Moby Biography

Richard Melville Hall, 11 September 1965, Harlem, New York City, New York, USA. New York-based DJ, recording artist, Christian, vegan and philosophy graduate. Moby is so nicknamed because of the fact that he can trace his ancestry to the author of the famous whaling tale Moby Dick, Herman Melville. This is by no means the only interesting aspect of his idiosyncratic artistic life. He rarely travels anywhere by car because of the environmental considerations, and in the early years of his career, prior to his commercial breakthrough in 1999 with the bestselling album Play, he generally displayed little of the public anonymity that is the creed of the underground DJ.

One of the leading figures in the commercialisation of techno music, in 1991 Moby took the Twin Peaks theme, under the guise of ‘Go’, into the UK Top 10. Although that appealed to the more perverse natures of both mainstream and club audiences, the release of ‘I Feel It’/‘Thousand’ in 1993 was yet more bizarre. The latter track was classified at the time by The Guinness Book Of Records as the fastest single ever, climaxing at 1, 015 bpm. Such recordings were typical of Moby’s playful, irreverent attitude to his work. Raised in Danbury and then Darien, Connecticut, in his youth he was a member of hardcore punk outfit the Vatican Commandos, and even substituted as singer for Flipper while their vocalist was in prison. He readily brought these rock ‘n’ roll inclinations to bear on the club world at the 1992 DMC /Mixmag Awards ceremony he trashed his keyboards at the end of his set.

Moby’s introduction to dance music began in the mid-80s: ‘I was drawn to it, I started reading about it, started hanging out in clubs. For me house music was the synthesis of the punk era.’ He collected cheap, second hand recording equipment, basing himself in an old factory/converted prison in New York’s Little Italy district. The albums issued by New York dance label Instinct collect the artist’s early work. Ambient comprised unissued cuts from 1988-91, composed of barely audible atmospheric interludes. Moby signed to leading independent Mute Records in 1993, and the following year released ‘Hymn’, a transcendental religious techno odyssey, distinguished by a 35-minute ambient mix and a Laurent Garnier remix. The track was included on Moby’s eclectic major label debut, Everything Is Wrong.

Moby moved further away from his dance base in 1996 with the thrash rock of Animal Rights, and in turn sounded more like Johnny Rotten. Nevertheless, the same year’s The End Of Everything was a straightforward underground electronic dance record, released under the artist’s Voodoo Child alter ego. The DJ’s ‘James Bond Theme’ debuted at UK number 8 the following November, although the attendant I Like To Score was an uneasy foray into soundtrack work. Another change of style was apparent on 1999’s Play, a superb album with several tracks based around sampled field recordings made by folklorist Alan Lomax in the earlier part of the century. Play became a remarkable sleeper hit, thanks in the main to the licensing of every track on the album for use in advertisements. The album went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide.

Moby repeated the Play formula to lesser effect on 2002’s 18, and the album’s highlights were actually found on the rock-leaning ‘We Are All Made Of Stars’ and ‘Extreme Ways’. Following another Voodoo Child outing in 2004, he released the low-key Hotel. The album, the first Moby release not to contain any vocal samples and with all the vocals and instruments performed live in the studio, was greeted by mixed reviews. It was hardly a surprise, given the well-worn formula of his late 90s and early 00s recordings, that the artist returned to a more upbeat and club-orientated sound on 2008’s Last Night. His own remix catalogue includes the B-52’s, Brian Eno, LFO, the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Orbital, Depeche Mode, Blur, David Bowie, Timo Maas, and even Michael Jackson.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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