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Moby Says Los Angeles Isn't As Cynical As Other Big Cities

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Tomorrow is a big day for Moby. Not only does the musician-DJ-photographer re-release the long out-of-print CD Hotel: Ambient (which was a small-run companion disc to his 2005 album Hotel), but he also begins a sold-out run of three shows at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A fundraiser for the Integratron in Joshua Tree on Dec. 21 is also way sold out.

We had a chance to chat with Moby about the upcoming ambient re-release and its new tracks, why L.A. (with its sprawl) currently beats New York and other cities as a creative capital, and why people coming to these live shows might be sorely disappointed if they’re expecting a loud, dance-y rave.

LAist: What made the timing right to visit 'Hotel: Ambient'?

Moby: Basically, Hotel: Ambient had been released as a bonus disc with the album Hotel. We’d only made about 10,000 copies of it, and they disappeared pretty quickly. And because it’s a quiet, obscure record, EMI had no interest in releasing it on its own. Every year, I’d go back to them and ask, ‘Can we please just re-release this?’—even though there are only probably 10 people on the planet who’d want to buy it—we just thought it’s really pretty music, why not re-release it. And finally about six months ago, I got the rights back, so now I own the record and was able to re-release it on my own. There’s no strategy involved, it’s just simply that now I own the record and I’m able to re-release it... I don’t think they [EMI] were too heartbroken about because they didn’t really know they had it.

LAist: How did you decide to do these live shows, focusing solely on the ambient music, and then adding the audio-visual elements to it?

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Moby: Part of it is that I just really hate touring. And if I’m going to tour, my criteria for touring is, ideally, it needs to be local, and it needs to be different from something I’ve done in the past. Or, it needs to benefit a cause or an organization that I really beleive in. So I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never done ambient shows, so why not try them?’

Some people might come to these shows and be really bored to death because they’re really quiet. I’m hoping the end result is that people will be relaxed and find beauty in the music, but if someone comes expecting a conventional rock concert or a big rave, they’re going to be really disappointed.

Also these venues—the Integreton [in Joshua Tree] is such an interesting, utterly unique place, and they need some fundraising help, so we’re doing the show down there, a benefit for them. The Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is just...an unspeakably beautiful venue.

LAist: Can you talk about the new tracks that you’ve added to the re-release? Are they true new tracks or something that you had sitting around?

Moby: One of the things that I’ve always loved about ambient music is that it’s very utilitarian, meaning it’s music that people listen to to create a very specific atmosphere and hopefully to foster or engender a sense of calm. So when working on the new ambient tracks, I wasn’t trying to make anything groundbreaking or exciting. I just wanted to write some things that were pretty and that would help people to calm down if they were anxious or trying to go to sleep. To be honest, the new tracks don’t sound all that different from the old tracks [laughs]. There’s nothing terribly innovative or unique about them, but hopefully they’re pretty and nice to listen to.

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LAist: Let’s talk a little more about the live shows…

Moby: The live show will be very demanding. Half of the live show will be very quiet, and then I’ll be doing some very minimal, reworked versions of some of my better known songs. Towards the end it might get a little more dance-oriented with actual drum—electronic drums. The album itself is supposed to be very calm, the live show, in places, might be a little bit less calm.

LAist: Will you be performing solo or with a slate of musicians?

Moby: Most of it is just going to be me with a bunch of electronics on stage and some, hopefully, weird, pretty, interesting visuals. And then I’ll have a few different singers come on stage at some point and I might sing a couple of songs. And then at the end, as it gets a little more dance-y, there might be some percussion, but the whole thing will be pretty restrained. It’ll be seated. I think people’s feet will start to get sore if they were standing for two hours listening to quiet music.

LAist: Can we talk about the visual elements for the show? I know you’ve been a photographer for years and you’ve done work with David Lynch...will those be incorporated?

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Moby: I think so. Over the years, he and I have done a bunch of things together, so they’ll be some visuals that I’ve done with David Lynch, maybe some visuals that I’ve done with other artists and directors. Ideally, the visuals just suit the music and just create a cohesive environment.

LAist: Speaking of collaboration, you’ve talked about fostering a creative community here in L.A. Can you talk a little more about that spirit of creativity here in L.A.?

Moby: Yeah, it’s one of the main reasons I moved here from New York—and I don’t want to criticize or malign creativity in New York—because clearly New York is a remarkable place with artists, writers and musicians. But I’ve found that as New York has become more expensive, the more interesting writers, artists and musicians have been priced out. And quite a lot of them have moved out to L.A. because with its sprawl, I feel like L.A. can always allow someone to live here. Even if certain parts of L.A. become expensive, there all these parts of L.A. where people can afford to rent. I just find that there’s such a huge creative community here and there’s an audience. When you’re in L.A., you have the space to create your art; you have people in Southern California that are really optimistic and enthusiastic about the art and music people are making; and you potentially have the ability to reach a global audience. And I think those three things have really created a really unique, wonderful environment here for creativity. It’s clearly not utopian, but I’d say it’s pretty great.

And oddly enough—and this is just my subjective opinion—but compared to a lot of other big cities, L.A.’s not very cynical.

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LAist: Really??

Moby: I find other cities, people are much more jaded and cynical, and Angelenos still seem to have a fresh and enthusiastic disposition towards art, creativity and events. Clearly not always, there’s definitely some cynicism here, but compared to other big cities, I find it to be refreshingly open.

LAist: One last question...You’re involved in a lot of different causes and charities...what’s Moby Gratis about?

Moby: Moby Gratis is this website/program that I started about five years ago and it’s very simple. It gives 100 percent free music to indie filmmakers, film students and nonprofits. The only condition is if it gets used commercially—like if a film gets picked up or distributed—any money that gets generated by Moby Gratis goes to the humane society. So that way, I keep myself honest and I can never make money from it.

Moby plays three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Masonic Lodge on Dec. 16-18. Hotel: Ambient is out (again) on Dec. 16.