Back in 1999, a relatively unknown artist named Moby released an album called Play. It was just over an hour long, but every second was packed with layers of samples and synthesizers, seamlessly blending soulful sounds with electric edge to create some of the most accessible electronic music around. The album would go on to sell over 12 million copies, generate nine singles and, perhaps most telling of the sea change it signaled, license all 18 of its tracks for use in commercials, movies and television.
It was also really good — so good that opened the floodgates for the current pop-cultural dominance of electronic music and DJs.
Moby, the now-iconic artist, is about to release his eleventh studio album, Innocents (due out Oct. 1). The album finds Moby working for the first time with a co-producer — he brought in Mark “Spike” Stent, who has worked with Björk, Massive Attack and Muse, to assist with the album’s production. The collaboration resulted in one of Moby’s most ambitious albums to date. The 12 tracks on Innocents show an expansive, energized and fearless experimentalism. They feature work with the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, indie-folk songwriter Damien Jurado, Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, Cold Specks, Skylar Grey and Inyang Bassey.
We sat down with Moby to talk about the new album, what you can learn from failure and LA traffic.
TIME: Since you record at home, do you think the type of music that you make has changed now that you’ve left New York and moved to Los Angeles?
Moby: To a certain degree, yes, but my set-up here [in New York] and my studio in LA are almost identical. I could say that moving across the country has influenced me and my music is completely different, but I just don’t know that it is. My environment here is quite monastic, and my environment in LA is quite monastic. When I made records here is was with weird old drum machines and old synths and old guitar amps and in LA it’s with weird old drum machines and old synths and old guitar amps. I think the bigger factor is simply getting older.
How does aging affect how you make music?
It’s hard to talk about this without sounding like a Southern Californian New Age clichéd hippie—but getting older is the human condition. It’s the unavoidable fact of all our lives and there’s something kind of sweet and comforting about that. I had this realization this year when I was driving to Coachella. I don’t know if you know LA that well, but I was driving to Coachella on the 10, which is—short of the Cross Bronx Expressway—one of the ugliest roads in the world. I was looking around and I realized, ‘Oh, no one wants to be here.’ There was this sense of solidarity. Everyone was in their little car and confused and sad and struggling and unhappy to be in traffic. It just seemed like a huge metaphor for the human condition. It doesn’t affect any of us exclusively. So getting older, it’s like, no one is exempt. The only way you’re exempt is if you die. Again I’m just stating the obvious, but we’re living in this culture that wants to pretend that we can keep the human condition at bay. That never happens. It never has happened. Everyone has their own sort of stratagems for staving off the human condition. In Southern California it’s eat well and do yoga but, no, that’s not going to work. In New York it’s read Gawker and go to the Hamptons, but nothing works. It’s almost like my namesake, Moby Dick. The story of Moby-Dick is that. It’s the unwinnable fight and how you approach the unwinnable fight.