Moby: “I Don’t Advocate Sobriety for Anyone Who Can Drink Successfully”
Who would’ve thunk that demure electronic music superstar Moby was a self-proclaimed raging alcoholic? We spoke to him to talk about his Last Night Remixed album, but somehow talk degenerated into drunk Lower East Side tomfoolery, timing cocaine use just right, and why he’s just not that into the debauchery at the Box.
Can you tell me about the Last Night Remixed album? The original one is a very eclectic dance record that on one hand looks at my last 20 or 25 years in New York nightlife, and the new one is all remixes done of the songs from that album.
Why did you decide to remix it? When we were putting out singles, in order to make them more club friendly, we got different people to remix them. And the way I chose the people was by picking those whose records I was playing when I was DJing. We ended up with a lot of really good remixes, and rather than let them languish on the shelf, we decided to mix them together and put it out as one cohesive record.
Let’s talk about New York nightlife. What is a typical night out in the Lower East Side like for you? It depends on if I’m drinking or not. A sober night usually sees me home by midnight or 1, and a drunken night usually sees me getting home around 6 or 7.
How often do you go out? I’d say on average at least three times a week.
Is that three drunken nights a week or just three nights in general? I’m currently enjoying a period of sobriety, but for the last 15 years that hasn’t been the case. And so I guess, a night out — in a weird way they’re all kind of the same, but sort of slightly different. Max Fish has always been a standby since 1991, especially on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. And the Mars Bar, I really love Mars Bar, on the corner of 2nd and 1st.
Yeah, I’ve met some colorful characters there. It’s even better in the afternoon. I have a friend who was working at a strip club in midtown, and she would get off work at like 4 or 5, and we would meet for a drink, I mean an after-work drink. The LES north of Delancey is a little too overrun for me. It’s like spring break meets Mardi Gras. For a weekend, the only place north of Delancey that I would go to would probably be the Slipper Room. It’s sort of like a burlesque theater, but its just has really interesting shows, and the people who run it are really nice. I’m one of the owners of the Box, but I don’t really go there too often. I like degeneracy, but for the Box you really need to be in the right frame of mind. I’m pretty comfortable with debauchery and degeneracy, but the things that go on there don’t make sense to me.
What are some of the things that happen? The last time I was there, there were live sex acts on stage, and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but just suffice to say lots of crazy things. I’ve traveled around the world, and I’ve been to a lot of degenerate places, and rarely have I seen the level of degeneracy like I’ve seen at the Box.
How did you get involved with the Box? My old friend Simon [Hammerstein], well Simon and Richard [Kimmel] are the two main guys who own it, and when they were first renting the space they were looking for investors, so they went to old friends, and I thought to myself, it was right around the corner from where I live, it’s a place to go. And after I invested in it, I don’t actually go there that often.
Are you one a sobriety stint on purpose? If there were no consequences to drinking, I would drink all the time, but as you get older, the hangovers get worse, and I’m just tired of losing entire days to hangovers, so I’m enjoying some healthy sobriety for awhile to see how that works. I don’t advocate sobriety for anyone who can drink successfully.
Did you perform shows while being smashed? You know what’s funny? I started a rock band with some friends, and we’re all hardcore alcoholics, and whenever we play we all tend to get very drunk, and when I DJ I drink a lot, but whenever I do my own shows I never drink. Playing with the rock band, I just play bass and stand on the side, but with my own shows, there’s just too much going on, and if I was drinking I wouldn’t be able to do a good job.
What about other spots in the city? It sounds like a cliché, but going out in Williamsburg is still pretty fun. There’s Studio B, they have a lot of good shows there, and there’s a few new clubs in Manhattan that are pretty good, like Santos’ Party House where the DFA guys do parties, and there’s another one called Le Poisson Rouge. That’s put on by Justine D, who used to do the Motherfucker parties, which I think he’s involved it that.
Tell me about those. The Motherfuckers were started by Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi Valenti who are old old friends. He was DJing at Area in like 1982, 1983, and so they started this club called Mother. Mother was like this weird transgender thing, tons of drugs, and just craziness, and so the offshoot of that were like four times a year — these Motherfucker parties.
When you were younger, were you doing a lot of harder drugs? Everybody in this world dabbled. I have so many friends who were drug casualties. I knew people who were heroin addicts, people who smoked too much crack, people who did too much crystal meth. I mean you can’t swing a dead cat in New York without hitting someone who at one point wasn’t addicted to cocaine. I like drugs, but I never liked them enough to do that much. The main thing I liked about cocaine is that it made me want to drink more.
Would it sober you up? Yeah, so when I was doing coke, I would time it so that I would do the coke just when I wanted to start drinking more, which is not very healthy. But the opiates — I mean opiates are fun, but they’re not social. I’ve never really liked psychedelics and opiates, you don’t want to be on Vicodin in a nightclub.
So foodwise, what foods are good in NY? I think that the only reason I don’t look like I’m a 130 years old after a lifetime of touring so much and living in hotel rooms, and drinking too much, is that I’ve been a vegan now for 22 years. Normally friends of mine, when they wake up and they’re hungover, they go out and have bacon and eggs and smoke cigarettes. When I wake up, I have a smoothie and vegan burritos. So for anyone who plans on drinking a lot or taking drugs, I do advocate a vegan lifestyle to try and offset it a little bit.
Why did you first decide to become a vegan? I first became a vegan for the simple reason that I love animals and I just didn’t want to be involved in any process that made animals suffer. But then the more I found out about it, I realized it was good for my health, it’s good for the environment, and now at this point I don’t judge how anybody chooses to live.
Are you feeling healthy these days? When I’m on a serious drinking tear, my health kind of suffers, so that’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying this period of sobriety. But I have to say, New York is a difficult place to be sober. I walk from my studio to my apartment, and I literally pass 40 bars in a 10-minute walk, and they’re all open until 4 in the morning, and they’re all fun, and they’re all filled with interesting people. So I’m sure there are much easier places in the world to be sober
Are you able to go out sober at all? Sometimes it can be fun. When I’m drunk and I’m around other drunks, it’s the greatest thing around. But if I’m sober around other drunks, they’re just annoying. Drunk conversations when you’re drunk seem filled with realizations and epiphanies. Drunk conversations when you’re sober are just tedious.
Do you hate being be sober around drunk people? Yea, I just get home a lot earlier. I get home a lot earlier, and I don’t have nearly as much sex.
A hot sweaty club is completely different world when you’re sober as opposed to drunk. Well, it all depends. I went to a hardcore show, because I grew up in the hardcore punk scene, and it was hot and packed and sweaty, and everyone was beating the shit out of each other, and being sober for that actually was good. If someone took me to someplace like Marquee, if I was in there at 1 o’clock on a Friday morning, I’d just want to shoot myself in the face.
Would you go to Marquee if you were hammered? Oh, if I was hammered it would be the best place on the planet. If you’re drunk anything’s the best place. When I’m drunk, the only place I don’t like being is home.
Who are two people you would love collaborate with? My ultimate dream would’ve been to have been in Led Zeppelin in like 1973 when they were touring, and they had their own private plane, and they were making a million records, and they just really knew how to tour. In the world of dance music, I’m pretty content letting other people make their records, and I get to play them and take credit for them.
Touring must have been really fun for you. There was a period when it was amazing. There was a period around 2000, 2001, 2002, where I had an assistant on tour who’s sole job was throwing after-show parties. We would walk offstage, and every night there would be 100 people backstage getting fucked up, and every night was a party. And that was really fun, until the hangovers got so bad that I couldn’t do it anymore.
What’s your favorite city in Europe? If I’m going out, my favorite place is Scotland because in Edinburgh and Glasgow, people are out of their minds. I mean really, they eat ecstasy for breakfast. They go out the way New Yorkers go out, but even a little more hardcore. Like a good night in Edinburgh doesn’t end until 9 a.m. And I have to say that Los Angeles can also be really fun if you have friends that own bars and clubs.
What are some bars and clubs in Los Angeles that you like? My friend Anthony has a place called Dragonfly in Hollywood. It’s a rock and roll club. He and I have been friends for 25 years now, and so he keeps it open pretty late for his friends, and there’s this other place that his girlfriend works called the Burgundy Room, which I really like, that’s right around the corner in Hollywood as well. I like weird, sort of dirty degenerate rock n’ roll bars. I tend to not like bigger, slicker places. The moment I hear about a place having bottle service, that means I absolutely do not want to go there.
Have you ever been to Beatrice Inn? Yea, Paul [Sevigny] and Matt [Abramcyk], the two guys who own it — Paul and I grew up together, I had my birthday party at Beatrice a year ago, and I hear it was an amazing party.
What kind of drunk are you? I’m very gregarious. I’m just always the last person to leave the party, without question.
So you were blackout drunk at the Beatrice? Oh, sure. After my birthday party there, for the next two weeks I was getting emails from people saying what a good time they had, and God as my witness, I don’t remember any of them being there.
You grew up in the 1980s. How has New York nightlife changed? Well, it’s become bigger than it’s ever been. There are more bars, more clubs, more people going out. It’s a lot safer, that’s a huge part of it. In the late 1980s, because New Yorkers were ravaged by the crack epidemic, you took your life in your hands just walking down the street after midnight. In the early 1980s when I first started going out, you would not walk through Union Square after dark, and no one walked through Central Park. Tompkins Square Park was a homeless camp. Everyone would have all these locks on their doors to keep the drug addicts out, and then the drug addicts started cutting through the sheet rock next to the door.
People say they miss the old New York. Do you like it better now? Only the things that I miss. It was cheaper. When you went out, you never expected to spend a lot of money, so this whole bottle service thing — when someone goes out and has to spend $1,000 for a good night out, that’s just absurd. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, everybody could afford to live in the East Village, so everybody lived and worked and went out in the same neighborhood, and it jus made everything a lot much nicer. So now, its almost like the New York diaspora has happened where some people live in Bushwick, some people live in Redhook, some people live in Jersey City, some people live in Inwood — so the good old days where everybody lives on top of each other, those are gone. New York is always going to be big enough to accommodate anyone who wants to live here. There’s always going to be some new derelict neighborhood where 20-year-old artists are going to move to. That’s what Soho was, that’s what the East Village was, that’s what Tribeca was, and that’s certainly what the Lower East Side was.