It’s weirdly easy to forget that Moby makes music for a living. Since the dual-headed commercial juggernauts that were 1999’s Play (a record in which every track was infamously licensed for commercial use) and 2002’s 18, the cue-ball-skulled crossover-techno mainstay has been ubiquitous in the digital ink of gossip-blog party reporting and WTF-worthy music-website quotables. His latest album, Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, sees release today via his own Little Idiot imprint and longtime label Mute; it’s his fourth LP over the course of the last two years, the release of which has already been overshadowed by his claims in an interview with The Guardian that he might’ve accidentally helped create the iPod and the iPhone … or something. It’s a questionable statement, an irresistible sound bite, and resolutely Moby.
And “Moby being Moby” — that is, as long as Moby is talking about or doing something other than actually releasing music — has been a constant fascination for the press since 18. (His biggest pop-cultural look before then was a brief cameo on early-era Adult Swim oddity Space Ghost Coast to Coast). From protesting with chickens and accidentally auctioning off his soul to buying and selling more real estate than Jared Kushner and Barbara Corcoran combined, his extra-musical concerns have proved so reliably random that even a “Moby Headline Mad Libs” generator might seem banal when compared to the real thing.
And that’s why we’ve compiled a timeline rounding up some of Moby’s more outlandish, hilarious, and at times strangely endearing activities over the past 15 or so years; if we missed anything, forgive us — he’s simply way too public to keep definitive tabs on.
February 22, 2001: Following Eminem and Elton John’s performance of “Stan” at the Grammys, Moby sounded off in the press room to Rolling Stone about how he really felt regarding the former’s oft-homophobic and misogynistic lyrics: “He’s very good at what he does, but he’s also a misogynist and homophobe and racist and anti-Semite. I’m 33 and can see through it, but I can’t imagine that an 8-year-old in Idaho sees it as just a joke.” If you’re even remotely aware of the existence of Moby or Eminem, you know that this is just the beginning of this narrative. Any casual music listener who hadn’t heard Moby’s music certainly became aware of his existence after his brief-ish skirmish with Eminem.
May 4, 2002: Teany — the Lower East Side vegan café and tea shop Moby co-owned with former girlfriend Kelly Tisdale — opens its doors. “I have the easy job,” he tells USA Today a month after the shop opened, while discussing his role in the business. “It’s almost like being a Victorian father. You don’t change the diapers. Someone shows you the baby now and then, you play with it and you give it back.” The following December, he writes a short blog in the “Journal” section of his website about him and Tisdale picking out a Christmas tree for the store’s front window, jokingly claiming that they “… went out in my tricked out black bentley and had my coterie of bodyguards pick out gold plated christmas trees while we did blow with pyjama clad strippers.” After enduring as a LES mainstay for the better part of a decade, Teany suffered a destructive fire in 2009 and eventually closed its doors for good in 2015.
May 14, 2002: “And Moby? You can get stomped by Obie / You 36-year-old baldheaded fag, blow me! / You don’t know me, you’re too old, let go/ It’s over, nobody listens to techno.” Yup — that’s Eminem, smack dab in the third verse of The Eminem Show single “Without Me.” Would you mistake it for literally anyone else? (Not to get all Neil DeGrasse Tyson about it, but the overall trajectory of pop music from roughly 2009 to the present day — Eminem very specifically not included — suggests that, in fact, a lot of people actually do listen to techno.) As hinted in the lyrics, the video featured Em compatriot Obie Trice body-slamming a Moby lookalike; naturally, Moby issued a response. “I won’t be dissing him back (given the fact that my skills as an MC are terrible),” he posted on his website (via MTV). “But I will say, as I said before, that musicians need to assume a certain artistic responsibility when their fanbase is very, very young.”
August 29, 2002: In case you thought the Eminem nonsense ended on a bloggy note: at the MTV Video Music Awards, Em gets on stage and looks directly at Moby in the audience while saying, “I will hit a man with glasses.” Okay! Moby later claims on his website (via Entertainment Weekly) that the rapper also called him a “pussy” off-camera. Just a few months later, Moby is physically assaulted outside a club in Boston; in 2015, Jeff Rosenthal for Rolling Stone hypothesizes that the attackers could’ve been rogue Eminem fans. Who can never be sure?
February 11, 2003: Moby takes to the “Journal” section to publicly clear the air about the dissolution of his friendship with artist Damian Loeb (which was the subject of an interview with The Independent back in 1999). “There is gossip purporting that Damian and I have ended our friendship due to my unwillingness to loan him money,” he wrote. “For what it’s worth, this is not the case.” Even if he may not have necessarily invented the iPhone, with this blog post he might have unintentionally invented the super-long Instagram clap-back caption.
October 28, 2004: Hey, remember when Moby v. Eminem was a thing? Well, uh, never mind: “Wow, you know that Eminem and I have had our differences in the past, but this video is the best thing that I’ve seen all year,” Moby stated (via Alternet) about Em’s animated clip for the Encore single “Mosh.” “It’s an amazing song and an even more amazing video. Please go watch.” Time — or, oppressive, warmongering regimes — heals all wounds.
April 18, 2005: From this time until, let’s say the mid-2010s, NYC media was obsessed with Moby — especially his tendency to buy and sell real estate on both coasts, not unlike the shrewdest Monopoly player of all time. Is this 2005 New York Observer item about Moby investing in land in the Dominican Republic the first un-404’d example of this phenomenon? Either way: the next time you hear your annoying NYC media friend moaning about the days when party reporting used to be better, this is the kind of story they’re talking about.
April 24, 2006: You could easily characterize this item as “the Eminem feud, for people who read blogs”: Gawker (which, in its prime, featured acrobatically negative coverage of Moby’s general existence) points to a post on the also-deceased Animal that features purportedly salacious pictures of a hot tub party Moby threw in his remote Putnam County cabin. “[I]t was staged,” he tells Spin’s Phoebe Reilly in 2008. “I had a New Year’s Eve party, and some friends made this joke photo essay about a really degenerate party. The naked girls in the hot tub and the girl with Ecstasy on her tongue — which I think was Bayer aspirin — they were just trying to be funny.” Who among us?
September 15, 2006: “This might sound crazy,” Moby emails his fans (via Gawker). “At present i receive between 200-400 emails a day. And i check on-line news around 15 times a day. So, for the rest of the year, i’m turning off my email and i’m not going to use the internet. Yes, that sounds nuts, i know.” I mean, not really! Hope you stick to it though …
September 18, 2006: Hmm, never mind. “I’ve lapsed a couple of times for work, etc.,” Moby posts on his website (via Stereogum) three days after setting a no-post rule for, well, a whole lot longer. “I’m an apostate. Which is a hard word to pronounce.” We literally cannot disagree with any of those sentences.
January 31, 2007: Remember when we said that NYC media was obsessed with Moby gossip? Yeah, well, don’t think for a second that we were above that. Case in point: We heard from a witness that the shaved one once had so much fun at a Stamford, Connecticut, strip club that he convinced the staff to keep the place open for him several hours past closing, our Daily Intelligencer column reported back in the day. “When the owners wanted to charge him a couple thousand dollars more for this indulgence than he thought was fair, he not only refused to pay a cent of it but also threatened to call the cops and report a fight outside of the club. ‘The sad part about this,’ Moby allegedly told a bouncer, ‘Is that when we wake up tomorrow, I’ll still be me and you’ll still be you.’” That’s deep.
January 30, 2008: Set aside, if you can, former Gawker writer Joshua David Stein’s impressively mean “sensitive weiner” burn toward Moby in this item about how he did a surprise gig busking in London’s Sloane Square tube stop — and only made a measly five pounds. “That’s fine,” Moby explained to the London Paper, “because I was obviously not doing it for the money.”
February 22, 2008: It was the Moby-obsessed revelation heard around the Moby-obsessed NYC media world: Moby and Natalie Portman were once a thing. “I guess in some people’s eyes, [nerds] might be mildly sexy — and, as a nerd, I’m certainly happy to enjoy some of the effects of that,” he told Spin. “But as far as the very brief affair I had with Natalie, it’s made me the target of a lot of nerd wrath.” Among other things, this inspired our very own publication to brand Moby a “stealth slut” (check the tag), which reached a meta peak when he weighed in on how he felt about the term to Salon.
March 30, 2008: “Page Six’”s preservation of past digital content leaves something to be desired, so you’ll have to take this Gawker aggregation of how much Moby’s Hollywood Hills neighbors hate him as gospel. “Moby is turning the garage into his studio and the neighbors are all up in arms,” a rankled neighbor told the gossip column. “He should be careful. We just kicked Prince off the street for excessive noise.” This also probably counts as the first time in history that someone’s compared Moby to Prince.
October 15, 2008: “Why are Gawker commenters so mean?” Moby allegedly comments to Gawker’s publisher, in an item published by Gawker, about Moby.
December 17, 2008: Moby pops up in an episode of Les Savy Fav bandleader Tim Harrington’s gonzo Pitchfork TV web series BEARDO, performing a parody charity song “Cash for Christmas” alongside, among others, Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes. The episode is currently unavailable to stream online.
February 12, 2009: Pop quiz, hot shot: You’re selling a huge apartment in El Dorado and you have one more night to do whatever you want with it. What do you do? If you’re Moby, you let a bunch of people have sex in your bed. “The bed, which got moved out the next day, got put to good use. Unfortunately not by me, but by a lot of other people,” he told us at a screening of James Gray’s Two Lovers. “Liquor and drugs will do that.” Indeed!
May 20, 2011: The internet contains a lot of things, but for whatever reason it has not retained a video of Moby on Fox News complaining about how mean Gawker commenters were to him. The sole evidence of this occurrence can be found — of course — in a post on Gawker.
January 9, 2017: You might notice a serious time gap in milestones here: Moby didn’t exactly go into hiding, but you could argue that the media’s fixation on his every move in the decade previous was partially owed to the golden days of blogging, in which no target was too sacred and no action was too small to be scrutinized. So before this turns into a Medium post on the general trajectory of media, let’s move onto the fact that a booking agent allegedly asked him to DJ Donald Trump’s inaugural ball. “I guess I’d DJ at an inaugural ball if as payment #trump released his tax returns,” he cracked on Instagram while also sharing a Spotify playlist of music he’d play if he were to take the gig. Moby … welcome to the resistance.
February 13, 2017: Whoa, whoa, whoa — Moby, let’s not get carried away with ourselves about the whole #resistance thing. “After spending the weekend talking to friends who work in dc i can safely(well, ‘accurately’…) post the following things:” he posted on Instagram alongside a picture of Trump and Steve Bannon, followed by a list of at-that-point unverifiable claims about collusion between Trump and Russia — a social media conspiracy-palooza that made Louise Mensch look like Noam Chomsky by comparison.
December 13, 2017: Should dogs be vegan? It sounds like a joke, but it’s very, very real — and very Moby. “If we adopt this, it’s one more thing that proves to the world that Los Angeles really is the progressive capital,” he states to city officials about a proposal that he and a group of animal rights activists (including high-profile lawyer Lisa Bloom) are putting in front of the city’s Animal Services department. The department’s chief vet was unmoved, but hey — if Moby could accidentally, possibly, probably-not-really-but-still invent the iPhone, maybe getting Fido to chow down on chia seeds isn’t that unattainable of a dream.
January 12, 2018: Moby’s Harriet the Spy–like tendencies strike again. He told Louisville radio station WFPK that “active and former CIA agents” passed along top-secret information on Trump and Russia “and they said, like, ‘Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that … sort of put it out there.’” Seems legit.