Moby’s new studio, built high up in Los Angeles’ Beachwood Canyon, the area that’s home to the Hollywood sign, isn’t that different from the one he built in a lower Manhattan apartment. It occupies a single small bedroom, with various electronic devices arranged with museum-like care, and guitars and keyboards no more than a step or two from the computer.
“They are both monastic, one-man studios,” Moby says. The key difference is apparent only at night, when he steps outside and feels the darkness and isolation of the canyon. “In Manhattan I walk out my front door and there are millions of people everywhere. I walk out my front door here and it’s the country.”
Moby moved into the restored, John Lautner-designed mid-century house that contains his studio two years ago. (His residence is situated behind it on a hill.) His first project since the move, aside from a few remixes and pieces for friends’ films, is the forthcoming “Innocents,” due Oct. 1 on Muse, a record he says is his most collaborative yet. It’s the first time he’s used an outside producer, Mark “Spike” Stent, and he also brought in several vocalists, including Wayne Coyne, Mark Lanegan and Skylar Grey.
Moby’s initial vision was “a lo-fi dance record” inspired by Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English,” Smith & Mighty’s 1990 version of “When You Wish Upon a Star” and ’70s electronic music. “Then Spike very wisely said, ‘If this record is going to be good, it’s going to have a lot of vulnerability and emotion in it,'” Moby recalls. “So it shifted away from lo-fi dance music to something that was much more expansive and warm. I like lo-fi dance music, but I really love warm, melodic, emotional music, so that’s what we were striving for.”
To capture those qualities, he relied on older gear in various stages of disrepair — a Gibson Reverb III from the early ’60s, three Echoplex units and a Sparkling EC-4000 delay. “Oftentimes we would record something and it would sound too clean or too new, so we would look around at the equipment and think, ‘What can we plug this into to sound stranger and more vulnerable?'” Moby says.
For “Don’t Love Me,” Moby and Stent placed a ribbon mic 10 feet away from the drums and put the recording through a broken limiter to get “a strangely tight drum sound that didn’t sound anything like the original recording.”
“What I love about all this weird old equipment is that it doesn’t really work that well,” he says. “You can’t touch the volume pot on the Korg [synthesizer] because it’ll just stop working. I haven’t touched the volume on that in probably 10 years, it’s so dirty and degraded.”