Nerdy, middle-aged Moby and fresh-out-of-the-gate 20-something singer Cold Specks might seem an unlikely match, but that’s just one of the pairings essential to the sound of the former's new album, Innocents.
The electronic dance music success releases Innocents, his 11th studio album, today.
It’s not going out on a very long limb to say that Moby is most famous for an album that came out over a decade ago, 1999’s Play. Some of its most arresting tracks sampled field recordings of gospel and folk music, enfolded by pulsing electronic beats. The unexpected genre-bending appealed to audiences, as did the melancholy hit Porcelain and the album went on to sell 12 million copies worldwide.
Rather than attempt to emulate the success of Play in subsequent albums however, Moby said he used its commercial impact to take a different artistic direction.
'If I was desperate to reclaim [past] success... I'd drive myself insane. I'd be making terrible decisions. Instead of collaborating with Cold Specks, I'd be collaborating with Katy Perry' - Moby
“If I was desperate to reclaim the kind of success I had with Play I'd drive myself insane. I'd be making terrible decisions. Instead of collaborating with Cold Specks, I'd be collaborating with Katy Perry. And I'd be making creative decisions influenced by commerce,” he told CBC News.
Collaborations are key to Innocents, with alt-rock singer Mark Lanegan, Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne, indie-folk’s Damien Jurado, Skylar Grey (best known for co-writing Eminem and Rihanna’s Love the Way You Lie), Moby tour vocalist Inyang Bassey and Canada’s Cold Specks all making vocal appearances.
“What I was looking for in their voices is someone who can sing well, but has a really interesting timbre and quality to their voice,” he said.
“I live in L.A. where there are a lot of good voices, but not a lot of interesting voices. What I love is [someone] like Mark Lanegan or Cold Specks, they have such beauty to their voice, but it's a very idiosyncratic beauty.”
Moby is 47 now, making Innocents seem somewhat of an unlikely album title, particularly for a man who has been in the music business for over thirty years. But it describes the artist's view of the most bottom line issues facing all of humanity.
“I spent my whole life fascinated by and obsessed with the human condition and the way in which we all respond to it…We're always trying to wonder, what, if any, lasting or global or universal significance [our lives] have. And the end result is we're all baffled. At least I hope we're baffled. The alternative to being baffled is to be a sociopath,” he said.
“So as a species we're all just confused. And capable, of course, of great joy, but most of us live with I think a lot of confusion and fear. Ideally what that should create is a sense of solidarity. When human beings look at each other they should say, 'we're all in this together, we're all experiencing the same things.’ That gives rise in my mind to a state of innocence.”
It seems innocence is also a quality Moby craves, at least as it occurs in the process of making music.
As a one-time philosophy major and the child of academics, Moby said that his inclination, “for better or worse,” is to be on the academic and analytical side. For him, music’s very appeal is as an escape from the brainy part of his nature into the realm of emotions. As a listener, that emotional realm seems to hold more overcast days than sunlit ones, Moby admitted.
“I really like happy music. I really truly like happy music a lot, but I love sad music. If someone puts on CCR's greatest hits it makes me happy, and I think it's great. But if someone puts on Nike Drake or a Joy Division record, I feel like the depths of my soul are being spoken to.”