As America’s elder statesman of electronic dance music, Moby is a contrarian of epic proportions.
While some top EDM jocks are outdoing each other in how rapidly they can throw unearned money at crashed Ferraris and leased jets, Moby just downsized to a much smaller L.A. home. He refuses to tour relentlessly, thus leaving piles of cash on the table. And, amidst an EDM bubble that has etched DJs into the headlines of Forbes and TMZ, he is, fairly quietly, re-releasing a pet project nobody heard the first time around.
Moby, who turns 50 next year, began his dance music career in the early 1990s just as he punctuates it now — as an all-around digital artisan whose palette included both Brian Eno-inspired ambient and the driving boom-tss of warehouse techno.
The re-release in question is Hotel: Ambient, a companion disc to his 2005 album Hotel. As a labor of love, he’s remastered the collection of fragile, minimalist tracks, such as “Chord Sounds,” which washes over your soul with melancholic but optimistic strings as it builds with cinematic tension. It’s as if Moby’s greatest artistry — yes, including 1999’s belated breakthrough, Play — has been synthesized into meditative, primordial soup powered by beautiful strands of digital DNA.
He’s re-releasing the album, out this week, because he can.
“EMI had the rights,” he says, referring to his former label, “and I kept asking them to release it on its own. Because it was a tiny record, they had no interest. It has no vocals, no drums. Finally, the rights reverted back to me, and I thought it would be nice to re-release it. It’s 2014, so I don't expect anyone to buy it.”
In fact, although you’ll be able to purchase Hotel: Ambient through the usual digital outlets, Moby will also — in a very punk-rock, anti-commercial gesture — be giving it away through a side door: his mobygratis website, which provides free music to nonprofit films, videos and shorts.
“With ambient,” says the onetime punk artist, “it certainly doesn't sound like punk rock, but the ethos is that it is a very unconventional music.”
Moby’s earliest forays into electronic music included ethereal ambient, which was at the time a utilitarian staple of “chillout rooms,” where overheated ravers on ecstasy could recharge.
He explains that his first label home, Instinct, only had a handful of artists on its roster. So he would release his ambient works under pseudonyms, including Voodoo Child, to make it look like the label had a deep bench.
“There is still an ambient scene, meaning all sorts of people making quiet, ambient music,” Moby says at the dining table of his new home near Griffith Park. “But it's as marginal as a musical genre can be.”
As such, Moby figured he could shoehorn a special series of “Moby Ambient Live” performances this week into some unusual venues, including the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and in Joshua Tree as a fundraiser for the restoration of the ’50s-era Integratron structure there. Moby’s music will be accompanied by David Lynch footage he compiled especially for the show. The imagery will be beamed onto a trio of screens as the performance builds from sonic relief to dance-worthy grooves, Moby promises.
Unfortunately, the shows are sold out, and fans without tickets might not get to experience something like them ever again.
“I drive my manager crazy,” says the transplanted New Yorker. “In 2014, the only way musicians make money is to tour. And I don't want to tour. I don't want to be doing that when I turn 50. I love being in my studio making my music. Life is too short and precious.”