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'Fancy celebrity public figure excess'? Not Moby

  • Story Highlights
  • Moby's new album is called "Wait for Me"; it's quieter, more melancholy
  • First single is experimental and brash, which appeals to Moby's punk side
  • Musician now keeps his distance from celebrity stuff for his health
By Shanon Cook
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Moby describes himself as "a 43-year-old bald guy who likes to make music in his bedroom."

Vegetarian Moby made a push for "Meat Free Monday" with Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono.

Moby's new album, "Wait for Me," is more personal and intimate than his previous work.

If people like the music, that's OK, he says. And if not, that's OK, too.

"I'm at my happiest when I'm working on music for myself," he says. "The moment I start thinking about market forces or radio play things start to go wrong. If I try to craft a radio-friendly pop song I end up with garbage."

Moby, who calls his alter-ego Little Idiot ("because I'm small and I'm not very bright"), says the commercial success of his decade-old album "Play" was "completely accidental."

His latest DIY contribution came out two weeks ago. Called "Wait For Me" (Mute), it strikes a very different tone to 2008's thumping dance record, "Last Night." Video Watch Moby get "messy" »

"This is a much sadder, more melancholy record than I've made in the past," he said. "It doesn't necessarily mean that I'm feeling more sad and more melancholy. I really love personal, intimate, vulnerable, sad records."

Moby sat down with CNN to discuss the dark title of the album's lead track, how film director David Lynch surprised him with the music video and feeling awkward with the MTV crowd.

CNN: Love the cheery title of your [instrumental] single "Shot in the Back of the Head." Tell me about the song.

Moby: I was with some friends a couple years ago, and I don't know if your friends do this, but we were talking about how we wanted to die. ... Most people would say they want to die in their sleep at peace, or in bed surrounded by loved ones. And my friend Alex said that she wants to die walking down 34th Street and having a complete stranger come up behind her and shooting her in the back of the head. And I thought there was something kind of funny about that. Poetic. A bit morbid. And funny.

A lot of times if I have songs that are lyric-based, the lyrics determine the title of the song. [But] with an instrumental ... what do you call it? So I pick utterly random titles more often than not.

CNN: What was David Lynch's reaction when you asked him to do the video?

Moby: Well, David Lynch is one of my heroes. ... In the last year and a half we've sort of become friends. ...

So I sent him this song "Shot in the Back of the Head" and I asked if he had any footage lying around that I could borrow for a music video. And then five days later he sends me a completely finished music video that he'd illustrated and animated himself. ...

The old punk rocker in me is very happy with the fact that the first single from my album is an instrumental that can't get played on commercial radio with an obscure dark video by David Lynch that can't get played on MTV. ...

But then again I come from such a weird underground punk-rock background that it always felt like a weird fit for me to be part of the more mainstream commercial world. I would be at an MTV award show sitting in between Ludacris and Christina Aguilera just wondering, "What am I doing here?"

CNN: David Lynch influenced you to [follow your bliss], didn't he?

Moby: He was talking about creativity and he was essentially saying that creativity in and of itself is fine, like the validity of creative expression should not be determined by how market friendly it is. And I realized that he's right. Life is short.

My goal as a musician is not to come up with great marketing plans or not to make commercial market-friendly music. It's to try and make beautiful music that I love and that hopefully other people will love.

CNN: You've said that you didn't enjoy the mainstream success that came after your album "Play" blew up. Is that really true?

Moby: I admit, at first I loved it. To go from basically being a has-been to dating movie stars and going to fancy celebrity parties ... it was exciting.

But then I realized the more I toured, the more I drank, the more I stayed out late, the more I got involved in that world of fancy celebrity public figure excess, the less happy I was. So now I like to look at the world of fame and celebrity from a distance.

CNN: Is it true that you recorded most of this album in your bedroom on semi-broken equipment?

Moby: I have a strange obsession with old electronic equipment. Computers are amazing tools for making music, but the downside to making music with computers is you can make really perfect music. ... I like messy music. ...

I wanted to make a record that was a little quieter, a little more idiosyncratic, recorded with old busted-up equipment and something that had a quality of vulnerability to it.

CNN: You've said you want people to listen to this new album from start to finish, to appreciate it as a cohesive body of work. Isn't that a tall order?

Moby: It's more a humble/presumptuous request. I understand and fully accept that the majority of people who listen to this record will maybe listen to a song here and there on shuffle on their iPod. ... But when I make an album I try very hard to craft something cohesive. ...

If [a listener listens to the whole thing], great. If not, I'm still just flattered and excited that someone will make the effort to listen to any of the music that I make.

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CNN: You were involved in the season finale of [the NBC program] "30 Rock." Are you a fan?

Moby: Yeah. I got a call asking if I wanted to be a part of the season finale. And I didn't have to think. ... If they had said, "Would you like to come and clean the toilets on set?" I would've said yes.

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