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BitJam 221 - Out Now!

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226 - Interview with Moby (Frédéric Motte) (English version)

on Fri 27 Jan 2012 by Bobic author listemail the content item print the content item create pdf file of the content item

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Interview with Moby (Frédéric Motte)

Frédéric Motte is probably one of the most unusually placed games musicians in terms of stylistic leanings; as a true lover of hard guitar sounds (he’s as an outstanding bass player) he mostly works in the game music field creating electronic music, with much success! Since the early 1990s, the long-haired Frenchman has written music for dozens of computer and video games and still finds enough time for the heavy / hard side of music production. Not only does he own the music studio Conkrete where he produces heavy metal CDs, also he recently published his second own album called Hijack with his band Plug-In, which delivers such an incredibly powerful and pleasant blast to the eardrums coupled with fine melodies that we just had to do an interview with him! We chatted with him not only about Hijack and video game music, but also asked him about his start in the computer demoscene (where he first earned his stripes), as well as chatted to him about some very special song experiments.

Under the nickname "Moby", you became a shining light in the demoscene years ago, but not much is known about the man behind the name; So please tell us something about yourself. "Moby" - Who are you? What things fascinate you besides music?

That's a tricky question... Who am I ? Well, I'm a fairly simple guy... You probably guessed I'm a music lover. Everything I've done in my life since I got my Commodores has been evolving around music. I compose music for video games, I own a recording studio in which I work with other bands and musicians. It leaves little room for anything besides music. Yet, I try to find some time once I a while to play a good video game, or to watch a good science fiction or horror movie. Oh wait... I listen to metal music, I watch horror movies, I play video games... Oh no, according to the media, I'll probably end up killing lots of people...

You are known as an outstanding bass player. Why did you choose the bass and not the guitar?

Haha, outstanding might be too strong a word... To be honest, I didn't choose bass. Bass chose me... I tried to play the drums, but I sucked at it. Then I tried keyboard, but I found that very boring. Then I tried guitar, but again, I sucked at it. Then I tried bass and halleluja, I never had so much fun on an instrument ! This intrument combines rhythm and melody, the best of both worlds. It kinda compensates my frustration of not being able to play the drums and the guitar...

Do you play any other instruments besides bass?

Well, I'm able to play very basic stuff on drums, guitar, and keyboards. So, no I don't really play any other instruments.

Hijack“, the second album of your band Plug-in, was released recently. Why did it take almost 12 years until you got back into the studio again?

Fanalo (guitarist in my band) and I started composing for "Hijack" in 2001. But we were very busy and it was really hard to find some time to work together. Fanalo works in a music school which takes him a lot of time, and my work in the video game industry plus my recording studio both keep me very busy as well. As time was an issue, we were recording everything as soon as it was composed. Because of this, each tune has been recorded on a period of several weeks, even months for some ! After this, we had to schedule the drums recording. We didn't have a drummer then, so we asked to our first drummer if he could do it. He said ok, but we had to wait for him to be available as he was very busy with his other bands.Then we had to wait quite a few months, as I needed to find some time to mix and master the album. This was a very long process because of the variance of the recordings. Then we needed to find someone to design the artwork. Some friends offered to help us, but had to step down for various reasons. When we managed to get the artwork done, we sent the master to the pressing plant. We messed up the first batch of CD, so we had to send it back. We lost 2 more months, and finally, the CD arrived last summer...

In "Hijack" you sound much more powerful, more mature and intense than on your debut "#0.9"...

Our first CD was very much (you could say "too much") influenced by Joe Satriani. It has been the most recurrent criticism we received about it. With this album, we really wanted to do something more personal, more thoughtful. Our aim was to write songs, but without a singer. Something which could appeal to people who don't especially like guitar driven music, but which would remain interesting for the guitar fan ! Quite a challenge, isn't it ?

How important is it for you not to maintain the status-quo, but try to grow as an artist and develop your style?

Well you know, most of the music I compose is for games I don't play, in music styles I don't always like. This kind of job can kill your creativity. I try to give my best for each game I work for, but sometimes it's very difficult. So it's very important for me to have something else to express myself. Going on stage with Plug-In is one of my safety valves. I also need to compose more personal stuff and develop my own thing. I have a few tracks in the works which might see the light of day, some day. I would really love to release a truly personal album, but I have so little free time to work on it...

Which piece on "Hijack" are you most proud of and why?

Honestly, I'm proud of the whole album. Of course, I have my favorite tracks (Hijack and Conkrete would be my top 2 . But I'm mostly proud of what we achieved. Most guitar oriented albums I know are focused on the guitar and only the guitar. The drums and bass are here just because they need to be, and are reduced to their simplest form. We, on the contrary, really wanted to sound like a band, not just like a lead guitarist and his musicians, and I think we succeeded !

Many guest stars appear on the new album, including Ron Thal (Guns 'n' Roses) and Sylvain Coudret (Soilwork). How did these collaborations come about?

Well, as you may (or may not !) know, Fanalo and I have been playing with Ron Thal in his band Bumblefoot for a couple of years. So when we asked Ron if he would be ok to play a solo on our album, he accepted. Ron is like a brother to us. Touring him with him was very inspiring. For Sylvain, this is a different matter. Some years ago, we organized a contest. We posted an extract of one of our songs to let people play a solo on it. At the end of the contest we would choose one and it would appear on the CD on the same track as Ron Thal. We received more than 90 solos from all over the world. When solo #6 arrived, I emailed the contestant to thank him. Then he replied to me "oh by the way, check my band out, it's called Scarve.". I couldn't believe what I just read, because I was (and still am !) a BIG fan of Scarve. So Sylvain was officially invited to play another solo. You can check it on "Conkrete", it's incredible... Later on, as you know, he joined Soilwork.

Is there any reason why you play only instrumental metal and renounced singing?

The main reason why we play instrumental music is because Fanalo and I have VERY different tastes as far as singers are concerned. So we decided to take the instrumental route. On top of that, I've been composing instrumental music all my life, and this is not so easy to change that. Besides, we think instrumental music is universal. It can be understood everywhere in the world.

Do you have any role-models? If yes, who are they and why? If not, why not?

Hmmm... I'm thinking hard, but I can't find any... All the artists that have influenced me in a way or another on this planet have always ended up doing something really stupid or something I could not put up with, artistically or on a personal level. There are renowned musicians I have admired ... until the day I met them ! Others that have sold their souls (like Chris Cornell doing an album with Timbaland... Not that I've ever admired Chris Cornell that much, but you see my point...). Let's say I've had many disposable role models, but too many to mention here.

A few months ago, the remix compilation "Immortal 4" has been released. You have contributed with new versions of the theme music from "Fascination" and the Lagoon track from “Fury of the Furries”. What made you choose these particular pieces?

Well, I didn't have much of a choice. Mostly because I didn't compose that many Amiga games soundtracks. I first wanted to remix 2 tracks from Fury of the Furries (Lagoon and Desert), but Jan Zottmann, who produced the compilation, wanted 2 different games, and he insisted on having Fascination. So I chose the Lagoon track from FotF, because this is one of my favorite and probably one of the easiest to remix. And I needed the FotF remix to be easy to do because I knew a LOT of work was ahead of me for Fascination. You have to know I don't like that track that much (that's an understatement...). Why so many people love it is beyond me. The challenge for me was to turn this track I hate into something I would like better. The only way for me was to make something very different from the original, so I just kept the only part that could be salvaged, and composed a whole new song around the main theme. This was long and painful, but I did it ! I'm very satisfied with the remix. Unfortunately, when the compilation was released, I found out that the mastering totally destroyed the dynamics on this particular track. So, I made my own version available online, with my own mastering. You can listen to it here : http://soundcloud.com/elmobo/fascination-2011-sea-of-love

If we look back a little further, we find two pieces that you wrote for more unusual projects. “Flow”, your first ever ambient track; for the demo compilation "Audiophonik" and "Betrayal," a piece that you have composed for the fantasy soundtrack series "Merregnon". What makes it so interesting for you, to enter such different worlds of music?

Well, I was talking about challenges just before. I think my creativity feeds on challenges. When I was making music on Amiga, the challenge for me was to make the Amiga rock. When I was asked to participate to the Audiophonik, the producers told me it was an electronic music compilation. Not exactly my specialty, but I thought "What the heck ! Let's give it a shot !". That was a good excuse to actually produce something with Buzz Tracker. I really enjoyed composing "Flow". I was quite satisfied with the result. "Betrayal" was another kind of challenge. When Merregnon was released, I wondered if I could have been part of the CD, so I composed this orchestral/rock track just as a personal challenge. I received a lot of positive feedback on this one, so I guess I was up to the task. I plan to re-record and re-orchestrate this tune someday, because the mix and recording are not exatcly top notch.

Do you think that publishing your work in demos actually helped you in some get set on a path to earning money with your work today?

Absolutely ! First, it was a good training to work with hardcore technical limitations. Second, a lot of sceners have worked or still work in the game industry, and more than once I've been contacted to work on some games because I was Moby the demoscener. It's not so often now, but at the beginning of my carreer, it helped me when it was needed...

When it comes to music for games it seems you have specialized in composing for Nintendo consoles and handhelds recently. Would you say that composing for these devices reminds you more of the good old days than making music for PC, Xbox or PS3 games? It seems that most of today’s titles set their focus on orchestral soundtracks only.

Well, I have not exactly chosen to work exclusively on handheld consoles. When I left Kalisto in january 2001 to go freelance again, my first job was for a Gameboy Advance game. I was contracted by Pink/Abyss for Shin'en (thanks mate ! . Then I started working for Allister Brimble on some Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance games. And then I was interviewed by the TV channel Arte for their Tracks program. They asked me a lot of interesting questions, to which I gave interesting answers. Of course, they only kept 15 seconds, and presented me as the "gameboy music specialist", which I am not ! Since this day, I mostly been offered to work on Gameboy, and later DS games. I won't complain, as it can be fun, and allows me to have a decent standard of living. But I must say the "good old times" fun has worn out, and I'm getting a bit tired of this. I must have produced something like 450 XM in the past 3-4 years. Unfortunately, there is little room for French composers on the big AAA titles. The french intellectual property laws are so hardcore that big game publishers strictly forbid their developers to work with french composers.

Would you like to compose music one day, which is played by a real orchestra?

Why not, but this is not one of my goals in life. Orchestral music is not my specialty either. What I would love though, if we stay in a game soundtrack context, would be to compose a rock/metal soundtrack for which I could hire the musicians I want to play it. That would be awesome ! I've met so many talented musicians in my studio, that it would kick some serious ass !

What are your thoughts about today's demoscene and how are you related to it today? Do you follow the releases and what's going on, on a regular basis?

A few months ago, REZ came to my place, and we watched a democompo stream online while eating pizzas. We chatted about demos and good old times... Oh boy that was fun ! I still follow the releases from time to time and I browse Pouet and Bitfellas once in a while. I saw probably most of the biggest releases of the last few years. Some impressed me a lot, some didn't. Some of them display a very strong identity, but most of them lack a real art direction. For example, ASD demos are really impressive technically, but those I've seen are often just a succession of amazing effects with no real logic. It's very old school in a way. I probably haven't seen their latest though...

We know this question might be old and hard to answer, but we still would like to ask you about your favourite demos. Which ones do you like most, which ones still take your breath away and why?

If we're talking of the demos of my time, I'd say anything by Andromeda, Extension by Pygmy Projects, Ice by The Silents... And probably a thousand more ! If we're talking about today's scene, .rove, 02:20 and aeon5 by Farbrausch. There's such a coherence between the picture and the music, and a strong artistic direction. These 3 demos really transport me.

Will Moby make a comeback in the demoscene one day?

I tried, but things got in the way... It may or may not happen in the future. I can't say really.

One last final question: Will Moby ever be separated from his hair?

Never, you hear me ? My hair will probably decide to go before I decide to cut it !

Thank you for your time!

Hijack - the album
Heavy Metal is loud and evil, some would have you believe... Hijack, the second album by Moby's band Plug-in is proof that some people have no idea of what they're talking about! The guitars on Hijack harmonize beautifully with the drums and bass, dancing a perfect waltz between elegant guitar play and hard riffs, characterizing the nine songs with beautiful melodies which stick in your mind for a good long while.
Moby said that they wanted to create instrumental metal, which is not only dominated by the guitar. We have to say that Plug-in have succeeded here, enriching their hard songs with synthesizer and chiptune-esque sounds that give them even more expressive power.

Hijack is available in two versions. A beautiful Digipack edition priced at 11.99 Euros or as digital download, which costs just 6.99 euros.

If there's anybody out there who says that heavy metal music doesn't work without vocals, you better listen to Hijack - and be prepared to be proven wrong!

Who is Moby?
Like many other game musicians Moby has his roots in the computer demoscene. As "Moby" he composed many legendary songs for demos; like the three beautiful funk tracks for the Amiga demo Arte! / Sanity (1993)or the track he created in 1990 for Megademo / Dragons, as well as Tropical Night / Impact Inc., both also for Amiga. One year later he provided audio for the Music Disk entitled More than Music / Alcatraz. Other unforgettable demoscene tracks include "Let there be funk" from Tales of a dream / Dreamdealers, and of course "Knulla Kuk !!!" which was used in the masterpiece Substance / Quartex + Alliance Design. Moby hasn't been active in the PC demoscene.

When it comes to game music it's nice to have to look back at the good old Commodore Amiga days again; Fascination and Fury of the Furries are two games for which he earned quite a bit of fame for fabulous soundtracks. Nightmare Creatures and Dark Earth are definitely among his best game music bodies of work on the PC platform. These days he has been composing music quite a bit for handheld games; here's a small excerpt from his recent game-discography: Science Papa (DS), An American Tail: Feivel's Goldrush (GBA), Time Power (DS), Totally Spies 3 (DS), AlphaBounce (DSiWare), Pirates: Hunt for Blackbeard's Booty (Wii).

The following websites contain more information about Moby, as well as music downloads and more:
- Moby auf Bandcamp
- Plug-In auf Bandcamp
- Homepage von Moby
- Conkrete Studio
- Moby auf Soundcloud

If you want to delve deeper into the world of Moby's music you should definitely give the BitJam Podcast #148 (MP3-Download / CUE-File) a listen. The episode called "Moby special" is a colourful trip through the musical wonderland of Frédéric Motte and features some of his best tunes!

(Bobic, 28.01.2012)


magicnah | 2012.01.29
Comments: 154

Registered: 2006.07.13

Nice interview Bobic! For everyone else, here is another Moby interview from 2008 !


ALiEN^bf | 2012.01.30
Comments: 1885

BitFellas BitJam Podcast #148 - Moby Special now @ YouTube

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