By Laura Ferreiro
To celebrate the release of his new album, Innocents, Moby performed an intimate show for friends, fans, and music-industry types at Sonos Studio in Los Angeles on September 23. Just before he took the stage, Yahoo Music caught up with the renowned artist (born Richard Melville Hall) and chatted with him about his new album, working with famous collaborators, and why he's trying to limit his travels so he can work on his relationships and have a dog.
Moby fans will find a great deal to like about Innocents, including the producer's trademark soaring choruses, gorgeous melodies, and sweeping strings, reminiscent of his 1999 breakout hit album Play, which made him a bona fide electronic music star. The new album also features several notable collaborations from a variety of artists, including Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, gravelly voiced crooner Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age), and Somali-Canadian singer Cold Specks.
Most notably, it's the first time Moby has worked with an outside producer, having self-produced all of his previous records. When asked why he decided to bring famed producer Mike "Spike" Stent (Madonna, Bjork, Muse) on board, Moby explained, "I've been making records for a long time, and the majority of music I've made has been made by me alone in my studio, and I simply wanted to see what it would be like to do things differently."
Moby also confessed that Stent's advice caused him to alter his entire approach to making the record. "When I started working on this record I really wanted to make a lo-fi, grungy, downtempo dance record," he said. "And then I met with Spike Stent, and it's funny because he'd worked with Massive Attack and he's worked on a lot of lo-fi, grungy dance music, but at our first meeting he said to me that he really thought I should make a more intimate, emotional, melodic record. And I realized he was right."
Another reason Moby chose to bring in outside collaborators was in order to gain some outside perspectives and ideas that he wouldn't have been able to come up with on his own. "When I work with other people — whether it's a producer or other collaborators — I'm simply afforded a degree of objectivity that I otherwise wouldn't have. And also they have approaches to the creative process and songwriting that I would never be able to come up with."
The collaborators on this album are arguably some of the best in the business. Coyne provides guest vocals on the joyous romp "The Perfect Life," and also turns up in the hilarious video for the tune dressed up as a mariachi wandering the streets of downtown Los Angeles with Moby and a crazy cast of characters.
Meanwhile Lanegan adds some serious gravitas to the slow burner "The Lonely Night," and Damien Jurado sings on "Almost Home," a melancholy tune that sounds like it could have been plucked from a Bon Iver album. There's also a gorgeous, soulful turn from Cold Specks on "A Case For Shame."
Although the songs vary greatly in tempo and tone, there is a theme that they all share in common. "The theme of the record is how we all respond to the human condition," Moby said. "There are all these different ways we respond to the human condition, but what I'm interested in is how we subjectively and emotionally respond to being human. That's what informed all the songwriting on the record."
Moby took this theme a step further with the photos that adorn the album cover and the singles, which were all shot by Moby himself. (Unbeknownst to many, he's also an avid photographer.) Moby explained that there's a specific reason that all the people in the photos are covered up, wearing masks and sheets. "One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the human condition is the amount of time and energy people expend concealing themselves, because how we conceal ourselves isn't that interesting," he mused. "I think who we are is so much more interesting. Like I've never fallen in love with someone based on how good they were at misrepresenting themselves. You tend to fall in love with someone because of who they are. It's wonderful, that comfort of not needing to conceal yourself. So that's why all the images for the record are these entities who are obsessed with concealing themselves."
Strangely enough, although the album seems ready-made for an extensive tour, Moby has decided to keep things close to home and has only scheduled three Innocents tour dates in Los Angeles as of press time. He contends that's all there will be.
"I realized that a lot of things I liked about being alive were things that I could only have at home, like working in my studio, having dogs, trying to have real relationships, having good friendships, sleeping well, etc.; and so I've made a concerted effort to not tour as much," he explains. "So the entire tour is just three shows at [Hollywood's] Fonda [Theater] and I'm actually gonna walk to them. It's the only tour I think in the history of touring where the musician will walk to and from the venue."
Check out Moby's acoustic performance of "A Perfect Life" at Sonos Studio below.