Moby believes it is “obvious” the world is “a millimeter away from collapse.”
That fearful idea may already be seared into his own mind, but the artist wants to make sure that you too are considering the possibility of existential demise. “We’re slowly building awareness and you just hope that the awareness comes before we end up on a planet that’s uninhabitable,” said Moby in a recent phone conversation about his new album, “More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse.”
But Moby understands that shouting “dire!” is not as newsworthy as “fire!” He expressed frustration that in the “bleeds it leads approach” to media, topical “dramatic” stories win attention over the slow killers, such as antibiotic resistance and climate change. He’s afraid the world is ending and that nobody cares to notice.
So the artist isn’t afraid to provide a bit of drama and set a spark to get a point across.
In Moby’s new music video, “In This Cold Place,” President Donald Trump is depicted as a Nazi-esque leader who takes over the world with a missile-firing machine shaped like a swastika and dollar symbol. By the end of the video, the Trump machine blows up as the oppressed people of the world rise up against him.
English illustrator and animator Steve Cutts ― who Moby worked with before on the viral music video “Are You Lost In The World Like Me?” ― created the video and the original concept with notes from Moby. “He’d send me a drawing, almost with a little hesitation, saying, ‘Oh, do you think we can get away with this?’” Moby recalled. “And I was like, yeah, why not, just make it, go as far you want.”
Moby further encouraged Cutts “to make it even more dystopian and more extreme.”
Art depicting violence against Trump’s likeness is a trigger for controversy at the moment. Just last month, Kathy Griffin released a photo of her holding a bloodied head that looked like Trump’s. Over the last week, The Public Theater in New York City presented a version of “Julius Caesar” with a Trump-esque character getting stabbed to death by other politicians.
Both garnered protesters and a loss of advertisers, even though the latter presentation was actually a cautionary tale warning against hot-blooded assassinations.
Earlier this year, Snoop Dogg had a music video where he aimed a gun at a clown that looked like Trump. Trump responded to Snoop Dogg’s video on Twitter by suggesting ― with an exclamation point as he is wont to do ― that the artist should be locked up.
“Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama?” wrote the president. “Jail time!”
When HuffPost spoke with Moby in May, only the Snoop Dogg incident had occurred. Still, the artist seemed entirely committed to his artistic decision.
“The criteria that you would use to determine where you draw the line is simply what’s effective and what’s legal,” said Moby.
“And I don’t mean legal in a cowardly way. I mean legal in a way that would lead something to be taken off the internet. Because you can make the best content in the world but if YouTube and Facebook won’t let people see it, then what’s the point of having this great content.”
He explained that in his mind, that’s “the only place for me to draw the line.”
“The criteria that you would use to determine where you draw the line is simply what’s effective and what’s legal.”
The video, released under the Moby & The Void Pacific Choir moniker, presents a cautionary tale of trusting capitalist marketing. Satirical takes on the Care Bears and Mickey Mouse distract Americans while rich people suck all the money out of the economy.
Trump’s rise in the video makes a point about how even though he clearly used a violent and dangerous “machine” to take over the country, he simultaneously tried to present himself as a cuddly old man and safe politician - such as when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” or let Jimmy Fallon rumple his hair.
The final act of the music video presents an imagined scenario of the proletariat fighting back and toppling the aristocracy, but all these visuals of destruction are presented as metaphor rather than a direct call to arms. The final scene even suggests that this attack on the ruling regime only takes place in the protagonist’s mind.
“I think that we’ve managed [to] be on the legal side of copyright violation,” said Moby. “Like everything in there looks familiar but nothing is a direct rip-off of existing copyright. Or so I am hoping.”
In February, Moby garnered media attention when he claimed, on social media, that he had sources that confirmed to him that Trump is being “blackmailed” by the Russian government.
“Intelligence agencies around the world, and here in the u.s, are horrified by the incompetence of the trump administration, and are working to present information that will lead to high level firings and, ultimately, impeachment,” Moby wrote. He also stated that the Trump administration might try to use a war with Iran as a distraction.
Although Moby’s claim to have reliable sources seemed questionable at the time, the statement still gained widespread coverage. Variety reported that Moby’s followers drew a line between the resignation of then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and his prediction.
“I didn’t want as much attention as I got,” Moby explained to HuffPost with a laugh. “I don’t want to be the sort of ad-hoc mouthpiece for disgruntled people who work at intelligence agencies. But I just, felt like I had an audience and [my friends in the intelligence community had] asked me to sort of just draw attention to what the administration was doing to try and drum up an excuse for war.”
For those still deeply curious about this Moby-as-Deep-Throat situation, here’s his full explanation:
Without saying too much, over the years [I have] somehow managed to become friends with people in intelligence services in different countries. And I met up with some of them a few months ago, and they were talking about the Russian dossier and how everyone associated with it is being killed off.
And the thing that kind of scared them the most, was the false pretenses that the Trump administration were drumming up to try to go to war. Specifically at that time they were concerned about, I think it was the USS Cole, was antagonizing Iran. And the Trump administration was hoping that Iran would do something that would justify us going to war with Iran.
So one reason I posted that was in my own way to let the administration know that the intelligence communities ― and I’m not sure the only person doing this ― but there was awareness of what they were doing.
And the other stuff I posted ― like in the post I said look at Michael Flynn ― and a week later he was fired. Just as a way, again I can’t say too much, but just as a way of sort of like, trying to add legitimacy to the other things that I was writing about.
Moby also revealed that his source was a “career intelligence person” that asked him to relay this information ― all of which is unconfirmed. According to Moby, “the straw that really broke the camel’s back” of Trump’s relationship with the intelligence community was his visit to the CIA immediately after his inauguration, when Trump “gave a self-promoting speech in front of the wall of fallen heroes.”
“If Trump is impeached or forced to resign, you can kind of trace it back to that moment,” said Moby. “That’s when all the career intelligence officers just decided that Trump is terrible and has to go.”
The premiere of the music video for “In This Cold Place” comes less than a week after Moby surprise released his latest album, “More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse.” The song is the sixth on this new Moby & The Void Pacific Choir album.
“At this point in my life ― maybe I really shouldn’t say this ― but given the way the music business is, when I make a record I don’t really expect too many people, or anyone, to pay attention or buy what I’ve done,” said Moby of making this new album. “So to that end, the joy and satisfaction that I get from making records has to be the act of actually making them.”
“Like in the old days,” Moby continued, “You could find satisfaction from selling millions of records, but now the happiness I get is just the act of making them and putting them out into the world. And just sort of seeing what happens.”
Specifically, Moby now believes he can reach his biggest audience through music videos. And in that that medium, he feels he can be more explicit about his political ideas.
“As time has passed, I’ve wanted more and more for my work to somehow reflect my political concerns and my world views and issues that are important to me,” said Moby. “I’ve realized that music videos are just a really good way of trying to do that.”
“At this point in my life -- maybe I really shouldn't say this -- but given the way the music business is, when I make a record I don't really expect too many people, or anyone, to pay attention or buy what I've done.”
Moby spends much of the “In This Cold Place” music video characterizing the similarly controversial ills of the food industry. The backlash from claiming meat is murder could certainly rival a backlash from depicting violence against Trump. Even liberals often aren’t receptive to the idea of veganism.
And yet, as a vocal proponent of veganism, Moby doesn’t shy away from including this cause in the work as well.
“I’ve been a vegan now for 30 years and honestly, the cause of animal rights ―that’s my life’s work,” said Moby. “There’s almost nothing that humans are doing that’s more destructive to our species than using animals for food. And of course we’re destroying the animals ― a couple hundred billion a year ― but in doing [that], we’re also killing ourselves and making the planet uninhabitable.”
He stressed, “if I have a purpose on this planet, it’s simply drawing attention to that.”
The world needs saving, in Moby’s mind, and he’s certainly not wrong. But still, he remains dubious you’ll hear him.
“When it comes to issues, like being a good vegan or animal rights activist, I can’t just scream,” said Moby. “You have to strategically present the information in a way that people might be receptive [and] might respond to it. That’s why I felt like doing it in a cartoonish way in the video would both sort of draw people in and repel them at the same time in equal measure.”
This is an artist who knows what he’s doing.
And in this final millimeter away from a World War III you’ll read about on social media, Moby just wants you to listen.
This article has been updated to correct Moby’s statement that Trump visited the FBI after his inauguration; Trump visited the CIA.