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Interview: Moby

July 10, 2009
Image of Moby

Photo by Jessica Dimmock

"I realized that my favorite records by other people have rarely been made in big studios, so I decided to make Wait for Me at home," Moby explains in reference to his newest release, Wait for Me (Mute, 2009).

Wait for Me is indeed a homespun effort, though given Moby's creativity and experience, DIY takes on new meaning. In addition to sketching the album artwork himself—with a Sharpie—Moby invited friends to contribute vocals. "Working with friends is about 18,000,000 times nicer than working with rock stars or celebrities," he says.

What''s more, the New York–based producer tracked the set a mere 11 feet from his own kitchen. "My home studio is small, personal and designed for one person," he explains. "It's filled with odd and inspiring old gear."

Included in that setup—anchored by a new Digidesign Pro Tools|HD 192 rig, Pro Tools 8 and Propellerhead Reason—is a collection of Chandler and Focusrite preamps and EQs, as well as what Moby calls a "bizarre" collection of old drum machines, synths and amps. Moby's top drum machine for this project was the Thomas Bandmaster 55 Rhythm Synth Drum Machine; guitars included a trio of Gibson Epiphones, the ES-335 and the SG Special.

Pretty much any interesting object was subject to a little studio experimentation, including an old Bakelite radio that he recorded and ran through some broken effects pedals; the results can be heard on the album's 55-second track "Stock Radio." "Wait for Me wouldn't have been possible without the Unicord Corporation circa 1973," Moby says.

"I'm particularly fond of just about anything made by Univox in the '70s," he continues. Clearly a man who knows his gear needs, when asked which pieces of gear he would keep from his current setup if he were only allowed five, Moby's answer is quick and decisive: "Univox tape delay, [Roland] Juno-106, Univox tremolo/reverb amp, Gibson reverb circa 1962 and the Roland CompuRhythm CR-68."

As far as making this album a DIY effort, Moby found that following his gut really paid off. "One of my favorite things about the album is that 99 percent of the performances are unedited first takes," he explains. "I think this makes the record feel spontaneous. I'm also really happy with the drums—all of the drums were recorded in my bedroom with two overhead Shure KSM44 mics. Unless you're making a disco record, I don't know why anyone would put multiple close mics on a drum set.

"We used as little overall compression as possible, which hopefully gives the record a more open, spacious quality," he continues. "I only use compression when I absolutely have to or when I want to create some weird effects."

Moby did turn to outside assistance to mix Wait for Me. "The only time I left the studio was to mix the album at Chung King [Studios in New York] with Ken Thomas [M83, Sigur Ros]," he says. "I'm a crummy mixer, and I like to work with mixers who really know what they're doing."

The home-studio approach works not only for Moby but also scores of musicians and producers around the globe. But, ultimately, is that always a good thing? "The danger with today's software is that musicians can make records that are too technically perfect," he says. "I tend to like mistakes and idiosyncrasies much more than perfection. But it's certainly much more feasible for musicians to make great-sounding music at home than it was even 10 years ago."

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