When Moby started making music, he never anticipated his career to last more than six months.
“My dream was of having more than 10 people listen to the music that I made. More than 100 seemed absurd and presumptuous,” said the 43-year-old New York musician, born Richard Melville Hall.
Twenty-four years later, he’s got nine solo albums under his belt — and that’s outside of earlier band stints. Moby’s music has bridged the techno, ambient, electronica and rock genres and previous releases have largely shared his motivation of creating music for the ears of others.
But on his new release, Wait For Me, Moby’s abandoned market pressures, making what he considers, “private music.”
“It’s music that only really makes sense listened to at home by yourself or with one other person,” he said, likening it to creations by late English singer/songwriter Nick Drake and contemporary Wisconsin folk soloist, Bon Iver.
“When I found myself getting more involved in that world of commercial, mainstream music, half of me felt like an anthropologist because it was just so foreign,” he said. “To be at an MTV awards show and be sitting between Justin Timberlake and Ludacris … I was like, I’m sure these people are nice. I have no idea what motivates them.”
What motivates Moby? Creation, chiefly, he said. He’s careful not to criticize the world of commercial music, but when it boils down to art vs. commerce, he hails the prior as superior and indicates there’s a problem with compromising one’s artistic principles for the sake of accommodating the marketplace.
“Life is short, the marketplace is cheap and art is one of those few things that actually gives meaning to peoples’ lives. I hate to see potentially great artists sacrificing their principles on the altar of commerce,” he said.
That’s why, to launch his first truly independent release, Moby committed what he said a friend of his dubs “commercial suicide” — releasing the album’s fully instrumental first single Shot in the Back of the Head, unlikely to be played on radio, accompanied by a rather dour video illustrated and animated by nonconforming filmmaker David Lynch, even less likely to be seen on television, and giving it away for free.
“The old punk rocker in me really likes that,” he said, smirking. But even though Moby boasts punk rock’s anti-establishment attitude, such independence still yields private trials, which he aimed to address with Wait For Me.
“The most challenging thing is the human condition — mortality. We might not have significance, but we can have the solidarity of the fact that we’re all experiencing the same thing.”