(born Richard Melville Hall, September 11, 1965) is an American DJ, songwriter, musician and singer.
He plays keyboard, guitar, bass guitar and drums. After eight top 40 singles in the UK in the 1990s he released the album Play, in 1999, which sold 9 million copies worldwide1. His follow up albums, 18, Hotel, and Last Night sold 6 million copies and have achieved gold and platinum status in over 30 countries.
He has also released music under the names Voodoo Child, Barracuda, Brainstorm, UHF, AWOL, Vatican Commandoes, The Brotherhood, DJ Cake, Lopez, Mindstorm, Schaumgummi and Pork Guys.
Early life and name
He was born in Harlem, New York, and raised by his mother in Darien, Connecticut. He grew up very poor, as he and his mother were on welfare and food-stamps until he was.
His parents nicknamed him "Moby" soon after birth, due to his ancestral relationship to Moby Dick author Herman Melville, Moby's great-great-great-great uncle.
Moby started playing music when he was nine years old, originally studying classical guitar and music theory, and eventually learning piano and drums.
From 1982-1985 Moby was in a hardcore punk band called the Vatican Commandos, who released an EP called Hit Squad for God. He was also in a Joy Division-inspired post-punk group called AWOL, who released an eponymous album in 1983.
He first started DJ'ing at a dive bar called The Beat in Port Chester, New York in 1984, originally playing punk and goth records, but eventually switching over to hip-hop and house music. He attended UCONN and SUNY Purchase, studying philosophy and photography.
After years of pursuing a record deal he signed a recording contract with Instinct Records in 1989. During this time, Moby lived in an abandoned factory in a crack-infested neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut, and his loft in the abandoned factory had neither running water nor heat. "I used to collect bottles and cans and wait in line with homeless people to return them so that I could make enough money to buy groceries." — Moby.
His first single for Instinct was "Mobility," but it was the second single, "Go," a progressive house track using the string line from "Laura Palmer's Theme" from the TV drama Twin Peaks, which reached the UK top ten in October 1991 and earned him his first appearance on Top of the Pops.
In 1991 and 1992, he also remixed the Prodigy, Orbital, Erasure, Michael Jackson, and Ten City, and In 1992 he toured with The Prodigy, Richie Hawtin, and John Acquaviva. Some of his other singles in 1992 and 1993 were "Next Is The E," "Thousand" (the world's fastest song, according to the Guinness Book of World Records), "Drop a Beat" (featured on The Simpsons), and "Voodoo Child."
In 1994 Moby signed with Mute Records and released an ep entitled Move. This became his second appearance on Top of the Pops. During this time he also went on tour with Orbital and Aphex Twin in North America.
He then released his first album, Everything Is Wrong, on Mute Records in 1995. Early copies (in the UK at least) came with a special bonus CD called Underwater. This was a 43-minute five-track instrumental ambient CD. Everything Is Wrong earned early critical praise (Spin Magazine named it Album of The Year) and some commercial success. He followed this up in early 1996 with the double album Everything Is Wrong—Mixed and Remixed. In 1995 Moby also headlined the second stage at Lollapalooza, playing alongside Beck, Sonic Youth, and Pavement.
In 1996 he released a punk rock album called Animal Rights and toured Europe with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden. Moby usually writes all his own music, occasionally with collaborators, but Animal Rights included a cover version of Mission of Burma's That's When I Reach for My Revolver. The single "Come on Baby" from Animal Rights was Moby's third Top of the Pops performance. It was notable for its very aggressive look and sound.
In 1997, he released I Like to Score, a collection of his music that had been used in movies. Among those tracks was an updated version of the James Bond Theme used for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and his cover of "New Dawn Fades" by Joy Division, which had appeared in Michael Mann's Heat.
In 1999 Moby released the album Play. Play was released to poor reviews and poor sales, but eventually went on to sell over nine million records worldwide. Many of the songs on Play were licensed to films, advertisements, and TV shows, but the majority of licenses were to independent films and non-profit groups. Moby performed three times on Top of the Pops with Play.
In 2002 Moby released the follow up to Play, 18, which earned gold and platinum awards in over 30 countries, and sold more than four million copies. Moby toured extensively for both Play and 18, playing well over 500 shows in the course of four years.
He founded the Area:One Festival in 2001, a popular touring festival that features an eclectic range of musical genres. The Area:One tour featured: Outkast, Moby, New Order, Incubus, Nelly Furtado, and Paul Oakenfold. Area2 tour (2002) featured David Bowie, Moby, Blue Man Group, Busta Rhymes, and Carl Cox.
In 2001, Moby also earned the ire of rapper Eminem after Moby called Eminem's music misogynist and homophobic; Eminem later satirized Moby (among others) in Without Me, declaring "Nobody listens to techno!" The two got into a confrontation at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, along with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
In the next few years, Moby co-wrote "Is It Any Wonder" with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, remixed the Beastie Boys and David Bowie and Nas and Metallica, produced and wrote a song for Britney Spears, and collaborated with Public Enemy on "Make Love, Fuck War", which was released prior to the 2004 presidential election. Moby also had his song "Extreme Ways" used in the Jason Bourne movies. Although not a hit when it was released, "Extreme Ways" has gone on to become Moby's most downloaded song.
In 2004 Moby worked on the John Kerry presidential campaign, and also worked extensively with liberal group moveon.org.
In 2005 Moby released Hotel. Instead of his relying on samples for vocals, all of the vocals and instruments were performed live in the studio, by Moby and vocalist Laura Dawn.
Hotel spawned two of Moby's biggest European hits, "Lift Me Up" and "Slipping Away," both of which were #1 European singles. Hotel went on to earn gold and platinum awards in over twenty countries, with global sales of over two million copies.
In 2006 Moby also acted in the movie Pittsburgh, with Jeff Goldblum and Illeana Douglas.
In 2006 He accepted an offer to score the soundtrack for Richard Kelly's 2007 movie Southland Tales because he was a fan of Kelly's previous film, Donnie Darko.
In 2007 Moby launched a website entitled mobygratis.com. mobygratis provides free music for film students and independent and non-profit filmmakers. It is a non-profit venture, with any/all revenue earned by mobygratis.com going to the Humane Society/HSUS.
In 2007 Moby also started a rock band, The Little Death, NYC, with his friends Laura Dawn, Daron Murphy, and Aaron Brooks.
In 2008 Moby released Last Night, an eclectic album of electronic dance music inspired by a night out in his New York neighborhood (the Lower East Side). The singles from Last Night include "Alice," "Disco Lies," "I Love To Move In Here," and "Ooh Yeah."
Moby has collaborated live with many of his heroes while on tour or at fundraisers. He has performed "Walk on the Wild Side" with Lou Reed, "Me and Bobby McGee" with Kris Kristofferson, "Heroes" with David Bowie, "Helpless" with Bono and Michael Stipe, "New Dawn Fades" with New Order, "Make Love, Fuck War" with Public Enemy, "Whole Lotta Love" with Slash, and "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" with Mission Of Burma, among others.
Many Moby albums include essays that he has written himself in the inlay card. Everything Is Wrong had essays on over-consumption ("We use toxic chlorine bleach to keep our underpants white") and U.S. religious leaders ("Why doesn't the Christian right go out and spread mercy, compassion and selflessness?"), and The End of Everything discussed being a vegan ("Could you look an animal in the eyes and say to it, 'My appetite is more important than your suffering'?").
Moby is a vegan, and self-proclaimed "simpleton". He has expressed pro-choice views. He lives in New York City's Little Italy, where he has lived for a decade in a small apartment in a five-story building across the street from David Bowie. Until recently he co-owned a small restaurant and tea shop called TeaNY, where he occasionally waited tables. He also organized the Little Idiot Collective, a group of artists.
In an interview with Psychology Today, Moby stated that when he was 19, he tried LSD and began suffering from panic attacks. He claims that he no longer experiences them as frequently as he used to, but occasionally he will "have too much caffeine, be stressed out about work and be in a relationship that's not going well, and it will happen again." He is very open about this in an attempt to help fans who suffer from similar panic disorders.
When asked about drugs, he responded: "I'm sort of a libertarian. People should be able to do what they want. I ultimately defer the wisdom to an adult to make their own choices. If someone wants to do drugs, I think it's their own business and not the business of the state."
Moby is an advocate for a variety of causes, working with MoveOn and The Humane Society, among others. He created MoveOn Voter Fund's Bush in 30 Seconds contest along with singer/ MoveOn Cultural Director Laura Dawn and MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser. The music video for the song "Disco Lies" from From Last Night has heavy anti-meat industrial themes, evoking the activism of PETA.
He also actively engages in nonpartisan activism, and serves on the Board of Directors of Amend.org, a nonprofit that implements injury prevention programs in Africa.
Moby is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing scientific inquiry on music and the brain and to developing clinical treatments to benefit people of all ages9. He has also performed on various benefit concerts to help increase awareness for music therapy and raise funds for the Institute. In 2004, he was honored with the IMNF’s "Music Has Power Award" for his advocacy of music therapy and for his dedication and support to its recording studio program.
He is an advocate of network neutrality and he testified before House of Representatives committee debating the issue in 2006.
In a 2003 BBC interview, Moby spoke about his encounter with the Gospels, "In about 1985 I read the teachings of Christ and was instantly struck by the idea that Christ was somehow divine. When I say I love Christ and love the teachings of Christ I mean that in the most simple and naïve and subjective way. I'm not saying I'm right, and I certainly wouldn't criticize anyone else's beliefs."
In a September 20, 2006 audio interview with Sojourners Magazine, he says, "I read the New Testament, specifically the gospels and I was struck at their divinity, feeling that humans could not have figured this out on their own. We're just not bright enough." He also discusses his faith on his own weblog. On January 19, 2007, in his reaction to seeing Alexandra Pelosi's Friends of God, a film about evangelism in the United States, Moby writes, "The movie reminded me just how utterly disconnected the agenda of the evangelical Christian right is from the teachings of Christ."
He supports the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.