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    Moby – Interview About Veganism, "Always Centered At Night", and Tour Plans

    "Self-Care Has to be Part of Activism"

    Interview von Anne
    25.06.2024 — Lesezeit: 13 min
    Deutsche Version lesen
    Moby – Interview About Veganism, "Always Centered At Night", and Tour Plans

    Moby has always been one of my biggest influences regarding veganism and animal rights—and has been formative for my taste in music since the '90s. With his new album "Always Centered At Night", he started a new chapter once again – and there is a lot more going on right now with his upcoming Germany tour (of which he's planning to donate the entire profits to animal rights organizations) and a new animal rights movie in the making at Little Walnut. I had the chance to talk to my idol on a 30-minute online call and asked him at least a few of the questions that have accumulated over the years and a few about how his current projects are progressing. So, here is my interview! Please enjoy reading!

    Anne: Hi, Moby! Wow! It's such an honor to speak to you today! I have so many questions for you, and I have to be quite disciplined to pack this all into 30 minutes! As a big fan since the early days, I followed your work throughout the years—from the first Moby songs that popped up on raves in Germany in the '90s to your autobiography, "Porcelain", your podcast, Moby Pod, and—not to forget—your enthusiastic and inspiring engagement within the animal rights and vegan movement—and your newest album, "Always Centered At Night", of course! Congrats also on this one! It is an immense pleasure to have you! Thanks for taking this time for me. I truly appreciate it. How are you doing? How did you spend your day so far?

    Moby: It's 9:45 here in Los Angeles, and so far, my day has been very nice but very boring (laughs). I had a very long breakfast. I ate, drank tea, read the news, and a book. Then, I did yoga outside and started doing interviews after that.

    Anne: You released your new album, "Always Centered at Night", on June 14th. What was your biggest inspiration when writing the songs?

    "Working with these amazing voices for 'Always Centered at Night' was a big inspiration for me"

    Moby. Bild/Picture: © Mike Formanski
    Moby. Bild/Picture: © Mike Formanski

    Moby: I just had two inspirations. One was working with these amazing voices. From when I was very young, I always wanted to be a great singer, but I learned early on that I'm not a bad singer, but certainly not a great singer. So, starting in the early '90s, I realized if I wanted to have beautiful voices on my records, I had to work with great vocalists.

    So, this record, for me, is very much about of a tribute to these really special voices. But also, I was inspired by a bit of nostalgia—remembering what it was like to be in New York in the early '80s when music didn't really have a genre attached to it. You know, you would go to a record store or a nightclub and people would be dancing to so many different types of music. That was such an eclectic approach towards music. So, even though this record doesn't sound nostalgic, that's what I was inspired by. That feeling of discovering music where none of the songs sound the same, but you fall in love with each one of them.

    Anne: You recorded the songs on "Always Centered at Night" with artists like Benjamin Zephaniah, who sadly passed away recently, as well as serpentwithfeet ("on air"), Jose James ("ache for"), Gaidaa ("transit") Akemi Fox ("fall back") and Aynzli Jones ("medusa") and the soul-jazz singer Lady Blackbird, who is also featured on the pre-release of the album, "Dark Days". Some of them happen to be good friends of yours. Do they also share your views about animal rights and veganism?

    Moby: Benjamin Zephaniah especially. For me, he was the most imprinting person to work with because he's the only vocalist I ever approached because of his activism. Normally, when I work with a singer, I'm just focused on their voice and their ability to sing or speak. You know, I'm purely focused on the voice, whilst in his case, I became aware of him years ago because of his vegan activism. I liked that he was so outspoken in the most unapologetic but strong way. He wasn't aggressive, but he also wasn't weak. It was like he found this perfect middle ground where he could stay with his beliefs without necessarily looking to get into a fight with someone. So, I initially reached out to him as an activist and then fell in love with his voice. But I, first and foremost, had so much respect for his activism.

    Anne: I'd love to stay with the veganism topic for two questions before coming back to some more news about your projects. As a vegan myself, you've been inspiring me for quite a while now. I think it's your powerful, cause-driven, and, at the same time, very natural and zen-seeming way of raising your voice for the animals. In a way, this also empowered me to carry on doing what I'm doing—combining the two most essential things in my life—music and veganism/animal rights on Sounds Vegan.

    I heard some insights about your vegan journey on Moby Pod, especially about the part about what inspired you to go vegan in 1987. You also wrote about that in "Porcelain," so the part about not wanting to harm any living beings, becoming straight-edged, and the wish to swap fast food for nutritious food. One thing that I'm curious about is: Were there any specific people who inspired you to go vegan and join the animal rights movement?

    "I had to be a hundred percent vegan"

    Moby
    Moby

    Moby: Yea! I mean, I went vegetarian in 1984 because, back then, I thought vegetarianism was radical enough. You know, I thought just giving up meat, chicken, and fish was going to be enough because, like many people, I didn't know that producing milk and eggs, especially on an industrial level, is actually worse because the animals are being kept alive, and they're being tortured. So, the book that really inspired me—and in the mid-80s, there wasn't much information—was "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins. That was the one that made me realize I can't just be a vegetarian; I have to be a hundred percent vegan. And, of course, the other book that everyone was inspired by back then was Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation". And then, of course, the sort of well-known people I knew back then. I think that was Dr. Neil Bernard. He had a column in the PETA Newsletter. He was one of the first people I started reading about veganism and health. So, I'd say those three people—John Robbins, Neil Bernard, and Peter Singer—were the first three people I read who actually wrote about veganism back when veganism was so weird that no one even said the word vegan.

    Anne: Bernard's piece on cheese inspired me a lot when I went from vegetarian to vegan. I think I also read it in the PETA magazine. It's been quite a while since you went vegan. I think we agree that once you're "on the other side," it's impossible to go back—once you've seen all the cruelty against animals and the unnecessary exploitation. I've noticed that this starts to feel worse again at indefinite intervals—like in waves—you know, not being able to do anything with a bigger impact. When this happens, I need to dive even deeper into topics such as factory farming or fur farms, for example. Did this happen to you, too, along the way? You know, like phases when you feel the urge to help and to do more, but there's this natural boundary of a society that is convinced humans need meat and dairy to survive, and you can't convince the whole of humankind at once. I'm very sure your engagement already has a lot of impact, by the way! But did this happen to that, too?

    "Simply stop hurting animals!"

    Moby: When I first went vegan in '87, my assumption was that all I had to do was tell people the truth. I always thought the reason why everyone isn't vegan was simply that they don't know, and they haven't thought about the horror of producing meat, dairy, eggs, fur, leather, wool, and everything. I just thought all I had to do was tell people the truth, and they would change their lives. But the funny thing with animal rights activism is that everyone already agrees with us. You can sit down with a room full of a hundred people and ask them what they feel about animal suffering. They will tell you they're horrified by animal suffering. If you ask them about animal abuse, they're horrified by animal abuse. In that point, we all agree with each other. The only difference is that we turn our beliefs into actions, and that's when the break happens. It's like you go to someone and say, "Ok, you're horrified by animal abuse. You don't want to contribute to animal suffering. So, then the next logical question is, "Ok, then go vegan!". And at that point, they punch you in the face. Or they get mad, or they ridicule you. And all that you're saying is, "If you don't want animals to suffer if you don't want to contribute to animal suffering, there's an incredibly easy way to achieve that." As you know, as I know, it's simply stop paying for it and stop supporting the industries that cause animal suffering. And it's just so strange that this seems to be so confusing. That people don't understand that the only logical conclusion if you don't want to hurt animals is not hurting animals.

    Anne: Yes, and that there's no difference between a cat and a cow or a dog and a pig!

    Moby: Yea! When you become vegan, you learn that and then a couple of years pass, and then you realize no one is interested. And then, from my perspective, I started to get really angry. I was like, "Why aren't people willing to change?" and "Why aren't people willing to live in accordance with their actual beliefs?" Then you want to go to a fur shop and throw fake blood on people. Then, you want to join the ALF and burn down slaughterhouses. Then you listen to Earth Crisis, and it's starting to make sense. But then what happened with me—and I think it happens to a lot of people—is that time passes, and you start to think that if you really care and if you really want the world to change, you have to try and be as strategic as possible. You know, throwing fake blood on someone at a fur store might be satisfying, but it doesn't necessarily change their minds. It just makes them angry. So then, you know, what I was trying to do in the past 20 years was trying to be strategic. Trying to make sure that my activism is sustainable—meaning, can I do it every day for the rest of my life?—and also, is it expectably effective? After all, the role of activism is not for me to feel good. The role of activism is to change the world.

    Anne: That actually makes a lot of sense. Especially the part where you said, "Can I do it for the rest of my life?". That's quite inspiring.

    Moby: So many activists get burned out. I mean, so many people I knew who were in the animal rights movement just got burned out. They turned to liquor, they turned to drugs, and some of them started eating bacon again. My approach is, "How do I keep doing this forever?". I want to be focused on animal rights activism every second until I die. That's the goal, and as a result, part of activism has to be self-care. So, it has to be eating healthy, meditating, going hiking, being in nature, listen to music. Self-care is what enables us to be healthy, strong activists every day for the rest of our lives.

    Anne: After several years, you're planning to tour Germany in September to celebrate the 25th anniversary of your groundbreaking album, "Play", which is the best-selling electronic music album until today. I think you sold 12 million copies? I can assure you we are all beyond excited about seeing you on stage again! One thing that is special about your tour is your plan to donate a hundred percent of your tour profits to animal rights organizations—that's also part of your activism. When did you come up with that plan? Was it a thing that you always wanted to do?

    Moby: Basically, I love playing music, but I'm very happy to not go on tour. I'm happy in my backyard and playing acoustic guitar while eating vegan pizza. I don't need to go on tour and stand on stage. I just love to play music. So, manager Dave, who I worked with for a very long time—I think 35 years—was asking me if I'd go on tour. I kept saying no because I don't like living in hotel rooms; I don't like airplanes or airports. I just don't like the life of being on tour. And then he realized the only way to get me going on tour was to give the money away. Whilst I can say no to myself, I can't say no to something that might help animals. So, the only reason for going on tour is the fact that I can give one hundred percent of my tour income to animal rights organizations. That's the only reason I'm going on tour.

    Anne: So, all for the animals. That's so wonderful!

    You already told me that there lies a lot of nostalgia in your new album, and I heard there's also a lot of it in coming back here and the fact you landed hits with different songs in Germany than in the US or the UK—besides pensive and reflective songs like "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" and "Porcelain", that I love so much, it's always been especially the more "ravy" stuff like "Feeling So Real" and "Go" that made people go crazy over here in Germany. Do you have an explanation for that?

    "I always wanted to make music for the love of making music"

    Moby. Bild/Picture: © Lindsay Hicks
    Moby. Bild/Picture: © Lindsay Hicks

    Moby: I'm not exactly sure. I just spent my career as a musician, but I don't really have any good insights into my career as a musician. My approach was always just making music for the love of making music that people like, and if they don't like it, that's ok, too. But, you know, I know a lot of musicians, and in order to have a career, they just play one type of music, and I understand that. It definitely makes having a career easier. If you want to tour every year for 30 years, then playing the same kind of music makes it very easy, whilst, in my life, my focus is still trying to make music that seems interesting or that I love, and as a result that means experimenting a lot and not just the need to just make one type of music.

    Anne: Will you play some of the songs on it on your tour?

    Moby: I don't think so, because very few people know them. I think that generally speaking, if someone's willing to buy a ticket and come to a concert, they want to hear their favorite songs. So, maybe I might play one or two new songs, but most likely, it's just going to be my version of a greatest hits show. It's just my feeling that it's what would make the people in the audience happy.

    Anne: With your partner Lindsay, whom we know from Moby Pod, you also started the production company Little Walnut. On the podcast, you said you started it to "make things, respect creators"—in contrast to our fast-living times, where everyone seems to plan project after project but never start to actually work on them. I think this is so inspiring! Ok, I think it's actually two questions: What do you think? Why is it that we all don't seem to be able to focus on something for a longer period nowadays? And how do you manage to do it differently?

    Moby: I think it's funny because I think, on the one hand, people's attention span is incredibly short—I mean, like a TikTok video might be 30 seconds long—whilst on the other hand, people will sit down and watch every episode of "Game of Thrones" in a row. So, if you ask someone to listen to a new song that's three minutes long, they probably won't because it takes up too much time, but they'll also spend five hours playing "Fortnite". So, I don't think it's an attention span thing. To be honest with you, I don't know what it is, and I don't think anyone does. Living in Los Angeles, you meet so many people who are making movies, TV shows, and different types of content, but the truth is no one knows. No one knows what's happening, and no one really knows what they're doing.

    So, our approach is just to constantly be making things—make some big things, make some smaller things, and help people with their projects. A lot of our focus is on helping other people, like funding their projects. Keegan from "Cowspiracy" and "What The Health" is making a new movie, so we are helping him. Rebecca Cappelli made this great movie called "Slay", and we helped her. Liz Marshal made "Meat the Future", and we helped her. We also started producing our first scripted feature called "Tecie" together with Mark Webber. It is basically a tragic romance that takes place within the animal rights scene in Los Angeles because documentaries are very important and essential, but people really love stories. And so, what we're trying to do is to figure out a way to tell stories that will appeal to a bigger audience, but have an uncompromising animal rights message within them.

    Anne: So, you wanted to provide a different approach for people to get in touch with the animal rights topic with "Tecie"? I mean different than the vegan documentaries we all know and love, like "Earthlings", "What The Health", and "I Could Never Go Vegan".

    Moby: Our goal at Little Walnut is basically to produce anything. Basically, whether that means going to DC and talking to politicians and working with NGOs and organizations, whether it's social media, whether it's interviewing, whether it's venture capital and funding corporations, whether it's producing media outlets, or helping others with that. The goal is to do everything because you never know what's going to work. You never know what's going to reach someone. Someone might be reached by a climate change message. Someone might respond to a human health message or an animal rights message. Someone might watch a documentary, and someone else might read an interview. So, that's why the goal is to simply try and do everything.

    Anne: Can you estimate when "Tecie" is going to hit Netflix?

    "Every sentient being should be allowed to live their own life"

    Moby – "Always Centered At Night"
    Moby – "Always Centered At Night"

    Moby: We haven't even started shooting it yet; we just started the pre-production. But our release strategy is not just trying to sell it to anyone. You know, I think Netflix is not that interested in controversial content. So, if we sell the movie, and it gets great distribution, that's great, but what I'm not willing to do is make compromises with the distribution. Because you know, some of the streaming services—even if they license or buy your movie—they sometimes bury it. So, it's the way we're producing this. Once it's done, we then have to figure out the most strategic release strategy that doesn't necessarily involve just trying to sell it to anyone.

    Anne: If there was one thing in the world you could change. What would it be and why?

    Moby: The one thing I would change is to make sure that every sentient being on the planet is allowed to live their own life. Whether they're a cow or a rat, an octopus or a human. Just simply the idea. I assume you probably agree with this: Every individual is entitled to their own life. And that's it! You know, we're not allowed to control the lives of others. That's basically the most simple ethical framework on which everything else should proceed. We're not allowed to control the lives of other individuals who are sentient, and if we approach the world like that the world becomes a much much nicer place. So, that's my only goal. From bugs to fish to mammals to everybody. That every individual is simply allowed to live their own life as they've been given.

    Anne: Thanks again for taking the time and for answering my questions! It means the world!

    Moby: Thank you! Have a wonderful weekend! It was very wonderful speaking with you!

    Moby feat. Benjamin Zephaniah - "Where is Your Pride?"

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