MOBY with BUCK 65 at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Monday (April 18). $37.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Moby is an easy target. Over his 15-year career as pop's unlikeliest star, the guy's been called a weirdo, a musical genius, a marketing wizard and a sellout.
Given that his current tour is landing in small concert halls and clubs - even bookstores, as he signs his Teany Book about teas at Chapters the same day (see Readings, page 77) - instead of giant sheds and sports fields, and his new record, Hotel, debuted at a lacklustre number 28 on Billboard this week, the best label for the unassuming little man in glasses and running shoes is that he's, well, a musical has-been.
Not that Moby really cares.
Sitting across from me in a swank hotel room during a recent press junket to promote his new record, Moby seems to have developed a pretty thick skin.
"The only person who wants me to play bigger venues is my accountant," he says.
"Success is great, because it does mean that people are willing to listen to what you do, but I can't base my well-being and my self-esteem on the opinions of people I don't know.
"If you do that, then all of a sudden you're 45 years old and yelling at your publicist cuz you're not on the cover of US Weekly. I don't want to be a bitter man lamenting my lack of fame as I get older. I'd rather be a happy man, playing with puppies and children."
In September 2003, after 19 tiring months of touring and promo for his 2002 release, 18, Moby went home to New York, threw himself into his home studio and immediately started cobbling together the material that would wind up on Hotel.
Though the title and the music don't closely correspond in theme, he says, Hotel deals with the absurdity of privacy.
"What I find very strange about the things people do in hotels," he explains, "is that everyone guards their privacy so closely. Yet when we're in private we all do the same things."
"Like, you walk down a corridor and behind every door," he continues, "someone's having sex or going to the bathroom or taking a shower or sleeping or crying or laughing.
"These are things we all do. It's just so bizarre that you have this species that goes home and shuts the door, when behind those doors they all do the exact same thing. It's odd that we time spend protecting our private lives when it's so nonsensical."
Still, Moby admits maybe he hasn't protected his own private life enough. The rock press has had a field day with him. Back in the early 90s, rock glossies like Spin and Rolling Stone were enamoured of the bald, vegan, Christian raver who was to electronic music what Stephen Hawking is to astrophysics - an odd personality who stuck out among a faceless, anonymous crowd of tech heads.
"The first interviews I did were maybe 15 years ago," he says. "Fifteen years ago I was a very different person than I am now. I said something in 1990 that I believed very strongly in 1990, and even though I don't necessarily believe it now, it's something that might still follow me around.
"For example, in 1990 I was a very serious Christian, I didn't drink and I was a militant environmentalist. Now, I'm still a weird sort of Christian and I still believe in a healthy environment, but I've calmed down quite a lot."
Well, "calming down" is one thing. Going totally adult contemporary - which Hotel is unfortunately guilty of in several spots - is another story altogether. So is Moby the new Peter Cetera or what?
"It depends who you ask," he shrugs. "Some people think I've gone soft. Because I've had such a weird career and done so many different things, I think I've intentionally or unintentionally alienated a lot of people and pissed a lot of people off."