Joining the Apocalypse with Moby

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

by Josh Madden

Joining the Apocalypse with Moby

Moby is my neighbor. Being a recent transplant from Chicago, saying things like that still sounds ridiculous- but because this is LA, there’s really no need to explain. Serendipity makes out with Chaos on a daily basis, paving the way for a myriad of attitudes and beliefs to infect the lunatics on a daily basis. Mind you by “neighbor”, I mean he lives within a mile radius- because, you know, HOLLYWOOD.

Moby has wasted no time becoming synonymous with LA after moving here from NYC only a few years back. He provincially walks around Hollywood and the outlying areas and takes beautiful photographs, sharing his adventures with everyone on his Flickr. He’s an expert and participant in its politics, arts movement and social strata. He even bought a castle atop the hills that serves as his perch as if to study the madness that exists below while creating increasingly beautiful albums and art. He is also smarter than most people I’ve ever met and yet delivers all the information in a way that never insults, but rather draws you in and makes you crave every mental morsel he serves up.

But most importantly, Moby has begun showing his photography. And the results of his DIY approach to creeping you out with animal masked figures in seemingly normal settings have taken the LA art scene by fire. Here’s an excerpt from the Official Press Kit to give you a better idea:

“In Innocent’s lush and ominous large-scaled photographs, captured in garish color, Moby invites audiences to step into the scenes in which individuals and groups, wearing masks and white robes, attempt to make personal and collective sense of the apocalypse. Plastic masks, some store-bought animal faces and others Day of the Dead inspired, all take on a more ominous feel in the context of these images. Covering not only the face, they mask the darker emotions and motivations that we hide even from ourselves – fear, shame, and a hedonistic willingness to try anything to succeed and fill the voids. Reinvention – spiritual, physical, psychological – is carried out in the extreme in these documented rituals.”

As his show “Innocents” closed in LA at Project Gallery this week, there wasn’t anything left on the walls. The Cult of Moby had arrived and bought everything. I introduced myself to my neighbor at the opening of his show and discussed his constantly evolving, and always verbose, take on Los Angeles and its cults.

NYLON Guys: So, as a recent transplant to LA, one of the first things I noticed looking at your photography is the fascination of Los Angeles and its cult appeal. I was wondering, have you done some backtracking into the history of these groups?

Moby: In a half-assed way. Meaning, its also that question of when is something a cult? And when is it just a bunch of oddballs in the hills with a similar belief? Like the Vedanta Society? Its certainly odd- they have their own lexicon, their own dress, their own leadership…I don’t if its technically a cult. The Source Family? That’s a cult. They would be one of my favorites. Largely because they were so benign. Compared to say, the Manson Family. The Source Family, they just did yoga and then Father Yod at some point declared himself God and decided he could sleep with all the people in the cult. Which might not be super responsible, but its not nearly as bad as killing people.


So, in my dilettantish half assed way I’ve been studying cults… but then there’s the Besant Lodge, the Theosophists? Its not a cult but they’re like an ideological group.

Ha. Our neighbors. They’re carrying positivity….which is great… but I’m more interested in this feature I saw today on Don’t Tread on Me Media’s youtube channel about the relationship here in LA with Aleister Crowley and John Parker? Jack Parker? uhhh..

Jack Parsons.

Yes thats the one!. JPL. Jet Propulsion Labratories.

The weird thing about JPL is the name is kinda his initials!

Correct! Jack Parsons…LIVES!

Did he blow up testing new rocket fuel or did he blow up doing black magic?

Or was he killed for selling secrets to the Israelis? Who knows…

Yes. There’s just this strangeness…especially in our neighborhood…theres the Theosophists, there’s the Vedanta Society, the Scientologists, there’s the Russian Orthodox, there’s that convent where they sell banana bread, there’s the Source Family over there…and then there’s Bill Pullman- he and his wife have the Hollywoodland orchard where they gather up lemons and grapefruits and make juice for the neighborhood. Its so strange, benign and then there’s the mountain lions, rattlesnakes, coyotes.. In terms of big city living- One of the reasons I moved here, is that in all of my travels I haven’t found a place as odd as Los Angeles, and specifically, Beachwood Canyon.

I couldn’t agree more. There’s this weird attraction to living on a mountain where the concentration of people believe in aliens, monsters, gods and awesome conspiracies. There’s no cell signals in our hood- crazed locals tell me their NWO buddies are monitoring us. Are the hidden saucers blocking them? Then a major investigative journalist (Michael Hastings) is killed mysteriously..possibly by someone remotely controlling their car?! After my first month I was just like “Jesus, Is this place for real?” I fucking love it.

I have this deck that overlooks everything and I kept coming back to the is word “apocalypse.” It’s funny because its clearly a loaded word- and has a very specific meaning to a lot of people. But its funny cause in the ancient Greek I think it just means “to reveal”. Yeah-The etymology of apocalypse- and I should check it cause thats what the show is about.. (Both laugh) is like “to shine a reveal”…its where the word revelations came from. Its not benign nor is it malignant. Its simply a revelation…And I feel like we live in this weird crack.. Its both a literal crack (because of the tectonics) and a figurative crack - a broken area where stuff just comes through. I like the fact, and this gets a little esoteric and odd like when you were mentioning aliens and blocked cell phone signals, but the fact that you grew up in Chicago and I grew up in Connecticut and where we grew up its flat. Very nice, but flat. Very stable.

Oh yes. Lifestyle and all.

When I was growing up in Connecticut, it felt like it had been this way for awhile, the people who decided what Connecticut should look like were lawyers, doctors and Wall Street people...

Colonial Style.

Everything is in its right place. There’s this German Word: “Ordnen” which means “things as they should be.” And I feel like when you go to Europe, everything is one way- Which is just stability. One of the things that appealed to me about LA is that its so profoundly unstable.

Its like a high tech ghetto.

Yeah- There’s no cohesion. No cultural cohesion, no racial cohesion, there’s no socioeconomic cohesion- There’s nothing cohesive, planned or stable here. Which sometimes I find off-putting. One of my favorite things is when you’re flying in and out of LA, you see from the air this corridor of people that starts in Tiajuana and basically ends in Santa Barbara- and its just a strip of people and you go a mile west and there’s the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and you go a mile east and… its a desert that does not support human life. And its so wrong and so weird…and filled with nice people and farmer’s markets!

How could you NOT want to live here?

And that is it exactly. This observation of the apocalypse- it’d be really hard to base a conceptual art show on the apocalypse in… Brussels.

Exactly. There’s something interesting that happens here I’ve noticed we share an interest in as newcomers to LA is the love of the houses. I’ve looked through your flickr feed and journals and love that you’re going out and taking architectural photos of the Lloyd Wrights, the Gable House, Lautners, everything like that…Does that fascination compel you to keep exploring the city?

Yeah I grew up in a very wealthy suburb but we were really poor. My mom and I were on food stamps and welfare, we lived in the garage apartment but all my friends lived in big beautiful houses. So at an early age I became very aware of people’s homes because I was ashamed of mine- and so envious of everyone else’s. So, I would go to my friend’s houses and I would be like “Oh they have eight windows on the front of their house!”



And you walk into the living room and they have a carpet. I became aware of all of these details. It’s almost like a Rain Man OCD thing - like noticing space. I’d go back to our house and say “Oh we only have two windows on the front of our garage apartment! We don’t have a carpet! “ When I moved here, especially living here as opposed to visiting, suddenly the weird dysfunctional randomness of LA, especially the architecture, really struck me. And the utility of architecture- because in most places, like Chicago, architecture serves a very specific purpose.

“Form follows function.”

Yes. Like keeping people from freezing to death in the winter.

Right. Whereas here its like “Let’s build ANYWHERE.”

Yeah. Here its basically the only utility is keeping out the Mountain Lions. And maybe in the winter not being too cold.

Maybe we’ll put a heater in the bathroom!

It means that all of these architectural elements that are just utterly elective…for instance in other parts of the world: a peaked roof. A peaked roof in Switzerland makes a lot of sense to keep the snow from collapsing the roof onto the house. Whereas here, a peaked roof is just an opportunity to trap heat in the summertime. Every element of design here is elective. And that arbitrariness…you know.

Its so strange. The lack of order is such LA thing- it exists in this world of actors and musicians, religious groups, even in the architectural movements- yet these cults are formed around order and control and are synonymous with life here. We live in this great spiritual juxtaposition…

And maybe that’s it. Maybe the response to the otherworldly chaos of this region makes people want to go to the farmer’s market…or sit in the backyard and pet the dog…

Eat a lot of kale!

Yeah! Eat a lot of kale! And then start a cult.


Maybe its because we look a couple of miles away and see these big mountains where people don’t live and we know on the other side of them is emptiness- and the we look the other direction and see the emptiness of the ocean. And so it makes people (pauses)…I always think of the expression “Whistling in the dark” know the expression when you’re scared keep whistling to keep the dark at bay? Its like all these sort of gregarious efforts that people here make keep the existential maw.

And its like everyone here acknowledges how unsettling the situation out here is…we take comfort in it.. and the cults.

I remember when I was a philosophy major and took this class on the philosophy of literature and part of it was looking at Camus’s trajectory through his books “The Stranger” and “The Plague” which was his final response to the existential void which is: compassionate solidarity, sort of saying there is the 15 billion gaping maw of otherness out there- And we can either accept its arbitrariness, rebel against it or hold hands and make spaghetti. And I think there’s a lot of that going on here in LA.

words & photos by

Tyler Curtis