What We Discuss with Moby:
- How Moby’s illustrious heritage made it imperative for him to write his own memoirs instead of passing the job off to a ghostwriter.
- Why, in his early fifties, Moby has not one but two memoirs under his belt.
- What it was like to grow up as a latchkey kid, impoverished and on food stamps, in the wealthiest city in the United States.
- Why Moby “was so happy” during the time he lived in an abandoned factory on the crack-infested side of Stamford, Connecticut.
- How Moby felt at the realization that he was making more for an hour-long performance than his New York City executive grandfather had made in a year.
- And much more…
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Many of us dream about what life would be like with the trappings of fame and fortune at our disposal, never imagining how too much of these good things could conspire to make us miserable. But Then It Fell Apart author, award-winning musician, and Herman Melville’s great-great-great-grandnephew Moby testifies that the excesses of success can be deceptively unrewarding.
On this episode, Moby joins us to to reveal how he was unexpectedly catapulted into fame after living in an abandoned factory and DJing for $25 a night, the self-destruction that ensued, the lessons learned along the way, and how he evolved beyond the excesses of his own success to enjoy its rewards and make the world a better place on his own terms. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
Then It Fell Apart author and award-winning musician Moby has lived a life of highs and lows, and there have been times when — to an outside observer — his behavior might not have been appropriately matched to the circumstances.
He was perhaps at his happiest while squatting in an abandoned factory making $25 for six-hour DJ sets, and had to do a lot of soul searching when he reached the pinnacle of “success” among the self-centered pantheon of the rich and famous. Now he’s sober, considers music a hobby, and gives away work for donations that go to charity.
“I hope that I’ve evolved or moved past the total drug-addicted narcissist,” says Moby. “One of the goals in the book — and I don’t know if this comes across or not — but is contextualizing the roots of that self-centeredness. That’s why I juxtapose childhood chapters with adult chapters, sort of saying, ‘Here’s the terrible adult behavior, and here are the experiences in childhood that don’t necessarily justify it or excuse it, but contextualize it.’
“I got sober 10 years ago and I realize that the years I spent obsessively self-involved trying to be more famous, trying to get more money, trying to sleep with more people, now I look back at that and I don’t even recognize that person. But I also understand where it was coming from. Those were ways of trying to fix things that I thought were really broken and dysfunctional in me.”
Moby’s achievements brought him awards, fortune, and fame, but he wasn’t experiencing the warm and fuzzy feelings he was always told should naturally follow in the wake of such massive success. What was he doing wrong?
“I would think, ‘Okay, well, I went on vacation and spent a lot of money, and I didn’t have a good time. So next time, I’ll go somewhere different and spend more money.’ You do that and you’re still miserable,” says Moby.
“Eventually it caught up with me and I was like, ‘Oh, the problem isn’t where I’m going. The problem isn’t who I’m dating or where I’m living or what publicist I have. The problem is my brain. The problem is my assumption that anything external can fix my brain.” And it’s hard because we spend our entire lives in this culture where we’re told from Day One: ‘If you have the right portfolio of stuff, all your problems will be fixed.’ Except there’s no evidence that supports that idea.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about what constitutes a fulfilling level of success to Moby these days, how Moby evolved beyond the excesses of success and what he learned in the process, why you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that Moby (or Alicia Keys, for that matter) can play real instruments, early shows playing for an unimpressed dog and American jazz royalty, and much more.
If you enjoyed this session with Moby, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Then It Fell Apart by Moby
- Porcelain: A Memoir by Moby
- mobygratis: Free Music for Independent Filmmakers by Moby
- Little Pine Restaurant
- Moby’s Website
- Moby at Instagram
- Moby at Facebook
- Moby at Twitter
- Moby at Spotify
- Moby at YouTube
- Moby on Transforming Electronic Music, Elevating Consciousness, and Saving the Planet, Rich Roll Podcast 226
- 10 Fascinating Facts About Herman Melville by Kat Long, Mental Floss
- Wealthiest Cities in the United States 2018: 1. Darien, Connecticut by Colin Grubb, Consumers Advocate
- University of Connecticut
- Crack and Its Violence Surprise Stamford by Richard L. Madden, The New York Times
- Venue Notes: The Beat, Port Chester NY by Pat Sabatino, Hüsker Dü Database
- Is President Trump Having Any Fun? by Michael D’Antonio, CNN
- Play by Moby
- Animal Rights by Moby
- Once in a Lifetime with Moby, Netflix
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
- Vatican Commandos at Mercury Lounge, July 17, 2010, unARTigNYC
- The Power by SNAP!
- Moby Covering for SNAP! in 1990
- So What by Miles Davis
- Why I’m a Vegan by Moby, TEDx Venice Beach
- Moby on Addiction, Sobriety, and Surrender by Anna David, Workit Health
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) | 12-Step Program for Alcoholism Recovery
- Gelson’s Markets
- Moby Responds to Eminem’s VMA Threat by Gary Susman, Entertainment Weekly
- Moby Thinks Eminem Has a Secret Crush on Him by Jeff C, rapdirt.com
Transcript for Moby | What to Do When Success Makes You Miserable (Episode 196)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger and as always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. I'm very excited about today's guest. Love him or hate him, he's been one of the most defining forces of music, especially dance music as it moves into the mainstream from the '90s all the way through today. He's co-written and produced and created music with David Bowie, Billy Idol, Daft Punk, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Yoko freaking Ono, Guns and Roses, Metallica, Soundgarden, even Michael Jackson among others. Today, Moby is in the studio. Actually, I'm in his studio. And if you're watching us on YouTube, you'll see us sitting right in front of his mixing desk and Moby's story is just nuts. He went from lonely only child to a massive megastar during a time he actually thought his career was in decline and wrapping up. And his descent into fame and debauchery read something like a Motley crew bio or something. We'll start early on towards the top of the rabbit hole today and hear how he got his first job in music, the worst show he's ever done, Dealing with a lifetime of debilitating anxiety, even as an A-list performer as well as how he dealt with being super poor and on food stamps to now being a super-wealthy celebrity. Spoiler alert, he did not do so well with that which makes for some entertaining stories here on the show today. This is one of my favorite episodes of the show lately, so I really hope that you enjoy it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:18] And I got this amazing guest by networking my little booty off and I'm teaching you how to do the same in our course, Six-Minute Networking, which is free jordanharbinger.com/course is where I'm teaching you how to reach out to people and build, maintain relationships. So go grab that. In the meantime, enjoy this episode here with Moby.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:37] When you get to a level like where you are, do you feel like, "Oh I better be nice because if I'm not it's going to end up on TMZ?
Moby: [00:01:41] No, it's more just like I think one, it's familiarity where it might sound a little bit too narcissistic maybe, but like if you spend 20 years or more being interviewed after a while, it's just familiar. You're just like, "Oh, it's normal." And then I guess it's sort of like time passes and you get older and you realize like you've enjoyed talking to people, but you never know. Like in the olden days you could sort of look at media and be like, "Oh, this is going to reach a ton of people. I have to be on good behavior."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:24] Right.
Moby: [00:02:24] You know? But now you never know. Like you do something that you think is really small. My friend Rich Roll has a podcast.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:32] Oh yeah. You know, Rich.
Moby: [00:02:33] And I did Rich's podcast, this is one of the first podcasts I ever did. To be honest, I didn't even really know what a podcast was. I was like, "Sure, you're doing like an internet thing. I'll help you." And then people were stopping me on the street saying, "Oh, I heard you on Rich Roll." And I was like, "That's weird," because I had done like the tonight show at the same time. No one saw it. So you enjoy the conversation without ever knowing if it's going to lead to anything.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:00] That's funny. Rich is a friend of mine as well. I've known him for a while and his show, my show are similar sizes. His show, of course, is more about vegan, fitness, endurance, racing. There's a lot in there. Of course, more than that, but it's similar. I read this whole thing, it's 400 pages long or at least the version I got.
Moby: [00:03:18] I've actually never seen the hardcover version.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:20] Yeah, I was thinking like, "Slow down, man. You're only 53."
Moby: [00:03:23] And this is the second memoir.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:26] Yeah. So like the first one?
Moby: [00:03:28] It's about 400 pages as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:30] Yeah. Do you write these yourself or do you have somebody who's like, "I am going to do this."
Moby: [00:03:33] When I had the idea to write the first one, one of my first questions was -- this was like five years ago -- okay, now I'm 53 but then I was like 47, 48 and I was like, "I assumed that the people who wrote memoirs were like either very old, very accomplished, or disgraced or trying to sort of carpe diem something." You know, like if you're Jessica Simpson at the height of your fame, you're just trying to rush out a memoir. But I was like, I'm 48, I've had a weird life. Does it make sense to write a memoir? And I realized that memoir was called Porcelain, was this very discrete 10-year chunk. And it was almost more about life in New York in the '80s and the '90s than about me. And so I wrote that and my first thought before writing it was, okay, I know that a lot of public figures when they write a memoir, they tell their story to someone. That person writes it down and then the person -- I can't believe I'm using air quotes twice in the interview, but the person writing the memoir, the public figure just sort of helps the writer edit it. And then my publisher at the time, he said, "You know, you're descended from Herman Melville." He's like, "You kind of have to write your own book." Like you can't be descended -- I'm not comparing myself to Herman Melville. I'm just sending like when you're descended from and named after the greatest American writer, you kind of have to write your own book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:11] Yeah, because otherwise, people go, "Oh, how far we have fallen." Right?
Moby: [00:05:15] Yeah. And I know the bar is exceptionally low for public figures generally. Like I remember being at some awards show years ago and Alicia Keys played piano and she's quite a good pianist. And the people around me were like, I can't believe she knows how to play the piano. And I was like, "Really? The bar is that low. That's like you're surprised that a musician knows how to play an instrument." So yes, for better or worse, I wrote this one and I wrote the first one. And I don't know if either one of them is good, but I did write to them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:48] I liked it. And I found myself looking up a lot of the words and I was like, "This guy has a huge vocabulary and it's like, well, maybe there's a ghostwriter who has a huge vocab." Because you're never sure, half the books I read, not written by the person and I figured, "Oh he's making music, he's too busy. You never know."
Moby: [00:06:02] Also I'm middle-aged and sober and I have attachment issues. So I don't date, I don't tour and I'm sober so I have a lot of free time. So like my friend Peter Hook, he's in the New Order and Joy Division. He's now written three memoirs and they're way longer than mine. And he also is middle-aged and sober. If you hit middle age and you get sober, you just have a lot of free time. So you're like, "I guess I'll write another book."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:29] And then you get to remember all these things that happened when you weren't sober. So that might take a lot of time too. I don't know. How did you end up getting your first job in music? I know you kind of started by living in this abandoned factory. Can you paint a picture of where you were at that time?
Moby: [00:06:42] Yeah, well, like I grew up in arguably, I think per capita, the wealthiest town in the United States, Darien, Connecticut. But my mom and I were on food stamps and welfare, so it's where she had grown up. My father died when I was two and we'd been living in New York City. And my mom thought, "Okay, I need to go somewhere with my son that's safe, that has good public school." So we went back to Darien, Connecticut but Darien, it was very odd being dirt poor in the wealthiest town in the United States.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:12] Yeah, I can imagine.
Moby: [00:07:14] But that was my lot in life. I just sort of accepted it. And then I went to the University of Connecticut to study philosophy, dropped out, and then needed a place to live. And so I moved into an abandoned factory in a crack neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut. And I didn't have running water. I didn't have a bathroom and I paid $50 a month for what was called squatters rent. It's my third use of air quotes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:39] It's okay. You can use as many as you -- there's no limitation here.
Moby: [00:07:42] I mean self-imposed because it makes me feel ashamed of myself. So I lived in this abandoned factory and my only goal was to try and get a job deejaying and get a record contract. And I was so happy, and friends would come over and they'd be like, "You live in a crack neighborhood. People are being murdered all around you. You don't have running water. You don't have a bathroom."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:06] Like you're making music and just pee in a bucket.
Moby: [00:08:09] Yeah. I buy water at the local bodega and when the water runs out, I'd pee in the bottle. There was a bathroom like a few hundred yards down the hall and it was filthy and disgusting as if no one had ever cleaned it. So I would use that when I had to. But like that's how I got started. So I was playing in punk rock bands and trying to DJ and I got a job deejaying at a nightclub in Port Chester, New York, and I was playing Monday nights and I got $25 for playing for six hours. So working out to about what looks like three dollars and 15 cents an hour. That was my first professional job in a wide world of music.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:52] Do you ever do the hourly breakdown of what you might have made at the top when you were doing 26-month long tours and then compare it to what you were making back then? Hourly?
Moby: [00:09:02] It might be, I probably should say no, but I actually did.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:07] Okay.
Moby: [00:09:08] There were a couple of times like where I found myself doing things that were really well paying and I would sort of figure out like, okay, so what is like, suppose you're playing a show, let's say you go on tour or you play a show, you do something, it's a $100,000 for a show, which is sort of good. There are shows that pay less shows to pay more and then you realize, "Okay, so I played for 90 minutes." And granted there's all the travel and touring, but let's just suppose you're just being paid for those 90 minutes. So technically you're making -- my math is not great -- but around $75,000 an hour for that show. And I remember growing up, my grandfather worked in New York City -- this was in the 70s and he was an executive -- and he made $60,000 a year.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:56] Oh wow.
Moby: [00:09:57] And I was like, this is really funny. Like my grandfather who was an executive in the '70s, I made more in an hour than he would make in a year. And of course, I have expenses. But that's my shameful, embarrassing answer to your question, yes, I have done that. And if I was cool and savvy, I would not admit to having done that. But it does --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:18] That's fine.
Moby: [00:10:20] The absurdity of like my first job in the music business was getting three dollars and 25 cents an hour playing on Monday nights for like methadone addicts and drunks and just couldn't be in any way interested in what I was doing and then the change from that to when things became more, I guess financially lucrative.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:40] Yeah. Yeah. I think it's funny that you did that because I would do that, definitely. But then yeah, I get why you might be like, "I don't know if I want to broadcast that. I sat there on the plane and thought about this or whatever." One thing I think that's cool that you do. I saw this mobygratis or gratismoby -- I can't remember the exact URL. We'll link it in the show notes, but you license it of about 200 or so tracks for free to students, indie filmmakers and things like that. And if the film takes off, the proceeds go to the Humane Society, which is pretty unusual. I haven't seen that from a lot of artists, but it doesn't sound like someone who is this sort of self-centered narcissistic a-hole that was kind of the giant middle of this book.
Moby: [00:11:21] Well, I hope that I've maybe evolved or moved past the total drug addict, narcissistic, a-hole. And one of the goals in the book -- and I don't know if this comes across or not -- but it's like it's sort of supposed to be contextualizing the roots of that self-centeredness. That's why I juxtapose childhood chapters with adult chapters sort of saying like, "Here's the terrible adult behavior and here are the experiences in childhood that don't necessarily justify it or excuse it, but contextualize it. But now, I mean I got sober 10 years ago and I realized that the years that I spent obsessively self-involved, like trying to be more famous, trying to get more money, trying to sleep with more people. Like now I look back at that and I don't even recognize that person, but I also understand where it was coming from. It's like those ways of trying to like fix the things that I thought were really broken and dysfunctional in me. And now, mobygratis for example, it just makes sense. Like make music, put it out into the world, don't expect to make money from it and if you can try and be of service trying to help people. I'm trying to apply that ethos to everything that I do.
Moby: [00:12:43] Like I own a restaurant in Silver Lake and 100 percent of the profits go to animal rights organizations. 100 percent of the profits from this book will go to animal rights organizations. 100 percent of the profits from my last few records went to animal rights organizations. What I want to do ultimately is say that my professional life, I only work for non-profits, basically, I live a fairly simple personal life and have some investments that look after that so that any money I make professionally will go to causes and organizations that I care about. That's the goal. But it's unprecedented and everyone thinks it's really stupid. So if I'd mentioned that to my business manager or my lawyer, they're like, "Are you out of your mind? You want to take the profits you make from music and give them all away?" I was like, "Yeah, why not?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:33] I mean it seems like you're doing okay. You know, until you have to worry about it, you can always change your mind if you're like, "Geez, I can't afford my mortgage."
Moby: [00:13:40] It's sort of the thought. Like, if the apocalypse happens and I need to like buy oatmeal and raisins to stay alive for a day, I'm like okay, "I rescind that. I'm going to keep some of the money for myself." I'm sure, you've interviewed thousands of people. We live and I'm stating the obvious, but we live in a culture where it's like just this rampant corrosive selfishness, you know? But what's fascinating about that to me is that the criteria of evidence are never applied to it.
Moby: [00:14:12] What do you mean?
Moby: [00:14:12] Meaning, and I don't want to name names because I don't need any more celebrity feuds, but let's pick like some celebrity -- Okay. Let's pick the President of the United States.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:23] Okay.
Moby: [00:14:24] His ethos is one thing, how to have more fame and more blatant wealth. That's it. You know, maybe a little more power and he's miserable as are most of the people who try and do that. And what I'm saying is like, it's understandable. Like, when you're young, you're like, "Okay, I want fame and power and wealth and then I'll be happy." But then you get the fame, power, wealth, and you're still miserable. So the question is as the decades proceed, "Why do you keep pursuing it?" When all evidence, you know, like when you're on marriage number four and you're battling like hypertension and cancer and all of these illnesses and you're sick and you're miserable as most, a lot of like wealthy, successful people are, why do you keep pursuing more fame and money?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:13] Yeah.
Moby: [00:15:14] As opposed to just sort of like saying, "Oh, let me look at the evidence. Like I'm not a stupid person. This over the top of compulsive pursuit and fame and money is making me sick and miserable and I'm doing no good for anyone. Why do I keep doing it?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:27] I think because we've -- I know this is a rhetorical question but if I can try to answer it anyway, I think it's because if you're in that situation, you go, "You know, I just need more." Which, of course, looks really dumb when you're looking at -- was it six-floor, five-floor, penthouse apartment with David Bowie as your neighbor and five balconies and overlooking the park and then the Hudson River and you're going -- there was a point in the book where you wrote, "This apartment that I was really excited about, felt just as empty and worthless as I did." You just got done describing how amazing this was and someone comes over and was like, "Oh my gosh, just mind was blown. Couldn't wait to see the other balconies," and then they left and you went, "Crap. I'm still myself."
Moby: [00:16:09] Yeah. And I mean, I was very guilty of that for a long time I would think, "Okay. Well, you know, like I went on vacation and spent a lot of money and I didn't have a good time. So next time I'll go somewhere different and spend more money," and then you do that and you're still miserable. And eventually, it caught up with me and I was like, "Oh, the problem isn't where I'm going. The problem isn't who I'm dating or where I'm living or what publicist I have. The problem is my brain. The problem is my assumption that anything external can fix my brain." And it's hard because we spend our entire lives in this culture where we're told from day one, if you have the right portfolio of stuff, all your problems will be fixed. Except there's no evidence that supports that idea. But if you're some business person and everyone around you says, "If you have enough money and the right home and the right mistress and the right this, you'll be happy." And you're not happy. Your first thought is, "Oh, I'm doing it wrong."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:20] Yeah. Yeah. Like, "Oh, I'm made the wrong stuff. This material stuff is not working. I need to be more famous. Or my friends aren't famous enough."
Moby: [00:17:28] Or the four-bedroom apartment on Park Avenue isn't working. So I need a six-bedroom apartment on Lex. Oh, New York isn't working, I need to move to Malibu. And then all of a sudden you're 60 years old and you're like, "Wow, I'm miserable and I'm selfish."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:46] Yeah. And I have 14 houses.
Moby: [00:17:47] Yeah. And I was having this conversation with Jim Carey and he came to this realization, he was like, "Oh, the fame, the private planes, the wealth or whatever. They're okay, but they're not making me happy. Like they don't fix anything." And what I learned over time -- I don't know if this is relevant to anything you actually wanted to talk about, so sorry --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:06] No, it is actually, it's all in my notes. That's why I'm scratching things off as we go.
Moby: [00:18:10] And I'm sure if people have had that experience like you're in a private plane, you're at some exclusive resort, you're at a dinner party with Bill Clinton and Elon Musk and Kofi Annan -- I think Kofi Annan is dead now. But like, you know with these great luminaries and you're like, "Oh, I'm still myself. I'm still anxious, I'm still depressed, I'm still worried." And you always thought, "Wow, if I'm in St. Barths with Bono, I thought this would fix everything." And you're like, "No, Bono is just a person." You know, everybody's just a person. You've met how many thousands of people. None of them are terribly great. I've met the Dalai Lama, I was like, "He's okay. Like he's a nice guy but he's still human." This idea that somehow anything enables us to transcend the human condition. Like that's the biggest lie of the human condition. No one escapes the human condition while you're alive.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:13] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Moby. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:18] This episode is sponsored in part by HostGator
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:11] Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Moby. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all the latest episodes in your podcast player as they are released so you don't have to miss a single thing from the show. And now back to our show with Moby.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:51] It's interesting that you, you realize this. I assume it took a really long time and I know it did because I read this. Do you know or did you back then still get excited about meeting other famous people? To put this in perspective, Play was supposed to be your last record instead it was like this massive success. It sold millions and millions of copies and you were supposed to go on tour for like 30 days and instead you went on tour for two and a half or two years plus or something. At that point, you're at the top of the game. Everybody was, everybody knew who you were. There were kids in my high school that lied about like, "Oh, I met Moby," and I was like, "Okay, whatever."
Moby: [00:23:27] Just to be fair, a lot of us bald guys with glasses, we do all look the same.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:30] Or like probably a lot of people saying, "Yeah, I'm Moby if you think so," because I'm desperately trying to be, you know, like meet some girl from my high school and whatever. And yeah, that's a story for off-camera probably. But there's a lot of people that would be in your position and you're still coming from that place where you're this punk rock kid in Darien, Connecticut. I assume all of that must have been exciting in the moment or does it sort of fade immediately.
Moby: [00:23:56] Oh, no, it was great. Like, because yeah, 1999 I thought that my career had ended. My mom had died of cancer. I was battling substance abuse problems. I was battling panic attacks. I had lost my record deal and I was making this one last album and I was like, "Okay, I'll make this album, I'll put it out, I'll move back to Connecticut, I'll get a job teaching philosophy at some community college." And then all of a sudden, like the world embraced me and it felt great until it was taken away. And when it was taken away, I panicked. Like, someone being weaned off of a crack pipe. Like I was like, "I want more fame." I want more movie stars to invite me to their parties. I want more drugs, I want more alcohol. It's such a cliche story. The only good thing about it is that I learned a lot both about myself and also this culture that feeds that. And I'm not maligning our culture saying like --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:57] I get it.
Moby: [00:24:57] -- the culture that says to repeat myself, like you know the fame, the money, the attention, whatever the culture that says, "Oh that's all you need." Even though as I mentioned, the people who rely on that end up depressed and miserable or suicidal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:12] I feel like in the moment would be so interesting and then you look at yourself. Well, you know what's interesting about your particular case is in the early '90s or mid-'90s you had that bump brought a bunch of new dance music to the scene and everyone's like, "Oh, this is revolutionary." Then Play comes out. Is it safe to say that around '98 before Play comes out, you're sort of satisfied? You're like, "I'm good," in music.
Moby: [00:25:36] So what happened is in 1996 I put out a punk rock record that failed. I mean it's called Animal Rights. From '90 to '95 my career was going up and 1995 I put out this album, Everything is Wrong. That was spins album of the year and the Village Voice album of the year. I went on tour with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flaming Lips and did music for a Michael Mann movie and like things were great. And then I thought, "I'm going to make a punk rock record." And things got really dark because I made this punk rock record. No one liked it. We did a tour that no one came to. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. Things got really, really dark. And that was before the album Play came out. So there was this trough of failure and then Play came out and became so absurdly successful and it was really fun. I can say now like it was corrosive and destructive and I'm glad that I emerged from it relatively intact. But at the time it was really fun.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:41] It's just interesting that you were okay with kind of being done with music, but then when you hit it big then you weren't okay with being done with music suddenly.
Moby: [00:26:49] Well, not so much done with music, done with -- I thought that the world of popular music was done with me. Okay. So like in '98, I didn't say, "Oh, I had a good run and I'm done." I was like, "Oh, I guess I'm done. Isn't that sad?" And then not to anthropomorphize the universe, but the universe had other plans. The universe was like, "Okay, you think you're done, we're going to give you everything you've ever wanted times a billion." It sort of like, almost like a science experiment, takes the insecure, anxious alcoholic who thinks he's going to go sleep on a futon in a coop somewhere in Connecticut and teach community college. Let's give him unspeakable amounts of fame and see what happens. And what happens. Not surprisingly is alcoholism, drug addiction, narcissism, bottoming out and then eventually like getting sober and sitting here talking to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:47] Yeah. Well, I mean, hopefully, hopefully, this is not at the bottom of that curve for you. I think, and I've seen some of your shows, I actually watched that one Netflix documentary. We'll link to that in the show notes as well. It's not behind the scenes. Once in a Lifetime with Moby, I think that’s what's called. I was actually -- forgive me -- surprised to see that you play a lot of different instruments. I know that's back to your earlier point about how the bar is low, right? "Alicia Keys plays the piano." It was cool though. You played the guitar, the bongos. There's a bunch of different things that you're on there. Do you learn those on your own by messing around or is it like when you're at that level you go, "I'm going to be playing this on Netflix. I need the best bongo guy. He's got to get over here for a week and show me how this is done."
Moby: [00:28:33] No. For me, the joy of playing music is playing music. But it's funny because when I was very, very young, I played classical music and then I played jazz and then I played punk rock. And so my upbringing was playing guitar. But then I became well known for making electronic music and deejaying. And some people just naturally assumed I was a DJ or an electronic musician who didn't know how to play instruments.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:59] Push buttons only.
Moby: [00:28:59] Yeah. Actually, you know, my background was playing guitar and playing piano. My mom was a classical pianist and so I grew up studying music theory and playing instruments. I'm okay at it, but I just really enjoy it. But it is funny to play a show and have people be like, "Wow, I didn't know you played guitar." I was like, "I've been playing guitar since I was nine years old."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:17] Yeah, yeah. I think the guitar I remembered from the book. The piano, I remember a little bit, but then bongos, just look like you're slapping them, but at some point, you have to have all of these ideas about how the technique works and have rhythm and things like that if you're going to do it in front of thousands of people.
Moby: [00:29:35] It's like the Malcolm Gladwell thing. It's just practice. The 10,000 hours and it helps when you're growing up and you're a poor, weird punk rock kid in a wealthy town. Like you don't have to worry about having a girlfriend. You don't really have too many friends. You have a lot of time to like play guitar, play drums, play piano. It's not like I dedicated myself to it. It was more like I had nothing else to do and I might as well play guitar.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:01] Right. It was like Love Boat reruns or play guitar. Or probably both.
Moby: [00:30:07] Because I'm old, they weren't reruns.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:10] Yeah, just the latest edition of Love Boat. Exactly. What's the worst show that you've ever done? I know that your first show you only had a dog watching and the dog left before the last song, but other than that --
Moby: [00:30:19] It might sound like hyperbole. That is actually the truth. Our audience, my first ever punk rock show with the Vatican commandos, it would have been like the autumn of 80 in our first show. We invited friends. No one showed up. It was only John -- the other guitar player had his dog Sparky was our audience. So that was my first audience it was to a dog.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:40] it looked like you were having fun though.
Moby: [00:30:44] It was great. Yeah, it was really fun. But the worst show -- that's an interesting question because there are different ways to judge the terribleness of something. Like, there's one time I played a dance music festival in Montreal. And what made it terrible is we were playing in a concrete arena. And so the sound, nothing could sound good. And so we were playing and like I couldn't hear what we were doing because it was all being reflected back at us and we actually had to stop the show. But that wasn't like the audience was great. Everything about it was fine except for the fact that we couldn't hear what we were doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:29] I know there was one where you ended up the headliner and you weren't expecting to be the headliner. That was my first ever electronic music show. I was opening up for the band snap. I was their opening act. It was their first show in New York and it was my first big electronic music show. I hadn't released any albums or singles. This was 1990 and it was like December 1990. It was at the Palladium, which held like 3000 people. The night of the show, nine o'clock rolls around, the promoter says, "Oh, Snap missed their flight, they won't be here, so you're, you're playing." And I was like, so there are 3000 people out there expecting snap for their debut New York show. And instead, they got a skinny guy who no one knows. I walked out and the emcee said, "Ladies and gentlemen, bad news Snap missed their flight." "Boo!" But from New York, Moby," and I walked on stage, "Boo!" And I walk over to my equipment and I had keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines. Someone had turned it all off. And I had this one piece of equipment that took honestly four to five minutes to load. So I spent four minutes in front of a hostile audience turning on equipment, feeding floppy disks into this one piece of equipment. And I'm convinced this is why I'm bald. Like, just the terror and the misery of that. The show ended up being okay. And there's one weird little codicil to that is the soundcheck is still the weirdest soundcheck I've ever done. Sound checking in the Palladium completely empty. I'd never done a real soundcheck before I do my soundcheck and I heard a voice saying, "Moby." "Oh, there's someone here." And I walked out, and it was my boss Yuki. He was also dealing at this club Mars. Yuki was my boss and Yuki was with a friend of his. And I walk out and say, "Hey, Yuki," and I look over and his friend is Miles Davis.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:30] Oh wow.
Moby: [00:33:30] So technically my first ever electronic music show was to an audience of two people, Yuki and Miles Davis. Miles Davis wouldn't shake my hand or talk to me. He was also dressed in this beautiful suit and he was Miles Davis. But I think it's funny that -- yeah, so my first punk rock show was to an audience of one dog and my first electronic music show was to Miles Davis.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:53] Wow. That's a lot of pressure. You're right. That may actually be why you're bald. Is it true that you used to teach Bible study? Because when I look at parts of this book, I'm like, okay, 400 drinks a month. Was kind of the height of it according to your estimation?
Moby: [00:34:11] Let me think, yeah, probably about that. So it's like 15 drinks a night, but there were some times I was too hungover to drink or too sick to drink. So like, but on average, 10 to 15 drinks a night.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:22] Yeah. So, okay. So that ends up being -- and six nights a week. We don't have to do the exact math. I just pulled, sort of --
Moby: [00:34:28] Between 300 and 400.
Moby: [00:34:28] Yeah, that's a lot. I think more than average. And there had to have been appointed, which you thought about this and went, "What the hell is going on? I used to be this devout Christian. This doesn't fit with that." Or is it just such a slow, slippery slope that you never quite get there?
Moby: [00:34:45] It was, yeah. Well, my devout Christianity, which was like the late '80s into the early '90 when I taught Bible study and when I'm in Christian retreats and to this day I still love a lot of the tenets of the teachings of Christ -- forgiveness, humility, mercy, compassion, non-judgmentalism. Like these are all wonderful things to aspire towards. I don't know if in a 14-billion-year-old universe saying that we as humans who are around for a few decades can say exactly who the architect of the universe is. Like I have a sort of hopefully what's like a humble agnosticism. But for me, even when I was in the depths or the heights of my Christianity, however, you want to look at it, for me, it was never moral, it was more existential in a way. And what I mean by that is like growing up -- I don't know your upbringing -- but a lot of people are brought up with this idea that religion is about morality. Don't do this, do this, don't do this, don't do this. And for me, morality and ethics only enter the equation when your actions affect someone else or another thing. So whatever you do to yourself, there might be some cosmic moral criteria that can be applied to it, but truly morality and ethics only are applicable rationally when your actions have consequences outside of you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:15] But I understand what you mean with that, I think, where you're thinking, "Screw this, I'm going out. This is the debauchery, but it's really, I'm the one who's got to deal with this. I'm not hurting anyone," which may or may not really be the case with alcoholism, but I can see that rationalization and not saying, "Look, it's not in the Bible that I can't do this, or maybe it is, but look, I'm not stepping on other people or stealing their money to buy alcohol. I'm just doing it to myself. So it doesn't really matter."
Moby: [00:36:43] Yeah. I mean, for example, I've been a vegan for 31 years and in around 1995 I had been a hardcore Christian for eight years. I had been sober for about eight years, had been a vegan for a while and I stopped and almost tried to have a rational assessment of my choices, my worldview. And I thought, "Okay, well, I'm sober, but is my sober, just sort of like arbitrary morality?" Now my sobriety is based on a simple fact that I'm an old-timey alcoholic. But back then it felt more like, I was just an uptight, judgmental Christian dick, and now I'm just an uptight, judgmental dick. And so I started drinking again. I started being very debauched and promiscuous, but I never stopped being a vegan because I realized like, "Oh, that's different. Like if I'm a debauched, awful alcoholic narcissist, I mainly just hurt myself. If I was to go out and eat animals, I'm actually contributing to the suffering and death of animals." And I was like, "I can't do that." So again, it's like that. Like there's this fear of me and if my actions hurt me, that's okay. It's when they affect other people. That's when I think personally I have a problem with it. And what was really upsetting is when I got sober to realize how I thought I was just hurting myself. And sort of referencing what you mentioned, like it turns out my alcoholism, narcissism, entitlement was really hurting a lot of other people, you know, friends, family members. And that was horrible to realize that to be like, "Oh, I thought I was just destroying myself." I was actually really causing a lot of pain and misery to other people. That's why in the 12 steps the nine steps are making amends. And that's a really intense process. When you fully accept that you have harmed other people. It's intense but then important, but it's very unpleasant.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:49] I would imagine. You go through that slowly so you don't call 10 people a day and have them tell you how crappy you are and how you ruined their life.
Moby: [00:38:55] Yeah, most of them, most people are when you go to someone and really admit the nature of your wrongs, like what you've done wrong, rarely do they get mad at you because usually they get very emotional and say thank you. I mean like every now and then someone's like, "No, you were a dick. You're still a dick. I don't ever want to see you again." And I'm like, "Fair fine. Okay."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:17] Because it's not about them. It's about you at that point.
Moby: [00:39:19] Yeah. You never, that's the other thing about -- and I don't want to make this like another middle-aged sober guy talking about 12 steps. But one of the beautiful things about making amends is you can never mention anything the other person did. So like if you killed my dog, punched me in the face, stole my car, set my house on fire, but I kicked you in the shins. When I make amends, all I'm allowed to do is say, "I'm sorry that I kicked you in the shins." There's never but.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:48] What if they bring it up though. "Hey, sorry, I lit your house of fire."
Moby: [00:39:51] If they bring it up to you, say like, "Okay, I forgive you," if you want to. It's a really interesting process. Like I had an ex-girlfriend and we were terrible to each other.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:02] Is this the back and forth? The one you left at the tea shop.
Moby: [00:40:04] Like we were unfaithful to each other. We weren't at times, not very nice to each other. When I made amends to her, I didn't mention anything else that she had done. I didn't say, "Oh I'm sorry I cheated on you, but you cheated on me." It was just simply, "I'm sorry I cheated on you. That was wrong and I apologize."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:25] Wow. That would be such a heavy duty.
Moby: [00:40:28] It's intense. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:30] What sort of habits or quirks do you think you still have from growing up as poor as you did? I mean, you were like watering down your orange juice, watering down milk, which really sounds gross by the way. But I guess you got needs to do what you got to do. What sort of weird quirks do you have now? Like are you secretly watering down your orange juice even though you're living in this amazing place right now? Just because that's how it should taste?
Moby: [00:40:52] Well, that was the case that years of drinking watered down, juice, milk, whatever. One of the consequences was that whenever I drank normal orange juice, it tasted very syrupy to me. But now, I mean, I guess most of us have irrational relationships towards money and I still like if there's a room in my house and I'm not in that room, the light, I turn off the lights and make sure that the air conditioning or the heat is turned off. Like I'll go over to a friend's house and they'll have, like, their entire house will be lit up and they'll have air conditioning going in rooms that they're not using. And I'm like, "What is this like absurd indulgence?" I'm like, if I'm not in a room, I turn the lights off. So at night there's usually only one room of my house that has lights on and if I go to another room, then you turn on lights there, or I used to have this house in upstate New York and when I had parties and this is pre-sobriety, so I'd be very drunk, very high, but I'd still walk around the house turning off lights in rooms if no one was in that room.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:58] Wow. That's that serious. That's beyond habit. That's almost like --
Moby: [00:42:04] It's like an old man who lives through the depression --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:07] "Don't throw that away." "Dad, it's just a wax paper from a cereal box." "We kind of use that." Was there any point that you were cognizant of that in the moment where you went, "This is ridiculous?"
Moby: [00:42:18] Actually yes. My manager Eric, who I've worked with for 20 some odd years and the strength of our relationship is we just insult each other. And at one point, I was doing something so irrational around money. Like I think we were at a health food store in the UK and I was looking at -- like comparison shopping, organic blueberries. And I was like, "Well, these organic blueberries are three pounds and these are three pounds 15." He was like, "You do know you sold 20 million records. You're allowed to just ignore that." I was like, "No. Like you have to get the three-pound ones since you save 15 cents." So that still happens quite a lot. Like I'll go to Gelson's, my local supermarket.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:10] That place, by the way, is chaching. If you're not sure about Gelson's, not cheap.
Moby: [00:43:14] But like I'll go and I'll be like, "Oh yeah, like organic oranges. They're 2.79 a pound. I guess I can get two." I grew up watching my mom buy food with food stamps and like that's still in my DNA. It's like an epigenetically.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:32] Yeah. Oh yeah. That's funny that you should use the word epigenetically. It is that maybe there is something to that with money. I know there's stuff like that with smoking and other habits.
Moby: [00:43:41] Essentially like, I mean our genetic code -- I mean what do I know I'm a college dropout -- but like our genetic code, people will say like, "Oh those are your genes." I'm like, "No, your genes are constantly -- they're like switches. They are going in this direction, going in this direction based on environment, exposure to things, thoughts, et cetera."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:01] When I found that out, I was extremely disappointed. I don't know. How did you feel like, "Hey, all that stuff you did that was bad? Your genetics can't, not only can they not protect you from that, you probably screwed it up for your kids."
Moby: [00:44:11] But it's also a three and a half billion-year genetic process. It's really good at healing and self-regulating, you know, so like --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:23] Yeah, that makes me feel better.
Moby: [00:44:24] Like I have a ton of friends who are like full-blown drug addicts, like did tons of acid, tons of crack, tons of crystal meth and then they fathered children. The children are fine. Not always, but like it's amazing how self-protective this organism will be if you let it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:44] Yeah. Yeah. If you let it, that's the key, right?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:44:48] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Moby. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:54] This episode is sponsored in part by From You Flowers. Hey guys, a quick reminder of which I needed myself. Mother's Day is days away. Sunday, May 12th. That is going to sneak up on you. Trust me. Have you gotten your mom something special yet? No. All right, fine. You're going to be a bad son. Trust me. She says she doesn't care. She cares and you can't go wrong with flowers. Everybody loves flowers. Even if you think it's unimaginative, it's not. Everybody loves flowers. I'm just saying and friends of the show fromyouflowers.com has a fantastic deal right now for Jordan Harbinger listeners. If you go to fromyouflowers.com/jordan, you can send a dozen mixed roses for 20 bucks or if you really want to make an impression or you forgot last year, no names mentioned, upgrade to two mixed dozen roses and get a free vase for $10 more. So it's 30 bucks, big arrangement, 24 roses free vase, delivered in time for the mother of all holidays, fromyouflowers.com/jordan. I'm of course going to do the two dozen flowers and a free vase for $29.99 for my mom because I'm a good son. Are you? Guaranteed freshness and on-time delivery from the company awarded the highest customer satisfaction with online flower retailers in 2019 by J.D. Power. That's a big deal. It means they probably didn't screw up too many orders, so go for it. Supplies are limited. That's always the problem with this holiday. They run out of stuff, so order today and they will sell out. Go to fromyouflowers.com/jordan and get that done.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:52] You know, we talk a lot on this show about imposter syndrome. Are you familiar with that at all? Have you heard of this?
Moby: [00:47:57] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:58] And from the book, there's a little excerpt here. Hopefully, I can just quote it because this is like at the height of your success, according to the book, you're having this thought, you said, "I wanted to stop the show and patiently explained to the movie stars and the beautiful people that they'd made a mistake. They were celebrating me, but I was nothing. I was a kid from Connecticut who wore second hand clothes in the front seat of his mom's car while she cried and tried to figure out where she could borrow money to buy groceries. I was a depressed teenager whose first band played a show in a suburban backyard to an audience of zero people and one dog. My brief moment of rave fame had come and gone in the early '90s. Now it was 1999 I was an insecure has-been, a wilting houseplant of a human being, but we kept playing and the celebrities kept dancing and cheering." So this is like the height of your -- is it safe to say this is like the height of your fame in a way?
Moby: [00:48:46] It is sort of the beginning of that high fame period.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:50] And this is how you felt. I mean, how much of that as hindsight for the book and how much of that is like, "Nope, I'm pretty damn sure I felt that way."
Moby: [00:48:56] Oh, I felt that way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:57] Yeah.
Moby: [00:48:58] The weird thing is in the few years that followed, things started to go wrong when I stopped feeling that way. Like there was a period around 2002 where I started to feel, not confident but sort of entitled. And that's when things really went wrong. So the sort of like the self-deprecating imposter syndrome, it might not have been empirically supported, but it was healthy. The arrogance and the entitlement that came a few years later, that's disgusting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:36] That's a funny observation. That totally makes sense, right? Because if you feel like, "Wow, I shouldn't be here, I'm lucky to be here. Hey, maybe I can enjoy this for the time being. Although it's hard because I feel like I don't belong here." That's better than, "Do you know who I am? Let me in here right now." And there's plenty of those moments in the book too that is kind of cringe-worthy, right?
Moby: [00:49:55] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:56] You're cringing.
Moby: [00:49:59] I mean it's disgusting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:00] Yeah. There's, there's one particularly funny one in there where you wander into this backdoor of some club and they're like, "You can't be in here." And you're like, "Don't you know who I am." And they're like, "We don't care. We're counting credit card receipts. This is an office."
Moby: [00:50:11] It was so humiliating. There's this bar Lit on First Avenue or Second Avenue. It might still be there. And I was very drunk and I saw people going into this room and I was like, "Lit has a VIP room." I was like, "Why didn't anyone tell me about this." And so I stumbled in and it was dark and shadowy. I'm standing there drunk and stumbling and they were like, "Get out. You can't be in here." And I was like, "Do you know who I am?" And the moment those words left my mouth and I was like, "Oh my God. I just said it. Like I said those words." That only time anyone says those words is when you're entitled, arrogant, narcissistic douchebag whose best years are behind you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:56] Yeah.
Moby: [00:50:57] And even in my drunken state I was like, "I can't believe I just said those words." And then yeah, they said, "This is an office. We're counting credit card receipts."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:05] Yeah. Like, "There's nothing in here. You literally don't even want to be in here." And here you are like trying to throw the weight around. At that point, it would be great if that was like, "Well, I had a wake-up call and then I straightened my life around." There's another, a hundred pages or so in the book after that.
Moby: [00:51:20] Yeah, that was 2002 or thereabouts and I didn't get sober until 2008 so there were a good six years of descending from that. That was nothing compared to like the bottoming out that happened later in the book, in my life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:39] I assume you don't lose your memory when you get drunk because there's a lot of details in here where I'm like, "I would not have remembered that at all, especially if I was drinking for some minimum time."
Moby: [00:51:48] I'm sure I've forgotten lots of things. But there's also the process of when you write about yourself when you write a memoir, I think of it if I'm going to sound like a real pretentious like lit major, it's like this pristine mnemonic cascade and what I mean is like you remember one thing and that thing triggers a whole bunch of other memories and also a lot of our past is very repetitive. So like saying, "Oh in 1999 as I was walking up Fourth Avenue, I was wearing jeans and black sneakers and a black hooded sweatshirt." That's because I wore that every day. It's not like, "Hmm, what was I wearing on that particular day?" I wore the same thing every single day, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:32] Yeah. Good point. Like it's a safe bet that you are bald and had glasses on at any given day in the last 20 years or something.
Moby: [00:52:38] And it's like, "Oh, and I came home and worked on music." I did that every day. But then the unique stuff, I don't know. I hope that I'm accurate like I'm remembering as best I can, but who knows maybe there is some divine entity that when I die it's going to copy, edit my life and say like, "That never happened. What are you talking about? Oh, you remembered this completely wrong but you do your best."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:05] I guess it doesn't matter. For purposes of the book, it only illustrates a similar point. The imposter syndrome for you even -- I mean it was more pathological. High performers get impostor syndrome all the time. Pretty much everybody who's not just narcissistically entitled to the nth degree has a feeling of imposter syndrome. I hear it all the time from Navy seals to like these big billionaire CEO types. This though goes beyond that. And there's an excerpt here that says, "I had been worthless for why else would my father kill himself and leave me and I’ve grown up worthless for why else would my mother run into the arms of terrible men? The parties and promiscuity and platinum records hadn't changed the essential facts, I was inadequate and unlovable and it was time to stop pretending otherwise." So you actually at this point talk about how you think your brain wanted you to be alone because you had panic attacks. You couldn't have like close friends. You'd gotten rid of -- by fighting with them, I assume all of your old friends and all your relationships. How did you start to attack that? You got sober for sure. But what else do you do in this situation?
Moby: [00:54:10] That's a big question. There are so many ways to approach and unpack that. And I guess on one hand -- this might be a weird analogy -- but have you ever bought a rolled-up carpet?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:28] Have I personally? That seems like something my wife would do, but I don't know if I ever have.
Moby: [00:54:35] But like if you get a rolled-up rug, rolled-up carpet, you bring it home, you put it on the floor and it stays rolled up. And then you unroll it and it rolls back and you unroll it and it rolls back. And you keep on rolling and then like you put books on the corners to try and train it to stay flat. It takes a very long time for it not to even curl up at the edges. Meaning that the form that it held when it was made is in the form that it wants to go back to. And I think that's true for psyches as well. So like all of those things were true and are true and you have to, I guess skillfully assess them, like say like, "Okay, are any of these things supported by evidence? They might have been true 30, 40 years ago. Are they still true? And if not, how can we try and move past them?" -- I just referred to myself as a royal we -- "How can I move past them? And sometimes you can't, but also accept, "Oh, that's okay." Like every now and then that carpet that's been lying flat still the edges curl up and you're like, yeah, okay, put some more books down. Hopefully, you don't trip over. And hopefully, it doesn't cause too many problems by curling up at the edges. Because I think a lot of people when they look at self-improvement and think, "Oh, everything that's wrong with me, I have to fix."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:57] Yes, that's for sure. So that's why self-help makes us feel freaking miserable because it highlights new shit that we didn't even know we had to fix. And now we found that.
Moby: [00:56:05] As opposed to saying like, what are realistic issues to fix and what are practical ways of addressing them? Instead of saying, "I'm going to fix every problem, I've ever had and any evidence of that indicates that I'm even worse than I thought." As opposed to saying like, "Oh, we're human. We make mistakes." We are largely formed in our formative years. That's why they call them formative years. And then you get older and you're like, "Okay, so guess what? Yes, I will probably always have issues around intimacy. I'll probably always feel to some extent, like a second-class citizen, I'll always have a degree of imposter syndrome. Okay. I still function. I still go out into the world and I try and be of service. I try and be a good friend and I love a lot of things about my life and I'm like, it's a sense of acceptance of the things that are," I was going to say insidious, but almost more intrinsic in a way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:00] Yeah. Yeah. Okay. That's a good answer to this question because of course, the self-help answer is, "Well, I systematically did all these different things and here are three weird tricks to get rid of all your self-loathing or whatever you want to call it." I love the analogy of the carpet. I'm going to definitely be using that in many areas because that really makes sense, I think, for a lot of us when we think, "Well, I'm supposed to get over being shy because now I'm a speaker," and it's like, "No, you being a speaker and going out on stages, those are the books in the tables you're putting on the carpet, but if it curls up because it's Friday night and you just want to stay home and watch Netflix, you don't have to be like outgoing now you don't have to change your identity."
Moby: [00:57:40] And it's circumstantial and contextual and you have to be very skillful and say like, "Oh, am I staying home to watch Netflix because it's a choice right now or am I staying home to watch Netflix because it's an unhealthy compulsion?" Like, am I avoiding something because I think it's terrible or am I avoiding it because I'm terrified and I'm playing to some like old fear that probably should be dealt with and it's real. And hopefully in this process, not to sound like too much of a new-age hippy, but hopefully in this process, you start to gain compassion for everyone because everyone who's not a narcissistic sociopath deals with the exact same thing. Like everybody's confused. Everyone has self-doubt, and if you don't, something's wrong with you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:25] Yeah. That's a relief to hear, I think for a lot of people. And it's different when I say it or when somebody else says it, but if you still have it, when you sold 20 -- how many millions of copies of records have you? Do you even know?
Moby: [00:58:40] 20-ish.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:41] Yeah. When you sold 20 plus million records and you still have that, it's okay that you have that whatever you're doing now. Like it's fine. It either will go away or it won't, but getting more is not going to be the thing that makes it go away.
Moby: [00:58:55] Yeah. And just look at all the people who got more and more and more. Michael Jackson, you know, like Donald Trump. Like I'd rather be someone who sort of like wrestles with the human condition, wrestles with feelings of inadequacy as opposed to someone who pretends that that doesn't apply to them and goes out and tries to keep conquering the universe and having more and more and more and then end up truly broken, like almost unrecognizable as a human.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:25] I know every interview with you degenerates into this, and I'm almost ashamed of myself for asking, but I feel like I have to, what the hell was the Eminem thing? That was so weird.
Moby: [00:59:34] I have a feeling like when -- I'm assuming we're all still around and there's electricity in a hundred years like if I'm 153 years old, I'll be doing an interview and the person will be like, "So whatever happened with you and Eminem?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:49] Who's now the president of the United States.
Moby: [00:59:50] Yeah, yeah. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Marshall Mathers. So basically what happened was in the late '90s -- if you remember, pop culture became weirdly misogynistic and homophobic.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:05] Yeah.
Moby: [01:00:06] And I'm neither a woman or a gay man, but I was really taken aback by it and offended, especially alternative rock because the alternative rock had been REM and Nirvana and The Cure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:17] Yeah.
Moby: [01:00:17] And then all of a sudden it was like bands singing like about like abusing and brutalizing women and beating up gay people. And I started doing interviews saying like, "This is horrifying. Like how is it that pop culture is embracing homophobia and misogyny? Just to prove how wrong it is. Just replace that with antisemitism and racism."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:41] Yeah. Good point.
Moby: [01:00:41] You know, like, like, so that person who is singing about brutalizing a woman, replace the woman with Jew. Will they still get played on the radio? That person is talking about beating up gay people, replace that with blacks. Will they still get played on the radio? And so I was sort of trying to make this point of like bigotry is always wrong. Discrimination is always wrong. It doesn't matter who you're discriminating against or how much money you're making for your record company. And I mentioned some of Eminem's songs as being examples of this. The context is, I thought Eminem was kind of smart and interesting and talented and I thought he was playing a role of a sort. But the thing is his 12-year-old fans didn't know that. So when his 12-year-old fans heard him espousing violence towards women, they just assumed he was a misogynist. When his 12-year-old fans heard him espousing violence towards gay people, they assumed he was homophobic. And so I did sort of single him out a little bit. But with the understanding that I actually respected him and thought he was very smart and really an odd, interesting public figure, he did not take this too well. Yeah. And it really came to a head, I did an MTV interview and they asked that question like, "What's going on with you and Eminem?" And I said, I jokingly said, "I don't know, maybe he's gay and he has a crush on me." That did not go very well. And then he tried to attack me in MTV Video Awards. But time has passed and he got more and more and more successful and I went the other direction, so like fewer records and became more obscure. So like I doubt he even remembers who I am, but also he's done a lot like, he's like a lot of interesting political stuff since then and I have to be clear, he was not the worst offender as far as homophobia and misogyny go and I think he was certainly probably brighter and more self-aware than most of the other musicians who were being egregiously homophobic and misogynistic.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:35] One thing that I thought was definitely strange was at the MTV Music awards, I guess you guys saw each other and he handed you a drawing of him strangling you or something.
Moby: [01:02:45] And he did it twice. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:46] It was like a draft on the back.
Moby: [01:02:48] It was actually really well-drawn and he handed me to sort of say like, "I hate you so much. I drew a picture of me strangling you." And I was like, I almost want to say like, "This is really good."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:58] Shaded really well.
Moby: [01:03:00] Yeah, like figurative cartoonish but interesting. But the fact that he had done it twice, I thought it was actually really sweet.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:09] It's kind of funny. He was like, I can't hand this to Moby with all these scribbles on it. Hold on. I'm just going to do another version. Here's me killing you. By the way, I got to go up and get my award now and talk a bunch of shit."
Moby: [01:03:19] I was like, "I hate you so much that I had to draw myself strangling you twice just to make sure it really captured the essence."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:25] Right. I thought it was a showbiz beef the whole time.
Moby: [01:03:28] Me too. I thought it was -- yeah like I didn't think anyone was taking it too seriously and I was mistaken.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:35] Yeah. He recently -- I can't remember what movie this was -- but he did a bit where he came out as gay. It was fake. Obviously. It was like a Seth Rogen movie or something and like did Eminem just say he was gay. So it kind of came in this weird circle because that would have been branded nuclear implosion back when he had said those things. And now he's kind of like joking that he's gay in the movie.
Moby: [01:04:00] And the other odd thing is I feel like if we had grown up together we would have been friends. There's like our upbringings are really similar, you know, like single moms, weird levels of confusion and poverty. And in a way, we both embraced musical genres, very foreign to our upbringing. So he embraced African-American culture in hip hop. I embraced African-American culture in dance music. But like I said so there are weird parallels. So maybe someday when we're 80, we'll just sit on the porch in Boca and drink virgin mojitos and say like, "Oh, yeah, we're just a couple ideas."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:38] Yeah. Like sober dudes. There's a whole lot there to unpack. I now see how young we all were back then because I was doing the math in my head and I was like, okay so that then dah, dah, dah, you were -- because I'm 39 now. I was like wait a minute. If I was 33 and I had made that much money, there's no way I would have handled my fame better than you did, which is kind of scary.
Moby: [01:05:06] I don't know. I handled fame and wealth really disastrously in a way that I learned -- and I feel like it sounds like such a cliche -- but I wouldn't trade any of it. I wouldn't go back and make fewer mistakes. I wouldn't --
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:30] Really?
Moby: [01:05:31] Oh absolutely. Like I like because I have this belief that if you are happy with who you are and happy with where you are largely when I say that I don't mean necessarily materially, I mean like in terms of perspective, in terms of worldview and in terms of understanding like your perspective, your worldview and your understanding are 100 percent the product of every experience you've had. Like you can't resent the experiences if you're happy with what they've produced.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:01] That's true. Although I think a lot of us would love to go back, edit out a lot of the traumatizing stuff and be like, "I still would have ended up here." But that's a lie, right? That we tell ourselves.
Moby: [01:06:09] I don't know. When I look back at my life, I sort of feel like I learned very little from success and I learned a lot from fame. Like success is so delusional. Success says like, "Oh you're great. Go do it again." And fame is like, you know, what things are more complicated than you thought they were. Let's take stock of what really happened. Fame is such as a flattering, delusional voice in success.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:36] You've said that music is now your hobby and your job is activism. In fact, I think you might've said that earlier in this very interview. I guess we'll see when I edit this, but what's next for you? I mean, you're focused on animal rights. It seems like that's what's keeping you going and not necessarily all these awards out there that I'll put in my Instagram story because they're all in the hallway.
Moby: [01:06:56] I didn't know, this might sound weird, I didn't know where else to put them. They'd been sitting in storage for a long time and a friend of mine said, "Why don't you just hang them up?' I was like, "Ah, okay, sure." So they're like the temple of narcissism out there.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:08] It's funny that you mentioned that. My wife, Jen, who's right there that she's a recurring character on the show. I said, "You know, he's got all his awards and they were just kind of like jammed on a shelf and then they're all two inches away from each other on the wall and some of them are so low you'd have to like lay on the floor to see them. And I go, I bet he just doesn't care about this stuff anymore.
Moby: [01:07:25] I mean I think it's, it's interesting. It's funny. Some of them look nice but they used to be a lot more important to me than they are now. And there's also sort of like a slightly aging, faded sadness to them. You know, like most of the awards are for the album Play, which came up 20 years ago. So it's like a temple of narcissism. It's not necessarily a temple to like modern relevance. But the question of like, "So what now?" is -- it's a hard question to answer without sounding even potentially like more of a Southern California new-age, self-involved cliche. But like the only two things that mattered to me really -- I hope, I think -- are understanding and service. And what I mean is understanding, I don't know how to describe the universe. I don't know if it's God, I don't know if it's cosmic energy. I don't know what it is. But it's really interesting and the way, all the weird ways in which it's revealed like material ways, like quantum mechanics, astrophysics, the workings of a cell. These things are fascinating. What do they tell me about the energy creating them or sustaining them? So that's really interesting. And the other is service because like one of the things that I find so frustrating is that every problem facing humanity is a problem created by humanity. And you think if that was the case we would just stop. Like the fact that we keep doing the same stupid stuff over again with horrible consequences. I mean as individuals and collectively. So I live to try and understand whatever that energy is that can make a cell work that can make life a particle in a wave. Like that's fascinating. But also trying to like do what I can to be of service and help while I'm here. Because it would just be nice to live in a world where we weren't destroying the only home that we have. And I've one small issue. Before we started talking I drank a lot of tea. Now, I really have to pee. So my question is do we keep going and I don't pee or do I go pee and come back?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:43] I would say that either we can wrap it here because this is a good place to do that and you can pee no matter what because I worried about that. And I just want to say thank you very much.
Moby: [01:09:52] My pleasure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:52] Having us over to your house. This is awesome. I've been a fan for a really long time and I read the whole book recently and it was good and it's been a pleasure getting to know you through the book and here today.
Moby: [01:10:03] Well thanks. Two of the good things about the book, it's got a nice little blurb from Stephen.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:07] I saw that. That's cool.
Moby: [01:10:09] Most importantly it's got pictures in color. So you don't even have to read the words. Just read the blurb from Stephen Colbert. Look at the pictures. Put it on your coffee table. Maybe someone will be like, "Oh, you read books."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:25] Yeah. Well, I'm going to have you sign this one. If you want to pee before that, that's fine.
Moby: [01:10:29] I'm going to go pee to it. Boy, it's like it's bad.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:33] Do it, man. Thank you.
Moby: [01:10:35] Okay, thanks.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:38] Great big. Thank you to Moby. His new book is titled Then It Fell Apart. It was a good read. It was kind of fun. He's a really good writer. He wrote it himself as you heard on the show. And if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits and get great guests like Moby and be able to have all these great opportunities, well, I'm teaching you how to do that for free in our course, Six-Minute Networking. Even if you think you don't need networking and relationship development, I promise you when you do need it, it will be too late if you haven't dug the well before you're thirsty. So go to jordanharbinger.com/course and go ahead and start that off. It takes six minutes a day. Quit crying, no excuses. Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Moby. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:27] The show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason "Porcelain" DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty and I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every single episode. So please share the show with those you love and share the show even with those you don't love. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:57] One of the podcasts that I listen to regularly is Art of Manliness. And recently Brett, you had an episode with Walter Isaacson who is just a fascinating guy. I mean talk about somebody -- he writes biographies of people that are amazing, but he also writes biographies of people who aren't even around anymore, which seems a lot harder actually. I mean to get inside the head of Steve Jobs is tricky, to get inside the head of Leonardo da Vinci hundreds of years after his death seems like magic.
Brett McKay: [01:12:25] Yeah. So his biography on da Vinci was phenomenal. It's a giant book, but it's super in-depth. And what I love about Isaacson is that he said he wants to explore the combination of science but also humanities. That's why he did Steve Jobs. And Leonardo da Vinci is like the epitome of combining science and art and humanities. So what he did, he spent years researching da Vinci and looking at his own personal diaries or notebooks that he kept all the little notes that da Vinci made. And he saw da Vinci sort of developing his thought. And we had this idea of da Vinci being this sort of genius that just came out of the womb, really smart, talented, but Isaacson makes the case that no, he spent years developing his talent for art and science and how his research in science influences art and how his art influenced science. So if you are looking for new insights of how to think more creatively, you're going to find a lot of great insights in this episode about da Vinci with a Walter Isaacson
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:21] And will link to that in the show notes. Thanks so much, Brett.
Brett McKay: [01:13:23] Hey, thanks, Jordan.
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