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INTERVIEW: Moby talks London and Love with Jessica Brinton

A regular writer and columnist for The Sunday Times and the glossies, today, Jessica Brinton gives her old pal Moby a call to talk about London, love, and clever books. Photos are from Moby's forthcoming book, 'Destroyed.' Catch him for a book signing at Foyles on 1st August, 5-6pm and then at the Apple Store (Regents Street) at 7pm - also on the 1st August. Or see him perform live, closing the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse with support from Silver Apples on 31st July.

We find Moby on tour. In the Four Seasons, Beirut, Lebanon.

Jessica Brinton: Hey Mo. I’m calling you in Lebanon. Where were you playing last night?

Moby: We played a festival in Biblos, the oldest city on the planet. There’s been some sort of human habitation in Biblos for 7000 years and for the people who live there, it’s the background of their life. So you’ll be with them and they’ll say, yeah, that column is from 5000 years ago, like it’s no big deal.

JB: You were in London a few weeks ago and you’re coming back at the beginning of August. Tell me a story of romance in London.

Moby: All of my stories about love in London are unhealthy and fuelled by jealousy and alcohol. Or they end with quite a lot of sadness.

JB: Tell me one anyway.

Moby: Okay. The closest thing to a normal, loving day in London was with an ex-girlfriend of mine. We got lunch at Wholefoods in Kensington and found a little churchyard where we sat and ate our lunch. Some Middle Eastern families were also eating lunch, and there was this old man feeding pigeons. Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel, where we went swimming in the pool.

JB: That’s not sad.

Moby: Well after that, we never saw each other again. She lived in Manchester and I lived in New York.

JB: That story could have happened anywhere.

Moby: I disagree. The ethos of a place always informs the character of the romantic encounters people have. In London, there’s a sense that everyone is overwhelmed by something. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the city, the complexity of the city, the affluence, and that being overwhelmed seems like it influences the way they approach romance.

JB: How does New York - where until recently you lived your whole adult life, where I met you, 11 years ago – compare romantically to London?

Moby: In New York, everyone is so desperately insecure and ambitious, romance tends to be quick, and grasping. And in both cities, there is this aspirational quality. Everyone wants to be more famous or rich, so people use relationships as a means to an end. As if love is a Rosetta stone that will unlock the codes to the city.

JB: London can be a very lonely city. The photographs of tour life in your book have a very lonely quality too. How comfortable are you with loneliness?

Moby: Funny, a French journalist said the same: he was upset by how isolated they seemed. To me they just look normal. I think because I grew up as an only child, I’m just fairly comfortable with circumstances that some people would find alienating and lonely.

JB: Ha! That sounds like the real key to a city: knowing how to be alone but not lonely.

Moby: I have a weird equanimity with alien environments, an acceptance that comes from living in hotel rooms and backstage. I mean, I could make myself miserable or just try to have a degree of equanimity.

JB: You’re always surrounded by ladies but I think of you as a confirmed bachelor. Do you approach your relationships with equanimity too?

Moby: I have this strange theory about relationships, not just romantic ones. I think we are either grasping for something or desperately pushing it away or sitting comfortably with it.

JB: And which one do you prefer?

Moby: When I’ve felt closest to someone and most in love, it’s been more of a calm, comfortable feeling. But often I give people so much more power than they actually have. It’s as if they’re able to fix everything that’s wrong with or fundamentally bad about me. And when they don’t work, I have to get rid of them or I’ll die.

JB: Oh Moby! Are you saying that love can’t fix our problems?

Moby: Yes I am saying that.

JB: Does awareness at least help?

Moby: I’m not sure. We can become aware of things, but it doesn’t change the way we deal with them. Think about people who write self-help books. I’m not saying they kick dogs and hit kids or anything but …

JB: How do you manage your personal life when you’re on tour?

Moby: In the olden days - five years ago - I’d drink all the time and try to have as many affairs as possible. Now I read books and play music. That’s either sad or healthy or both.

JB: What are you reading right now?

Moby: I read a lot of airport fiction but at present, I’m feeling smug that I’m not. When I was in college, one of my favourite books was the History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell so I’m re-reading that.

JB: Nice book. Which bit are you at? 

Moby: He’s talking about Germany and the Soviet Union. Germany is the Third Reich and the Soviet Union is in its infancy. It makes you realise … these were totalitarian states. What sort of geopolitical realities will there be 60 years from now? I mean, I’m in Beirut in a beautiful hotel looking at the sea, and for most of the last 30 years, they’ve been blowing each other up across it.

JB: I wonder where you’ll be in 60 years time. You’ll be 105! Where are you going after this?

Moby: Right now I’m in my hotel room getting ready to go to the airport. Today is crappy travel. Three hour’s flight to Frankfurt, a one hour flight to Vienna.

JB: Mo … is the opposite of love always loneliness?

Moby: No, the opposite of friendship is loneliness. Love doesn’t have one opposite, although sometimes it’s joy and glee.

July 31st, it’s another show at the Roundhouse.