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Moby – From Punk to ‘Play’: History of Electronic Music, Animal Rights, Veganism & David Bowie

Originally from Harlem, Richard Melville Hall, better known as ‘Moby,’ is a multi-faceted artist renowned for his electronic and dance music career. His journey began in classical music and music theory at a very early age before emerging musically during the ’80s punk scene in New York City. Moby eventually made a significant impact on the electronic music scene with his 1991 single “Go” and the critically acclaimed album “Play” – which “Rolling Stone” magazine lists as one of the best albums of all time.  Beyond his successful music career, he’s also a prolific producer and remixer for a diverse range of artists. Moby’s various interests has also led him to establish the ‘Always Centered at Night,’ record label along with film and TV production.  He is also a fellow podcaster as host of ‘Moby Pod.’  As an outspoken ‘Animal Rights’ Advocate and vegan, Moby has also become known for his philanthropic work with organizations like The Humane Society and the ACLU. He’s recently released a new documentary entitled “Punk Rock Vegan Movie” which is currently winning awards on the film festival circuit.  Moby’s holistic artistry encompasses music, advocacy, and creative ventures across various media.  On this episode we covered the following topics:

  • My First Record Deal
  • The Roots Of Electronic Music
  • Where Did The Name ‘Moby’ Come From?
  • The Scandal Of The Century 
  • The Early ‘Rave’ Scene
  • The Influence Of Nitzer Ebb
  • The Accidental Success Of ‘Play’
  • Magic From Another Planet
  • Existentialism & Searching For The Meaning Of Life
  • Purple Japanese Eggplant & Addiction
  • Why I Became A Vegan
  • ‘Punk Rock Vegan Movie’
  • Best Friends With Robert Downy Jr.
  • Dancing Next To Prince At Basement Dance Party
  • Spending Time With David Bowie
  • My Favourite Memory of David Bowie
  • My Beef With Eminem
  • Dinner With Jesus, Hitler & Trump

Every week, the RUN GPG Podcast aims to provide inspirational stories from people who made a mark in entrepreneurship, entertainment, personal development, and the real estate industry. It is produced by the GREATER PROPERTY GROUP to help the audience grow and scale their business and their life.

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Originally from Harlem, Richard Melville Halton, better known as Moby, is a multifaceted artist renowned for his electronic and dance music career. His journey began in classical music and music theory at a very early age before emerging musically during the 80s punk scene in New York City. Moby eventually made a significant impact on the electronic music scene with his 1991 single Go and the critically acclaimed album Play, which Rolling Stone magazine lists.

is one of the best albums of all time. Beyond his successful music career, he’s also a prolific producer and remixer for a diverse range of artists. Moby’s various interests have also led him to establish the Always Centered at Night record label along with film and TV production. He’s also a fellow podcaster as host of Moby Pod.

As an outspoken animal rights advocate and vegan, Moby has also become known for his philanthropic work with organizations like the Humane Society and the ACLU. He’s also recently released a new documentary entitled Punk Rock Vegan Movie, which is currently winning awards on the film festival circuit.

Moby’s holistic artistry encompasses music, advocacy, and creative ventures across various media. Richard Moby, it’s an honor. Welcome to the Run GPG podcast. Hi, thank you for having me. Yeah, as I was telling you, I was excited to have you on, and I was looking forward to this interview for a lot of reasons.

My first electronic music album was a self titled Moby from 1992. I remember it well. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Think of that time as kind of a golden age, you know, a coming of age of electronic music. And of course the rave scene at that time in the early nineties. I think you were probably one of the first more well known electronic music artists, maybe commercially successful at that time.

and you had a pretty interesting background where you came from and what your, you know, your path that led you to. where you are now, I think it would be great for our listeners to hear or have you talk about your roots as an artist. Can you tell us what those early days were like and what influenced and shaped your path as an artist and creative growing up in New York City and I think Connecticut in the seventies and eighties.

Yeah, sure. So in about 1975, going way, way, way, way back, I started studying music theory when I was nine years old or 10 years old, and I started playing classical guitar, and I played jazz guitar, and I was sort of being groomed to be a virtuoso guitarist, like to, you know, you know, To be, I don’t know, like a Larry Carlton or someone who was like Django Reinhardt, someone who’s known as like this virtuoso guitar player.

And I had a teacher named Chris Rizzola, and he gave me this really idiosyncratic but broad education regarding Not just music, but music theory. Like, one day we would be deconstructing a Bach cantata, then we’d be playing a Jimi Hendrix song, then we’d be studying weather report, and looking at all these different scales, like mixolydian and phrygian and lydian.

And then I broke his heart, because when I was 13 years old, I heard The Clash on the radio and I fell in love with it because he hated punk rock. My teacher hated punk rock. He hated anything simple. And I found myself falling in love with really simple music, whether it was folk music or old blues or beginning roots of hip hop and electronic music and punk rock.

And eventually I stopped studying music theory. Luckily, I still have that background. And started playing in punk rock bands and started DJing. And I was playing a lot of early hip hop. And throughout the eighties, I was living in an abandoned factory and I was DJing in dive bars, desperately trying to get a record deal, but I also was making a lot of electronic music and towards the end of the.

80s. I finally got signed as an electronic musician and I expected nothing. I thought I’d put out a couple of singles. Best case scenario, they’d sell a few hundred copies and I would go back, maybe get my PhD in philosophy and become a professor. Like that was sort of my, my life path. in the late 80s as I was envisioning it.

And then, weirdly, the second single I released was called Go and it became a top 10 record throughout Europe and in different parts of the world, not necessarily in the United States. And I suddenly found myself traveling back and forth to Europe and being on TV shows and standing on stage in front of 10, 000 people at raves and festivals.

So that was, Such a huge baffling turning point where I went from complete, you know, abject poverty and obscurity to suddenly being on top of the pops with U2 and New Order. What, what an interesting time and what a path, you know, I find a lot of like, You know, artists that come from that, you know, there’s such a diverse background from the classical music to, to punk, to blues, to like, there’s so many different varieties and you end up on a path that you didn’t expect.

Right. During the eighties. And when you said you, you signed originally electronic music was in its infancy, right? So can you describe the electronic music landscape at that time, particularly in New York City? Well, one thing. That happened that was so interesting and I’m going to try and truncate myself a little bit because I could as an old person, I could ramble on way too long about this going back 100 years, electronic music had been academic, like if we’re talking like the 1920s 1930s, electronic music or even 1940s 1950s, there were like 10 people on the planet.

Making electronic music at Princeton, at Oxford, at other universities. And you see pictures of electronic musicians back then, and they wore suits and ties and white lab coats. And then in the late sixties, Bob Moog in particular, who started Moog, Moog synthesizers, the purists will say Moog, but I’ll say Moog, he invented a reasonably priced synthesizer with a keyboard on it.

All of a sudden, electronic music became egalitarian, you know, suddenly it was like disco performers, soul performers, rock performers, suddenly everyone was using electronic elements and their songs and throughout the 70s into the 80s, electronic music was becoming more egalitarian, but it was still very expensive and complicated.

You know, like having a MIDI studio or an electronic music studio in the 80s was baffling. So by the late 80s, I had embraced electronic music because it enabled me to, first of all, it was very exciting. I mean, whether it was hip hop or Early house music or early techno. It was just sonically so exciting.

And that culture was so exciting, but also as a solo musician, you could explore everything on your own. You could create all these different textures and landscapes that before you had to rely on a band. To do. And so when I think it’s actually something I want to do is maybe at some point make a documentary about this strange trajectory of electronic music, how it went from guys at Princeton and lab coats in 1950 to hip hop producers to disco producers to all, you know, it became this sort of like international language that ultimately now is as egalitarian as it can get, because the software doesn’t really cost anything for the most part.

So yeah. Anybody on the planet can make electronic music, which is such a far cry from 10 guys at Princeton in lab coats in 1950. You know, it’s interesting. We, we just recently had Front 242 on and we actually had Nights Arab as well. And they tell that like a similar story of like, you know, in the 80s when electronic music was coming of age they were learning to push buttons literally like You know, what does this do and how does that do?

And then they were putting it into like a frequency and a, you know, a pattern, that made sense. And then they would distort vocals and put that over it. So like every sub genre of music that was influenced in the eighties came from electronic music in a way. Right. So it was very interesting to have these discussions with those that have been there and, and were there from when it was created.

We were talking about this before we started recording, but I was going to ask you specifically, where did the name Moby come from? My parents told me this story, that when I was born, I was given the name Richard Melville Hall, supposedly related to Herman Melville. And my dad, as a joke, when I was ten minutes old, started calling me Moby, and that nickname just stuck with me.

All through childhood, I was just told, yeah, your nickname is Moby because you’re related to Herman Melville. And I was like, oh, that’s interesting, like, Moby Dick is, you know, arguably one of the first modern novels with very existential fiction. And a genealogy… I think, okay, I need, I don’t, I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think a genealogy podcast.

Recently tried to, I don’t know, I didn’t listen to it and I don’t know much about it, but apparently they dedicated a lot of episodes debunking the fact that I might not have been related to Herman Melville, as a sort of gotcha, maybe, or maybe they were doing it benignly, I don’t know, but I had someone approach me recently like this was a big scandal.

I’m like, well, my parents told me I was related to Herman Melville and if that’s not the case, okay, who cares? Yeah, so there’s a good chance that I’m not related to Herman Melville and I guess I’m flattered that some genealogists would take that much time to look at my genealogy. So kudos to them for breaking the story of the century.

I was going to say, man, we’re really, you know, we’re really looking for content if that’s the dedication of a show, like who cares? You know what? At the same time, I don’t want to be critical or judgmental because I haven’t actually listened to the. Podcast. I just had a friend reach out to me and say like, Hey, do you know that they’re, they’re trying to break this story?

And I was like, okay, how is that a story? Like, well, how was it a story? I’d like to know what show nonetheless, it’s very, I think it’s kind of endearing and sweet. And again, I’m very flattered that anyone would take that much time thinking about my genealogy. Cause I, I never have. Yeah, well, there’s a there’s the breaking news.

Everyone might be might not be that I might not be related to the 19th century author. My parents told me I was related to. I’m going to go with it anyway. I trust your parents. Um. I did mention, Go! at the beginning of our interview. It was so significant, for a lot of reasons. It’s often considered one of the most seminal tracks of the early rave scene.

it was such an incredible time. Hearing that song now makes me almost emotional. How do you think the rave scene of the early 90s impacted the broader electronic music movement, the rave scene specifically? Oh, that’s such an interesting question because the And when you were talking earlier about your introduction to rave culture, it really made me think it’s a challenge both to you and to me and to people who grew up with that, like, to figure out how much of that Era was truly utopian and how much of it is just us remembering our youth because there’s always that that danger to say like Oh, well what we grew up with was better and I don’t know if it was better, but the truth is the 90s were optimistic You know, I think of like the first time I came to Canada in 1992 and Bill Clinton, you know, young Bill Clinton had just been elected president and his smart vice president was concerned about climate change and the internet was this new thing that was going to break down barriers and enable the free exchange of information and Russia was becoming an ally of the West and there were very few wars happening.

The world seemed like. It was on the verge of becoming rational and it was almost becoming the future that we had all dreamed of. And I really think the rave scene at that point completely reflected that. You know, it was new, the technology was new, the clothes were new, the drugs were new, the music was new, everything about it.

It was certainly inspired by stuff that had come before. You know, disco, earlier electronic music, but it was this new technological music movement and you think of like just how innocent it was, and you can’t, someone might say, well, how, how innocent could it be? People are doing drugs. It’s like, yeah. But they were taking MDMA, which had been legal two years before that.

So I guess there’s, there’s that danger of glorifying the optimism of a past that we lived through, but I compare that to today and I don’t want to be a bummer, but like, I don’t know where kids today find their optimism. Yeah, yeah, like I mean, you’re looking at like war, pandemics, climate change, deforestation, microplastics, antibiotic resistance, on and on again, all these like multiple apocalypses.

And back then, we didn’t know that things were going to get bad, we just assumed. There was this trajectory of history and that finally things were going to become rational and benign. I mean, boy, just think of how naive we were to think that the internet was going to be a force for like honesty and good.

Yeah, it’s, it’s funny, you know, hearing you describe it. I do remember it as utopian. It was peace and love. It was a loving atmosphere in a lot of ways, you know, regardless of what. And, and part of it, and I’m sorry to interrupt, but part of it was a function of us being young and part of it was just this feeling of like, Oh, we’re creating this ourselves.

Like we’re not relying on big corporations. We’re not just reinventing things that have come before. Like we’re making something new, but so was everybody. You know, politics felt new. Technology felt new. Everything felt like it was this. This new invention that we were all sort of collectively working on and moving things towards a better future and, yeah, again, not to be a bummer, but, it didn’t really work out that way.

No, it didn’t. I remember it fondly, with nostalgia. I do, I do have a question about ambient music in a minute here, but, here’s an interesting question. Can you recall your greatest dance music experience from that time or maybe the most memorable moment that you can think of from that era? Yeah, and you know, it’s funny, you mentioned, Nitzareb in Front 242, and it immediately made me think of, like, this is going back a little bit to the mid 80s, but the first time I heard that song, Murderous, by Nitzareb…

I was like, Oh my God, what? Cause it was like, it was essentially, it’s a techno record with them yelling on top of it. And this was before techno had been invented. When you talk to a lot of the original techno guys, like Derek May, Juan Atkins, they all loved Nitzareb, you know, like Nitzareb were such an influential industrial band because they were really making techno before techno had been invented.

and Front 242, I actually just, Headhunter just came up on my, Spotify shuffle, and I was reminded, like, what a cool song. Like, I remember, you know, dancing to that, you know, New Wave nightclubs in the late 80s, and it just was like, again, felt so, like, it was dystopian, but it was sort of optimistic dystopian.

The thing that comes to mind when you ask about, like, one moment from that early scene is 1992. It was the summer of 1992, and I was in a new relationship that hadn’t gone wrong yet. And an old friend of mine, a guy named Michael Meacham, was throwing his first big rave outside of DC, and it was called Future.

And I remember it was this, I, I, my girlfriend and I went, and it was this warm, beautiful night, and there were all, you know, everybody from like Scott Henry, and all like the Joey Beltram, This is just like who’s who of electronic rave musicians from 1992, and the lights were great, and it was just a beautiful night, and it felt, I was like, wow, this is remarkable, like everybody’s hugging, everyone’s throwing their hands in the air to Rosales, everybody’s free, it was just so perfect and idyllic, that to me was like the pinnacle of rave culture was that specific night.

It’s always that, right? When you think back to that era, it’s always a night, a party and a rave, a set by a DJ, something like that. I always like to ask that question. It was funny. Actually, it’s funny about a headhunter. We talked about that for a while, actually, when we were talking to a front two, four, two about that.

They, they didn’t expect that to be the hit it was. And it’s still, it’s still a classic. Like it’s, it never gets old. Never gets old. Same with the night’s rev music. I mean, they, and much like you, they had a, you know, they talked about how they had a, a background that wasn’t electronic. It was funk and it was blues.

And it was other things that you can actually kind of hear a little bit of it in their music, or at least they hope you hear a little bit of it in their music, which I find interesting. Your album play was a massive success. Obviously, would you call that the pinnacle of your music career?

Your album play was a massive success. Obviously, would you call that the pinnacle of your music career? no, I, I think of it as an accident. You know, in the late 90s, I was bottoming out as an alcoholic and a drug addict. My mom had died of cancer. I was battling mental illness. I was going broke. I had lost my record deal.

Like, things were really bad. And I had already, in the late 90s, become kind of a has been. You know, the first time I played an old school rave tent was 1995. So, I’ve been kind of an old school has been for a really long time. So, by 1999, the music world had moved on. Like, I was sort of being left behind, which I just accepted.

You know, the music world had become… You know, I mean, like on the dance side, it was, you know, the chemical brothers. It was the prodigy. It was fat boy, slim on the pop side. It was NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. It was people making big records in big studios with big major label budgets. And I made the album play in my bedroom with about 4, 000 worth of equipment.

And I, so we released it and expected nothing. You know, I remember the first week it was released, it sold 4, 000 copies worldwide, and I was so surprised at how successful that was. I was like, wow, 4, 000 copies worldwide. and then fast forward a year, it was selling over a hundred thousand copies worldwide every week.

So it was everything about that record, the success. The touring, et cetera, everything was a complete surprise and wasn’t planned for or expected. It’s an unbelievable album. You know, I went back when, you know, I was prepping for this. I went back and listened to it all the way through it. There’s no low points in the album at all.

Like it’s hit after hit after hit. Really. can you tell us about the creative process that went into making it? And what do you think it was that made the album so popular? You talked about 4, 000 worth of equipment. What was the creative process? Like, well, you know, it’s funny. I was doing an interview of A couple of months ago, because I had released a second orchestral album with Deutsche Grammophon, Deutsche Grammophon is the oldest label in the world.

And I’ve now made two sort of orchestral greatest hits with them. And I was doing an interview with a German journalist, and he asked me, he was like, Oh, so how has your creative process changed over the years? And I was like, well, It hasn’t. In 1982, I got my first ever synthesizer that I bought at a second hand store, at a Goodwill store for about 20.

And for Christmas that year, my family chipped in and bought me my first drum machine, which was made by Mattel, the toy company called Mattel Synsonics. And I remember going, going to my basement Christmas night, And setting up the synthesizer and the drum machine. And I borrowed a little four track cassette recorder.

And so it’s just like me and a recorder and some electronic equipment. And that was 1982. And I’m like, that’s exactly what I do now. That’s, that’s how I made the album play. It’s how I’ve made all my records is go into a little space with some equipment and play around and see what happens. So. Honestly, like, I mean, the only thing that has changed is over the years, I figured out how to work with singers.

And I’ve also, when necessary, figured out how to write orchestral score and do orchestra. I can work with an orchestra, but for the most part, 99. 9 percent of the time, it’s just me alone in a little space with some equipment. Wow. hasn’t changed. that’s, I mean, the equipment, I mean, now I’ve got a computer as opposed to a cassette.

Before track cassette recorder, but still it’s like you hit record and you hit play or you play an instrument like so pretty much nothing has really changed, which I’m, and I think some people could find that depressing that like if you know, like. 1982, I spent all my free time going into my mom’s basement trying to record music and now I spend all my time going into a little space trying to record music.

The fact that I’ve been doing the same thing every day for, my math is not great, but I think that’s 41 years. Some people could say that’s depressing, but I’m like, you know. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time. No kidding. Yeah, no, that’s, I appreciate you breaking that down. Love it. Here’s a question.

Can you share your thoughts on the current state of electronic music and maybe how it compares to the infancy stages of the late eighties, early nineties? The reason why I ask is like, I, you know, I hear some of the stuff that’s being played the after hours. Parties and whatnot. Rave scene made it a little bit of a comeback there, but the music sounds very similar to what we were playing in the 90s.

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s funny. Cause the way in which the music is produced has changed a lot, meaning in the late eighties into the early nineties to make a house record or a techno record, you needed drum machines and synthesizers and analog mixers and analog effects and digital effects and.

MIDI cables and didn’t think cables and some sort of sequencer. And you needed to figure out how to get everything to talk to everything else. Like you had to like figure out how to convert MIDI to didn’t sink. And you had to go, you know, go to radio shack constantly to get all these converter cables.

And now it’s an app or it’s a piece of software. And I don’t say that as a criticism, I’m just saying it’s funny because the music sounds. almost identical today to a lot of what was being made 30 years ago or 20 years ago or whenever. And which is so interesting because the way in which it’s produced has changed completely.

But it sounds to your point, it sounds very similar, you know, like house music and techno are very similar today to what they were 30 years ago. And I find that to be really encouraging. And especially the sort of the global egalitarian nature of electronic music. It’s the only genre of music that is not impaired by language.

And what I mean by that is like, if you’re a singer in South Korea and you are a huge pop singer in South Korea, singing in Korean, your language will prevent you unless you’re a gangnam style guy, like, or BTS, like for the most part, you are prevented from having a career anywhere else, whereas. The majority of electronic musicians, I don’t know where they’re from.

You hear names and you’re like, well, are they from Australia? Are they from Scandinavia? Are they from South Africa? Are they from South Korea? Like, and I love that sort of the democratic egalitarian nature of electronic music. Like they’re, they’re basically, there are no barriers. To entry there’s nothing preventing anyone on the planet apart from electricity and access to an app So I guess i’m I don’t want to be privileged because i’m sure there are a lot of people, you know in the global south Who are economically disadvantaged who might not have access to the technology, even though it doesn’t cost much but anyone with a phone can essentially make good sounding electronic music and can go from Being completely obscure to being a household name, you know, I think of like Martin Garrix.

Do you know the producer Martin Garrix? Oh, he had a huge song about, I guess, 10 years ago called Animals. And he was a 17 year old kid, and it was one of the first things he ever released, and he, his dad had to go with him to performances because he was too young to get in anywhere. And he didn’t really, I don’t think he really spoke English very well, he just released this track, and it now probably has close to like 10 billion plays cumulatively.

So those sort of stories of like someone coming, a 17 year old kid in his bedroom, two seconds later, Is a household name in the world of electronic music. Yeah, it’s very well put. I love your breakdown there. The I do know the song animals. I didn’t know his name, but I do know that and that’s the other.

Yeah, the wonderful thing about electronic music is that anonymity. Yeah, you know, it takes a long time like people will ask me like, oh, what artists do you like? And I was like, I don’t know if everybody uses different names. There’s something refreshing about a genre and I say this as someone with an Obviously a challenge name at this point, but you know, like the fact that so many producers in the world of electronic music are comfortable being anonymous.

It’s, it really is about the, you know, the artwork that they produce now, right? Whatever it is, you know, and I think, I think, you know, electronic music still retains that. I don’t want to say innocence, but it’s still that creative sound. And we’re all influenced by a lot of the same artists. speaking of technology, I need to get your thoughts on AI and the impact that it might have on the creation and the experience of electronic music in the future, or really any music for that matter.

Only thing I can say is my limited encounters with AI, it feels like encountering magic from a different planet. Without really understanding AI is the thing that’s either very scary or fascinating, depending on how you look at it. Or even encouraging is it’s in its infancy. This is the equivalent of like a Commodore 64.

Like AI is brand new and it’s learning. It’s constantly evolving and constantly getting better. Like when you take its machine learning abilities combined with Moore’s law, you know, combined with increased processing power, like. Especially once quantum computing becomes viable. I can’t imagine if this is AI in its infancy, what’s it going to be like in five, 10, 15 years?

Yeah, that’s the concern. I always like to ask artists and creatives about AI, just to get their perspective, but that’s well put. I appreciate your thoughts on that. I do want to ask you about your personal life a little bit, if that’s okay with you. You’ve been pretty open about your experiences and your personal life from that time, that era, you know, you wrote about it in your autobiography, Porcelain.

Right, which goes into more detail about, you know, the evolution of your music gives insight and perspective on the industry and the cultural landscape as we’ve been talking about of that time. But you also talk about some heavy stuff like your struggles with addiction. You’re pretty candid about it for our listeners.

What led to the addiction and excesses at that time? Because I know it was a pretty intense party scene, but you also came from a pretty, you also came from a. a pretty clean background as well, right? Yeah. I mean, I was a straight edge punk rocker for a little while. straight edge being obviously like, you know, rejecting drugs and alcohol, which is ironic because later I did the opposite of rejecting drugs and alcohol.

And again, I don’t know if this is going to be relevant or interesting to anyone other than me, but that question of like, from where does the behavior arise? And I, maybe this is overly blunt or glib, but I deconstruct it where there’s a, there’s a hereditary utility, and I’m really trying to self edit a little bit, but like when you think of almost on an atavistic level, the role of dopamine and serotonin and reward neurotransmitters, and I understand neurochemistry is incredibly complicated, like there’s no such thing as like a simple linear pathway, but we basically evolved fear.

Okay. Viciousness and a desire to do anything that will make us feel good, you know, which is explained so much like we’re, we’re scared of the world. We’re ready to attack the world and we’re ready to grab on to anything that makes us feel good. And then there’s a sort of specific, I guess, hereditary component where like certain demographics are more inclined towards.

other types of, you know, responses to external stimuli. And what I mean by that is like, half my family are white Anglo Saxon Protestant, and the other half are Ashkenazi Jews, which is, makes for wonderful family gatherings. So what’s interesting is the wasps in my family, me included, are all alcoholics.

The Ashkenazi Jews in my family all have problems with opiates. No intersection. Like, the Ashkenazi Jews in my family can drink no problem, and the Wasps in my family can do opiates no problem. So clearly there is, you know, congenital hereditary aspect, but ultimately it’s our brains for the longest time Learned a lesson, which is if it makes us feel good, we should probably have more of it, you know, which was fatty food, which was sex, which was who knows what, because for the longest time it served us and other species well.

The problem with modern life is those reward pathways have gotten completely out of control and we’re no longer like, like our addiction to fatty food, for example, is clearly destroying us. You know, our addiction to reward and dopamine and serotonin pathways is literally killing us. So for me, I think there’s that aspect.

There’s the congenital hereditary aspect. Also, and I’m sorry for rambling on so much about this, but I’ve spent way too long trying to sort of deconstruct this, is there is a subtext to, I think, everything that humans do. Which sounds overly broad, I know, but the subtext of existentialism, which is the question of how do we in any way pretend to have meaning or significance in a universe that’s 15 billion years old?

You know, we know that we’re alive for a couple of decades and then we die, we have no idea what happens. We don’t know What happens to our relationships, we don’t know what happens to our achievements, we don’t know what happens to us, and I think that hanging over our species in particular is that constant dread, and it makes us grab for religion, it makes us grab for wealth, materialism, all these things that mean to purport to answer that existential question.

Of course, none of them do, but it makes them all very attractive in the short term. Yeah, those are deep thoughts, right? I think We’re becoming more and more aware of life being a short sensory experience, right? So, we tend to like, you said, look for those dopamine hits and the pathways are getting easier and, you know, and we’re looking for those things.

It’s kind of, I think it’s good to talk to someone like you who’s struggled with it, come through it. Was there a pivotal moment or an experience that made you realize you needed to make a change? well this is the funny thing about addiction, I, it was New Year’s Eve 1992 and I went out to dinner at a vegan restaurant, because I’m a vegan, with some friends because I was headed to Roseland Ballroom where I was opening up for Big Audio Dynamite.

So I was like, wow, I’m going to open up for Big Audio Dynamite, this is so exciting. So we went to this place called Zen Palette. Which I love. And I ordered a bunch of food, and I’d never had purple Japanese eggplant. And so we ordered purple Japanese eggplant, and it tasted a little bit off. And when I was on stage that night, I was like, Oh, that purple Japanese eggplant is not agreeing with me.

And it didn’t affect my performance, per se, but it was… unpleasant having some gastrointestinal distress on New Year’s Eve while opening up for Big Audio Dynamite. The point being, I never ate purple Japanese eggplant again because I had that one bad experience. So the funny thing with addiction is I had a few thousand disastrous, terrible experiences way worse than eating a purple Japanese eggplant for a rational person would have led them to never drink or do drugs again.

But I just kept going back to it because I was an addict. Yeah, so there was no pivotal moment. I mean finally obviously because I got sober about 15 years ago The last time I drank wasn’t even that dramatic. It was just gross It was in the morning after you know, I’d done a lot of drugs. I’d been drinking I was on the train coming back from upstate new york and I was just like I couldn’t think straight.

I couldn’t read I was sort of physically in pain And it wasn’t a unique experience. That’s how I felt every morning. And then to sort of paraphrase the guys from Aerosmith, like, I just realized like, Oh, I’m truly sick and tired of being truly sick and tired. Yeah. And so that was a lot. That was like October, 2008.

So that was the last time I drank or did drugs. Wow. So you’ve been sober now for how many years is that? That’s a that’s almost 15. Yeah. 15 years. Congratulations. Well done. and since then, you’ve been putting a lot of time, into your work as an animal rights activist and vegan, right? Can you share with our audience just your personal journey towards becoming a vegan?

Because you weren’t always a vegan. I don’t think like what inspired you to make that lifestyle change and how has it impacted your life since Yeah, I mean, the only person I know who’s been vegan since birth is Joaquin Phoenix. And in my case, I grew up with the weird paradox, and it only becomes paradoxical when you take a step back and look at it.

I grew up with the weird paradox of loving animals. Where, you know, we had, when I was growing up, we had tons of rescued animals, you know, rescued lab rats, rescued cats, rescued dogs, rescued iguanas, rescued everything. And I loved all of our rescued animals, but I also loved going to Burger King. I loved going to McDonald’s and it never struck me as being strange because this was the dominant paradigm.

It continues to be the dominant paradigm of everyone loves animals, but everyone loves eating animals. And no one wants to be involved in animal suffering, but everyone contributes to animal suffering. It’s such a bizarre paradox, and when I was 19, I was playing with a rescued cat that we had named Tucker, and all of a sudden I realized, like, oh, I love these rescued animals, you know, I recognize they have personalities, they’re warm, they’re loving, they want to be alive, they want to be happy, and I suddenly, by extension, realized that applies to every animal on the planet.

And so that was 1984. And I went vegetarian in 1984, which was tricky because I really, it was hard giving up Burger King. It was hard giving up hot dogs. But then in 1987, I went vegan. And as time has passed, I mean, really working on behalf of animal rights is my life’s work. Like everything else is wonderful and fun, but animal rights is, that’s my job.

And it’s not just for the animals. It’s for us because You know, as a lot of people might know, as you probably know, like meat and dairy production is the third leading cause of climate change. It’s the leading cause of antibiotic resistance. It’s the leading cause, cause of ocean pollution. It’s the leading cause of deforestation.

The ocean pollution one, people push back on. They’re like, how can animal agriculture be contributing to ocean pollution? It’s drift nets. You know, when people use these giant driftnets, when they’re done, they cut them off. So the majority of plastic in the ocean actually comes from fishing. Long winded way of saying, I’m an animal rights activist and a vegan for the animals.

Equally for us because there’s no other industry that’s destroying humanity more than meat and dairy production. Facts. No, it’s it’s very well put. Anyways, I was really looking forward to asking you about that.

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Congratulations on the success of punk rock vegan movie. what’s it about? Why is it resonating with audiences? So i’m Yeah, again, I’ve been trying to figure out how to use my limited resources to advance the issue of animal rights, to move the needle away from the current system. And I realized a few years ago, there was this really fascinating history that very few people were aware of, which is the history of punk rock and animal rights, that a lot of the modern animal rights movement comes from the world of punk rock because people tend to think of punk rock as being nihilism or hedonism and the truth is a lot of the legendary iconic punk rock artists of the 70s 80s into the 90s were very principled and vegan and animal rights activists so for the movie we went around and talked to everybody from you know The guys from the Bad Brains, all sorts of iconic punk rock artists, even more recent people like Rise Against and even Fall Out Boy, like talking to all these people about Their journey to developing, you know, awareness regarding animal rights and veganism and presenting it.

And what I love about the movie, and I say this self involvedly, but I love the contrast. Because we’ll be interviewing, I don’t, like John, like John Joseph from the Cro Mags, or my friend Derek from Sepultura, and these incredibly thoughtful, incredibly soft spoken, principled people, but then you cut to them on stage.

And they’re behemoths, you know, they’re, they’re screaming at the top of their lungs, stage diving, you know, destroying these stages. And then when you interview them, they’re so principled and thoughtful. And that was really that juxtaposition to me is the strength of the movie, you know, showing that contrast.

And the other thing I’ll say about the movie is when we were releasing it, we decided to give it away for free. So it’s, it’s available on YouTube for free. It’s available on Vimeo for free. And we also enabled people to download it for free. And what has been really encouraging is people around the world have been downloading it and doing their own showings of it.

Like every now and then someone will tell me like, Oh, there’s a punk rock band in Croatia who before they play their show, they’re showing your movie because they downloaded it for free. And to me, that’s, you know, the internet can be a force for bad, but the ability to create content and get it out into the world, hopefully in a responsible way, like that to me is the beauty of the current system.

Yeah, and I remember too, it wasn’t just the, the punk rock scene, the industrial, the most badass industrial groups were animal rights activists. Like, I remember the animal rights, compilation albit had Skinny Puppy, Meat Beat Manifesto, it was an animal rights albI remember that, it was, it was even some of the most You know what I mean?

Yeah, that’s one of… Yeah, one of the things I wish I could have done was go more into the world of heavy metal because weirdly, there are a lot of heavy metal musicians, like Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath has been vegan since the early 70s. And there’s so many people in the metal world, and we talked to Dave Navarro, we talked to my friend Derek from Sepultura, there are some metal people in the movie, but the other, to your point, is the industrial scene.

One of my first introductions to sort of confrontational animal rights was the industrial group Consolidated. I don’t know if you remember them. Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. You know, they got into it. I mean, they stood on stage and they would have arguments with the audience about meat and dairy production.

I wish I could have expanded it a little bit, but we wanted to sort of adhere to the sort of like, you know, people who either were in the punk rock world or came specifically from the punk rock world. Well, we’ll make a sequel. We’ll make a sequel. in the wrap up here, some things that people might not know about Moby and his fascinating life.

you were childhood best friends with Robert Downey Jr. Yeah, in third and fourth and fifth grade, you know, I grew up poor white trash in one of the wealthiest towns in the United States, Derry and Connecticut. and Darien has also produced a lot of a surprising number of public figures. It’s a town of 15, 000 people and it’s, you know, Robert Downey Jr.

and Gus Van Zandt and Topher Grace and Steve O and, Chloe Sevigny, all these weird public figures from this tiny little affluent town. And when I was growing up, my mom and I were on food stamps and welfare and my mom loved smoking weed. And her best friend in the world, like her best suburban friend for getting high with, was Robert Downey Jr.

‘s mom, so like, he and I were best friends, and my mom was best friends with his mom. And, yeah, I saw him recently, I hadn’t seen him for a while, and it was kind of nice, because we just sort of like, picked up, it was very sweet, we were like, the same rapport we had when we were in fourth grade, fast forward 50 years.

Very interesting. here’s one. you once danced with Prince at a basement dance party. Yeah, you know what’s funny? Cause dancing, I wasn’t dancing with Prince, he had no idea who I was. But, I was at a club called Nell’s. And you were talking earlier about that memory, like when you hear a genre for the first time, when you hear music, when you hear, like, those memories, and I remember the first time I heard house music was actually dancing next to Prince in the basement of this club.

I’d bought some house music records, but I’d never heard it in a nightclub. And I remember so clearly the DJ who I’m friends with still Frankie Iglesias played a Todd Terry song really is one of the greatest early house producers. And I remember so clearly like thinking, wow, I’m in, I’m dancing next to Prince and I’m hearing house music, super loud.

On this sound system. It was, it was a pretty remarkable moment. Yeah, I got two more for you. I do have to ask you about this because this is fascinating to me. You were very close with David Bowie. What was it like spending time with him? And what was your fondest memory of David Bowie? Well, we spent so much time together because we toured together.

We worked on music together. We were neighbors. There was not one second that I spent with David Bowie that I was not. nervous and aware of the fact that I was with a demigod. Like I pretended to be normal. I pretended to be his peer, even though clearly I was not, but I was always inside feeling like Mike Myers in Wayne’s world when he meets Alice Cooper.

Like, I just wanted to fall down and be like, I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy. So there was a lot of pretending on my part, pretending that it was normal to be friends with David Bowie. The most precious moment I have is. He and I agreed to play a fundraiser for this organization, Tibet House, and he came over to my apartment one morning, one Saturday morning, to rehearse for this fundraiser, and he brought coffee, and so it was just the two of us sitting in my living room on a nice Saturday morning, and I nervously suggested, I was like, what if we do an acoustic version of the song Heroes?

And I thought he would say, no, I don’t do that, you know, like, how dare you? But he said, sure, let’s try it out. So me and David Bowie drinking coffee, sitting in my living room, playing heroes on acoustic guitar, that’s as far as like a most precious memory, not just with David Bowie, but almost in life.

Unbelievable. I had to ask you about that. One more. One more. your beef with Eminem. You had a beef with Eminem. What was that all about? And the truth is, I think Eminem is kind of remarkable. Like, he’s clearly incredibly smart, very talented, a billion times more successful than I am. I don’t even, I doubt he even remembers who I am at this point.

But my beef wasn’t so much with him. It got sort of skewed. My beef was with that. Culture of misogyny, that culture of homophobia, like if you remember in the late nineties, all of a sudden there were all these rock bands and rappers who suddenly were being unapologetically misogynistic and homophobic.

And I simply. Have always adhered to the idea that bigotry is wrong, no matter what kind of bigotry. Anti Semitism is wrong, racism is wrong, misogyny is wrong, homophobia is wrong. Like, in my mind, these were things that are supposed to have been left behind on the shameful dust heap of history. And all of a sudden I’d turn on the radio and I would hear misogyny, and I would hear really egregious homophobia, and I thought it was disgusting.

An offensive, and I started speaking out against it, and I guess Eminem took offense at that. Uh… I still don’t fully understand, again, I think he’s very talented. I don’t know why he keeps writing such misogynistic music, like, and homophobic music. You’d think he’d kind of have moved past it. I’m not looking for a new, quote unquote, vegan beef with him.

But I still, I don’t know how anyone accepts the glorification or the glamorization of bigotry in any form. Because it’s always wrong. It’s it’s like there’s no there’s no wiggle room there. Bigotry is bad. Bigotry is wrong. Let’s accept that and let’s stop glorifying it in popular culture. Yeah. Well put.

Well put. Okay. Final question. Final question. Uh if you could have dinner with any three people in history, past or present, who would they be? Uh it’s a great question. It’s like it’s almost like the end of like the Proust questionnaire that used to be on the back of maybe still is the last page of Vanity Fair.

Um three people through history and I don’t wanna be too obvious but one would be Jesus cuz on the off chance that Jesus was in fact a god, it might be interesting to find out like say like hey, Just curious, are you actually God? And if so, what’s that like? Got any pointers? So, I’d say Jesus, so how about, okay, Jesus, and then I’m gonna pick some, let’s pick Hitler.

And I just, to sort of say, like, what were you thinking? Like, Like how in the world did committing genocide and going to war and killing tens of millions of people, how did that ever seem like a good idea? and I guess the last would be maybe Donald Trump. And I would just say like, look. History is going to understandably revile you as like one, the worst president in U.

history, one of the most destructive forces in modern history. I was like, you know, there’s a way for you to stop this, like stop being a dick, stop lying, like. You can still redeem yourself and your name, because I know he’s, his name is pretty important to him. And like, at present, he is going to be like Joseph McCarthy meets Stalin meets Putin in terms of ignominy.

I don’t know how to pronounce that word. So maybe, you know, so Jesus, Hitler, and Trump. Jesus to say, are you God? If so, what’s that like? Hitler to say, how is that a good idea? Committing genocide. And Trump to say, like, look, stop lying, redeem yourself, because there’s still time. What a dinner table that would be.

Jesus, Hitler, Trump, and Moby. Somebody needs to make paintings. And also the fact that I would make vegan food and I can’t imagine that Hitler and Trump would be too thrilled about that. Yeah. Somebody needs to paint that. That’d be incredible. But, it really makes you think. We’ve actually had a few guests mention Hitler for the very reasons you did.

What in the world? How is that a good idea? There’s so many things you can do with your day. How is committing genocide top of the list? Yeah, absolutely. listen, I really appreciate you sitting down with me today. You’re a true artist, a creative, a philanthropist, a modern day Renaissance, man. Thank you so much for spending time with us today.

Moby. appreciate your time today, man. I really do take the rest of the day off. Okay, great. Thank you. I just soon. Thanks.


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