Moby came to prominence in my world in the early 90s when the rave scene in Toronto was still primarily underground. Electronic music, or techno as we simply called it before the countless sub-genres started to form and ravers broke off into separate camps, was not played on the radio. There were no electronic music festivals attracting tens of thousands of people. No bottle service. No VIP lines. Only a few clubs played techno, and only after midnight. Sometimes just before closing. The music was fast, and despite the rampant drug and alcohol use, the rooms were peaceful, fun, and happy places to dance your face off.
I saw Moby do a DJ set in a warehouse club called 23 Hop in Toronto. I call it a club, but it was little more than a concrete and black drywall bunker with a stellar sound system and a gender shared washroom, something that was not the norm in the 90s. “Go” and “Next is the E” were Moby’s giant songs of the time and I will never forget the euphoric feeling of hearing them played, albeit from records, but at the hands of the man himself. The room was packed and sweaty. I left exhausted.
Since that first night, I have seen Moby perform live sets a few times. Once before Play pushed him into the stratosphere of success. And a couple of times after. And despite his growing fame, the guy that spun records in a concrete bunker many years earlier and the guy surrounded by banks of keyboards and electronic music-making devices seemed relatively unchanged. Always humble. Always nice. Always appreciative of the dancing and applause the audience gave him.
The music world has changed so much since the release of “Go”. Those with the talent and desire can make music and deliver it to an audience of millions without ever leaving the house. Now imagine no internet. No laptops with affordable music creation software. Only expensive, heavy, often hard-to-find instruments, sequencers, drum machines, and multi-track recorders to capture what you’re creating. And once it’s recorded, you have to copy it again and again on to demo tapes. Now you have to carry those tapes through the dangerous streets of New York City, hoping you don’t get robbed, or worse, to the various record labels, record shops, and night clubs to hand out the tapes. And then you wait for the phone to ring – and not a cell phone by the way – hoping and praying that someone, anyone, listened to the tape, liked it, and was willing to give you a shot.
Porcelain. A Memoir takes us on a journey through Moby’s world of poverty to success. When New York was a very different, very dangerous place. Where making music and being paid do it seemed a foolhardy pursuit. But hard work, persistence and a good measure of luck sometimes pays off. And fearlessness. We mustn’t forget that.
The audiobook version is narrated by Moby himself which enhances the often hilarious, often horrifying situations that Moby found himself in, sometimes perpetuated by himself and sometimes not. The accounts are raw and honest. Questions of faith, relationships, love, jealousy, self-esteem, sobriety, and even the origins of the universe itself are explored, doubted, reaffirmed, re-embraced, and dismissed throughout. It’s very real and very human.
At just under 12 hours of play time, it’s a fascinating look into the world of one of the most interesting artists of our time.