

James Bond Tomorrow Never Dies remix

If I’m honest, I’ve never really been a big James Bond fan. I’ve seen all the James Bond movies but I’m more into Star Trek and science fiction. One of my big disappointments is that J.J. Abrams almost used one of my songs in the new Star Trek movie, and just for pure sci-fi geek status I would’ve loved that; however, at the last minute they didn’t. But the original James Bond theme is perfect. It felt wrong to redo it so I wasn’t really happy with my version of the song.

Your video We Are All Made of Stars has you in a space suit against a lot of bleak images from Hollywood. Are you critical of the Hollywood machine?

It’s hard for me to generalise because percentage wise, I would say there are just as many good indie films as Hollywood films. I live in New York and within a 10-minute walk from my house there are probably 10 or 11 theatres that play nothing but indie films, so I see a lot of them. A lot are really bad but there are also some amazing ones. The same thing is true of Hollywood so I think the success rate of Hollywood and indie films is about the same. Cleary indie film needs more support and indie filmmakers need to be given more carte blanche to experiment, because I think that when indie film doesn’t work is when it’s trying to be too conventional. My favourite indie films are the ones where the director really lets himself or herself do something really strange and idiosyncratic.

Like Eraserhead?

Or even one of my favourite movies last year, Let The Right One In. It’s an indie film, it’s very unconventional but it really works. It’s just an amazing film. I think I’m more critical of the institution of fame because it’s a waste of time. I mean it’s entertaining, it’s a great spectator sport, I just think it’s sad that so many people aspire to be famous, and so many famous people make themselves miserable trying to remain famous. The only happy famous people I’ve ever met are dumb famous people. Anyone with a degree of intellect or character who becomes famous is slaughtered by it.

Fohnjang Ghebdinga & Martin Parsons