Just released last week this book tells the life and times of the DJ Moby. Starting with his alienated youth in suburban CT and rise to fame, problems with alcohol , finding himself, losing himself and a colorful ten year time period in NY from 1989-1999. From what I read in the press clippings for the book, its brutally honest. See article below with more details.
Moby’s Porcelain Will Make You Nostalgic for ’90s New York
MAY 19, 2016 11:28 AM
by JULIA FELSENTHAL
The last few years have introduced such an onslaught of media glamorizing the dirty, dirt-cheap days of 1970s New York City, that one might assume showrunners, writers, editors, directors, and curators are in cahoots to give the city’s current crop of young creatives a paralyzing case of FOMO. There’s Patti Smith’s Just Kids and Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp; Vinyl on HBO and The Get Down on Netflix; the Ramones at the Queens Museum and Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire on the best-seller list.
But the 1970s don’t have a monopoly on nostalgia, even in New York. Read, for example, Moby’s new memoir, Porcelain, and you may find yourself fetishizing another decade: the ’90s.
In New York, it was a time of AIDS and crack, of high murder rates and low rents, and an era of flourishing DIY music culture. The dance records spinning on DJs’ turntables—at major clubs (Mars, Palladium) and underground parties alike—were “organic: not produced by big producers working for multinational corporations, but made by the same people going out to the nightclubs,” Moby writes. “The record stores were owned by the people who made and played the records. The clothes were made by friends of the people making records. The drugs were sold by roommates of the people making clothes and records.” And though “every night people were dying on the streets and New York City was literally setting itself on fire,” somehow “the collective response of anyone in their 20s living south of 14th Street was to ignore the despair and the fear and to go dancing until 5:00 a.m.”
Porcelain covers the decade from 1989 to 1999, a period during which Moby climbed from utter obscurity to the precipice of stardom. In the book’s first pages, he’s a sober, mostly celibate Christian, squatting in an abandoned factory in Stamford, Connecticut, dreaming of his big break as a DJ. In its last pages, he’s a self-proclaimed “alcohol enthusiast,” a sex maniac with a proclivity for strippers and dominatrices, a religious skeptic, and a washed-up techno act busy putting the finishing touches on Play, an album that would, once released, redeem his listless career and make Moby nearly as famous as the white whale for whom he was nicknamed. (Herman Melville is an ancestor.)
The only through line is his veganism (staunch), his fear of balding (realized), his angst over women (constant), and his persistent sense that he doesn’t quite belong, a hangover from growing up poor with a single mother on the wrong side of the tracks in the über-wealthy suburb of Darien, Connecticut.
New York, where he was born and lived as a baby, “had long been the dark city on the hill for me, shadowy and ominous and perfect,” he writes. When he moves back, to live with friends in a seedy East Village share and to DJ at the newly opened dance mecca Mars, he finds a “filthy city that was being torn apart by drugs, AIDS, and gang violence,” and that was still cheap enough to nurture the dreams of the young, artistic, and underemployed. It was a magical place: Madonna or Miles Davis might turn up at your show; the singer-songwriter at the local Irish pub might be Jeff Buckley; Darryl McDaniels from Run-D.M.C. might freestyle over your DJ set.
Moby tapes a quote from Rimbaud to his mirror: “I is another.” It’s a sentiment that haunts him throughout his early career, and one that, no doubt, in the long term, leads to Play’s genre-shattering, ecstatic, otherworldly sound. Moby is an outsider as a straight white DJ, “playing hip-hop and house music in black, Latino, and gay clubs,” and in drug-fueled rave culture, where he finds a foothold as a recording artist but feels isolated in sobriety. “I loved the same music and shopped at the same record stores as these people,” he writes, “but I was always home in bed by 3:00 a.m., which was the beginning of the night for most ravers.”
As swiftly as rave culture arrives, it transforms, becoming darker and heavier, more and more drug-addled, less vested in the euphoria to which Moby had been drawn. “I felt like the rave equivalent of Comrade Trotsky, a blotted-out figure,” he writes. “I was politely tolerated, but it was 1993, and I was a sober relic from 1992. Or maybe 1991.”
Soon enough Moby changes, too: In the stormy aftermath of a failed relationship, he falls off the wagon. He records a much-maligned punk album, 1996’s Animal Rights, a commercial failure so major it nearly tanks his career. He becomes wildly promiscuous, a symptom, perhaps, of his remorse that professional success had not equated with romantic success. “He was a sex symbol,” Moby writes dolefully of meeting Trent Reznor. “I wanted to be a sex symbol—or at least someone that women longed for.”
This quest for validation in the arms of the opposite sex fuels the last third of Moby’s memoir. By this point, it’s the mid-’90s, and New York has gone through its own metamorphosis: The Meatpacking District, a neighborhood Moby once traversed en route to DJ gigs, wheeling his records on a skateboard through pools of animal blood, was quickly becoming a rich kids’ playground, the place where a few years later, Samantha Jones, Sex and the City’s randy public relations maven, would buy a luxury apartment.
That show, set in a glitzy, polished Manhattan worlds apart from the squalid underground described in Porcelain’s early chapters, premiered on HBO in 1998. By the book’s end, Moby’s Manhattan and that of Sex and the City are fast on a collision course. At bars, he’s ordering cosmos and Stoli and sodas. Parties unfold at an endless array of tricked-out lofts. Sex is unapologetic. In one passage, Moby gets a blow job while scrutinizing a painting by his best friend, the artist Damian Loeb, of a female terrorist, “defiant and beautiful,” standing with her back to the burning forest she’d just torched. In another, Moby has anal sex with a woman in the bathroom at Windows on the World, the restaurant perched atop the old World Trade Center. Afterward, he presses his forehead up against the glass overlooking Manhattan, weeping while Petula Clark’s “Downtown” closes out the night.
It feels like a harbinger, but Moby doesn’t go there. The biggest changes, right around the corner, are left unexplored: Play, the album that will make him into a global superstar; the terrorist attacks of September 11, only a couple years away; his eventual return to sobriety; a decision, still years down the line, to leave New York for Los Angeles.
It’s better that way. Porcelain is an imperfectly written, perfectly evocative document of a long-lost era that ended not so long ago. In one of the book’s later passages, its author walks through Soho, observing the city in flux. “The galleries were leaving, the recording studios were leaving, the artists were leaving,” he writes. “Change in New York was exciting, even when it was awful.”