Moby is best known for sampling soul and gospel singers on his smash 1999 album, Play, but his new release, Innocents, goes far beyond that template, featuring artists from the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne to Toronto’s own dark folk act Cold Specks. We sat down for a cup of tea with the good-natured electronic producer to chat about the wide-ranging elements that make up the album.
The Gun Club
Who: Los Angeles cowpunk band fronted by the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
Influenced: Innocents’ evocation of the Los Angeles experience.
Moby says: The early ’80s music of The Gun Club offers “the perfect representation” of L.A., the city where he recently moved from New York; it sounds “like the desert, but also like the comfort of the suburbs and the dysfunction of this weird urban environment.” Moby exploited the same contradictions on Innocents, which he recorded at home.
The Wolf’s Lair
What: A 1920s castle built by developer L. Milton Wolf in Los Angeles’s Beachwood Canyon neighbourhood, overlooking the “HOLLYWOOD” sign. Moby bought it in 2010.
Influenced: The album’s cover photo and the video for lead single “A Case for Shame,” which were both shot on its grounds.
Moby says: “People think I’m speaking euphemistically, but there are actual big yellow signs in my neighbourhood that basically say, ‘Stay away from the wildlife,’” like mountain lions, bears, rattlesnakes, and black widow spiders. “The more you’re around these things, the more you realize they are actually quite reclusive.” The video for “A Case for Shame” finds him drifting in his backyard pool, surrounded by creatures hiding behind animal masks. “As humans, who we are innately is really remarkable,” he says, “but we spend our entire lives covering up those innate qualities. That’s sort of where the title and the artwork comes from—the idea of egregious concealment.”
Who: The late American author of Wise Blood and other tales of the Catholic grotesque.
Influenced: The album’s opening track, “Everything that Rises.”
Moby says: “At some point in high school [in suburban Connecticut], I realized my two biggest crushes were on dead women: Flannery O’Connor and Sylvia Plath.” Innocents opens with a serene instrumental that derives its name from O’Connor’s story “Everything that Rises Must Converge.” “Some people might think that it’s this self-aggrandizing launch to the record. It’s like, ‘No, I meant [the title] in a dark, southern Gothic way.’”
What: The A-side of the last Joy Division single released during singer Ian Curtis’s lifetime.
Influenced: The album’s stately, graceful, and elegiac sound.
Moby says: “My best friend in high school who I never met was Ian Curtis. Joy Division, from my perspective, never recorded a bad note.” Having previously covered their song “New Dawn Fades,” he used “Atmosphere” for sonic inspiration. The song, he says, “is incredibly austere and simple. I shied away from records that don’t have atmosphere, like UK pub rock from the mid-’70s: It’s a little too straight [without] that magical, transcendent quality.”
Who: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–inducted Chicago doo-wop group.
Influenced: The song “The Lonely Night,” featuring Mark Lanegan.
Moby says: “One of my favourite recordings of all time is ‘I Only Have Eyes for You,’” The Flamingos’ spacey, reverb-drenched 1959 single. He finds the song “beautiful,” even though “you can barely hear the drums.” When he and engineer Mark “Spike” Stent mixed “The Lonely Night,” Moby says, “we ran all the instruments through a guitar amp and a distortion pedal, and we asked each other, ‘Are we allowed to do this?’ Everything sounded like weird mush, but it somehow fit the song, and we reminded ourselves that our favourite records often don’t sound very conventional.”