Interview: Moby on Life in Los Feliz and 'Hotel Ambient'

Interview: Moby on Life in Los Feliz and 'Hotel Ambient' moby-hollywood-forever-cemetery

While settling into his new home in Los Feliz, dance music producer Moby is planning a return to the stage at the intimate Hollywood Forever Cemetery to celebrate the re-release of 2005's Hotel Ambient.

While settling into his new home in Los Feliz, dance music producer Moby is planning a return to the stage at the intimate Hollywood Forever Cemetery to celebrate the re-release of 2005's Hotel Ambient. We recently spoke with him about life in LA, plans for a new full-length album and the Hotel Ambient re-release. Moby performs at Hollywood Forever Cemetery for three shows Dec. 16-18. Tickets are sold out. We read about your big new purchase. Have you moved into your new Los Feliz home? I had an offer to sell my house a few months ago, so I found a much simpler house in Los Feliz right by Griffith Park and I moved in here about two months ago. The house still needs a bunch of work. I’m happily setup with my studio here trying to finish my next record. What attracted you to the area? Well, it’s funny, now that I’ve lived in LA for awhile, I think that my criteria of what I’m looking for in a house has changed. Honestly, not to sound like too much of a cliché hippie but top of my list of what I was looking for was just easy access to nature. One of the most unique things about LA is that it’s a huge city but we have in many cases really easy access to honest to goodness nature. So I looked for a house that was within walking distance of Griffith Park and luckily found one. Do you have any favorite local haunts? An obvious one that everyone loves is Trails Café, which is right by the west entrance to Griffith Park. Lately, I’ve been going to the Punch Bowl quite a lot. It’s this organic juice bar in Los Feliz started by some people in Brooklyn, and then they moved it here. Oddly enough, that area called Franklin Village seems like it attracted so many people moving from New York because they can walk to the grocery store. With Loz Feliz and Franklin Village, in general, it’s kind of nice in a very practical way living in a small town in the middle of a city of fifteen million people. What will you miss most about your old house Wolf’s Lair? It’s a really lovely, fancy place but what I’ll miss most about it is the wildlife that was there. The house itself was on a few acres and it backed up into the park, so on a daily basis I saw so many weird creatures: rattlesnakes, lizards, coyotes, deer, raccoons, skunks, eagles, hawks and falcons. Especially the lizards—for some reason that house attracted lots of these little adorable lizards, like three inches long. You've spoken on the subject of high rents driving artists away from New York City. This process is happening in LA in places like the Arts District Downtown, Echo Park and Silver Lake. What do you think is a solution to this constant gentrification and subsequent exodus of the artistic community? It’s a good question because one of the reasons why these communities have been so dynamic, so vibrant and so interesting is because of the artists. What we see in New York and in other places is when the artists leave, the communities lose a lot of their character and they really suffer. In a way, the problems in LA are all double-edged swords—a lot of this city’s problems also create good things. For example, we have terrible traffic. But because we have terrible traffic people sit in their cars and listen to the radio and we have the best public radio on the planet. KCRW thrives because people sit in traffic and listen to KCRW. One of the other things that has really benefited LA in terms of keeping gentrification at bay, sadly, is that we don’t have great public transportation. In New York, London and other places that are really hurt by gentrification, the gentrification happens where there’s public transportation. In New York, look at Bushwick. The gentrification in Bushwick is the product of the L train. In a very perverse way, the fact that LA is this sprawling car culture does mean that neighborhoods that are being gentrified can be left very easily. Five years ago, en masse, all of my friends moved to Highland Park. As Highland Park becomes gentrified, who knows where they’re gonna go next. There’s no shortage of space. LA is so big, I feel like the gentrification can be a problem but it’s never going to be the complete stranglehold of gentrification that happens in other cities because of the vastness of LA and the fact that everyone drives. If you’re in Echo Park and the rent gets too high, an artist can just pack up his car and move somewhere else in LA and find cheaper rent. Ideally, the artist wouldn’t have to leave, but it’s nice to know that LA is so vast that at least there’s somewhere for them to go. You’re staying close to home with the shows for the Hotel Ambient re-release (just three Southern California shows). What inspired this re-release and accompanying shows? I’ve been obsessed with hearing quiet ambient music since the 70s when I first started hearing Brian Eno’s records. Throughout the course of my career I’ve made a lot of quiet ambient music and either tucked it in to some of the albums I’ve made or released stand-alone ambient records. This particular record was a bonus disk on an album called Hotel that came out about 10 years ago. We only made about 10,000 copies of this bonus disk. It was owned by EMI and I tried for years to get EMI to re-release it, but I guess they just didn’t understand why they would want to re-release an album that has no vocals, no songs and no drums on it. Finally, six months ago I got the rights back, so I own it now and that’s the main reason why we’re re-releasing. Maybe this sounds self-serving, but it’s a really calm, pretty record that I love. I don’t expect too many people to buy it or listen to it. I feel like, in a way, the nature of ambient music is that it’s quite utilitarian; it serves a very specific purpose in someone’s life. You can put it on and it’s very undemanding, calming and it can sometimes serve as like a nice refuge or antidote to daily quotidian stress. That’s mainly why I wanted to release it, and then I just thought it would be interesting to try and do some live ambient shows because I’ve never really done that. I also I hate touring. So I thought to myself, how can I do some live shows and not really go on tour? I did that for my last album, Innocent, too. The entire tour was three shows at the Fonda Theater. The entire tour this time is three shows at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the fundraiser in Joshua Tree National Park. How did you decide on the Masonic Temple at Hollywood Forever Cemetery? Will this be your first time performing in a cemetery? I think it will be my first time performing in a cemetery. The way I picked it was I had gone there a few years ago to see Sigur Rós. They were using the Masonic Temple as their dressing room. I went in to say hi to them and was walking around the Masonic Temple and I was just stunned at how remarkably beautiful it was. I heard that they started doing shows in the Masonic Temple and so it was my first choice of venue to do these ambient shows. In a way these shows are almost site specific. You also recently released a big room track, “Ow” with Acti, which is the polar opposite of your upcoming rerelease Hotel Ambient. What prompts such variety in your music? Do you have a preferred genre to produce in? My musical background is so weird. When I was really young I played classical music. Then I played in punk rock bands, industrial bands and I was even a hip-hop DJ for a while. When it comes to genres, I don’t really feel I have any preference or allegiance. The nice thing now is I feel like generally people have become a lot more comfortable with eclecticism. In the 90s I was playing in a punk rock band but also making dance music and it confused a lot of people. Now I feel somehow that eclecticism is a little more ubiquitous than it used to be. But at the same time, I think that ideally the goal of a musician is to try to make music that they love in the hopes that other people will love it as well. You’re an author, a composer, a producer, an activist, a photographer, an entrepreneur and more. Is there anything you haven’t had a go at that you are interested to try in the future? Definitely, many things. Unfortunately, most of the things I’m interested in I’m not really qualified to pursue professionally. I’d love to work more in science because that’s sort of my obsession, but I’m a college dropout and I had been a philosophy student so I’m wholly unqualified to really do anything professionally in the world of science. I just remain a dilettante who is obsessed with science and loves hanging out with smart scientists. What’s next? What is this next album you mentioned earlier? It’s not finished so I don’t really know what it will sound like. In the 21st century I don’t really expect people to buy the records that I make. Ninety percent of the satisfaction I get around making records is simply the act of making the record. Then it’s fun putting them out into the world. In the old days I’d put a record out into the world and really hope that people would buy it. Now I put a record out into the world and my hope is that someone somewhere might just listen to it.
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