The Genius of Moby
His 28-year-anniversary of being vegan, his new organic, plant-based restaurant in LA, how less meat solves the climate crisis, and how plants can save us all. Plus, I’m pretty sure he’s an alien.
Interview: Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: Why is it important to you—this whole thing with animals and compassion—why is that important to you?
Moby: Well, from my perspective, veganism, or even just a reduction in the amount of animals and animal products someone consumes, is kind of like the magic bullet of all of our issues. What I mean by that is I was reading this book by Jeffrey Sachs, he’s a UN economist, about looking at ways in which sort of traditional development has impacted the planet, which even the Pope is talking about. Jeffrey sort of offers all these new ways moving forward with more sustainable development and the through line to all of it is animal agriculture. Basically, if tomorrow we no longer used animals for agriculture, climate change would be reduced by about 25%, heart disease would be reduced by about 75%, cancer rates would be reduced by about 50%, deforestation would pretty much cease to exist, the rainforest would start to grow back. We’d probably have about 60% more water overall, algae blooms and water pollution would be reduced by about 60%, desertifi - cation would be reduced 60%, and also we’d have enough food to feed about twice as many people as are currently on the planet. So it’s this one magic bullet. Oh, and in the process we would all look better, live longer, and animals wouldn’t suffer. So I think it's one of these things that, in the future, assuming that we have a future, the future generation will look back at us and say, “Why were you all so stupid? You knew what to do; why didn't you do it?”
MP: Well, I feel like that was the entire interview right there.
MP: Just for people that don’t know, how long have you had a plant-based diet now?
Moby: I’ve been a vegetarian for 32 years and I’m sort of like, you know how when you’re eight years old and someone asks you how old you are and even though you’re eight you say nine because you know in a few months you'll turn nine. I’ve already started identifying myself as having been vegan for 28 years even though Thanksgiving is technically my 28-year vegan anniversary.
MP: [Laughs] That’ll work. Let’s talk about your restaurant, The Little Pine, opening in Silver Lake, in east LA. Why in the world would you want to do that?
Moby: Opening a restaurant on one hand is one of the most foolish things anyone can do entrepreneurially. Especially opening an organic vegan restaurant. If I'm lucky we’ll break even. But my criteria for looking at it isn’t necessarily entrepreneurially. In opening a restaurant I can satisfy a lot of my interests. I can satisfy my interest in veganism. I can satisfy my interest in organic farming, because the restaurant will be 100% organic. I can satisfy my interest in architecture, in design, in community; also the city is forcing us to have a retail component. It’s this weird bit of legislation where we only have six parking spaces on the property, so we have to have 250 square feet of retail, which at first I was like kind of annoyed by, but now I actually see it as a chance to just kind of go out and get all of these interesting things that I like and sell them.
MP: Like our magazine. [Laughs]
Moby: Yeah, plus your magazine. Also when I was in New York, I had a tea company and I’m sort of re visiting that, so we’re going to have 75 teas on the menu. We’re going to be selling tons of loose-leaf teas. That excites me a lot. Also, did I tell you my dermatologist story?
Moby: So basically I went to the dermatologist at age 48 after a life of not wearing sunblock and going in the sun and being a drunk and wandering around New York getting baked, and I went to the dermatologist and he told me my skin was fine, and he said the only reason for it is because I’ve been a vegan for so long. The more research I do, I keep coming up with just the power of all of these things only exists in plants and they really are just remarkable, and not necessarily when you strip them out and sell them and use them as an essence. Because I’m a nerd, I was researching cranberries this morning and cranberries are amazing. They have these antioxidant properties, but only when you eat the whole cranberry. When you drink the juice, especially when you add sweetener, to a large extent the benefits are kind of nil. But it makes me so much more excited by and enthusiastic about plants when you realize they look beautiful—they look beautiful when they’re on the plate, they taste amazing, and they have this synergistic relationship with our bodies where they basically clean us and protect us from everything. Plants are like God’s messengers. They go through our body scouring away the bad stuff and making sure that we stay alive. It’s odd that I became a vegan for animal reasons, but as time goes on I find myself becoming this weird, almost like evangelist for the power of plants.
MP: I get so excited when I talk to you.
Moby: And there’s this really cool TED Talk, one of my favorite ted Talks is by Mark Bittman, he’s a food writer for the New York Times and he has this TED Talk. He’s not a vegan, but he goes on and on about how, basically, plants are going to save us. Plants put oxygen in the air, they clean water, they clean the soil, and the food that comes from plants keeps us alive and enables us to live long, healthy lives. You know, so I’m a vegan for animal reasons, but I’m also a vegan because I think plants are these phenomenally complicated expressions of the divine, which is something only a Southern Californian could say.
MP: Yes. It’s beautiful and very LA.
Moby: Well, thanks. One thing I’m increasingly fascinated by is the fact that people do so many things to hurt themselves. And I used to. I used to drink and take tons of drugs. Years and years ago, before I became a vegetarian, I ate McDonald’s and drank Coke and when we stop to think moby about it, the fact that any individual would take any action that hurts them is the most sad, illogical thing that anyone could possibly do. Like, I’ll go out to dinner and I’ll look at the way people eat, and I’ll see people eating deep fried animal products and I’ll see people smoking cigarettes and I’ll see people filling their bodies with chemicals and it’s so baffling that anyone who is given a life would do anything to harm their own life. And the fact is that our culture basically runs on people doing bad things to themselves. The drivers of our economy, most of which are self-harm, and that really baffles me.
MP: Give me some examples.
Moby: Okay, alcohol, tobacco, animal products, artificial scents, artificial flavors, fluoride in the water supply, cars that put out toxic chemicals, preservatives, artificial everything. All these things that we know hurt us. Everybody knows it and everybody buys into it, like most people, from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep they’re involved in something that causes self-harm, and that is like a sin against the holy spirit as far as I’m concerned. It's just so baffling, and also the paradox is that everybody wants to live longer, look better, be healthier, but their actions don’t support that. Like I was on a train going from New York to Philadelphia, and I was looking at all the businessmen who were like sick, overweight, eating bacon and eggs, drinking Diet Coke, taking tons of prescription medications, and it just seemed so contrary to the ethos of life. I feel like every action that a human being does should be in support of being alive, should look at their body and say, “What can I do today to help me to live better, live longer, live healthier, and also support life in other people and support life in the world?” as opposed to all these desperate, feral, grabbing actions that people take that hurt them, that hurt themselves, that hurt the people around them, that hurt the world. It’s just the lack of logic behind it, not even from an ethical perspective or from an aesthetic perspective, but just the simple lack of logic that any living creature would consistently act against its own self interest. I feel like, as a species, that’s the thing that we have to move beyond.
MP: I really just love listening to you talk. I’m gonna replay the interview and get all fired up.