A pioneering musician on the American rave scene, Moby’s UK breakthrough came with his Twin Peaks-referencing crossover hit ‘Go’. The release landed him a deal with Elektra/Mute and an ever-decreasing amount of success, culminating in 1996’s disastrous, punky ‘Animal Rights’ album. His new autobiography, Porcelain, covers the period leading up to 1999’s worldwide smash ‘Play’, but we alight on the final leg of his ‘Animal Rights’ tour, somewhere in Eastern Europe…
Even before ‘Animal Rights’ had been released it had failed. Pre-release it had received a slew of egregiously bad reviews and my American record label had stopped returning my manager’s phone calls. Nevertheless we had an album party for the week it came out. At the party, I got drunk, played a short live set, managing to alienate the members of Blur, who for some reason were in the audience.
The next day I flew to New Orleans to play in a small bar for radio programmers at a national convention. Trent Reznor came to the show and came backstage to say hello. He said a few nice things about ‘Animal Rights’ and then went to sit in a booth. Earlier that day, I’d gotten a voice mail message from Axl Rose, who said he loved ‘Animal Rights’. He even said he’d be interested in working together. So Trent and Axl like ‘Animal Rights’. If only they wrote reviews for Spin or NME.
For my solo tour, we had opted for small European clubs, imagining them to be crowded and raucous and overflowing with punk rock energy and mayhem. Most nights, though, we had a hard time selling even 20% of the tickets in what were already tiny venues.
The final show of the ‘Animal Rights’ tour was in an Eastern European country I’d never heard of before. I held my head in my hands and said, “I’m so hungover”. As we flew, I realised I wasn’t just hungover, I had the flu. We drove to the hotel and I fell into bed feverish and promptly fell asleep.
Five minutes later, the phone rang. “Hello?” I croaked. “The promoter’s at the hotel. He’s worried about the show and really wants to talk to you,” said Ali, the tour manager.
I stood up and looked in the mirror. I wanted to feel glamorous, a rock star vaguely dissipated in a 19th century hotel. But I looked sick and bald.