Tag Archives: Moby

Moby – Wait For Me

Moby - Wait For MeMobyWait For Me (Mute)

The problem is when Moby begins paraphrasing David Lynch‘s speech about how creativity is too often judged by its commercial results, you begin to remind yourself of his own brushes with commercial outlets. This is, after all, an artist whose creative apex (Play) was pawned, track by track, to commercial interests.

It also seems like he’s saving face, an attempt to prepare us for another album with diminishing sales returns, just as every album he’s released since Play has done. This way, when the album fails to sell 100,000 copies, he can come right back and say “Well, I knew that would happen. Wait For Me is my intensely personal creative statement. A piece of work that wasn’t designed for mainstream appeal.”

Continue reading Moby – Wait For Me

Thar He Blows. . .?

Gershwin Plays GershwinWhile many of us may not be all that fascinated with Moby—it is rather remarkable to consider that Play goes back to 1999, so time fades—it seems that Mr. Hall isn’t all that fascinated with his own music or that of his contemporaries. Indeed, to describe what is generally heard on iPods and from turntables as “trivial” is probably to give the music too much credit, vis-√†-vis what he argues in a post on his blog.

Moby is completely smitten with George Gershwin’s 1924 composition Rhapsody in Blue. Unfortunately, that work’s power has undoubtedly been diminished for many people by its use in United Airlines commercials. Nothing like associating shitty airline service with one of the musical masterpieces of all time (and no, I believe that, I am not channeling Moby).

This raises an interesting point to speculate on: What music that has been made in the past several years truly has the sustaining power that Gershwin’s composition has? Certainly, there are more than a few Beatles’ songs (although Rhapsody in Blue is a composition for piano and orchestra and is considered to be a “classical composition,” we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Gershwin earned much of his daily bread by writing for Tin Pan Alley). But who else?

Is Moby right?

V2 Gets Dropped by Parent Co.

V2 Records has been “restructured.” Its parent company, Sheridan Square, fired V2’s 35 employees on January 12 and “will no longer issue new music” other than gospel. It will retain V2’s catalog which includes albums by the White Stripes, Grandaddy, Isobel Campbell, Jim White, Moby, Mercury Rev, and the Raconteurs.

V2

V2 Records was started in 1996 by Richard Branson after he sold his Virign Records to EMI for a billion dollars. In November, 2005, Branson sold V2 “to create a relationship that keeps the V2 imprint in business.” Huh. Kept it in business for just over a year. Nice.

Think Branson will start a new label called V3? And what’s going to happen with the new Mooney Suzuki album, Have Mercy, that was supposed to be released on January 30?

MOBY RELEASES NEW MATERIAL! AD WORLD REJOICES!

Johnny Loftus

During the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics this past March, the performing artists cruising around on motorized stages received as much or more face time than the actual athletes. KISS, Harry Connick Jr, Christina Aguilera, even Scott Hamilton – they all mugged for an adoring camera and millions of viewers. Then Moby took the stage, and all of a sudden NBC couldn’t take its lens off of the athletes hurling enormous spheres of Styrofoam at one another. Within the mix, a muddy crowd mic seemed to pick up “Bodyrock.” But it could have been FatBoy Slim’s “Rockefeller Skank.” In the distance, behind those goofy balls of Styrofoam, there were flashing lights and shadowy figures thrashing away at what might have been instruments. But it could have been any bald, Christian vegan back there in the darkness, forgotten by NBC’s Olympic coverage.

As Moby gears up for the May release of “18,” his follow-up to 1999’s “Play,” he might remember his cool reception in Salt Lake last winter. Because there’s no doubt that “Play” was a hugely successful endeavor. And since his emergence as a pop star, Moby has definitely made a name for himself and his ideals. But “Play” was also the kookiest, most oddball hit album in a long, long time. Moby’s bold mixture of Lomax field recordings and downtempo beats – this in the age before “O Brother Where Art Thou?”‘s success – might not have ever found a larger audience without his blanket use of licensing agreements to propagandize the material. Could he use the same shtick twice? Musical “Die Hard?” What can Moby do next, besides make another great record, and hope that the casual audience he constructed with “Play” support him without first hearing his music in a Nordstrom’s ad?

The success of “Play” was due in large part to Moby’s talented work as an arranger, DJ, and producer. But it was also a fluke, a marketing guru’s dream. Barring another licensing barrage (which isn’t completely out of the question), “18” must stand on its own musically after the initial label and marketing push. This summer’s Area:Two tour will certainly help. David Bowie has already signed on, as well as Busta Rhymes. And “We Are All Made Of Stars”, the advance single from “18,” is a great song. It suggests the porcelain textures of French electronica while showcasing that warm honesty which defines Moby’s work. Plus, Gary Coleman’s in the video and MTV gave Moby his own show. So the hype machine is humming along, energizing the buzz on “18.” But the challenge is in the intangibles. There’s probably a contingent of “Play” purchasers that love the album. But ask them to pick Moby out of a police lineup with 9 other balding art dudes, and they’ll pick the ringer in the afro. If Moby wants to achieve “Play” success with “18,” he’ll likely be forced to deploy some of that wily commerce splicing that changed his music career forever in 1999. And since then, licensing music for advertising purposes has only grown more prevalent. And not even mentioning Nissan’s continued reliance upon classic Who songs, or Cadillac’s recent dip into the Led Zeppelin well. It’s the aping of current radio hits for major ad campaigns that has become de rigueur. Sheryl Crow has already sold the rights to her single “Soak Up The Sun” to American Express; her new album, “C’Mon C’mon,” was released April 16th. It’s not an issue that “Soak Up The Sun” has become an AMEX ad. It’s an issue that the practice is so quick, and so blas√©.

Moby has gone on record numerous times to defend his licensing decisions, depicting himself as a sort of guerilla Robin Hood, campaigning against the multinational corporations he loathes. But there’s a corollary to that argument. By framing his activism as such, it makes it okay to do it again. Like to boost “18”? Maybe. But what if he conducts a different kind of experiment, wherein he unleashes a series of whooshing variables into a control group 3 million strong? If the esoteric electronica of “18” was to do as well as “Play” without the atropine of licensing, it might be a bigger coup than selling an album full of Americana samples to an unwitting pop public (and a series of dopey corporations).

On his website, Moby interviews Bowie and Bowie interviews Moby. The Thin White Duke asks The Thin White Vegan about who he makes music for. “Oh boy,” Moby answers. “I have no idea…I never imagine my music being listened to by more than one person at a time.” It’s true: ever since he found fame, Moby has pretty much remained Moby. Even his episode of “Cribs” finds him acting the homebody in a well-appointed, but sensible, NYC apartment. He’d be making music forever all by himself, for himself, if he’d never become Moby the rock star. So he probably doesn’t give a crap whether “18” matches the success of “Play” or not. But for the rest of us, isn’t it sort of interesting to watch unfold?

JTL

DANCE MUSIC STOPS THE TRAFFIC

Moby Brings His Record Collection on Tour with Area:One

Johnny Loftus

CHICAGO – Delays, traffic jams, and a general lull in performance was felt throughout Chicagoland Wednesday, as thousands of coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and service industry positions were severely understaffed. The ramifications of the epidemic were widespread, as the working public found its daily routine severely hampered by longer lines at Starbucks, hastily constructed Subway sandwiches, and shoddy, overworked customer service at Target. It was later discovered that in each case, harried supervisors had found themselves pressed into service as baristas, sandwich artists and stockboys, after over half their adolescent workforce failed to appear for work Wednesday. Reports of Road Rage were up, and general performance was sluggish.

Meanwhile, at the Tweeter Center in south suburban Chicago, Moby’s Area:One Festival plugged in for the day, and 20,000 kids made the cops nervous.

Moby makes clear his reasoning behind Area:One’s eclectic lineup at www.areafestival.com: “There is a lot of music in the world that I love that does not always get the appropriate exposure.” Moby’s influence is obvious. In essence, the festival attempts to bring to the masses the club culture in which Moby began, while embracing influences of Hip Hop and alternative rock that have contributed to the larger cultural acceptance of his recent music. As such, the lineup was like hearing Moby’s latest mix tape, while driving around in his Grand Turismo. In the Ford Focus tent (a bizarre mix of corporate and counter-culture last observed at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival), top tier DJs like Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Timo Maas and The Orb shared the decks with Detroit Techno pioneers Derrick May, Juan Atkins, and Kevin Saunderson (performing as the Innovators). Meanwhile, on the main stage, organic diva Nelly Furtado opened a day of music that would feature The Roots, soulternative rockers Incubus, the stanky funk of Outkast, and finally Moby himself, who would prove to be an unassuming host, still grappling with his newfound role as a rock star.

While it remains a cultural force in the UK and Europe, club culture has never enjoyed more than an underground following in the US. Barring the occasional news story about a busted rave or token warnings against Ecstacy use by the mainstream US media, true dance music has kept a pretty low profile domestically. That said, it’s one of the last places where a kid can be a kid – you know, rebel. Punk rock has been co-opted. Hippy culture is a joke, awash in tired cliches of patchouli and tie-dye. But in the subterranean, smoky world of dance culture, a kid can find something unknown by the middle managers, guidance counselors, and oblivious parents. It is a world ruled by the DJ, a solitary figure behind the wheels of steel, who bends and shapes his audience with the help of other peoples’ music and a million watts of power. Glitter, tent-like pants, glow sticks: these are the mohawks, safety pins, and spiked wristbands of club culture.

On Wednesday, electronica ruled, and the sponsors knew it. Despite the confluence of sounds and demographics available to them at Area:One, the corporate presence was preoccupied with elements of dance culture. Intel found a nice tie-in. “The Area:One Music Festival will be a unique showcase for the evolution of music and technology,” explained John Travis, director of Worldwide Consumer Promotions for Intel. “These artists live out the same innovation and excitement that the Intel Pentium 4 processor brings to home computer users and music enthusiasts.” Information kiosks (read: ads) were designed in a proto-technical manner that emulated the sharp angles and shiny florescence of electronic music. Intel’s Digital Music Zone looked like a 5th century Hun dwelling re-imagined by Industrial Light & Music. Ford Motor Co. is no stranger to electronica. It tapped Juan Atkins’ “No UFOs” as the soundtrack for its Ford Focus ad campaign, and was a major contributor to this year’s Detroit Electronic Music Festival. The convergence of corporate brand strategy and dancefloor culture in the Ford Focus tent was an amazing (and odd) sight, but one that Ford somehow seems to have succeeded with. At the same time, the presence of KMX energy drink at Area:One was pure, un-cut culture terrorism. While energy drinks have for years been associated with rave culture in Europe (late nights, you know), they have only recently broken through in the US, with their more potent mixtures being quite popular in the taverns. In an ingeniously tacky move, KMX employed a gang of nubile young women to serve the iridescent orange product to festival goers in the same skinny vials that are used in bars to serve fruity alcoholic shots. Throw in the obligatory presence of MTV, and the area between the Ford Focus tent and main stage was a carnival midway of corporate brands desperately trying to make a lasting impression with their target market. Area:One’s sponsors could never hope to fully understand club culture; but they know its tenets suggest the trends and styles that will be cool next summer.

Incubus’ style (think Jane’s Addiction meets RHCP meets Deftones) is more ranging than moaning OzzFest counterparts like Papa Roach, Stain’d, or Drowning Pool, but the fact that they have risen to fame on the coattails of the Nu Metal movement makes their Area:One appearance a bit suspect. It’s not Moby’s fault; even he can’t persuade venue owners that Timo Maas is a household name. And though he and Outkast are both major draws in the current pop climate, it’s understandable that the least annoying of the Aggro-Metal crooners was asked to appear at Area:One. For their part, a shirtless Brandon Boyd and friends put together a serviceable set of “Mountain Song” covers, featuring strong percussion by drummer Jose Pasillas. Boyd even got to play a little bongo drum, to make those groupies swoon. Following Incubus on the main stage was the southern-style antics of Outkast. Launching immediately into “Gasoline Dreams,” Stankonia‘s fiery leadoff track, Dre and Big Boi then led their 5-piece backing band into 1996’s “ATLiens,” and had the crowd on its feet. Not content to rely on the hackneyed precepts of live Hip Hop (“throw your hands in the air!”;”Let me hear you say ‘AAAAHHH!!!'”), Atlanta’s finest rap crew displayed the range of influence in their sound with ease. 70’s soul, P-Funk, and an almost Vaudevillian stage presence helped to illustrate why some Hip Hop is stuck in a rut of its own making (shout-out to Sean Combs!), while some continue to innovate and educate.

A DJ is only as good as his last breakbeat. Unlike a band with a traditional frontman, or even the obvious stage presence of MCs like Big Boi and Dre, a DJ can be a somewhat clandestine existence. While his actions are the center of attention, the music and beats are the star of the show. He is at once visible and invisible, using his skills as a turntablist to constantly win over the audience. While the main stage performers suffered through horrible sound (courtesy of the Tweeter Center’s moronic shed design), the long, snaking line to enter the Focus tent alluded to its thoughtful setup. Inside, the DJ booth was at the extreme opposite end from the entrance, surrounded by filament-thin video screens and towering speaker banks that sounded incredible. Once inside the tent, it was impossible not to be overtaken by the experience of hearing a premier DJ at the top of his game. Upon entering the tent for Paul Oakenfold’s set, he dropped a killer breakbeat that brought up a series of swirling orange lights. On cue, 2,000 kids’ glow sticks went into full spinning action, suggesting a euphoric time lapse photo in real time. Both Oakenfold and Carl Cox proved their marquee status with athletic sets showcasing their love of House, Techno, and everything in between. At one point during Oakenfold’s set, the monstrous video monitor behind his solitary form found a line of fans in the audience, bending at their wastes in unison with the music – dancing to while worshipping at the altar of the man behind the wheels of steel. If Oakenfold had leapt into the crowd like a singer in a Rock and Roll band, the pulsating hands and bouncing feet would have supported his weight above them. And in a nod to the Innovators (Derrick May, Jaun Atkins, Kevin Sauderson), Oakenfold wore a T-shirt bearing the logo of the Motor Lounge, a club residing in the ancestral home of Techno, Detroit, Michigan.

Moby is an unlikely hero. A small, balding, vegan instrumentalist, Moby was the private product of the underground dance community for most of the late 80s and 90s. While his soundtrack work brought him a bit of notoriety, no one – least of all the artist himself – could have imagined the success that a few corporate licensing agreements would bring him. After 1999’s Play became the most licensed record of all time, Moby’s take on downtempo etherea blew him up TRL style. A collaboration with Gwen Stefani here or there, and suddenly a quiet DJ from the East Village has enough money and clout to put together one of the most ambitous package tours of the past few years. So at the end of the day, when Moby finally took the stage in a lightshow worthy of the Alan Parsons Project, it was interesting to see him – a small, balding, vegan instrumentalist playing songs for 20,000 kids who thought he fell to earth a few months ago. And he said as much. Stopping often between numbers to conversed amiably with the audience, Moby turned a wondrous eye on his fame, expounding about the sense of power one feels, standing with a guitar on a huge stage. To illustrate his point, he cranked his Marshall stack and peeled off a weedly-weedling guitar solo worthy of everyone’s hair rock hero, Eddie Van Halen. In between chats, Moby was a poster child for Speed, leaping between samplers, keyboards, and guitars as his band laid down a frenetic, lightshow infused groove. With English vocalist Diane Charlemagne (remember Goldie’s “Inner City Life”?) performing live many of the Americana samples from Play, that record’s signature sound was expanded to help it play out in the expanse of the venue. Hits like “Bodyrock,” “Natural Blues” and “Honey” were obvious crowd pleasers, but the kids were also receptive to his older, more straightforwardly techno offerings. It would have been nice to hear his rendering of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver,” but it was not to be. Instead, Moby turned up the distortion for “Southside,” bringing out Canadian pixie chanteuse Nelly Furtado as a stunt Gwen. After thanking his band, his fellow peformers, and the audience, Moby finished off Area:One with a Kraftwerk-ian display of distopian weirdness. Standing shirtless on his keyboard as the lightshow turned and twisted with his song’s monolithic beats, Moby yelped one last nervous “Thank you, Goodnight!” and ran off the stage. He probably dreamed of saying that from a big stage, too.

JTL

HE DID IT ALL FOR THE NOOKIE

The Sting/Jaguar love story is a curious one, one which will have repercussions on a mainstream music industry that is seeing its already crumbling credibility disintegrate faster than Sting’s songwriting capabilities.

Sting’s 2000 release “Brand New Day” and its marginal title track lead single failed to jump-start a career that had been stuck in neutral since at least 1995. What was to be done? The sour-pussed rocker himself wanted to release the world pop-ish “Desert Rose” as the next single. But radio put on the ki-bosh, balking at the song’s Arabic intro (sung by rai superstar Cheb Mami).

“Desert Rose” would’ve gone into the poor man’s Peter Gabriel bin, if not for some clever whoring on the part of Sting and his handlers.

The former Police bassist had already chosen the Jaguar S-TYPE as his ride of choice in the video for “Desert Rose,” believing that the car “evoke[d] the feeling and style of success we were trying to achieve.”

And — wouldn’t you know it? — a collaboration with ol’ Sting and his feeling of style and success was perfect for Jaguar’s domestic S-TYPE branding strategy.

Al Saltiel, general marketing manger for Jaguar, expounded about why his company jumped into bed with the fading rockstar and his desperate attempt for “Desert Rose” airplay. “One of our key strategic goals is to reach a broader market. We believe this campaign will help us do that.”

Sting got his wish after the ad began airing in the US. People hearing the song’s swirling, Pier One-esque Arab vocal and worldbeat polyrhythms quickly began requesting it on their local AAA/Adult Contemporary radio outlets.

It’s amazing how a song’s relationship to a particular product’s branding strategy will help it achieve heights never imagined by the artist. Famous vegan Moby’s compositions from his Play LP are some of the most-licensed songs of all time, with top-drawer clients including Nordstrom’s and Nike. After those and other spots featured such tracks as “Natural Blues” and “Honey,” Moby found himself at the top of the Modern Rock heap, appearing on various MTV incarnations as well as The Grammys. It’s a pretty safe bet that without the ad tie-ins, Play’s downtempo beats and Americana sampling wouldn’t have been heard by anyone other than NYC hipsters and people with large headphones on subways. Instead, mid-American teenyboppers, insecure female urban professionals in their 30s and soundtrack buyers all pooled their efforts to push the album into gold status and beyond. Information wasn’t available on how many Jaguar S-TYPE’s were purchased as a result of seeing Sting’s tush in one.

Moby is somewhat off the hook in the sell-out category, as he hasn’t compromised his famously activistic tendencies in the wake of his music’s sudden mainstream acceptance. Sting, on the other hand, should be kicked in the shins. No matter how much he loves “Desert Rose” and its mindless Cost Plus World Market approach to international pop, fully shilling it out to Jaguar to hawk their mid-priced sedan to Sting’s fanbase of rapidly aging, boring professionals is reprehensible. And the sad thing is that this sort of overt payola will most likely continue in an age of all- powerful brand strategies and impeccably researched product positioning. If an artist’s music fits a particular brand’s message, then offer him cash and hope he needs a career boost. Ideally, the product sells, the song gets adds on radio, and everyone gets real paid. Not a bad system, until a song with real vitality (i.e. not Sting’s blase bore-core) gets the marketing treatment.

JTL