“I’m trying to figure out what one is supposed to do in a reading,” says Moby, on the phone from his New York City hotel room the day before his ongoing book tour starts – he has just released a new memoir called Porcelain, and he has no idea what to share. “I assume they shouldn’t be too long because I don’t want to bore people.”
It’s hard to bore people when you’re Moby, though. DJ, producer, photographer, animal-rights activist, writer, key ambassador of electronica: Moby has lived many lives in one, and they all come together to form the riveting Porcelain.
Named after the sixth single from his fifth studio album, 1999’s Play, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide and became the highest-selling electronica album of all time, Porcelain recounts the musician’s captivating – and at times, jarring – tenure in New York City between the years of 1989 and 1999. Moving among club culture, rave music and pure hedonism, Moby tells tales of excessiveness in a seductive NYC that was just as glamorous as it was destructive.
To accompany his memoir, Moby will release a two-CD album called Music From Porcelain on June 10th. The music – just as important a character in the book as Moby himself – is the soundtrack to his words. While the first disc spans the 50-year-old’s early discography and includes remasters of classics such as “Bodyrock” and “Natural Blues,” the second highlights his influences, the sounds that shaped and made Moby: A Tribe Called Quest, 808 State and more.
Born in Harlem as Richard Melville Hall, Moby grew with the city’s music scene and immersed himself in a club culture that would take off and serve as a launchpad for one of the most influential careers in Nineties dance music. “It’s really odd being back and essentially being a tourist in the city of my birth,” says Moby. “New York has always exerted this fascinating, historical hold on people.”
While Moby is most often celebrated for his contributions to electronica, his roots lie in classical, punk and hip-hop; he started as a hip-hop DJ before expanding into house music. “I’ve always liked dance music, but I never felt complete allegiance to dance music as a genre because I liked so many other, different things,” he says, a statement backed up by Music From Porcelain‘s hip-hop-leaning second disc. “The journey of the progression on [the first disc] is from nightclubs to apartments.”
Made entirely in Moby’s bedroom with the exception of “South Side,” the now-platinum Play was set to be his goodbye to music – and wound up his greatest masterpiece. Porcelain recounts the years leading up to the seminal album’s 1999 release, tackling the trials Moby faced as an outsider in a club culture he both loved and hated, with Music From Porcelain as the soundtrack to it all. The artist spoke to Rolling Stone about what it was like to revisit this formative time and the second memoir he says he’s already written.
What sections of your memoir will you be sharing throughout your book tour?
I think it might make sense to ask the audience what they want to hear – like, do they want to hear shame and degradation, or do they want to hear the glory of the rave days, or do they want to hear alcoholism and sobriety?