The latest episode of the BEE Podcast with Moby is one of the most interesting yet. Even Ellis’ film criticism, which I don’t necessarily agree with, is getting stronger - the connections he makes between the films he talks about and the culture at large more clear and lucid than they've maybe been in the past.
I liked this exchange from the final few minutes:
Ellis: We both left New York after having pretty long runs there…why did you leave ultimately and why did you relocate here [Los Angeles]?
Moby: I was born in Harlem in 1965 and I thought I would live in New York forever. You know, when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s everything that interested me had happened there or was happening there - whether it was The Velvet Underground or Basquiat or, I mean, my favorite books were written by New Yorkers… And then, living there in the 90s it was so — it was cheap, and it was dirty, and it was filled with artists and writers and musicians, and it felt so central: you could get to Europe easily, you get get to LA easily, you could get to South America and Asia - it just felt like this epicenter of the world. And then at some point, I guess about ten years ago, well I got sober, and I very quickly realized: New York is paradise if you’re a drunk—
Moby: …and kind of a difficult place to be if you’re sober.
Ellis: Completely agree.
Moby: So I suddenly realized that my priorities shifted, and I just became much less interested in the— I mean New York is a wonderful place I don’t want to demean it or denigrate it or slander it, but…it is deeply provincial, it looks in at itself. It’s essentially like a walled medieval city except the wall is water. So…New York loves New York. And New York loves the things that New Yorkers make. And they make amazing things, but as time has passed I think I just became more interested in the rest of the world. And LA, apart from the fact that it’s warm in the winter, is filled with such baffling odd people. We have David Lynch, and we have Shepard Fairey, and we have Kenneth Anger. There’s such an incomprehensible strangeness to Los Angeles. And even the geographical elements: the fact that we have 2 million acres of mountainous state parks in LA County, and we have desert, and we have bizarre beaches, and we have Latino culture and Russian culture, and so much oddness.
And I think, the main thing that keeps me here — it’s like two things. One: comfort, because you can be very comfortable here. For what you spent on a studio apartment in New York you can have a four-bedroom house with a pool and trees outside, so that’s nice, but there is a sort of byzantine strangeness to Los Angeles that never bores me. Even if LA is boring, at its core I’m not bored because I know that something odd, wrong, complicated, and baffling is going on somewhere. And to be a little esoteric about it, I like the fact that LA is one of the only cities on the planet that is surrounded by non-human environments. You know, like, when you’re in Europe, if you’re in Brussels, or you’re in New York, or you’re in Milan or you’re wherever, all your neighbors are human. You throw a rock and you hit another city. So you start having this very anthropocentric view of the universe. LA: you drive a few miles in one direction and you are in a desert that does not support human life that is millions of acres large. And there’s something existentially relevant and fascinating about that.