(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s not without some irony that electronic dance music pioneer Moby recently told Spinner magazine that pop artists like Britney Spears and Ke$ha don’t make “music” but rather “advertising for ringtones.”
Whether his views hold validity or not, nobody has inadvertently bridged the divide between music and marketing more elegantly than the 46-year-old iconoclast virtuoso himself. Virtually every song on Moby’s massively popular 1999 album Play, a mix of chill-out ambient music and upbeat electronica, was licensed to either a film, a TV show or a commercial advertisement.
Middle America and the rest of the world were held at bay by the diminutive, bald vegan DJ (born Richard Melville Hall – he’s said that his middle name and the nickname “Moby” were due to an ancestral relationship to Moby Dick author Herman Melville), who once told the Music Network website that “I thought I would spend my whole life teaching philosophy at a community college and working at a bookstore and making music in my bedroom that no one else would listen to.”
But ever since he burst onto an unsuspecting audience with his 1992 self-titled debut album that made electronica palatable to the masses, Moby’s music has reached far beyond his bedroom. And just as quickly as he established himself in one music genre, he’s just as quickly confounded expectations – changing styles by releasing punk rock albums when other artists like The Chemical Brothers were reaping the rewards of the path he had forged and, in recent years, turning his back on the pop star-making machinery.
Now he’s made another left turn that has almost brought him back to his dance music roots with his new album Destroyed, featuring the hit “Be The One.”
“Musically, it’s very melodic and atmospheric and electronic, and if I had to sum it up I would describe it as ‘broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2 a.m.,’” he wrote on his website upon its release.
Elaborating, he added, “I don’t sleep very well when I travel. And as a result, I tend to be awake in cities when everyone else is asleep. That’s where this album and the pictures that accompany it come from. It was primarily written late at night in cities when I felt like I was the only person awake (or alive)…” Together with a book of photography of the same name, Moby has launched a world tour featuring an eight-piece band that hit the Middle East this week with shows in Dubai and Lebanon and will arrive in Tel Aviv on July 12 for the opening blast of the Pic.nic 2011 Festival at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.
Also on the diverse bill will be famed DJs Kruder & Dorfmeister, an Austrian duo known for their downtempo-dub remixes of pop, hip-hop and drum and bass songs, and Kaki King, the indescribable New York indie acoustic guitarist.
The lineup reflects the spectrum of Moby’s musical interests, which he admitted in an interview with the Music Network website may have baffled some of his fans over the years.
“I know if I wasn’t so eclectic I probably would have sold more records in my life because I think for some people the eclecticism has been very off-putting.
People come to concerts expecting different things. Every now and then at a concert we’ll play some punk rock songs, and half the audience will be irritated and baffled that I’m not playing dance music,” he said.
Still, unlike many artists who take their following for granted, Moby still seems surprised that the music he’s made for his own bedroom ears still attract an audience.
“It’s been very surprising, even now, to put out a record and get the sense that some people are still willing to listen to the music I make; it’s not what I expected… It’s safe to say that almost every aspect of the career I’ve had has been really unexpected and really surprising,” he said.
There’s every reason to think that the same will apply to Moby’s upcoming show in Tel Aviv.