The majority of memoirs from successful musicians emphasize the famous years – this is why people buy the book, after all – and the period after the singer’s musical relevance has begun to fade, when he/she battles with old bandmates, engages in philanthropic efforts, and maybe gets married a couple more times. Porcelain, the new memoir from Moby, takes a different approach: It cuts off before the release of Play, the 1999 album that sold millions of copies around the world and turned the DJ/producer into a global star.
Instead, the book focuses solely on his rise from playing records at New York City clubs to producing his own singles and headlining popular raves in the wee hours of the morning. Here are 10 key facts we learned from Moby’s days scrapping it out on the mean streets – and dancefloors – of New York City.
1. Diana Ross was an early inspiration.
As a kid, Moby had one rule when it came to music – “I was indiscriminate.” In reality, he was a very specific kind of discriminate: “If it was played on the radio, I loved it.” But Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” – a lavish disco track from 1976 that presaged the massively successful direction of Ross’s Diana album several years later – inspired a different kind of devotion. “The opening was languid,” Moby writes, “and it scared me… Ross was promising me that there was a world that wasn’t stained with sadness and resignation. Somewhere there was a world that was sensual and robotic and hypnotic.”
2. In his youth, hygiene didn’t matter much to him.
Before moving to New York City, Moby was based out of an abandoned industrial building near the train station in Stamford, Connecticut. According to the DJ/producer, “In the 19th century it had been a huge lock factory, comprising 20 or 30 grand brick buildings. Now, in 1989, it was a dark and hulking mass.” He estimates that the complex included roughly a million square feet, and he squatted in one small section illegally by paying security guards $50 a month. He constructed walls for his room with wood he found in a Dumpster, cooked on a hot plate and peed in bottles. He didn’t shower unless he happened to pass by his mom’s house or girlfriend’s apartment. Moby remembers this time in glowing terms: “Aside from my longing to live and make music in lower Manhattan, the abandoned factory was perfect.”
3. He never turned down DJing work.
“I wanted to DJ at the biggest clubs on the best nights,” he explains. “I wanted to be a celebrated DJ and musician. But I was also indiscriminate when it came to the work I would actually accept. I didn’t professionally say no to anything until 2002,” at which point Play was a commercial juggernaut. He sums up his stance toward work as: “If a sanitation worker from Queens came to me and asked if I’d be interested in DJ’ing in his living room for him and his grandmother, I probably would have said, ‘Yes, but only if you don’t pay me.'”