Sunday, February 27, 2011

Moby Interview @ New Music Seminar LA February 2011

Me & Paul w/Moby holding a sticker from his old high school
Richard Melville Hall was given the nickname Moby as a baby to reference his great-great-great-grand uncle Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. Although born in Harlem, he spent much of his childhood growing up in my hometown of Darien, CT, a suburb of NYC. Moby was just scraping by in this affluent town with his single mother who had grown up here. He lived with his maternal grandparents at the corner of Oak Crest Road as well as in a garage apartment on Noroton Avenue near Middlesex Road. There's also a great story about Moby playing with Robert Downey Jr. in the basement of the house across from mine at the bottom of Mansfield Avenue, while the parents were getting high upstairs (the Downeys rented it while in a NYC production).

As a boy, Moby attended Royle Elementary School, then Middlesex Middle School as well as Mather Junior High School (now the Town Hall). As a member of Darien High School's Class of '83, Moby Hall hung out in the AV room, helping teacher Cece Lefferts by indulging in all things technical even then -- from cameras and projectors to sound equipment. After school, he'd play around with instruments in the home and continue studies on guitar with Chris Rizzola, who also lived on Noroton Avenue at the time. Moby played in punk bands while working at Johnnie's Records on Tokeneke Road and was a DJ at The Beat club in Port Chester until moving back into the city, putting down roots in NYC's Lower East Side before the term gentrification even applied.

As co-owner of a tea shop and active in animal rights, he promoted a vegan lifestyle while partying really, really hard (he is now sober but for only a few years). His work caught on first in the clubs of Europe and then the U.S. during the mid-90s, with a fast rise to celebrity stardom that he clearly attributes to being at the right place at the right time. Moby's humility and humor infuses everything he does, while his casual conversation is infused with vocabulary that would make a DHS English teacher proud. When I was able to schedule an interview out in L.A. during the New Music Seminar, I brought him a "Blue Wave Pride" sticker from his alma mater. He asked if it was really from Darien, as he's run into a few other wave mascots similar to his high school so really seemed pleased to have it. This was just months after switching coasts and maybe having a small taste of home was appreciated. I had met Moby twice over the years: signing T-shirts in Stamford for an arts collaborative he organized and the night he gave a talk at the Darien Community Center (at the after party at Ernie's, his first time at the local dive bar!) I'd also seen him in concert but it was a thrill to sit down with him and discuss everything from our shared suburban lifestyle to his new life in L.A. Here we are with my sound guy Paul after the interview and between panel discussions at the seminar -- interview for PopMatters at link here.