In this week’s 850 WORDS OF RELEVANT Newsletter, we talked to music pioneer Moby. Here’s part two of our conversation with the innovator, who talks about the direction of the music industry, what social justice issues he’s passionate about and his ideas about faith and living as a Christian in today’s culture. You can also check the latest issue of RELEVANT, on newsstands next week, to see more from Moby and from our favorite interviews of the last five years.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Internet’s role in music and DYI artists. What do you see as some major trends that will be happening in the future?
Well, it seems like the major trend that I see—and I think it’s fantastic—is the ability for musicians and their fans to communicate directly. It used to be—and it still is, to an extent—that if you were a musician and you wanted to reach people, you had to sign to a big label and make a record that sounded like everything else on the radio, and you had to do all these really nasty, unpalatable things just to get your music heard. And now, you can write a piece of music and put it online, and five minutes later anybody who wants to hear it can hear it. So I find that to be really encouraging. And it’s forcing record companies to reinvent themselves, which I think is really healthy, because I think the big labels for a long time were very bad stewards of music. It does seem like music itself is really benefiting. Music is becoming less commercial and more genuine—and I think that’s a real return to music that has a lot of integrity to it.
What are some ongoing media and technology trends you see, and where do you think we’re heading with that?
From my perspective, it’s sort of like we’ve gotten to the point where the Internet is such a central, integral part of people’s lives. I see a continuing of more of the same. As people continue to do more and buy more over the Internet, continue to meet people over the Internet, connection speeds are going to get faster, and the Internet is just going to become an even more integral part of people’s lives.
To me, the downside is information gluts. Like now, it’s so easy to create art, or music, or literature, or just information, and people really have no compunction about sharing what they’ve created—which on one hand is a great thing, but it gets a little overwhelming when there’s so much stuff out there. I almost feel like in the future people are going to pay other people to act as filters for them. You could spend every waking moment online and still only experience one-trillionth of what’s out there. I find that a little overwhelming.
Are you involved in any social or community causes?
I work with the humane society quite a lot. And I’ve worked with a lot of different animal-rights organizations, and around the 2004 election I was very involved with the Kerry campaign. [After that] I sort of backed away from politics a little bit. To me, one of the only good uses of fame is to try and either draw attention to or help out good causes, so I make myself available to any good causes or anyone working on a good cause who approaches me and asks me to help.
It seems almost trendy now to take up social justice causes. What do you think are some of today’s most pressing social or political issues?
Boy. On one hand, I could think of a million important social causes, [but] I do think environmental issues, to an extent, trump everything else. Because everything else that concerns us is also predicated on the idea that we’re going to have a healthy environment in which to live. If you can’t breathe the air and you can’t drink the water and you can’t go outside in the sun—those seem to be the utmost importance.
Religion has played a major role in the presidential election so far. What are your thoughts on the intersection between faith and politics?
Well, it’s interesting. I was actually having a conversation about this just the other day with a friend of mine. It seems so antithetical to the teachings of Christ to proclaim your faith in public. I mean, of course you’re not supposed to hide your light under a bushel. But Jesus said very specifically: When you pray, go into a closet and pray. Basically, don’t pray in public. When you pray, just pray to God so no one else can see it.
And it’s also interesting that the only people Jesus criticized were the religious leaders. We live in this time where people are trying to outdo each other in the public square to see who’s more faithful. And I just want to take them all and have them read the New Testament and say, “You know, before you start proclaiming your faith in public, maybe you should actually read what Jesus said about it.” One of my favorite parables is when [Jesus is] telling the story of the religious leader who’s standing at the front of the temple and talking about how much money he’s given to charity, and he’s talking about what a good Jew he was. And then [there is] the tax collector standing in the back of the temple, who’s crying and doesn’t even feel like he’s worthy enough to be in the temple. And Jesus says very specifically, the tax collector is the one who goes home justified in the eyes of God. I don’t know, public proclamations of faith, especially competitive proclamations of faith, just seem really antithetical to the ethos and the teachings of Christ. So it makes me very uncomfortable.
To make it a little more personal, what aspect of the Christian faith do you find to be the most difficult or confusing?
Well, the most difficult thing and the battle that I’m always dealing with is essentially trying to figure out objective truth in the face of such an overwhelmingly complicated universe. And also how to, as Jesus said, be as wise as foxes and innocent as doves. You know, basically living in the world and being involved in the world and, to an extent, loving the world, but how to avoid being completely corrupted by it. It is a very difficult walk. And one that I really am not very good at.