Moby on 'Hotel: Ambient,' L.A. Shows, Selling His "Castle in the Hills"

Chris Godley

"It's music I listen to when I'm anxious, need help sleeping or when I'm sitting in traffic on the 101," says the artist of his experimental album first released in 2005

"It's music I listen to when I'm anxious, need help sleeping or when I'm sitting in traffic on the 101," Moby says of Hotel: Ambient, his long out-of-print 2005 bonus album being re-released on Tuesday, Dec. 16 via his Little Idiot label. "It's a very calm and quiet record," he says. "I just want to re-release it for the ten people who still buy records."

While something of an understatement, the small market for warm instrumental electronic music may explain why Moby's label gave him back the rights to the album. "When EMI is re-releasing Beatles' compilations and some artist comes to them and says, 'Will you please re-release my experimental ambient record that has no songs, drums or vocals on it,'  I understand why they weren't in a rush to release it."

Moby, however, may be one of the few musicians who can afford to have limited sales ambitions. As one of the preeminent U.S. dance music figures of the early-90s and one of the most popular musicians period at the turn of the century, Moby has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide over the course of his 22-year career. Chief among them: his massive 1999 cross-over album Play, which went double platinum and included such pop hits as "South Side" (No. 14 on the Hot 100) with Gwen Stefani, and the lush, downtempo "Porcelain" (No. 14 Dance Music /Club Play charts); and 2001's 18 which went gold and featured the hit "We Are All Made of Stars" (No. 22 on Modern Rock chart).

Moby's cash flow recently improved when he sold his massive L.A. home in Beachwood Canyon for a reported $12.4 million dollars. "Unless I was going to start a cult or a family," he says, "I didn't really need a gigantic castle in the hills."

Surpassing Moby's accomplishments in real estate are the rampant changes he's made in his genre-hopping career, which has veered from dance music to rock to pop to ambient and beyond. For this album, Moby cites a plethora of influences, including minimalist masters Philip Glass and Steve Reich; ambient pioneer Brian Eno; groundbreaking Detroit techno progenitor Derrick May; early Warp records; and the B-side to David Bowie's "Heroes." While the new version of Hotel: Ambient is remastered and contains longer versions and previously unreleased tracks, Moby scoffs at the concept of anyone actually buying a record for re-mastering"

"I still remember in, like, 1990 when Led Zeppelin re-mastered their greatest hits," he says. "I went out like a fool and bought them all because I love Led Zeppelin. I remember thinking to myself, 'They're the same songs they just sound a little more digital.' I, for one, think the salvation of the music business is not in re-mastering old records."

What has been something of a salvation for many in the music biz, is touring market (though Pomplamoose might beg to differ). Moby has put together what he terms an "ambient world tour," his first live performances of his ambient material, which thus far consists of four Southern California dates: Dec 16-18 at the Hollywood Forever Masonic Temple and Dec. 21 at the Integratron in Joshua Tree, which will serve as a benefit for the venue "designed by aliens."    

"I hate touring," Moby confesses. "I don't want to be an aging middle aged guy and going out and playing the same show every two years." To wit, the 49-year old has created a visual component for this show using his own images (including photographs from his recent "Innocents" show at Chelsea's Emmanuel Fremin Gallery) and his friends' work, which includes images from his David Lynch. "It's this whole random grab bag of visuals," Moby explains. "If I go on tour or do anything I want it to be something different that what I've done in the past."

Moby is giving away Hotel: Ambient for free to film makers via his Mobygratis site (Link to ) which now has more than 150 tracks. Started in 2008, the impetus for Mobygratis came to him while attending college at SUNY-Purchase where he was struck by the number of indie filmmakers who couldn't afford to license music. "I started it as a way of giving free music to independent filmmakers, experimental filmmakers and non-profits." Any profits from the endeavor go to the Humane Society. "From an entrepreneurial perspective," Moby says modestly, "it's pretty dumb on my part."

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