In a similar fashion, the Christ-loving vegan introduced serious issues to the party-minded rave crowd in the form of eloquent essays that accompanied his beat-powered albums. Fans who combed his liner notes searching for sample sources instead found such quotable lines as "The Christian Right is neither." Again, Moby makes a low-key statement, because those who don't make a habit of perusing album artwork would hear only irresistible yet apolitical fare: pulsing grooves and dance-diva vocals, thrashy metal alternating with ambient lullabies, and, on 1999's Grammy-nominated Play, potent breakbeats brilliantly paired with classic field recordings of African-American folk music. Moby shrugs off the term "political rock" and remains an activist on his own terms.
Now nearing the end of a 21-month world tour, Moby looks forward to starting work on a new creation. Inevitably, this album, like its predecessors, will veer sharply from Moby's previous output and so-called experts' expectations. When prognosticators touted electronica as grunge's heir apparent and groups such as Prodigy started fires on the airwaves, Moby, whose singles "Go" and "Drop a Beat" were synonymous with early raves and whose Everything Is Wrong (1995) introduced underground dance sounds to the post-Lollapalooza set, seemed poised for a commercial breakthrough. Instead, in 1997 he plugged in his guitar and cranked out Animal Rights, a pretty hate machine that stunned his peaceful followers. Now that Play has achieved both commercial (platinum sales) and critical success, superstar status is Moby's to lose. But if there's a Metal Machine Music-type record in the works -- a caustic noise record full of shrill songs that would never end up as background music on Dawson's Creek, Judging Amy, or Veronica's Closet, as selections from Play did -- it will start, innocently enough, on the acoustic guitar.
"Making music is the only thing I know how to do, and it's my favorite thing in the world, so when I'm on tour I pretty much always have an acoustic guitar with me," Moby says. "I become like a bad cliché, the musician sitting in a hotel room with the acoustic guitar. I'll flesh out the ideas later, but I develop them on the road." Earlier in his career, his pen competed for time with his guitar, as he wrote the rants and reflections that would appear in lieu of lyrics sheets on his albums. "Whatever inspired me to write when I was younger now inspires me to write 30 or 40 e-mails a day," he says. "So instead of writing essays for the past few years, I've found myself just writing lots and lots of letters."
Though he composes his songs alone on his guitar and adds the electronic elements in solitary sessions at his home studio in New York, Moby takes a full band out with him to re-create his tunes in concert, and he often contributes to the mix by strapping on his guitar or beating on the bongos. Playing tunes from all periods of his career, he wowed a Kansas City crowd at last year's Spirit Fest with an insanely energetic concert, but he promises that performance was, at best, a teaser.