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e-Briefing | Celebrity Setup

Making Digital Music for a Moby Disc

November 16, 2000

Moby is a true artist of the digital age. In his home studio, he produces music that draws on electronic and acoustic sources and reflects his passion for styles ranging from techno and house to folk and even gospel. His popular 1999 album, "Play," was one of the most critically acclaimed of the year.

Most of his music is created through sequencing, a technique that uses computers to trigger sounds in electronic instruments, such as synthesizers. Moby, 35, lives in New York but spends much of his time on tour.

Desktop: A Mac G4 for the music; everything goes through that.

But I still have an Apple IIci that I got in 1992. It's slow as molasses, and it's my favorite one, the most reliable computer I ever had. Someone once told me not to turn a computer off because it's bad for the hard drive, and there was one stretch when the IIci was on for two years. I have to keep it. I have a lot of material on it I can't transfer to the newer computers.

I'm sure that PCs are fine, and I don't want to get into any PC bashing. It's just that I've never used one except to sit in front of and get my e-mail. But to turn it on and use it, I wouldn't know how.

Without digital technology, would you be making music?: I've been playing classical guitar since I was 8 years old, and then drums and bass. I didn't really get into electronic music until 1987, when I got my first synthesizer.

I loved playing conventional instruments, and I still do. If someone hears a piano on one of my records, that's me playing it. But the downside of conventional instruments is that they are limited--a piano can play only like a piano, as beautiful as that is. But a synthesizer has an unlimited sonic palette. I have a synthesizer that can play 2,000 sounds.

Laptop: I have a new iBook that I use for e-mail and text-based stuff. I didn't need anything fancy for that, just something I could take on tour.

Most of the people I'm close to in my life I communicate with by e-mail. I think I have only four, maybe five phone numbers memorized, but I probably send out 75 e-mails a day, just for personal messages.

About five or six years ago I forced everyone who worked with me to become e-mail ready. It was because I was getting phone bills and fax bills that were just astronomical.

Hand-held: I was a presenter at a VH1 award show, and they always give you a little gift bag for doing something like that. Inside was a Palm III, a color one. I turned it on and saw how it handled schedules and an address book, and knowing myself, I knew I would never use it, so I gave it to a friend.

This is going to sound very bourgeois, but I have managers and assistants who serve the same purpose. And the information I personally need that would be on a Palm is already on my own computer.

Bookmarked Web sites: It sounds strange, but I use my computer 98% for e-mail. I do go to my own Web site [], and for searches I use Google [] and Yahoo [].

For news, I look in at Reuters [] to check the headlines. I get a kick out of using Reuters because it's an old, traditional news service. I think about their history and picture some far-flung correspondent tapping out a story in Morse code.

Screen saver: Back when I first got a computer, I had all those three-dimensional things bouncing around and fish. But not anymore. There is something to be said for a nice, simple blank screen.

Cell phone: I live in New York, I don't have a driver's license and I live and work in the same place. So for me to have a cell phone would be absurd.

When I am on tour, I actually have three cell phones--an American, European and international. But normally, my tour managers have them. I'm proud to say that of all three cell phones, I don't know the numbers for any of them. It's kind of nice--I can call people but they can't call me.

Favorite tech toy: I would say it's my iBook, especially on tour. It's got a DVD player, a CD player, and of course I can do my e-mail.

Personal sound system: The funny thing is that I don't know a single musician who has a great home system. I have non-musician friends who have phenomenal systems with SurroundSound and all that. But myself, it's your basic one step up from a dorm-room system.

The main reason for that is that I'm making music for a wide variety of people out there, and you want to be listening on a setup similar to what most people have.

Has being so immersed in technology changed you?: I'm sure it has. It's hard to describe, but I'm a different person than I was 10 years ago, and in a large part that's because of my technology-filled existence. I think the one thing having so much tech in my life has done is made me a much less patient person. In life, things don't happen as fast as when you push a button on a computer.

I think I am also a lot more addicted to communication. If I'm staying in a hotel somewhere where they don't have a way to connect my modem, I get panicky.

I have friends who when they go on vacation give up their computers and don't use a phone, and they realize they can live at a slower pace. It doesn't have to be so frantic.

So, when are you taking that vacation?: Sad to say, I don't know if I could. It's pathetic, but it's true.


--As told to DAVID COLKER

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