Moby’s Wait For Me Track By Track

This picture is not making a statement about elevator music
This picture is not making a statement about elevator music


Richard Melville Hall aka Moby’s latest album Wait For Me sees his return to that same moody ambient sound that first brought him international fame. Recorded in his home studio in NYC, it has his mates on singing duties and features a cover that looks like it was scribbled on a paper napkin in 5 minutes. He talks us through it track by track.

Transcript courtesy of Warner Music

“‘Division’ is a simple, classical composition. Looked at objectively I guess there’s complicated stuff going on in there, but I don’t want anyone to hear the complicated stuff. The orchestration, the chord voicings – if you’re a music theorist it might strike your fancy a little bit. But I don’t want anything to come between the listener and the emotional content of the music. I don’t want anyone to sit back and think, ‘Is this difficult? Am I supposed to appreciate this intellectually?'” 
‘Pale Horses’
“I know that no one apart from studio geeks wants to hear about studio tricks, but one of my goals with this record was to make a lot of it sound older than it was. Not retro sounding or nostalgic sounding, but in a lot of newer recordings i find that everything’s really bright and I just wanted the vocals on this song to sound like conversational vocals. With ‘Pale Horses’, it’s my friend Amelia singing. More often than not, when I work with a singer, they come over, I play them the song once, I put a mic in their hand and have them do a rough version of it. Then they come back later and do a more polished version. 90% of the time I never even consider using the polished versions. So this is her holding a $70 microphone, no headphones, just singing it with me holding the lyrics in front of her pointing to the worlds. She didn’t know the song, so her performance had a vulnerable, naïve quality. When she knew the song better and I recorded it with a better mic, it sounded too slick. But this version still sounded too polished for me, so I took her vocals and put them on a weird old 1/8″ tape machine and re-recorded that back into the song. So if they sound old-timey, that’s great because I wanted them to sound as if they were recorded 40 years ago instead of a year and a half ago.”
‘Shot in the Back of the Head’
“I wanted the songs on this album to start with one musical element, and then by the middle they’re quite different. So with this one, it starts off a little disconcerting, this weird backwards guitar part, and then the drums come in and they’re only in one channel so they sound really thin and strange. It takes about 50 seconds for everything to come in, but when everything does come in it’s, hopefully, like this avalanche of sound falling over you. Production-wise, that’s the song I’m most proud of. It sounds really good on headphones.”
‘Study War’
“I’m so clueless when it comes to evaluating my own work. I finished ‘study war’ and I played it for someone and they said that it reminded them of something off of Play. That was the first time it dawned on me: I guess down-tempo, sampled old African-American vocals and strings. To be honest with you, I considered leaving it off the record for that reason. I don’t mind people disliking the records I make, but I don’t like giving people obvious reasons to dislike the records I make or for dismissing them. To have someone to say, ‘This is Play Part II; if you want a better record go buy Play.’ I do really like big, emotionally expansive pieces of music. Some of the songs on the record are very buttoned-down and restrained, and I guess others are more expansive. Certainly ‘Study War’ has so much going on in terms of strings and melodic stuff.”
‘Walk With Me’
“A friend of mine heard this and thought the vocals were a sample. I was like, ‘Oh no, she’s 26 years old and lives in Los Angeles.’ I did process her vocals, she has a very raspy voice and I wanted them to sound even older. But he thought it was 78-year-old woman from 1950. No, she wears purple jumpsuits and lives in LA and goes out and drinks too much. That’s one of the songs that has only one chord. I love the discipline of that: having one chord and keeping it simple and doing stuff melodically around it and arranging stuff around it. The lyrics are from a very old spiritual. I wanted to create the juxtaposition of the old plaintive spiritual elements with old analogue synthesizers and broken old drum machines. Everything on there is broken down: the vocals sound broken down, the synthesizers are old and crummy and broken down.”
‘Stock Radio’
“I bought a Bakelite radio on eBay for a friend of mine, and it didn’t work; it just made this weird tone. So I recorded it through a very rudimentary pitch-shifter, so that’s just me playing around with a broken Bakelite radio through a crummy old pitch-shifter.”
“It’s the only one I’m singing on, on the record. It’s the most conventional song, in terms of song structure. In listening to it, it’s pretty clear I listened to New Order and Echo & The Bunnymen and David Bowie. My adolescent musical roots are definitely showing through on that one. I just love melodic, emotional post-punk. I really loved that period in post-punk when bands like New Order and Joy Division were playing with synthesizers, so they’re making emotional records and a lot of the warmth, and all of it, like the song ‘Atmosphere’ by Joy Division, comes from the synthesizers.”
‘Scream Pilots’
“Just an instrumental that at first I wasn’t going to put on the record, but I really like the way it felt. I think it’s very evocative. I like the idea in clearly not making a pop record, having every other song be an instrumental, or having two songs in a row that are instrumentals. I love instrumentals. My favourite David Bowie records are Heroes and Low where half the record is instrumental or My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts by Brian Eno and David Byrne.”
“Having lived in New York for a long time, there’s a lot of vice and degeneracy – there’s celebratory vice and degeneracy and then there comes a time when vice is no longer celebratory and it becomes a way of life and you’re no longer going out, you’re staying in. This song is about two drug addicts in a relationship who disappeared down the rabbit hole of hardcore drug addiction. Almost everybody I know either is or has been a drug addict. When I was growing up, my mom and her friends did a lot of drugs, but harder drugs always seemed really scary to me. But at some point I realized I became inured through exposure to drug use. Everyone I knew was smoking crack, smoking meth, and shooting speedballs and dying of overdoses and it became normal. So that’s sort of what this song is about: my friends are all junkies and it’s just normal, it doesn’t seem weird anymore, which in and of itself seems really weird. The way drug use is demonized, almost from a Victorian perspective, and I don’t think people should do addictive drugs because they become addicted to them and they’re miserable. But the reason people do drugs more often than not is they want to be happy. We think of drug users as being subhuman and living in gutters and the people who sell drugs are mean people who use guns. At the end of the day, someone who’s doing drugs wants to feel good, like a child eating Oreos. There’s nothing nefarious about their intentions – it’s just someone trying to feel better than they normally would, with that added bonus of nihilism thrown in there. That was the inspiration behind that song.”
‘A Seated Night’
“There’s a very specific inspiration for this. Six or seven years ago I was in a taxi and there was a Haitian taxi driver and he was listening to a Haitian choral church service that had been recorded by his cousin. It was the worst recording, and played through like a Radio Shack cassette player, but it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard because it was all small and atmospheric and amazing. So with this song, I sought out a vocal sample that reminded me of that.”
‘Wait for Me’
“I was listening to the first Black Flag album, Damaged, and some of the lyrics on that are so despairing and harsh. So I had that little piano riff and I wrote the lyrics around that – it’s just a mournful song of quiet despair, strangely enough inspired by Black Flag. Theoretically, I feel like Henry Rollins could have written the lyrics, even though the song is quiet and pretty. There’s nothing that’s not mournful about the lyrics; there’s no subtlety here.”
‘Hope Is Gone’
“I love torch songs. I love that aesthetic. I love that rock ‘n’ roll happened, but in a way I wish that that quiet torch song music of resignation, it sort of died when rock ‘n’ roll entered the picture, and I really miss it. I’m sort of trying to bring it back a little bit, I guess. It’s a straightforward song about resignation; the woman singing it, she’s given up, she’s content to sit at a bar for the rest of her life. The vocalist is Hilary Gardner, she was born at the wrong time. She should have been born in 1935, just her vocal approach and her voice… Put her in front of the crummiest microphone and she sounds like a young Patti Page – and a funny historical side note: she’s from Wassilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin’s hometown.”
‘Ghost Return’
“If someone were to describe this as Lynch-ian, I’d say that is very Lynch-ian. It is just a weird piece of lo-fi music I recorded. The drums are recorded as thin and terrible as you possibly could record drums. There is a kick drum in there, but I challenge anyone to find it. The guitars were recorded through these old, broken effects. Mixing it was really a challenge because there was so much noise that it almost overwhelmed the music. But I liked the way it felt, so I just wanted to put it on the record.”
‘Slow Light’
“Originally that was going to be the first track on the record. In general, it’s a mournful record; it has a lot of resignation and sadness. This song is a little more optimistic even though it’s an instrumental; it’s a little prettier, there are some major chords in there even. I wanted to try to do something a little more optimistic at the end of the record; I didn’t want people to kill themselves after listening to the record.”
“It’s sort of like Nick Drake with a drum machine and no vocals. It might not sound like it was produced strangely, but by contemporary standards it was recorded and produced in very old-fashioned ways. The guitar on this was very clean, and I re-recorded it and re-recorded it until I ended up with this noisy, messy, nasty guitar, which all of a sudden felt right to me. I just wanted a pretty, mournful, and reserved ending to the record.”

Wait For Me was released in late June. Read our interview with Moby right here. More Moby at and