Moby is a musician, producer, author and activist, just to pick a few. His new book, Then It Fell Apart, is due out this month. He’ll return to Connecticut, where he spent most of his jaw-droppingly unique childhood, on May 15 at the Space Ballroom in Hamden.
Why did you want to bring your book tour to Connecticut?
I basically grew up in Connecticut. I was born in Harlem in 1965. Then in 1969 my mom and I moved back to Connecticut where she had grown up. And we lived all over. We lived in Danbury, Stratford, Norwalk, Darien. I lived in Stamford, I went to UConn-Storrs and UConn-Stamford. Because a lot of the book, especially the childhood stuff, takes place in Connecticut, it seemed weird to me to not try to have a Connecticut date on the book tour.
Is there one fan interaction that stands out most in your mind?
Around 2002 I was co-hosting an event, I think it was for the American Civil Liberties Union, with Hillary Clinton. We were backstage getting ready to start the event. We were talking and she told me how much she liked the album Play, and I just thought this was so odd that here I am talking to — at the time she was a senator and former first lady. And we’re hanging out backstage and she’s telling me that she’s a fan of my work.
There are plenty of instances where successful people cite childhood trauma as motivation for their careers. Is that type of success worth it?
If you’re relatively happy with where you are, in terms of material success but even more importantly in terms of just perspective and hopefully a degree of wisdom, you can’t be too upset with the things that led you to have that perspective. We all want to be happy and have a life where we experience nothing but success, but you don’t really learn much from success. When you have failure you can learn from it, and also you can find hidden reserves of strength that help you to endure failure or bad times. No one needs strength to endure success.
If I told you to think back to your time spent at UConn in Storrs, what’s a memory that would come back?
I was really poor. I was on complete financial aid, Pell Grants, scholarships. When I first got there, I remember this so clearly, the dining hall hadn’t opened. So the only way I could eat was — a friend of my mom’s had given me a hot plate — I would take the hot plate into the stairwell and plug it in and boil water to make ramen noodles. I lived in a dorm called The Jungle, which hopefully is long gone by now. It was temporary housing built for returning World War II veterans, and in 1983 that’s where I lived.
An excerpt from your book: “I shut the door and got into bed with the cats, who curled up next to me. With my door shut the room would get cold, and I’d wake up shivering in the morning. But with the door shut I knew the cats wouldn’t leave me.” When you consider that’s the thought of a 7-year-old, that’s heartbreaking.
There were a lot of really sad experiences in childhood, and there was a lot of fear, shame, confusion, isolation. The way our brains are built, we look for connection. Most healthy people find connection through family, friends, community. I didn’t, to a large extent. I had some connection there, but I had to look elsewhere. For me, that was animals, books, music, TV, movies. Which, not surprisingly, I spent my entire adult life involved in the world of animals, books, music, TV and movies.
Give me a Robert Downey Jr. story from childhood.
It’s funny when I tell people that he was my best friend in third grade. When we were 8 years old he had a Super 8 camera and he and I and his sister and his mom made our very first movie. His dad was a film director and we tried to recreate an episode of Ironside. So I think he played Ironside, where he was lying in bed pretending to be an old detective. His sister and I were cops who were coming to him for advice. Pretty sophisticated storytelling for 8-year-olds. I remember we shot it and developed it and then had a screening of it on a sheet for me, Robert, his sister, his mom, his dad and my mom. I remember being very excited at the age of 8, like we made a movie. It was 2½ minutes long and the edits were done in the camera and you could barely see anything because it was so dark. I guess I can lay claim that Robert Downey Jr. and I made our first movie together.