03/20/2014 09:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Moby Talks Apocalypse and True Detective

According to musician, Moby, an artist who has sold over 20 million records and whose song "Extreme Ways" plays prominently at the end of every Bourne film, the apocalypse happened back in December 2012. Did you not get the memo? Maybe it happened stealthy like a thief in the night.

"The apocalypse of 2012 happened in an instant," Moby explains, "but it had begun, almost tectonically, ages ago. The apocalypse of 2012 was with us, then it was upon us, and even now it's both a part of our collective fabric and a representation of something disconcertingly new."

Pretty heady stuff, but then again, Moby, born Richard Melville Hall, is a descendent of Herman Melville, author of "Moby Dick" -- the singer has said that Melville was his "great-great-great-granduncle."


Ever since Moby made the big move out west from New York City to the hills of Los Angeles in 2011, he's been obsessed with cults and the apocalypse. Introverted, sober and not part of the Hollywood scene, it almost makes sense Moby would become interested in creating his own "cult," which featured prominently in all the artwork for his latest release Innocents. After all, only in Los Angeles could an outcast and misfit like Charles Manson be considered charismatic enough to spawn his own "family" and still be fascinating enough 40 plus years later to still etched in our consciousness and be celebrated as an infamous quasi celebrity.

Now I'm not comparing Moby to Manson (not even the Marilyn variety), but the 48-year-old artist does delve deep into the darkness of his own created apocalypse, which is featured front and center in his current Innocents photo exhibit at Project Gallery in Hollywood. The show, which runs through the end of March, features large-scaled photographs captured in garish color, featuring a cast of masked and white robed apocalypse characters, each proof of the darker emotions and motivations that we hide from ourselves -- fear, shame and a hedonistic willingness to try anything to succeed and fill the voids. Reinvention -- spiritual, physical, psychological -- is carried out in the extreme in these documented rituals.

"I've been obsessed with this idea of an apocalypse for a while," Moby confesses.

...especially more etymology, like the Ancient Greek idea of revelation, not necessarily malignant or benign, not destructive, just a transformation. The idea of labeling history in a way that changes your perception of the present -- like New York on September 10, 2001 versus New York on September 12, 2001. The truth is most of New York was unaffected but our perception is completely changed. And not to downplay terrorist attacks but a deli on 12 Street looked pretty much the same September 12, 2001 as it did September 10 but so much extra meaning is attached.

In his current photo show, Moby under represents the more sensationalistic aspects of the "cult of the innocents" and instead focuses on their mute and somber penitence. His Innocents photos document the cult he's created, which is a reaction to the apocalypse.

"These photos are like cave paintings," Moby offers. "They try to tell a story, and the story in ambiguous and there's no resolution."

While Moby's masked cult members can look off putting and intimidating, this is hardly the Manson family reinvented. In fact, Moby sees some goodness in cults.

Cults are very interesting to me because of what they say of the human condition. Most cults are based on two simple ideas; trying to create more significance for people's lives; and hanging out with other people. There's something in us that's cognitively hardwired to want to feel that our lives have extra meaning.


Funny enough, talk of cults and the apocalypse eventually lead to talking about True Detective, one of the best and darkest shows in recent memory -- a program Moby was fascinated with. And he couldn't resist but to offer his own take on the show's dark nature and its connection to the apocalypse.

It's almost this idea that the apocalypse or the rapture happened a long time ago and God took his chosen people and we're what's left. These people on True Detective are dirt farmers trying to cultivate some meaning, and the meaning is through murder or drugs or degeneracy or narcissism or intellectualism or family; these seemingly arbitrary desperate responses to this existential void.

While Moby admits he doesn't watch The Walking Dead, I take it he likes his apocalyptic TV viewing a little more cerebral. Always one to take a different approach to the norm, Moby shifted from the classic "record and tour" musician approach, instead, he released Innocents, performed a three-night residency in Hollywood (perhaps the world's shortest tour -- although the third night was broadcast for the world to watch online), then took his Innocents project one step further with a photo exhibit, and now has released a live CD/DVD set from his Hollywood concert. So it makes you wonder if his expectation of a successful project has changed.

"The only thing I'm paying attention to is the creative aspect; making a record and putting it out into the world," Moby says.

I just love the act of making it and releasing it and seeing how people respond to it. The success of the record is not whether it sells, the success is do I like it, did I enjoy making it, am I proud of it, and do other people seem to have a relationship with it? Music to me is just emotional, so I hope someone has an emotional response when they listen or come see the show, with the pictures, I want people to feel a little bit unsettled; to encounter things that look familiar but raise a lot of questions.