Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Moby

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: the musician, songwriter and documentarian takes the ultimate test

What was the name of the supergroup you almost formed with Pantera and Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee?

“[Laughs] The Sober Fucks.”


“I’ve been sober for a while now, but this was a late-night, alcohol-fuelled idea between Pantera’s guitarist Dimebag Darrell, drummer Vinnie Paul, Tommy Lee and I. I regret not starting this chaotic metal band with them, which would have sounded like a cross between Pantera and my old punk group Flipper.”

Ever ask anybody else to start an extracurricular band?

“In the early ‘90s, I was having brunch with Björk and said: ‘We should start a heavy metal band together’. She was very polite, but she had no idea what I was talking about! It was so far outside of her realm of consideration that it didn’t even register!”

When you phoned David Bowie’s 2002 Live By Request TV special, what did he say you sounded like?

“When David heard my voice, he joked that I sounded like ‘a tall person with really long hair’ – describing me exactly as I am not!”


“The entire time I knew him, I just wanted to fall on my knees like Mike Myers in Wayne’s World when he meets Alice Cooper: the entire subtext to my friendship with David Bowie was me constantly repeating the mantra ‘I’m not worthy!’. We were neighbours in New York. Sat in my apartment drinking coffee one day, I presumptuously suggested we cover ‘Heroes’ for a fundraiser, thinking he would dismiss the idea. But instead he agreed, and we spent the morning playing ‘Heroes’ on acoustic guitar in my living room! On my death bed, that’s going to be the memory of him I replay.”

Ever record any unreleased music together?

“I played instruments on some of his records anonymously. He used to work at Looking Glass Studios around the corner from where I lived and would phone me up late at night and say: ‘Do you want to come over and play guitar or piano on this song?’ We did a bunch of [other] things together that were never released, but I wouldn’t know where any of it is. The only document of us playing together was us covering Pixies’ ‘Cactus’ and playing his song ‘Everybody Says Hi’ on The Tonight Show in 2002.”

Which rapper used to shoot an effigy of you on-stage every night during his early 2000s US tour?

“That would be my fellow white-trash suburban peer, Marshall Mathers!”

CORRECT. AKA Eminem. His feud with you is well-documented and included dissing you on the track ‘Without Me’, in which he aimed a homophobic slur at you as well as the lyrics: ‘You’re too old, let go / It’s over, nobody listens to techno’.

“The only time we ever ran into each other afterwards was famously documented at the [2002] MTV Music Awards when my friend Robert Smigel, who voices Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, thought it would be funny to speak to Emimen and I together – Eminem spent the evening scowling at me and got so upset he punched the puppet! I hope if we met up now, he’d laugh about that because it was bizarre and strange!”

Surprisingly, Eminem’s hatred of you wasn’t a pantomime act. Half-way through the awards ceremony, he allegedly told you ‘You’re dead’ and gave you an unusual drawing…

“Yeah. I kept the picture — I had it framed! He handed me a drawing of him strangling me, and it was a really great illustration! What was endearing was that on the back-side of the paper, he had started drawing it then decided it wasn’t good enough. So he had a first draft on one side and then the fully-executed version on the other. For the longest time, no matter where I went, someone would yell out of a car window: ‘Nobody listen to techno!’. So I’d like to thank Marshall for introducing me to his legion of 13-year-old, future-Trump-supporting fans. None of these people were running out to listen to my music, so it did in a negative way introduce me to a weird demographic of right-wing Americans who otherwise I would probably have had no contact with.”


How many circles adorn the cover of your 1997 ‘I Like To Score’ compilation?

Moby - 'I Like To Score' artwork
Moby – ‘I Like To Score’ artwork

“Eight? I should come up with a story about why the circles are on the cover, but the truth is my record company rejected the original art and we had to make replacement art in an afternoon.”

WRONG. 10.

“10?! You’ve gotta understand their significance, ‘cause it pertains to the golden mean in the Fibonacci sequence and Aleister Crowley talking about the Hermetic approach to Gnosticism… no, the truth is it’s just a bunch of circles!”

What was the track you co-wrote with Sophie Ellis-Bextor that appeared on her 2001 debut album ‘Read My Lips’ called?

“Ah, I don’t remember what she called the song in the end!”

WRONG. It’s ‘Is It Any Wonder’.

“No recollection! [Laughs] She was delightful, though.”

You also worked with other pop stars, such as producing ‘Early Mornin’’ for Britney Spears’ 2003 ‘In The Zone’ album…

“Growing up, I wanted to be Robert Smith — a singer in a great new wave band. But I realised my voice was just mediocre, so I had to learn how to work with singers and vocal samples. I did every remix possible because I was fascinated by seeing how other people work. With Britney, I was curious to see what it would be like working with the biggest pop star in the world. We didn’t spend too much time together and there was always a giant security guard around, but she was one of the most humble, softly-spoken people I’ve ever worked with.”

Talking of pop titans, didn’t you once turn down producing music for Madonna?

“One of my first concerts was to an audience of 20 people at a New York night club in 1989/90 — two of the people in the crowd were Madonna and O. J. Simpson, which is random. She came up me after the show and — although she wouldn’t shake my hand! — told me I was talented. We became friends, and when she asked me to work on music I wanted to say yes, but I was touring endlessly so couldn’t do it.”

Morrissey also asked you to work with him in 2000. What do you think your collaboration would have sounded like?

“He came up to me backstage at The Greek Theatre in LA and asked me to produce some music for his next album. But, again, I was on tour, so I couldn’t do anything apart from be hungover and live in airports. I love that first ‘The Smiths’ album, so I would probably have tried to return to some of that dreamier sound with him.”

Which actor did you once go on a pub crawl with dressed in a bath towel?

“Oh, Ewan McGregor!”


“I had just played a show in Sydney. Since then we’ve both become sober, but at the time we were very much drunk. I have a picture of the two of us standing on the street exposing ourselves to the camera [Laughs]. That was one of those throwing-up-at-the-end-of-the-night experiences – maybe less so for him because he’s Scottish, so his constitution is better! But boy oh boy, it was a rough one!”

You performed ‘Go’ on Top of the Pops in October 1991. Name three other acts who appeared on the same episode.

U2 did ‘The Fly’ but it was video-recorded. Then [it was] Phil Collins, and there were so many rave acts at the time… rats! This is frustrating because I like having a good memory. Altern-8?”

WRONG. Apart from U2 and Genesis, you could have had: SL2, Don McLean, Congress featuring Lucinda Sieger or Zoë.


Name any of the surreal things you requested in the casting call for the video for your 2013 single ‘The Perfect Life’ (a collaboration with The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne).

“I can describe the video in great detail, but I don’t remember the casting call! Sorry! I’ve let myself down!”

WRONG. Among other peculiar requests, you were searching for obese Speedo-sporting bikers, roller-skating ghosts and an S&M gimp proficient in rhythm gymnastics.

“And all of that ended up in the video! [Laughs] Wayne’s a unicorn magician whose entire world is like an acid carnival.”

You recently released the documentary, Punk Rock Vegan Movie. But what did comedian Andy Dick do to your celebratory end-of-tour vegan cake in 2001?

“Well, he tried really hard to defecate on it. I’d walked off-stage after playing Joy Division’s ‘New Dawn Fades’ with New Order, Billy Corgan and John Frusciante [on the last show of his self-curated Area:One touring festival], and Andy was in my dressing room with his pants pulled down straddling my cake. He didn’t successfully poop on it, but he certainly made a Herculean effort to! He also handed me a glass of champagne – after he’d peed in the bottle.”

CORRECT. How did it feel performing ‘New Dawn Fades’ with New Order?

“After David Bowie, my second favourite band was Joy Division. My high school band covered multiple Joy Division songs, and my yearbook quote was from ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. What was intense was that [Peter] Hooky said: ‘We haven’t played ‘New Dawn Fades’ since Ian Curtis was alive’. I choked up and almost cried, and ended up teaching them how to play it again.”

You mentioned your school days: apparently you used to lie to your classmates that you were related to The SpecialsTerry Hall?

“I was so desperate to not be seen as a sad, suburban aspiring punk rock, new wave kid that I — Madonna-style — pretended to be British. The problem was my English accent was a subpar version of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, and I was pretending to people I’d already been in school with for the last eight years! But I had the same last name as Terry Hall [Moby’s real name is Richard Melville Hall] and I loved the first two Specials albums, so I told people he was my cousin — even though I was a 15-year-old from Connecticut who’d never even been to the UK, let alone met him!”

Tell us about Punk Rock Vegan Movie.

“I got introduced to the world of punk rock and animal rights in 1982. The one and only time my hardcore band, the Vatican Commandos, went on tour, we stayed in a vegan squat in Akron, Ohio. I was 15 and didn’t even know what a vegan was. But I became vegetarian in ’84 and then vegan in ’87, and the only other vegans I knew were people in punk rock bands like Bad Brains. A huge part of the modern animal rights movement came from the world of punk rock, starting with Crass and the U.K. Subs through to Fall Out Boy and Rise Against. It looks at the history and reminds people that punk rock was not nihilism; it was principled questioning of everything.”

Which comedian and Never Mind The Buzzcocks guest-host had a game where you had to count the Mobys while avoiding your bald doppelgängers, like R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and chef Heston Blumenthal?

“Adam Buxton.”


“We once did his Bug music review show together in London’s Southbank Centre. I’ve been mistaken for every other bald musician. I was sat having coffee and this man came up to me, started crying and was so emotional and said: ‘I just have to tell you that your music has meant so much to me. It’s gotten me through so many hard times’. Then, just as I’m feeling narcissistic, he added: ‘Losing My Religion’ is just the most important song in my life’… I didn’t correct him!”

The verdict: 6/10

“Really, my goal for this was to get more correct answers than Fatboy Slim did, so I’m patting myself on the back!”

Moby’s documentary ‘Punk Rock Vegan Movie’ is streaming on all platforms now. His 20th studio album ‘Resound NYC’ will be released on May 12.