Moby: In conversation

*Official description: This session, hosted by BMI, will take a look at the musician’s relationship with cinema, from composing original scores (Southland Tales) to contributing and licensing his music for film and TV projects (The Bourne Ultimatum, Heat). In addition, it will include a look at ‘moby gratis,’ the musician’s new endeavor to offer some of his music, free-of-charge, to independent filmmakers.*
Moby was born on 9/11. He calls it a ‘lazy’ day for his media friends because the tendency is to just reply footage of the planes crashing into buildings.
He did witness the original scene when he heard people screaming, because he lived nearby.
He was named after a whale, but he said it’s better than ‘Ahab’. And at the end of the book, the whale lived.
There’s another DJ in Houston, Texas called Moby but they haven’t had any naming rights issues.
Moby discovered when he was 25 that he had a half-brother. His mum never told him.
He once joked to a journalist that it could have been Karl Rove. The story ran in a gossip column. A couple weeks later, Karl Rove writes to him on official White House stationery assuring him they’re not related 🙂
The Bush family was Moby’s neighbour in Greenwich, Connecticut.
His first guitar teacher loved jazz fusion. When he was 13-14 he discovered punk rock and was in punk bands.
[shot 2 videos of Moby talking about 1) his student life 2) his views on flawed systems created with the best of intentions, like the welfare state ]
Moby’s comments on his blog and responding to comments:
“I want to take lessons from other musicians on how to be vague and esoteric.” He cites Radiohead’s Thom Yorke as an example of being mysterious. Moby adds he himself blogs about going to the grocery store, i.e. more mundane or down-to-earth stuff.
“Licensing music to films is a good way to impress a date.” (laughter) He adds however that may still not be enough to get laid.
He started a website called []( as he understood from his filmmaking friends that licensing music for films is painful. His website gives away music to Indie filmmakers. Right now there are 70 pieces of music and he will add more. Vast majority is new, unreleased stuff. He’s only publicised it to film schools and at Sundance so far.
When his music is used in commercial films which generate money, his revenue goes to the Humane Society. A worthy cause. He structured it so he never makes money from it, so he will always do it for the right reason.
Moby says the things he did to make money, made him miserable. Such as DJ’ing at corporate events.
He talks about the guy behind his label, who talent-spotted and signed Depeche Mode and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. While the rest of his signings have been relatively unknown, none have been dropped. Respect!
Moby’s worst album had a 1/10 star rating, but Terence Trent d’Arby loved it and Axel Rose said he had it on repeat in his car.
The best advice he’s given to himself: “Don’t take myself too seriously.”
While he’s a very open person, the one thing he’ll never do is tell people what he does for philanthropy, because he doesn’t want to do it for the wrong reasons. –> Another worthy principle.
Moby’s first project where he did start-to-finish film scores was Southland Tales, directed by Richard Kelly. “The script made no sense to me whatsoever, so I agreed to do it.” (laughter) Actually it was because Kelly wanted to use the music in an unconventional way. And usually music’s the last thing to be done in a film. The crew was filming with his music playing in their ears. His friends hated the final product but Moby’s proud of it, because it’s unusual.
What role does he see for music in activism? He did a political song with the Beastie Boys (?) but adds that fortunately he didn’t write the lyrics. He feels corporations and the world in general is complex and can’t be stereotyped. But the media is misogynistic and homophobic. It’s OK to have a song called Smacked my bitch up but surely they’d not let a song called ‘Smack my black up’ or ‘Smack my Jew up’ get through!
By the end of the 90’s he was ‘dismayed’ at the (low) level at which standards were set. He thinks it’s irresponsible for artistes to make sensational lyrics about abusing people, using hate speech. For Moby Gratis admittedly it will be hard to monitor whether his music will be used in hate films.
His dream project is to work with David Lynch on a movie. Moby respects him greatly as a sound designer. Also Takeshi Katano. He wants to work with more experimental films rather than big Hollywood blockbusters.
I’m impressed that Moby is conscientious enough to repeat every question asked so the rest of us can hear it. He is as intelligent and deep as I expected him to be.
The best way that anyone snuck into his concert: He met a woman in Russia at his concert. The dialogue:
Woman (heavy Russian accent): I snuck into your concert.
Moby: How did you sneak into my concert?
Woman: I told security I was your prostitute. (laughter) But I am not prostitute. I am student.
On licensing of music: 80-90% of all he’s done is for indie films, but it is hard to ensure his music is not overused. E.g. he gets so many requests to use the song ‘Porcelain’. His advice: Ask to use a less well-known song and you’ll have a better chance of getting it approved.
He listens to a lot of Led Zeppelin. He once got really drunk with Tommy Lee and __ and started a band but nothing came out of it. He misses the Blues influence in Indie rock today, which he feels has become ‘anaemic’.
What’s his workflow? He records his ideas on the piano or guitar, then goes to his studio to do electronic stuff. He uses Ableton, Reason, Logic and Pro Tools. He feels everyone’s familiar with Pro Tools. Ableton is his most favourite, just let it do its thing. (hmm I should give it a second look)
He re-iterates his stance against misogyny. At one scene he told girls who were asked to ‘show him their tits’, not to listen to the calls.
To be continued…


  1. Rock music fan

    I think it’s an awesome initiative what Moby has done. You can find many other great artists (not at his caliber though) licensing music for all types of uses directly to buyers worldwide at

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