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Ever since his 1999 album Play became a worldwide phenomenon, and sold over ten million units in the process, the industry and fans have been looking for the next bit of magic from Moby.

At first glance he looks like the average follicle-challenged, post-graduate student. Upon further examination of his beliefs and practices, which include being vegan, an animal-lover and possessing radical Christian beliefs, one would assume that his post-graduate thesis will have a radical slant that will receive barely any attention. The misconception would be carried forward thus if one saw his picture anywhere other than on the cover of one of his multi-platinum albums. It is only when the aura of Moby is evaluated in the context of his music that it takes on a completely different, and logical, hue.

Born Richard Melville Hall, his primary stage name is derived from the title of the literary classic Moby Dick whose author Herman Melville is his great-great grand uncle. Though he achieved his greatest success in electronic music, Moby’s musical origins were more organic. As a teenager he played in a hardcore punk band named Vatican Commandos. He followed that up with a brief gig as the vocalist for a band called Flipper while their original lead singer served a jail term.

A hint of what was to come was provided in 1991 with his reworking of the theme to director David Lynch’s groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks. He set the track to a house-derived rhythm and the resulting single Go, became a surprise hit in the UK. The success of the track led to his being approached by diverse artists, underground and mainstream, to remix their work. Some of those artists were Michael Jackson, Pet Shop Boys, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, Erasure, the B-52's, and Orbital.

His own full-length debut album appeared in 1992 and he released the double A-side single I Feel It /Thousand in 1993. The tracks were not very successful except for one minor distinction. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Thousand has been listed as the fastest single ever, clocking in at a thousand beats-per-minute. Moby entered into a major label contract with Elektra Records in the US in 1994 but it wasn’t until the release of 1999’s Play, his fourth album, that he was hailed as a global musical phenomenon. Even though it is difficult to comprehend it in hindsight, Play wasn’t an immediate breakout success. Since it was difficult to get electronica played on radio or television in those days, the marketing push for this album strove to get the tracks licensed for use in various commercials. As the album picked up momentum advertisers began to clamour for the use of a Moby track to sell one of their products. A landmark of sorts was reached when each of the album’s eighteen tracks were eventually used in some form of licensing or the other. By the time Moby released his follow-up album in 2002, he was convinced that the success of Play was a fluke and it would not be repeated. But the album, titled 18, was a multi-platinum seller and even though electronic music has since been relegated to the less prominent shelves in the average record store (with recent albums by the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers failing to catch fire on the sale charts), it will be interesting to see how Moby’s latest album fares.

The reason his new album is called Hotel is because he sees the hotel room as a metaphor for life. Even though it is possible for an individual to feel like the first person to walk into any particular hotel room, there is a subconscious knowledge that other lives have been lived in that space, for however brief a time. In his own words, “It invariably feels as if you’re the first person to ever walk in to that room, but yet in the back of your mind you know that six hours before, someone else was having sex on that bed. I mean, the most intimate human things happen in hotels, but yet they feel so anonymous. So every 24 hours the hotel is just like wiped clean and this might sound odd, but I think that that’s sort of in some ways analogous to the human condition. We spend a brief amount of time here and we attach so much significance to our actions and emotions. And then we die and the world is wiped clean as if we’ve never been here and in some ways that’s sort of a depressing thought, but I think it also makes the brief time that we’re here seem perhaps a little more precious.”

It is clear that heavier thoughts weigh on the little man’s shoulders and this new album is a way to give voice to some of those thoughts and emotions. Moby was in New York when the World Trade Centre towers went down on September 11th, 2001, and he claims to have simply locked himself into his apartment and made music as a way to deal with the impact of the events that changed the face of that city and the world at large.

You can read the rest of our feature on Moby in the March 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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