tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera February 14, 2016 11:30am-12:01pm EST
night and there is not long to go now. we'll get more a bit later on on the baftas. of course this is our website, aljazeera.com. it's like junk food or cocaine. >> he went from being a relative unknown to one of the most important electronic dance music pioneers. moby has made more than a dozen albums. the singer-songwriter has another set to come out in 2016. >> quite electronic, very song oriented. i have no idea if it's good.
>> in addition to his musical career, moby is known for being a dedicated vegan and compassionate voice for all animals. >> you either have to be delusional or a psychopath to believe that animals don't suffer. >> the multiplatinum performer's life-long passion for social activism is mainly grounded in pragmatism. >> so part of my criteria for evaluating the issues around us is not do i like it or do i not like it, but does it make sense? >> moby's also working on ground-breaking music therapy programs. >> music actually had re-- was a real-world healing modality. and not just on the level of, like, "oh, we listen to music and we feel better." but it actually physically changes us. >> i spoke to moby in washington, d.c. >> you got about 20 million albums sold worldwide, 1.3 million followers on twitter. you're called the pioneer of electronic music. for a guy who never set out to be famous, how did you end up so famous?
>> i think it's a combination of, like, fortune favoring the well prepared, and fortune favoring the well prepared, who are incapable of doing anything else. (laugh) meaning for years and years and years, my career as a musician just didn't work out. but i'd never had a backup plan. so a lot of my friends who wanted to be musicians, they also had, like, they were lawyers, they were accountants. they knew how to do other things. so when their music career bottomed out or never happened, they just went and did the other thing. but i never had that as an option. like, my options were, keep making music, and keep trying to have some semblance of a career, or work at denny's. you know, and as a vegan working at denny's would just be horrifying. >> yeah, that's not so good. that's not so good. is there something about being all in, though, that leads
to success eventually? >> i think for some people it increases the chances that you'll have success with something. i mean, i'm sure you've encountered that with lots of other people you've spoken to. it's, like, i mean. >> but most people have a backup plan. >> and-- but i'm also downplaying the fact that from the time i was three years old on, music was what i loved above all else. so it wasn't just, like, "oh, i'll arbitrarily choose music and work on it because what else am i gonna do?" it was like i loved working on it. and i hope this doesn't sound like a made up disingenuous answer, but the driver is just the-- the love that i've always had for music. the music, for me, was never, like a means to an end. >> it was never, like, "oh, if i write the right song, then things get better." it's the act of writing the song that's as good as it ever gets. you know? you can't, i can't buy anything that's better than music. >> some people might say you're
in a great position to say that because you have had such enormous commercial success. you can continue to make music just for the love of making music. can you imagine had you not had that kind of commercial success, would you still be doing what you're doing? >> i think so. >> yeah? >> i mean, if-- if i go back to, let's say 1988, and in 1988, i was living in an abandoned factory in a crack neighborhood. and i had no running water, and no bathroom. >> and no dates. >> and surprisingly few dates. i mean, i wonder why women were so disinclined to date a musician making $5,000 a year living in an abandoned factory in a crack neighborhood (laugh) without a shower. >> with no toilet, right? >> yeah, with no toilet. i mean, that seems pretty attractive to me. but i was spending all my time working on music, and i was really happy.
and of course i had professional aspirations and professional ambitions. but if nothing had happened, i probably would still be in that abandoned factory working on music, and being relatively happy. >> you were catapulted from being a relative unknown to being at parties with a-list celebrities and musicians. what-- what was that experience like for you? was it as gratifying as people on the outside may think it was? >> i will compare it to a really intense drug experience. meaning, and i'm-- i'll out myself as someone who has had really intense drug experiences. so i'm speaking from experience. at the beginning, it's great. you know, it's magic. because it all of a sudden-- like, i mean, i've spent my entire life in relative obscurity.
and then suddenly everything got 1,000 times better. you know, suddenly i was dating people who wouldn't have ever even spoken to me or acknowledged me. suddenly i was invited to things that i didn't-- hadn't even known existed. for a minute, it was great, but like with any drug experience, it just goes downhill from there. and then you have that period of, like, so let's say it's, like, the year is 2000. which was, like, the for me the height of dating, success, fame, wealth, et cetera. like, everything was just humming along. and it was wonderful. but then, sort of issues start creeping up. and you start realizin', like, "oh, well, i'm still a little depressed. and i'm still anxious." and then so you think, "okay, well, i'll just-- i'll drink more.
i'll date more people. and i'll go to more parties." and then the depression and the anxiety gets even worse. and so then you start thinking, "well, i must be doing it wrong. so i'm dating the wrong people. i'm going to the wrong parties. i'm doing the wrong drugs. so i need to shift that up." you know, kind of like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. and then eventually you just realize that, you know, i don't know. glamorous dating, going to the right parties, et cetera, these can be fun. but they're not-- they won't sustain you. you know, you can't-- it's like junk food or cocaine. you know, i don't wanna be 60 years old having had my 20th plastic surgery procedure, trying to date a 21 year old, feeling like that's gonna provide me with well being and happiness, 'cause it just simply never has for anyone. >> i don't think you've ever been a fancy guy that travels with an entourage, and rolls up into the big studio.
from what i understand, you've made a lot of your-- >> too-- to my-- to my great shame, i was for a little while. >> were you? >> yeah. >> but you've made a lot of music at home. you're still making music at home, aren't you? >> i mean, even when i bought in to all the sort of, like, the fame, sex, drugs, all the trappings that came along with that, i was still-- i had this bizarre work ethic where i would still work on music every day. and for the most part, working on music was this very monastic solitary experience. so i was going to crazy parties, and rolling with the entourage you were talking about, but when it came to work, i would go into my little tiny studio, and spend eight hours working on music. so that-- that side of things was all-- like, and i-- even when i was drinking too much and doing drugs, i never drank or did drugs at work. you know, when it was me in my studio, that was, like, the carved out exception to everything else. >> you're coming up on
album 13 now? >> i don't know, 'cause there have been-- >> baby lucifer, right? >> what's that? >> baby lucifer? >> baby lucifer was the original title. and i really wish that i had called it that, but the title has changed. >> oh, what's the title? >> the new title is these systems are failing. >> that's appropriate. >> nice light-hearted title. everyone around me probably rightly so said that-- having the word lucifer in your record title might not be the best idea. (laugh) >> so tell me a little bit about the music that we're gonna hear on this-- latest album. >> well. >> what inspired it? is it something new-- >> i can-- i can tell you about the music., but i can't work under the assumption that anyone will hear it. because the record comes out in 2016. and a) we're in a climate where people don't buy records. b) we're in a climate where people don't really listen to full-length records.
c) we're especially in a climate where people don't listen to full-length records made by 50 year old musicians who are making their 13th or 14th record. so at this point, i love making the music. i don't really expect anyone to hear it. and if they do, that's great. so the music on the record is-- the only way i can describe it, it's-- it's, like, it's new wave dance music. so-- >> oh cool. that's my generation. >> yeah. so it's sort of (laugh) new order inspired, a little depeche mode inspired. but quite electronic, very song oriented. i have no idea if it's good. >> is it hard to be objective because you spend so much time, i mean, you do everything, right? you write, you produce a lot of your own music-- >> play the instruments, do all the engineering, etc. >> -play all the instruments. i mean, you're so immersed in it. is it hard to get distance sometimes? >> i'm sure this is true for anyone who works ex-- almost exclusively by themselves is, like, the best i can come up
with is a sort of less compromised subjectivity. you know? i-- i mean, i can have delusional subjectivity and less delusional subjectivity. >> i-- so i can never even come close to objectivity, but- which i would say was something like art and music. there is-- there's-- there's-- most people have a collective subjective relationship to something. where, like, we all agree that certain things are great, but it doesn't necessarily make it objective truth. it just means it's-- it's an agreed upon subjective response to something. still ahead on the program activism and veganism. moby talks about what motivates him and his love for animals. >> our american story is written everyday. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can.
i'm lisa fletcher you're watching talk to al jazeera. our guest this week is alternative music star and social activist, moby. >> you give a lot of your music away from free on mobygratis.com. you license it for free to different groups. talk a little bit about that, and what led you in that direction. >> well, when i was in college, i was a philosophy major, but i minored in photography and experimental film. and i went for a brief period to this school suny purchase, and i think it was the last school in the united states to have an experimental film program. i never quite graduated, but-- from that time, i ended up with a lot of friends in the world of independent film.
and one of their biggest complaints is how difficult and expensive it is to get music for their-- for their movies. and so i started this really weird website called mobygratis.com, and it gives free music to indie filmmakers, film students, nonprofits. and one of the things i love about it is it's super easy to use, and it's just completely free. you know, it's not like a bait and switch where, like, it's free now, but then you have to pay for it. like, it's just-- and i guess it's-- people would have to pay for it if the music was used commercially, or if the film got picked up commercially. but then any money that comes in, goes to the hsus, the humane society. so that way-- >> the humane society of the united states. >> i feel like by structuring mobygratis.com in a way that i can never make money from it, it ostensibly keeps me kind of honest. >> and speaking of being honest, we should mention the reason you and i know each other is because my husband runs the humane society of the united states. and he made the introduction.
you don't have to do anything good with your money or your time. but you choose to. mobygratis is one example. another-- is your activism, which really runs the gamut. one of the things you've been-- very focused on for a long time is animal protection. you chose to become vegan. why did you make those decisions? >> well, i've been vegan now for 28 years. i mean, that's the amazing thing about veganism or let's call it, like, animal activism, is it's this magic bullet that effects all these, like, awful, awful issues. you know what i mean, 'cause animal agriculture is responsible for 25% of climate change. 80% of deforestation-- one could almost argue 90% of famine comes from animal agriculture, 'cause simply we're feeding food to animals that could be fed to humans. so that's the exciting part about being an animal activist is it's-- it's about
the animals. but the-- the consequences are so broad. what led me to veganism and animal rights activism, when i was 10 years old, i adopted a cat that was three days old. and i found it in a-- box by the dump. and it was in a box with a few other dead cats, and it was this barely alive kitten. and i took it home. my mom and i took it to the vet. the vet said, "don't get too attached to this cat, 'cause it's really young and sick, and it's probably not gonna live." we took it to my grandmother's house. and my grandmother's dachshund adopted the cat, and mothered it, and nursed it back to health. so about 10 years after that, i was 19 years old. and i was playing with this cat whose name was tucker. and i looked at tucker and realized i would do anything in my power to keep tucker from suffering. you know, i would-- if somebody tried to hurt this cat, i would,
like, lay down my life protecting this cat. and-- and i looked at the cat. and i saw that it had two eyes, and legs and fur, and a central nervous system, and a desire to avoid pain and seek pleasure. and suddenly it was almost like a-- tectonic synaptic alignment, where, like, the gears aligned. and i suddenly realized, "okay, if this animal who i love and want to protect and care for will do everything in its power to avoid pain and avoid suffering, i can work under the assumption that every animal with two eyes and a central nervous system wants to avoid pain and avoid suffering." and at that moment, i just decided i couldn't be involved in any process that contributed to the suffering of animals. clearly, like, you either have to be delusional or a psychopath to believe that animals don't suffer.
so that's why i'm such a committed animal activist. >> i was looking at some of your most recent twitter posts. and you've been tweeting about everything from sarah palin and politics to guns and-- water use by corporate agriculture in california. where do you think you get your passion for social activism? >> that's a really good question. maybe it was being raised by hippies-- >> that'll do it. (laugh) >> i mean, i'm born in 1965. so i was-- i was raised by very politically engaged people. i was born in new york city and grew up in connecticut. and there's almost, like, a common sense practical ethics that comes from l-- let's say, like, old-timey new england. >> so part of my criteria for evaluating the issues around us is not do i like it or do i not
like it, but does it-- does it make sense? like, is this the best way to be doing something? and that's behind a lot of my activism, is, like, looking at things and just saying, "like, well that -- doesn't make sense. so w-- why are people--" like-- like with food policy. you know, like, why do our tax dollars go to subsidize food that kills animals and makes people sick when they eat it? >> like, you could say it's an outrage, and it's unethical. it's also just really stupid. and-- or when i look at, like, gun control issues. like, it's just like, the u.s. approach to gun control, you know, or the n.r.a., it's just, like, there's no empirical basis for it. you know, it just doesn't make sense. so it's offensive, i would offer that it's unethical. it's also just really dumb. and so that's a big driver in my activism.
this is talk to al jazeera i'm lisa fletcher, joined this week by music pioneer, moby. >> one of the things that you do is-- you try to heal sickness through music. you're on the board of the institute for music and neurologic function. and i was reading about them. it's really fascinating work, looking at the science of how to use music as therapy for people from-- those who have alzheimer's and parkinson's to stroke. can music heal people? >> it can, and it can in very real non-anecdotal ways.
basically, up until about-- and i don't wanna seem too pedantic, but up until about 20 or 30 years ago, most neuroscientists believed that we had a finite number of neurons. now, let's say you hit 10 years old, you had all the brain cells you were ever gonna have. and the goal was to just, like, try and not get rid of too many of them. thanks to, like, fmris and pet scans, and new diagnostics, neurologists and neuroscientists have discovered that the brain can go-- can be involved in this process of neurogenesis, of making new brain cells forever, up until the day you die, largely based on what we do with the brain. you know, so the nice thing is, neurogenesis is promoted by health and well being. you know, so being physically active, eating well, avoiding toxins, et cetera, these are the things that promote neurogenesis. and one of the things
that dr. oliver sacks who i worked with who just passed away-- realized was one of the best sort of proponents-- not-- well, okay, one of the best promoters of neurogenesis was music. that music actually had re-- was a real-world healing modality. and not just on the level of, like, "oh, we listen to music and we feel better." but it actually physically changes us, and it decreases stress hormones. it promotes neurogenesis. it's pretty remarkable. and that's one of the reasons why i worked with dr. oliver sacks, and the institute. i feel like what i'm learning, and what hopefully other people are learning as well, is there are a lot of things in our lives that are ubiquitous, free or inexpensive that have true remarkable healing powers. music being one of them, exercise, walking in the woods
doesn't cost anything. and it's one of the healthiest things anyone can do. and not just on a-- oh, this feels good and is fun. but it actually-- when you look at how it affects our endocrine system and the immune system, like, it's actually more powerful than almost any medicine. >> you just turned 50 a couple of weeks ago-- >> sad, but true. >> for some people, that's easier, for others, that's more difficult. >> yes. what i also find is that as i age, i'm less interested in-- in wasting time. and that doesn't mean i necessarily need to be, like, jumping out of an airplane into a raft in the bottom of the grand canyon while reading foucault and lifting weights. (laugh) you know, like-- what it means is in the course of my life, i've spent so much time doing
things out of a sense of pointless obligation. i've spent so much time accommodating people who ultimately i didn't want in my life. you know, and that's what i mean by wasted time. like, how many personal relationships, romantic relationships that really never should have started, and ended up taking hundreds or thousands of hours? and i feel like that's one of my biggest regrets is the amount of time, and the amount of energy i've given up accommodating situations, people, what have you, that ultimately kept me from pursuing things that i genuinely value. >> what's-- what does moby do different the-- the second half of his century? >> the last 50 years, there's been a lot of second guessing, or accommodating ideas that had just been foisted upon me. you know, like, "oh, well you should do this. and this is how things are done", so that, you know, whether it's relationships, work, what have you, even socializing-- like, vacations.
>> i've taken a few vacations in my life. i've hated all of them. but i kept doing them. you know? or relationships. like, to be in a relationship and say, "well, i don't really value this person, so why have i been in a relationship with them for a year?" you know, it's that unwillingness in the past to actually look at evidence. >> and hopefully moving forward, it's acting in a way that's more in keeping with my values, and behaving in a way that's more supported by evidence. >> what's your measure of success? >> personally, it's am i in a healthy way acting in accordance with who i am and what my values are, which also sounds kinda clinical, but when i think of the opposite of that, you know, the opposite of success on a personal level is being unhealthy and compromising my values, and acting in a way that doesn't create benefit.
you know, i mean, i think we all have the capacity to create benefit for ourselves and for the people around us. and i don't mean benefit on a necessarily material level, but we all have the ability to live better lives, and to make the world a better place. the fact that we don't is sorta baffling to me. so that's success. >> singer / songwriter natalie merchant. >> i became fully human when i became a mother. >> devoted community activist. >> people become victimized by their circumstances. >> revelations about her new solo album. >> i was just trying to make music that transferred what was in my heart to other people. >> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change.
a front opens up in syria's war as turkey shells kurdish fighters in the north for a second day. ♪ >> hello. you are watching al jazeera live from london. also coming up: the polls close in a presidential run-off election seen as vital to central african republic's hope for peace. why the death of a u.s. supreme court judge has led to political disagreements over his replacement. pope francis prepares to speak in one of mexico city's toughest naindz