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By Lee Zimmerman
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Emerging from New York City's early-'90s acid house rave scene, Moby debuted with a deep, aqueous, tribal sound that would veer from Ecstasy-rich techno to aggro industrial before crystallizing into the crossover poptronica of 1999's multiplatinum Play.
Along the way, this sociopolitically outspoken musician became an unlikely figurehead as his juxtaposition of orchestral synths, earthy percussion, and gnarled guitars helped take electronic music from the faceless club scene to the mainstream. In the past decade, though, he has released increasingly understated, creatively bleary works, culminating with the upcoming Destroyed, which shares its title with a companion collection of still images.
Speaking by phone from L.A., Moby reflected on technology, Glenn Beck, and the perks of subtlety.
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New Times: As someone who is known for being outspoken, do you think that now, with the million and one ways for people to voice their opinions, it's easier or harder to be heard than when you were emerging in the '90s?
Moby: In many ways, I love the fact that the old gatekeepers of information have been rendered fairly obsolete, and now anybody with a laptop or a decent cell phone can communicate almost as effectively as, you know, a talking head on one of the cable news networks. But sometimes people, myself included, confuse volume for content. And a lot of times, loud is just loud. And not to sound like a crazy lefty, but in an age where everything is loud and overwhelming, how do you develop the ability to hear things that are maybe a little quieter and more subtle?
You're saying you're not a Glenn Beck fan?
You know, I think Glenn Beck is a very entertaining, crazy person. He reminds me of someone like P. T. Barnum on methamphetamine. Whereas in the old days, someone like Barnum would try to get you to pay attention to his elephants and his clowns, now Glenn Beck is trying to get you to pay attention to politics and policy and legislation. I think sideshow barkers are much better [suited] to yelling about circus freaks than politicians.
So, going back to what you said about listening to quieter things, have you turned toward subtler sounds to counteract the noise?
Yes, I think so. It's also because there are so many musicians who are really good at being abrasive and loud. And I mean, I like bombastic music, and I like things that are unsubtle. I just don't think I'm very good at making unsubtle pop sounds. So I'd rather focus on quieter music, understanding full well that fewer people are going to pay attention. I know there isn't much of an audience for them. But it still feels nice to make these kinds of records.