He plays keyboard, guitar, bass guitar and drums. After eight top 40 singles in the UK in the 1990s he released the album Play, in 1999, which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His follow up albums, 18, Hotel, and Last Night sold 6 million copies and have achieved gold and platinum status in over 30 countries.
According to Hall, his middle name and the nickname "Moby" were given to him by his parents because of an ancestral relationship to Moby Dick author Herman Melville: "The basis for Richard Melville Hall – and for Moby – is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great-granduncle.
He has also released music under the names Voodoo Child, Schaumgummi, and as a member of the bands Vatican Commandos, AWOL, Caeli Seoul and Gin Train.
Moby started playing music when he was nine years old, originally studying classical guitar and music theory, and eventually learning piano and drums.
From 1982 to 1985 Moby was in a hardcore punk band called the Vatican Commandos, who released an EP called Hit Squad for God. He was also in a Joy Division-inspired post-punk group called AWOL, who released an eponymous album in 1983.
After years of pursuing a record deal he signed a recording contract with Instinct Records in 1989. During this time, Moby lived in an abandoned factory in a crack-infested neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut, and his loft in the abandoned factory had neither running water nor heat.
His first single for Instinct was "Mobility," but it was the second single, "Go," a progressive house track using the string line from "Laura Palmer's Theme" from the TV drama Twin Peaks, which reached the UK top ten in October 1991 and earned him his first appearance on Top of the Pops. Some of his other singles in 1992 and 1993 were "Next Is The E", "Thousand" (the world's fastest song, according to the Guinness Book of World Records), and "Voodoo Child."
In 1994 Moby signed with Mute Records and released an ep entitled Move. This became his second appearance on Top of the Pops. During this time he also went on tour with Orbital and Aphex Twin in North America.
He then released his first album, Everything Is Wrong, on Mute Records in 1995. Early copies (in the UK at least) came with a special bonus CD called Underwater. This was a 43-minute five-track instrumental ambient CD. Everything Is Wrong earned early critical praise (Spin Magazine named it Album of The Year) and some commercial success. He followed this up in early 1996 with the double album Everything Is Wrong—Mixed and Remixed. In 1995 Moby also headlined the second stage at Lollapalooza, playing alongside Beck, Sonic Youth, and Pavement.
In 1996 he released a punk rock album called Animal Rights and toured Europe with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden. Moby usually writes all his own music, occasionally with collaborators, but Animal Rights included a cover version of Mission of Burma's That's When I Reach for My Revolver. The single "Come on Baby" from Animal Rights was Moby's third Top of the Pops performance. It was notable for its very aggressive look and sound.
In 1997, he released I Like to Score, a collection of his music that had been used in movies. Among those tracks were an updated version of the James Bond Theme used for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and a cover of "New Dawn Fades" by Joy Division which had appeared (without vocals) in Michael Mann's Heat.
In 1999 Moby released the album Play. The album had moderate sales after its release, but eventually went on to sell over nine million records worldwide. Many of the songs on the album were licensed to films, advertisements, and TV shows, but the majority of licenses were to independent films and non-profit groups. Moby performed three times on Top of the Pops with singles from the album. One of the collaborations on the album was "South Side", featuring Gwen Stefani. Play mixes songs from Alan Lomax's 1993 Atlantic recording "Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey From the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta." For the song Natural Blues, Moby mixes "Trouble So Hard" from the Alan Lomax, Sounds of the South compilation.
In 2000 his song Flower, part of the album Play: The B Sides, was used as the main theme for the film remake Gone in Sixty Seconds.
In July 2001 Moby:PlaytheDVD was released. Produced by Moby and Jeff Rogers (Swell) the DVD was nominated for a 2002 Grammy award. The DVD included various sections: Live on TV, most of the videos (excluding Southside w/Gwen Stefani), Give An Idiot a Camcorder (Moby was given a camcorder and the tape was later edited by Tara Bethune-Leaman) and an 88 minute Moby MegaMix of all the remixes created for the album Play. The Mega Mix was accompanied by visuals created in Toronto at Crush led by director Kathi Prosser.
In 2002 Moby released the follow up to Play, 18, which earned gold and platinum awards in over 30 countries, and sold more than four million copies. Moby toured extensively for both Play and 18, playing well over 500 shows in the course of four years.
He founded the Area:One Festival in 2001, a popular touring festival that features an eclectic range of musical genres. The Area:One tour featured: Outkast, Moby, New Order, Incubus, Nelly Furtado, and Paul Oakenfold. Area2 tour (2002) featured David Bowie, Moby, Blue Man Group, Busta Rhymes, and Carl Cox.
In 2001, Moby also earned the ire of rapper Eminem after Moby called Eminem's music misogynist and homophobic; Eminem later satirized Moby (among others) in Without Me, declaring "Nobody listens to techno!" The two got into a confrontation at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, along with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
In the next few years, Moby co-wrote "Is It Any Wonder" with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, remixed the Beastie Boys and David Bowie and Nas and Metallica, produced and wrote a song for Britney Spears, and collaborated with Public Enemy on "Make Love, Fuck War", which was released prior to the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Moby also had his song "Extreme Ways" used in the Jason Bourne movies. Although not a hit when it was released, "Extreme Ways" has gone on to become Moby's most downloaded song.
Hotel spawned two of Moby's biggest European hits, "Lift Me Up" and "Slipping Away," both of which were #1 European singles. Hotel went on to earn gold and platinum awards in over twenty countries, with global sales of over two million copies.
In 2007 he produced and performed on The Bongos' remake of "The Bulrushes," for the special edition re-issue of their debut album, Drums Along The Hudson (Cooking Vinyl Records), and appeared in the promo video of the song.
In 2007 Moby launched a website entitled mobygratis.com. mobygratis provides free music for film students and independent and non-profit filmmakers. It is a non-profit venture, with any/all revenue earned by mobygratis.com going to the Humane Society/HSUS.
In 2008 Moby released Last Night, an eclectic album of electronic dance music inspired by a night out in his New York neighborhood (the Lower East Side). The singles from Last Night include "Alice," "Disco Lies," "I Love To Move In Here," and "Ooh Yeah."
In collaboration with The Sunday Times, Moby released an exclusive mix album titled "A Night in NYC" which appeared on the newspaper's cover. It was a compilation of Moby tracks spanning his career and included video from his new album Last Night.
Moby has collaborated live with many of his heroes while on tour or at fundraisers. He has performed "Walk on the Wild Side" with Lou Reed, "Me and Bobby McGee" with Kris Kristofferson, "Heroes" with David Bowie, "Helpless" with Bono and Michael Stipe, "New Dawn Fades" with New Order, "Make Love, Fuck War" with Public Enemy, "Whole Lotta Love" with Slash, and "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" with Mission Of Burma, and made two duets with the french singer Mylène Farmer (the one "Slipping Away (Crier La vie) in 2006 and the other "Looking For My Name" in 2008).
Moby is a vegan, and self-proclaimed "simpleton". He has expressed pro-choice views. He lives in New York City's Little Italy, where he has lived for a decade in a small apartment in a five-story building across the street from David Bowie. Until recently he co-owned a small restaurant and tea shop called TeaNY, where he occasionally waited tables. He also organized the Little Idiot Collective, a group of artists.
In an interview with Psychology Today, Moby stated that when he was 19, he tried LSD and began suffering from panic attacks. He claims that he no longer experiences them as frequently as he used to, but occasionally he will "have too much caffeine, be stressed out about work and be in a relationship that's not going well, and it will happen again." He is very open about this in an attempt to help fans who suffer from similar panic disorders.
When asked about drugs, he responded: "I'm sort of a libertarian. People should be able to do what they want. I ultimately defer the wisdom to an adult to make their own choices. If someone wants to do drugs, I think it's their own business and not the business of the state.
In a 2003 BBC interview, Moby spoke about his encounter with the Gospels, "In about 1985 I read the teachings of Christ and was instantly struck by the idea that Christ was somehow divine. When I say I love Christ and love the teachings of Christ I mean that in the most simple and naïve and subjective way. I'm not saying I'm right, and I certainly wouldn't criticize anyone else's beliefs.
In a September 20, 2006 audio interview with Sojourners Magazine, he says, "I read the New Testament, specifically the gospels and I was struck at their divinity, feeling that humans could not have figured this out on their own. We're just not bright enough. He also discusses his faith on his own weblog. On January 19, 2007, in his reaction to seeing Alexandra Pelosi's Friends of God, a film about evangelism in the United States, Moby writes, "The movie reminded me just how utterly disconnected the agenda of the evangelical Christian right is from the teachings of Christ.
Moby is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing scientific inquiry on music and the brain and to developing clinical treatments to benefit people of all ages. He has also performed on various benefit concerts to help increase awareness for music therapy and raise funds for the Institute. In 2004, he was honored with the IMNF’s "Music Has Power Award" for his advocacy of music therapy and for his dedication and support to its recording studio program.
Many Moby albums include essays that he has written himself in the inlay card. Everything Is Wrong had essays on over-consumption ("We use toxic chlorine bleach to keep our underpants white") and U.S. religious leaders ("Why doesn't the Christian right go out and spread mercy, compassion and selflessness?"), and The End of Everything discussed being a vegan ("Could you look an animal in the eyes and say to it, 'My appetite is more important than your suffering'?").