Moby: 12 May 2011 – New York

[17 May 2011]

By Jane Jansen Seymour

The auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum was filled for the latest “In Conversation” program featuring Moby and John Schaefer, host of WNYC’s “Soundcheck” and “New Sounds”. The two reminisced about the community of musicians and clubs of the ‘80s when Moby was just starting out as a musician in the Lower East Side. “New York will always be my home,” Moby declared after being asked how he liked living in Los Angeles. But for as long as Moby has been making music, he has also been taking photos – he’s just never shared them publicly before. 

The discussion turned to Moby’s latest works, a book of photographs and the accompanying musical release, both called Destroyed. Moby called the cover shot for each “a portrait of my soul”. It features a long white hallway in NYC’s LaGuardia Airport awash in fluorescent lighting. The black sign is spelling out how “unattended luggage will be destroyed”, but Moby waited to take the photo until the sign had only the last word “destroyed”. These are the scenes he finds comforting, admitting how he actually loves florescent lights. On the other hand, the shots of audiences from his tours he finds “disconcerting and terrifying”. A crowd with their arms up looked to Moby like a Bruegel painting of hell and the set up found backstage was referred to as something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Many of the photographs, like the music for Destroyed, were created in the middle of the night while on tour and dealing with “crippling insomnia”. Yet the beauty of the glittering lights of a city or a lonely melody comes through. Moby still makes records, saying he’s flattered if people listen to some or all of his new collection of songs. As a proud “lit nerd” he titles songs such as “Lie Down in Darkness”, referring to the William Styron novel and “Victoria Lucas”, which was Sylvia Path’s pseudonym. The video for “Victoria Lucas” was shown on the big screen on stage, a DIY project using footage of Moby driving around Los Angeles (with a new license) holding a Flip camera. “The Day” was then shown in juxtaposition, a fully realized theatrical piece directed by his friend Evan Bernard. Moby pointed out that his uncle who was “a very, very good photographer” for The New York Times joins him in the video.

Members of Moby’s band then appeared on stage for an acoustic set of music. When seeing them all dressed stylishly in black, Moby commented how he looked more like a cross between “roadie in a jam band and a soccer Dad from Wisconsin”. The contemplative song, “The Great Escape”, from 18 was offered up first before the gospel yearning of “Natural Blues”, off of Play. A pared down version of “We Are Made of Stars”, was followed by Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” in which the audience was enlisted to fill in for the trumpet solo. Moby is known for his love of cover songs, saying how he’d love to be in a cover band in a motel somewhere in New Jersey. He indulged in Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotte Love”, Neil Young’s “Helpless” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before a few more of his own older compositions to finish up the evening.

Destroyed images:

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