Moby rocks out during a concert in L.A. (Photo by Philip Cosores, contributing photographer)
“Porcelain” is the memoir of musician Moby, who will be the next author featured in the Register Book Club at a public program held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17.
Moby is the electronic rock musician, and “Porcelain” is his memoir. Both will be featured at the next Register Book Club event on Wednesday, May 17. (Photo courtesy of Penguin Books)
The original caption on this photo shows you it was written right before Moby got famous: “A musician and screen composer who goes by the name of Moby listens to other speakers while on a panel at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York, on Friday, Oct. 6 1998.” Moby and his memoir “Porcelain” are the next author and book featured in the Register Book Club with a public event scheduled for Wednesday, May 17. (File photo by the Associated Press)
Moby performs t the Fonda in L.A. in October 2013.
The musician Moby got his moniker from a fellow named Herman Melville who wrote a whale of a tale titled “Moby Dick,” but the singer, songwriter and DJ never dreamed he’d ever follow in the footsteps of his uncle many times removed.
“I’d always assumed that memoirs were either written by people at the end of their lives, or by disgraced politicians, or people who had done something very specific of note in recent memory,” says Moby, whose critically acclaimed “Porcelain: A Memoir” is the next selection of the Register Book Club.
“But then 10 or so years ago it seemed like a lot of musicians started writing temporally specific memoirs,” he says by phone from his Los Angeles home recently. “Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ or Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles,’ where they weren’t trying to cover an entire life. They were more like snapshots of a person at a specific time and specific place.”
Then one night at a party in Brooklyn a few years ago, Moby — whose given name is Richard Melville Hall — found himself sharing stories of his life as a struggling artist in New York City back when the city was still gritty, if not flat-out squalid, when a 20-something with loads of talent and big dreams could survive on a few hundred bucks a month earned as a DJ, and hustling day and night to get his music and his name noticed.
“Someone said, ‘You should write those stories down,’” Moby says, and so he did, with “Porcelain” out in hard cover last year and in paperback on May 16, the day before Moby appears in conversation as part of the Register Book Club at the Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana.
“I like working on a lot of different things at the same time, which I guess is sort of dilettantish,” he says. “So I was writing the book and making records (“These Systems Are Failing” done with the Void Pacific Choir in the fall) and opening a restaurant (the vegan eatery Little Pine in Silver Lake), and working on my activism (animal rights has long been of great importance to him).”
The book takes place from 1989 to 1999 when New York City was rough around the edges and Moby — sober, Christian, and vegan — spent his nights in dark clubs playing mixes and music of his own creation, though it wouldn’t be until nearly the turn of the century and the release of the album “Play” that he’d find his greatest fame.
That time-jump from then to now, from the Lower East Side and elsewhere in the city to his current home in the L.A., made for a weird sense of time travel as he revisited his back pages to write “Porcelain.”
“It was wonderful but also odd and disconcerting,” Moby says. “Because I would find myself writing about really gritty stuff that happened in a really gritty environment while sitting by the pool in the sunshine drinking organic white tea.
“I would get so involved in the writing I would look up and my real world circumstances seemed like the anomaly,” he says.
As bad as it was at times, with cockroaches and drug dealers and crazy roommates among just a few of the hazards of life back then, there’s still a sense of fondness for those days that comes through clearly in the words of his book.
“It’s interesting because we live in this world, not to say anything too broad, where people still work under the assumption that money and fame and success bring happiness, even though there’s no evidence to support that idea,” Moby says. “If you read some interview with an actor or a rock star invariably they’ll talk about the happiest time of their life was when they were broke and starting out.
“It’s funny. Everyone wants to be that rich, famous person living in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills even though the rich, famous person living in the mansion in the Hollywood Hills is probably in therapy four times a week and wishes they could go back.”
Moby’s interests have long been widely eclectic. The casual fan knows him for “Play,” which blended a shimmering electronica with samples of old blues and field recordings on many tracks, making it fresh and vintage – and timeless – all at the same time. It sold 12 million of so albums and made him a superstar, but it’s never been the only thing he’s done, with the metal and punk influences of his teen years surfacing here, a blissed-out ambient flow there, as well as all the many other interests he’s embraced along the way.
Did his background as a musician help when he sat down to write “Porcelain?”
“I hope so,” Moby says. “I think speaking very broadly there are only two things that creative endeavors have in common. Ideally they’re a product of enthusiasm, and the other is they’re all products of confusion.
“Everything is a result of this weird human condition where if we’re honest none of us have any idea what we’re doing except for sociopaths,” he says. “And sometimes the creativity is a celebration of the confusion. Sometimes it’s a lamentation of the confusion, but underneath it there is confusion.”
As he wrote he tried to include stories that were entertaining or enlightening, and always tell the truth, even when it might not reflect that well on himself.
“I had no problems throwing myself under the bus,” Moby says. “At the very least I didn’t want to waste people’s time. I find in my life, and I assume this is true for most people, when someone writes a book that is honest, and maybe aspires to have some meaning to it, I really am grateful.”
Reviews when the book arrived last year were uniformly positive, praising it as among the best of rock memoirs, and earning plaudits from the likes of celebrated novelist Salman Rushdie who wrote in part,”The writing is terrific, enlivened by a bewildered deadpan humor that makes crazy sense of it all. His ancestor Herman Melville would, I think, be simultaneously revolted and proud.”
That famous forefather, it turns out, is partly responsible for Moby actually putting pen to paper, or more likely fingertips to keyboard, he admits.
“When I was talking to my literary agent I said, ‘Oh, wow, I can just get someone else to write this and all I have to do is tell the stories,’” Moby says.
“He said, ‘You’re descended from Herman Melville. You have to at least try.’ ”
The Register Book Club event at the Frida Cinema begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, and in addition to a conversation with Moby will include a Q-&-A session and conclude with a book signing. Click here to get tickets to the event.
Read more about Rock musician Moby and his critically acclaimed memoir ‘Porcelain’ are set for the Register Book Club’s next event This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Mission Viejo Paper Shredding Company
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