On September 11, 2008 — his 43rd birthday — Moby lay on the sidewalk outside his Lower East Side, New York home.
Too sad and drunk to make it inside, he sprawled out on the concrete, covered in his own vomit, sobbing to the sounds of Joy Division coming from his phone.
He was finally approaching rock bottom.
Born Richard Melville Hall on September 11, 1965, Moby has spoken openly about his sobriety, which began shortly after that disastrous night, over the past decade.
His new memoir, Then It Fell Apart (to be published in Australia in June), tells us how he got there, including a celebrity-filled chronicle of the debauchery and desperation that led to this.
His 1999 album, Play, released a decade into his career, was an unexpected blockbuster, hitting No. 1 throughout Europe and selling more than 2 million copies in the United States as songs such as Porcelain and Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? inundated commercials and films.
Suddenly, Moby’s name was on everyone’s lips, and his presence was sought at their parties.
His first real taste of fame came when, after a show in Austin, Texas, he was told that Natalie Portman was at the backstage door.
“I walked to the door, sure that this was a misunderstanding or a joke, but there was Natalie Portman, patiently waiting,” Moby writes.
“She gazed up at me with black eyes and said, ‘Hi.’ As if this were normal, as if we knew each other, as if movie stars randomly showed up after my shows.”
They began dating, and within a week were holding hands on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards, paparazzi screaming both their names.
For Moby, the effect of all this was life-changing.
“I’d only had two drinks,” he writes, “but I felt like I’d swallowed a distillery full of joy … I found that my own burgeoning fame was like warm amber, encasing me with a sense of worth I’d never felt before.”
He and Portman broke up but stayed friends, and when he toured Australia, she brought the cast of the Star Wars prequels to see him.
After the show, he and Ewan McGregor wound up at a bar “filled with Australian celebrities.” He went to the bathroom at one point and found himself at a urinal next to Russell Crowe.
“He zipped up his pants,” Moby writes of Crowe, “and then pushed me against the wall of the bathroom and started screaming at me.
“‘Uh, we’ve never met,’ I tried to say. ‘Why are you yelling at me?’”
Crowe never explained himself, but continued yelling, with Moby pinned against the wall for a minute or so before “[Crowe] lost interest, cursed a few times, and stumbled out of the bathroom.”
When Moby shared the story with McGregor, the actor replied, “I wouldn’t worry about it. He yells at everyone.”
While Moby scaled the A-list — David Bowie became a neighbour and friend — his nights were increasingly fuelled by 10, 15 drinks or more, plus whatever drugs people had available.
Between celebrities, booze and drugs, bizarre behaviour became the norm.
At a Californian show in 2001, Charlize Theron and Duran Duran’s John Taylor, both friends, were standing outside his dressing room. He invited them in, but a clearly disgusted Theron told him, “Andy Dick’s in there. It’s not nice.”
When he entered, Moby found the comedian “perched on a table with his pants down around his ankles, squatting over a vegan end-of-tour cake that my managers had given me.”
A group of his friends were standing around the table and chanting, “Poop! Poop! Poop!” Moby simply grabbed some beers for himself and his friends and casually left Dick to tend to his business.
After drinking excessively every night for years, Moby told a girlfriend in 2002 that he’d stay sober for a month. But 12 days in, during an off-night on his tour in Dallas, he went to see Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee do a solo show.
Backstage after the show, he met Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul from Pantera, one of the hardest-partying, hardest-drinking bands in rock, along with “a bunch of their Hells Angels friends.”
Soon, Moby writes, “a 6-foot-8 Hells Angel with a red beard opened a bottle of Crown Royal and pushed it into my hands.”
Moby gulped from the bottle, handed it back to the biker and said, “I guess I’m not sober anymore.”
The biker looked “surprisingly concerned.”
“‘You’re sober?’ he rumbled.
“For two weeks.”
“He laughed and passed the bottle back. ‘F**k! Drink up, my man!’”
As subsequent albums failed to excite, Moby’s behaviour was increasingly perceived as less charming than pathetic.
At the East Village bar Lit one night, he saw people enter a small room at 4am.
Convinced it was some secret super-VIP party room, he demanded entry, but was told to leave.
“I was swaying on my feet,” he writes.
“At this point, I’d had around 16 drinks. With slurred umbrage, I said, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’
“And I stopped cold … I’d crossed a line. I felt real fear, for the moment someone has to ask ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ is the moment the tide of fame has turned against them.”
Making it even worse, the room was no party lounge, but the office where the owners were counting the evening’s take.
Soon after, a Christmas party at Moby’s five-story mansion near Central Park almost turned to horror when he casually threw a knife at writer Jonathan Ames.
His own description of the event shows a man wildly out of control.
“In the kitchen, I opened another bottle of vodka and pulled a knife out of a butcher’s block. ‘Jonathan!’ I yelled at Jonathan Ames.”
“ ‘What?’ He looked up from the table where he was sitting. I threw the knife at him. Lovingly, because I loved Jonathan.”
“He screamed and held up his hand. The point of the knife had bounced off Jonathan’s Princeton college ring. He looked at me with horror, the blood draining from his face.”
“‘No, Jonathan, it was nice!’ I yelled. ‘It was ’cause I love you!’”
By 2008, Moby was climbing on stages around New York, interrupting friends’ concerts to ask the audience for drugs.
After doing this at an animal rights fundraiser at the Highline Ballroom, he was disappointed by what he was offered — just one joint from a 20-year-old in a Phish T-shirt — and returned to the stage, where Debbie Harry was performing.
“I’m very disappointed in you,” he told the crowd after grabbing the mic. “You call yourselves New Yorkers, but no one here had drugs for me … You all let me down. You should be ashamed.”
By this point, Moby estimates he was downing around 100 drinks per week.
Partying soon after on the boat of an Eastern European “promoter/mobster” off the Miami coast, Moby turned to the man, said, “You know what’s fun?” and “jumped off the edge of the speeding boat.”
The boat turned to collect him as those on-board looked “angry and worried,” but Moby just wanted to be left there.
“I wanted to swim, and then float, and then die,” Moby writes.
“I would sink into the sea and finally be gone.”
His last drunken hooray came about a month after his 43rd birthday, and just after he’d attempted suicide.
The night of this remembrance — Oct. 18, 2008, the last night that Moby drank — he played a fundraiser for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand with a new band.
Downing seven drinks during a short set, he embarrassed himself and Gillibrand afterwards with a foul-mouthed rant against Republicans.
On the train ride home, he thought about his encroaching hangover, and the 33 years he’d spent feeling as terrible as he did just then. Only now, it was worse.
“I’d been hung over thousands and thousands of times,” he writes.
“But now when I was hung over I felt like I poisoned my DNA. Hangovers these days felt wrong, and not lower-case ‘wrong,’ like driving a few miles an hour over the speed limit, but upper-case ‘WRONG,’ like feeding gasoline to a newborn.”
His eyes unable to focus on words to read, he listened to a demo of a song he recorded called Wait for Me.
As he listened, tears streaming down his face, he decided to change his life.
“I’m gonna ask you to look away / This broken life I can never save / I try so hard but I always lack / Days are grey and the nights are black / Wait for me.”