Richard Melville Hall (born September 11, 1965), known by his stage name Moby, is an American singer-songwriter, musician, DJ and photographer. He is well known for his electronic music, vegan lifestyle, and support of animal rights. Moby has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. Allmusic considers him “one of the most important dance music figures of the early ’90s, helping bring the music to a mainstream audience both in the UK and in America”.
Moby gained attention in the early 1990s with his electronic dance music work, which experimented in the techno and breakbeat hardcore genres. With his fifth studio album, the electronica and house-influenced Play, he gained international success. Originally released in mid-1999, the album sold 6,000 copies in its first week, and it re-entered the charts in early 2000 and became an unexpected hit, producing eight singles and selling over 10 million copies worldwide. Moby followed the album in 2002 with 18, which was also successful, selling over 5 million copies worldwide and receiving mostly positive reviews, though some criticized it for being too similar to Play.
His next major release, 2005’s mostly upbeat Hotel was a stylistic departure, incorporating more alternative rock elements than previous albums, and received mixed reviews. It sold around 2 million copies worldwide. After 2008’s dance-influenced Last Night (2008), he returned to the downtempo electronica of Play and 18 with 2009’s mostly-ambient Wait for Me, finding higher critical acclaim and moderate sales, as well as 2011’s Destroyed. Moby’s latest album, Innocents, was released on October 1, 2013.
Moby has also co-written, produced, and remixed music for Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Mylène Farmer, Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and others.
Hall was born in Harlem, New York City, the son of Elizabeth McBride (née Warner), a medical secretary, and James Frederick Hall (deceased), a chemistry professor. He was raised by his mother in Darien, Connecticut.
According to Hall, his middle name and the nickname “Moby” were given to him by his parents because of an ancestral relationship to Moby Dick author Herman Melville: “The basis for Richard Melville Hall—and for Moby—is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great-granduncle.”
He has released music under the names “Voodoo Child”, “Schaumgummi”, as a member of the bands Vatican Commandos, AWOL, Caeli Seoul, and Gin Train.
Moby’s first live solo performance was witnessed by future longtime manager Eric Härle, who later described the occasion to HitQuarters by saying: “The music was amazing, but the show was riddled with technical mishaps. It left me very intrigued and impressed in a strange way.”
Moby released his first singles for Instinct under several different names, such as Barracuda, Brainstorm, and UHF. His first single was a commercial failure—a rap record with vocalist Jimmy Mack, titled Time’s Up, featuring several remixes and stems for remixing. Very few copies were ever sold.
His first single under the pseudonym ‘Moby’ was “Mobility”, but it was his remix of Mobility’s b-side, “Go”, that proved to be his first breakthrough. Go (Woodtick Mix), a progressive house track using the string line from “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from the TV drama Twin Peaks, reached the UK top ten in October 1991 and earned him his first appearance on Top of the Pops. Some of his other singles in 1992 and 1993 were “Next Is the E”, “Thousand” (with its 1,000 Beats Per Minute tempo), and “Voodoo Child”.
In 1991 and 1992 he remixed The B-52s, The Prodigy, Orbital, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Michael Jackson, Recoil and Ten City.
In 1993, Moby signed with Mute Records (Elektra in North America) and released an EP titled Move. This became his second appearance on Top of the Pops.
He then released his first album on Mute Records (Elektra in North America), Everything Is Wrong, in 1995. Early copies in the UK and Germany 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.
Disillusioned by the lack of feedback he was receiving from the music media, who struggled to comprehend the artist’s new electronic music and refused to take it very seriously, Moby decided to release a punk rock album, Animal Rights in 1996. It included a cover version of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” and was followed by a tour of Europe with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden. 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. Ironically, just as Moby decided to change direction, the electronic music he had moved away from started to gain recognition and popularity through artists like The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. Also in 1996, Moby contributed the song “Republican Party” to the AIDS benefit album Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtrip produced by the Red Hot Organization.
According to manager Eric Härle, the album almost ruined his career, because the new direction not only left audiences cold—with music media uninterested and his existing fan base largely alienated—but led to people being confused as to what kind of artist Moby really was. Härle has stated that Moby “managed to wipe out all of his early good work and we found ourselves struggling for even the slightest bit of recognition. He became a has-been in the eyes of a lot of people in the industry”.
In 1997, he released I Like to Score, a collection of his music that had been used in movies. Among those tracks were an updated version of “The James Bond Theme” used for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and “New Dawn Fades” (a cover of Joy Division’s original), which had appeared without vocals in Michael Mann’s film Heat.
In 1999, Moby released the album Play. The album had moderate sales after its release, but eventually went on to sell over ten million records worldwide a year later. Every song on the album was licensed internationally to various films, advertisements, and TV shows, as well as independent films and non-profit groups. Moby performed three times on Top of the Pops with singles from the album. Play mixes songs from Alan Lomax’s 1993 Atlantic recording Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey From the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta. For the song “Natural Blues”, Moby mixes “Trouble So Hard” from the Alan Lomax Sounds of the South compilation.
In 2000, Moby contributed his song “Flower” to the intro of the Nicolas Cage remake of Gone in 60 Seconds.
In July 2001, Moby: PlaytheDVD was released. Produced by Moby and Jeff Rogers (Swell), the DVD was nominated for a 2002 Grammy award. The DVD included various sections: “Live on TV”, most of the music videos from the album (excluding “South Side” with Gwen Stefani), “Give An Idiot a Camcorder” (Moby was given a camcorder and the tape was later edited by Tara Bethune-Lea man), and an 88-minute “Mega Mix” of all the remixes created for the album. The “Mega Mix” was accompanied by visuals created in Toronto at Crush, led by director Kathi Prosser.
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, New Order, Incubus, Nelly Furtado, Paul Oakenfold, and Moby himself. Area2 tour (2002) featured David Bowie, Moby, Blue Man Group, Busta Rhymes, and Carl Cox.
In the next few years, Moby co-wrote “Is It Any Wonder” with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, remixed the Beastie Boys, David Bowie, Nas and Metallica, produced and co-wrote the track “Early Mornin'” for Britney Spears’ fourth studio album In the Zone, and collaborated with Public Enemy on “Make Love, Fuck War”, which was released prior to the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Moby also had his song “Extreme Ways” used in the Bourne movies.
In 2003, Moby headlined the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury.
In 2005, Moby released Hotel under the label Pacha. 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 number 1 European singles. In the UK, ITV used a specially remixed version of “Lift Me Up” as its Formula 1 coverage theme music.
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 also started a rock band, The Little Death with his friends Laura Dawn, Daron Murphy, and Aaron A. Brooks. The Little Death released an album in 2010. 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”. The album was recorded in Moby’s home studio in Manhattan, New York and features a number of guest vocalists, including Wendy Starland, MC Grandmaster Caz (one of the writers of “Rapper’s Delight”), Sylvia from the band Kudu, British MC Aynzli, and the Nigerian 419 Squad.
From 2007 to 2008 he ran a series of New York club events titled “Degenerates”.
In a November 2008 interview with SuicideGirls, Moby spoke about the follow-up album to Last Night: “I want to make a really emotional, beautiful record. I don’t know if I will succeed, but my goal is to make something very personal, very melodic, very beautiful.” On April 14, 2009, Moby confirmed that the album would be released on June 30.
I recorded the album here in my studio on the lower east side (although ‘studio’ always seems like an overly grand word for a bunch of equipment set up in a small bedroom). In the past I’ve worked in large and small studios, but for this record I wanted to record everything at home by myself”, Moby said on his journal. “I started working on the album about a year ago, and the creative impetus behind the record was hearing a David Lynch speech at BAFTA, in the UK. David was talking about creativity, and to paraphrase, about how creativity in and of itself, and without market pressures, is fine and good. It seems as if too often an artist’s, musician’s or writer’s creative output is judged by how well it accommodates the marketplace, and how much market share it commands and how much money it generates. In making this record I wanted to focus on making something that I loved, without really being concerned about how it might be received by the marketplace. As a result it’s a quieter and more melodic and more mournful and more personal record than some of the records I’ve made in the past.
The album, titled Wait for Me, was released in June 2009.
Moby and David Lynch discussed the recording process of the album on Lynch’s online channel, David Lynch Foundation Television Beta.The first single off the album was “Shot in the Back of the Head”, and the video was directed by David Lynch. The single was available for free download from Moby’s website.
Wait for Me was mixed by Ken Thomas, who had previously produced some Sigur Rós albums. According to Moby,
mixing the record with him [Thomas] was really nice, as he’s creatively open to trying anything (like recording an old broken bakelite radio and running it through some broken old effects pedals to see what it would sound like. It’s on the record as a 45 second long track called “Stock Radio”). And as a geeky technical aside, we mixed the record using purely analog equipment in true stereo, akin to how records were mixed in the late ’60s, some of the songs sound pretty amazing in headphones, if I do say so myself…
Moby toured for the album with a full band, something that occurred rarely during Moby’s Last Night promotion, except for selected festival performances. Moby raised between $75,000 and $100,000 to help those affected by domestic violence after all funding for the state’s domestic violence program was cut in July. To do this, he donated the profits from his upcoming shows in California (San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Moby headlined the Australian 2009 Falls Festival, as well as the other Sunset Sounds festivals.
On February 22, 2010, Moby announced a UGC competition with Genero.TV asking his fans to create a videoclip, that will be serviced worldwide as the official videoclip for his upcoming single “Wait for Me”, the last single from the album. On April 19, Moby chose the winning videoclip out of 500 entries, “based on its creativity, production value, concept, and humor”. The chosen videoclip, written and directed by Nimrod Shapira from Israel, portrays the story of a girl who decides to invite Moby into her life. She attempts to do so by using a book called How to Summon Moby Guide for Dummies, putting herself through 10 bizarre and comical steps (each is a tribute to a different Moby videoclip). The single was released on May 4, 2010.
On May 3, 2010, Moby released the title track from the album, “Wait for Me”, as a single. It was released on .
In January 2010, Moby announced that he was to begin working on his next record. He said “the mood for this record will be more acoustic and less electronic than before”.
On February 15, 2011, Moby announced the release of his new album, Destroyed. It was released on May 16, 2011. A photography book with the same name was also released around the time of the album.
“Musically”, he said, “it’s very melodic and atmospheric and electronic, and if i had to sum it up i would describe it as: ‘broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2 a.m’.” The album cover, which was released with the new information, was taken in LaGuardia Airport. It is a picture of a sign that reads ‘destroyed’, part of the longer phrase “All unclaimed baggage will be destroyed.” The album consists of 15 tracks, one of them previously featured on the compilation A Night in NYC, titled “Rockets”. Along with the album’s announcement came the release of the EP Be the One, which contains 3 of the tracks from Destroyed The EP was released for free for those who signed up for Moby’s mailing list. For the next single, Moby put a poll on his website for fans to choose which single should be released next, and it came to be “Lie Down in Darkness”.
On August 30, Moby posted another request for the third official single, this time asking fans to say which should be next, without a poll. After this, he announced the following day through his Twitter that the next singles are “After” and “The Right Thing”.
On April 30, 2012 Moby released Destroyed Remixed, a limited edition 2CD collection of remixes of songs from the 2011 studio album, Destroyed. The release included three new exclusive remixes by David Lynch, Holy Ghost!, and System Divine, and also featured a brand new 30 minute ambient track by Moby called ‘All Sides Gone’. Compiled and mixed by Moby, Destroyed Remixed was described as ‘an eclectic mix of some the most exciting and interesting artists and DJ’s in contemporary music’.
Between February and August 2013, Moby performed both acoustic and DJ sets at the Wanderlust Festival, which hosted events in Hawaii, Vermont, California and Colorado in the United States, and also in Canada and Chile internationally. He added a single Asia performance date at the 1 World Music Festival in Singapore.Moby also performed two 75-minute DJ sets at the prestigious Coachella festival in April which featured a unique visual collaboration with NASA, with various images from space projected onto screens during the performance.Moby followed-up with another DJ set at the Movement Detroit festival in May.
For Record Store Day 2013, Moby released a 7-inch record called The Lonely Night which featured former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan. An accompanying video was created by Colin Rich, of which Moby stated: “I’m really excited to have an experimental music video from this great video artist, and I feel like the slow, rich, and languorous desert visuals fit the song perfectly.” The track was subsequently released as a download with remixes by Photek, Gregor Tresher, Freescha and Moby himself.
In July, Moby announced that he would be releasing a new studio album entitled Innocents. The album had been written and recorded in the previous 18 months and was due for release in October. The album was recorded in Moby’s apartment and features a number of guest vocalists, in keeping with earlier releases such as Play, 18 and Wait For Me. As with Destroyed, the photographs comprising the album’s artwork were all shot by Moby. The first official single from the album is titled A Case for Shame while the previously released track The Lonely Night will also appear on Innocents. The album was produced by Grammy-winner Mark ‘Spike’ Stent. It was later revealed in August that The Perfect Life, which features Wayne Coyne, would be the next single, after a casting call for a music video was announced, calling “for obese Speedo-sporting bikers, nude rollerskating ghosts, and an S&M gimp proficient in rhythmic gymnastics”
Moby performed a DJ set in Las Vegas on September 1, before flying to Australia to DJ at an intimate show in Sydney, on the 19th.Moby will then DJ at the 10th annual Decibel Festival in Seattle. He then returned to Los Angeles to perform three shows at the Fonda Theatre on October 3–5 to promote the album, which would be his only “full live shows” for 2013 and 2014.
Moby stated that the reason for doing little to no touring for this album was that “when I go on tour I sit around a lot (cars, airports, hotels, etc), and when I sit around I can’t spend my time making music. And pretty much all I want to do in life is stay home and make music. So, thus: a 3 date world tour.” He conceded that he might return to world touring in the future.
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” and “Cactus” 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.
He has performed two duets with the French Canadian singer Mylène Farmer (“Slipping Away (Crier la vie)” in 2006 and “Looking for My Name” in 2008) and produced seven songs on her eighth album, Bleu Noir, released on December 6, 2010.
In 2006, Moby released a Spanish version of his song “Slipping away” called “Escapar”, in which the Spanish group Amaral took part.
In 2007, he became one of the few well-known commercial artists to produce work for a video game, collaborating with DJ Oscar the Punk on all three tracks of The BioShock EP, included with limited edition copies of the Xbox 360 and PC game BioShock.
In 2012, he collaborated with Spain-based group Dubsidia, making dubstep and electro house.
In 2013, Moby was responsible for the soundtrack of the documentary The Crash Reel, who tells the story of snowboarder Kevin Pearce.
In 2014, Moby made the Big Room House track “Delay” with Lucky Date. Released by Spinnin Records
Until around June 2009, Moby co-owned a small restaurant and tea shop called Teany, where he occasionally would wait tables. He also organized a group of artists known as the Little Idiot Collective. Moby lives a vegan lifestyle and supports animal rights.
In an iterview with Psychology Today, Moby admitted 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.” Although Moby himself was known as a teetotaler, he admitted in 2011 that “It’s one of the lowest depths of misery to be completely destroyed and hung over in an airport at 8am in the morning after a long rough night.”He was a heavy drinker for many years and a user of drugs, although is now sober.
In my own strange way, I’m a Christian, in that I really love Christ, and I think that the wisdom of Christ is the highest, strongest wisdom I’ve ever encountered, and I think that his description of the human condition is about the best description or understanding of the human condition I’ve ever encountered… I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a Christian in the conventional sense of the word, where I go to church or believe in cultural Christianity, but I really do love Christ and recognize him in whatever capacity as I can understand it as God. One of my problems with the church and conventional Christianity is it seems like their focus doesn’t have much to do with the teachings of Christ, but rather with their own social agenda. So that’s why I tend to be sort of outspoken about how much I dislike conventional cultural Christianity.
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 an interview with Amazon.com, Moby said, “I can’t really know anything. Having said that, though, on a very subjective level I love Christ. I perceive Christ to be God, but I predicate that with the knowledge that I’m small and not nearly as old as the universe that I live in. I take my beliefs seriously for myself, but I would be very uncomfortable trying to tell anyone that I was right.”
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 blog. On January 19, 2007, in his reaction to seeing Alexandra Pelosi’s Friends of God, a film about evangelicalism 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.” At times, he has been reluctant to use the word “Christian” to define himself, due to its ambiguity, but has self-identified as a Christian in interviews related to his faith.
In March 2008, after Gary Gygax’s death, Moby was one of several celebrities identifying themselves as former Dungeons & Dragons players.
In March 2010, Moby made his debut as an author when Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat), a collection of essays from people in the food industry, was published.
In June 2013, Moby and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.
Moby is an advocate for a variety of causes, working with MoveOn.org and The Humane Society, among others. His MobyGratis.com website, which licenses film music for free for non-profit and independent films, funnels proceeds from films which do go on to produce revenue to The Humane Society. He created MoveOn Voter Fund’s Bush in 30 Seconds contest along with singer and MoveOn Cultural Director Laura Dawn and MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser. The music video for the song “Disco Lies” from Last Night has heavy anti-meat industrial themes. He also actively engages in nonpartisan activism and serves on the Board of Directors of Amend.org, a nonprofit organization 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 ages. 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 United States House of Representatives committee debating the issue in 2006.
In 2007 Moby started a website called MobyGratis.com, designed for independent and non-profit filmmakers, film students, and anyone in need of free music for their independent, non-profit film, video, or short; it allows users to apply for free licences to use Moby music in their film. However, if a film is commercially successful, all revenue from commercial licence fees granted via MobyGratis is passed on to the Humane Society.
In 2008, he participated in Songs for Tibet, an album to support Tibet and the current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso.
On June 20, 2009, Moby posted on his blog in response to the RIAA’s decision to sue Minnesota suburban mother Jammie Thomas-Rasset for $2,000,000 for illegally downloading music from Kazaa. He called this “utter nonsense” and asserted that “the RIAA needs to be disbanded.”
Many of Moby’s 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 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’?”). In “Animal Rights” Moby discussed the granting of basic rights in western society, and called for readers to grant such basic rights to homosexuals and animals. (“a long time ago only kings had rights. then rights were extended to property-owning white men. then all men. then women. then children. then the mentally retarded. now we’re agonizing over the extension of basic rights to homosexuals and animals.”)
He was interviewed by Lucy Walker for a chapter in Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky.
Moby has been a photographer since he was 10 years old, growing up around film and darkrooms. Moby’s uncle was a photographer for The New York Times.
In 2011, Moby released a book of photographs, Destroyed, with photos from his international tours. An album with the same name was released in the same year.
Click to see Lift Me Up his most popular Youtube video: