It’s been ten years since Moby released the phenomenal Play, and a full 20 since his career began. And while 1991’s Go got him known as the face of rave and techno, and Play put him at the forefront of electronic superstars, he means much more than a beat on a dance floor. Moby’s latest LP, Wait for Me , with its whispered heartbreak and swaths of near ambience, pretty much proves it, too.
But that’s not all Moby’s up to on stage these days. So Earplug called him to find out what fans can expect from his live show. His North American tour began last night in Baltimore.
Flavorpill: You just got back from a European tour, correct? How many dates was that?
Moby: It was about two and a half, three months I guess, five shows a week. So whatever five shows a week times three months is.
FP: Wow! That’s a lot of shows.
M: It was a lot of shows. The tour was great because it was 90% big festivals and then 10% old, beautiful theaters. It was fun. I mean just the spectacle of standing in front of 75,000 people never gets old.
FP: Do you have any highlights?
M: One of the highlights was the Paleo festival in Rome. There was a classical component and then we were the night time component. It was Ennio Morricone, you know, the composer?
FP: Yeah, of course.
M: Well, he played during the day and then we played at night. And as I was playing I looked over to the side of the stage and Bruce Springsteen was standing there dancing.
FP: That’s some juxtaposition.
M: Yeah, and then there was a German festival we played where there was the weirdest line up. It was Grandmaster Flash, Patti Smith, Kraftwerk and then me. So sitting backstage and listening to these three other people or groups who had influenced me so much, that seemed very, very odd and surreal.
FP: Yeah, that’s sounds like a German festival, what city was that in?
M: That actual lineup we did a few times, one in Serbia, in Novi Sad, [but] they don’t really happen in the cities, they tend to happen at an hour and a half away from the city. I think the closest ones would have been Hamburg and Stuttgart.
FP: You also played Stockholm for this “Play to Stop: Europe for Climate Campaign,” part of the Energy for a Changing World Initiative with the EU, and MTV, and others behind it. Where is climate change on your list of priorities?
M: I work with lot of different charities, and I’ve worked on lot of different political campaigns, but for me climate change, it’s — not to be over dramatic or melodramatic, but it’s the most important thing that I am working on in terms of charitable work. Because everything else I work on – whether it’s human rights or animal rights or political freedoms — I mean, all that kind falls by the wayside if 1 billion people are displaced by climate change.
And there is so much awareness of climate change, but I don’t really see anyone on a sort of like individual or corporate or a state level who are really doing much to try and change it.
FP: You have just announced or recently announced a full scale jaunt almost full scale jaunt across North America, what can the fans expect?
M: Well, it’s a fairly small tour in that lot of the venues I am playing are kind of scaled down. I did a tour about four or five years ago where we overplayed. And half of the shows were okay. But then half of them were in venues that were only about half full. And it’s really depressing playing a venue that holds 2000 people and only having 700 people show up.
FP: I can imagine.
M: The goal with this tour is to pick much smaller venues in the hope that playing a smaller venue increases the chances that it will actually sell out. But the show is really eclectic, I mean there are some very quiet ballads and then are some big rave anthems and then there are a couple of punk rock songs and some blues songs. And there’s as a fairly big band — a string section and two singers and a drummer and a bass player and a keyboard player and then me playing guitar, percussion and keyboards.
And the show is I would say, maybe, 50% songs from new record and 50% songs from old records.
FP: The punk rock songs, are they Animal Rights stuff?
M: The only thing I do from Animal Rights is a cover of “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver,” the Mission of Burma song. I mean there are definitely a lot of songs from Play. I guess the only thing that could possibly constitute the surprise is that we do a 15 minute long version of “Honey.”
FP: Oh, great!
M: [Laughs] You say great now, that’s because you don’t have to sit through it. It sometimes can get a little on the long side.
FP: I love that record; I thought it was fantastic.
M: Oh, thank you. You are definitely the minority there.
FP: So you are bringing a couple of singers, I think two of the singers that sing on Wait For Me?
M: There is a woman in Kelli Scarr, who lives in Brooklyn, she sings a song, “Wait For Me.” And then I actually don’t know who the other singer will be because I just found out from immigration that I can’t bring my European band, so I am in the process of trying to hire a new band for the States.
FP: Ouch, what happened?
M: I think in order to bring musicians from Europe to the States you have to prove that they can contribute artistically in ways that Americans cannot. And immigration basically said to me, look, these are hired musicians, you need to employ Americans. So I am in the process of trying to do just that.
FP: That’s ridiculous, that’s like them telling you what you can do on stage basically.
M: Yeah, I’m just trying to accept it and hoping that maybe I will find some good people here.
FP: You mentioned playing smaller venues. You’re playing classic venues like 9:30 Club, TLA, Irving Plaza, The Vic — a great place in Chicago…
M: I’ve played all those places. Basically this is almost identical to a tour that I did 10 years ago and 15 years ago.
FP: Oh, really. So you are going to have that same kind of feeling, the same kind of excitement I imagine, I mean for you and for the fans?
M: I hope so, I mean there’s always a depressing possibility that we will be playing small venues and even then no one show up.
FP: I hardly think that.
M: You never know.