First Times: Moby

By Brian Ives

In our series First Times we get to know a musician better by finding out about those initial experiences in their life that make them who they are. This time around we’re talking with Moby about his long out-of-print but now-reissued Hotel Ambient collection.

Originally released as a bonus disc with the deluxe edition of his 2005 album, Hotel: Ambient has long been out of print.

Why is he re-releasing it now? “It’s just sort of logistical and mundane,” he tells Radio.com. “Until six months ago, EMI owned Hotel: Ambient, and six months ago I got the rights back.”

He’s similarly straightforward in explaining why it was a limited edition disc in the first place: “I think largely because there are no songs on it. There are no drums, there are no vocals. So I think EMI almost saw it as an indulgence, letting me add it as a bonus disc, and every time they pressed one, they had to pay for it, so I think that they were in no hurry to make more of them. And once the initial run sold out, I kept asking them to re-release it, or at least make it available on iTunes, and they just didn’t understand why they would want to do that for something that only ten people on the planet would care about.”

Through the course of a phone conversation that went twice as long as scheduled, he spoke about many of his “firsts,” including the first (and last) time he ever ordered something from room service, the first (and, it turns out, only) time he ever knowingly broke his vegan diet and the first time he met his hero, David Bowie.

First Time You Heard Ambient Music

I guess I was around ten years old when Brian Eno and David Bowie began experimenting with ambient music. And it probably would have been either [1977’s] Low or [1977’s] “Heroes.” And I remember saving up all my money and buying the cassette of Low or “Heroes,” and taking it home and at first being taken aback that the whole second side of the album didn’t have songs on it. I bought it expecting David Bowie songs, and then you hear this instrumental music. But I noticed that whenever I played it, it had this amazing ability to transform the space in which it was being listened to. And it piqued my curiosity.

First Time You Heard David Bowie

I remember it was through the Columbia Records Club: “Get 10 records for 1 penny!” My mom, sometime in the mid ’70s, she joined, and one of the records she got was [the 1976 greatest hits collection] ChangesOneBowie, and I remember listening to it obsessively when I as 9 or 10 years old. At school, all the kids were convinced that David Bowie was a gay British man, which meant that they weren’t allowed to like him. Which basically meant that I was a closeted David Bowie fan. I would go home and listen to ChangesOneBowie over and over and over again, but I couldn’t admit to loving David Bowie because then everyone would think I was gay. And in Connecticut in 1974, if people thought you were gay, that meant you would get beaten up mercilessly. The only song that I didn’t like on the album was “John, I’m Only Dancing.” I think it was just because it was too jaunty. I was a little kid, and there were some songs that seemed like they were referencing things in the adult world that I just didn’t understand.

First Time You Met David Bowie

Oh, I remember that very well. He was on tour with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. They played a show at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey. It was a little bit heartbreaking, because it was mainly Nine Inch Nails fans at the show. You were there? Then you remember that half the audience walked out during Bowie’s show. I actually wanted to stand at the exits and yell at people, “What are you doing? You’re walking out on god!” I love David Bowie, but it wasn’t one of his best performances. And afterwards, David Bowie and Trent Reznor had a party, and somehow I got invited. And I stood in line, and was escorted up to an elevated dais, where I was introduced to David Bowie, and we had a two-and-a-half minute long conversation, and it felt like the closest thing I’d ever had to having an audience with royalty. Then, of course, a few years later, we became friends. Is that why I played after him on the Area:02 tour [in 2002]? No. The reason I played after him was so that he could avoid traffic and go home. He knew that if he played last, he would be stuck in traffic in the parking lot.

First Time You Ordered Something Indulgent from a Hotel’s Room Service

It wasn’t anything that crazy, it was a hotel in London, it probably would have been 1993, and I ordered vegan spaghetti and fresh squeezed orange juice. I looked at the bill and it was sixty dollars! And I vowed to never order anything from room service for as long as I live, and to this day I have not. The only thing I’ll ever ask for from room service is hot water for tea, or maybe a spoon.

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