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Moby Gets Existential, Discusses the Universe, the Human Condition + His New Album ‘Innocents’

Mute Records

Something inside Moby is dying. The techno auteur is chatting with before an appointment with his dentist. Moby assures us he’s not in pain; the appointment is just a preliminary check on a dodgy tooth, which he is anticipating will need a root canal.

“There’s a nerve in my tooth that is dying, poor little nerve,” he jokes dryly. During this summertime interview at his home in Los Angeles, a few weeks before the Sept. 30 release of his eleventh studio album, ‘Innocents,’ the 47-year-old New Yorker reveals that anticipating and accepting the inevitability of death — whether of a poor little nerve or of every human that has ever lived — is the album’s theme.

Over the course of the interview, Moby goes on to tackle the cosmos, the human condition and why people should learn to be compassionate with one another. He also explains how such ideas influenced his latest set of songs.

‘Innocents’ features several guest vocalists. Along with you singing a rousing anthem called ‘The Perfect Life’ with Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), most of them are male.

Gender-wise, it’s equal, isn’t it? There’s Cold Specks, Skylar Grey and my friend Inyang Bassey. That’s three ladies. Then there’s me, Damon Jurado, Mark Lanegan, and Wayne. OK. In the past, mostly I’ve had women; so this is the first time I’ve had slightly more men than women. There’s no real reason, I choose who best represents the emotion of the song.

Previously, you produced your own records solo. Why did you choose Mark “Spike” Stent (Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Björk, Massive Attack, Goldfrapp, M.I.A.) to co-produce ‘Innocents’ with you?

I felt like his sensibility made sense as a collaborator. I was signed to Mute Records for a long time, and Mute is a very odd interesting place, because they had pop acts like Erasure and Depeche Mode, but a lot of very strange music like Diamanda Galas. Nick Cave was on the label for a long time. There were a few people like Spike and this producer called Flood who were Mute in-house producers. I met Spike as a result of being on Mute really. We have a shared background.

What was the inspiration for the album’s title?

When I try to explain the inspiration for it, two things happen: One, I ramble on a bit, and also, I end up sounding like a true Southern Californian cliché. OK…

Paraphrase yourself, then.

It’s almost impossible, but I’ll try and truncate it. In the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the human condition and how it affects us all, to a certain extent, equally. There are vagaries to how humans are expressed: whether they’re tall, whether they’re short; rich, poor, fat, thin. But the human condition affects us all in that we get older, sicker, we die, we lose people around us, we lose things around us. I’ve just been more interested in what the healthiest response to the human condition might me. We all have different stratagems that enable us to pretend that the human condition might not apply to us, or to stave it off as much as possible. Whether it’s believing in wealth, or fame, or new age spirituality, or sports teams, or political websites. All these things that help us pretend that the world is not a 15 billion-year-old cypher and that our lives are short and apparently potentially without much universal significance. Um, are you still with me?

Yep, 15 billion-year-old cypher got my attention.

When I was at university, I was a philosophy major and you can’t be a philosophy major without a discussion on 20th century existentialism, which is sort of like what I’m talking about: that the universe might be vast and unknowable and our lives might not have significance. It might not be vast and unknowable, and our lives might have significance. But, who knows? To me, the only … the nicest response is one of benign compassion and the solidarity that should arise because we’re all subjected to this equally. Even the worst of us have some innocence because we are scared little naked apes running around baffled by the universe. That’s where it came from.

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