DJ and producer Moby relives the career-defining years, 1989-1999, leading to his international breakthrough album “Play” (1999).
In this entertainingly gritty memoir, the author vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the evolving and increasingly drug-fueled New York City music and street scenes in the 1990s, when neighborhoods like the Meatpacking district and Lower East Side were still the epicenter of New York cool. “By 1993, the music was getting darker and the drugs were getting heavier,” he writes. “Audiences were dancing less and passing out in corners more.” Moby’s journey began in Connecticut—his hometown of Darien and later as a squatter living in a 100-square-foot space in Stamford—but with his rapid ascension as a cutting-edge DJ talent at hip downtown venues, he quickly established himself in NYC. With multiple high-energy electro-dance hits, he embarked on a series of international tours. Brief and frequently amusing episodic adventures in NYC and on the road drive the narrative thrust of much of the story, but the author also meditates on God, veganism, sex, and his complicated feelings about Christianity. “I understood applying ethical criteria to actions that affected other creatures, which was why I was a vegan, but I didn’t understand applying ethics to sex and other actions that were consensual or self-directed,” he writes. “If I got drunk and had sex in a bathroom with a stripper, was I transgressing a universal ethical code? It felt thrilling to consider that most of the Judeo-Christian ethical codes I’d been raised with were arbitrary. But when I’d been having drunken sex in bathrooms and transgressing Christian ethics, I was still thinking of myself as a Christian. And now I didn’t know if I still was.” While he documents numerous rave events that collectively feel redundant and somewhat tiresome, Moby’s writing comes alive when delving into the creative process of producing his music.
A distinctive addition to the recent spate of well-written memoirs by contemporary musicians, a list that would include the likes of Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, and Carrie Brownstein.