A night with Moby

If you've never had a night out in New York, but want to know what it is like, Moby's new album, Last Night, could be a good starting point.

The multi-million-selling musician wrote his collection to sound like an evening out on the tiles in his favourite corner of the Big Apple.

"For better or worse, I've been going out in Manhattan, since the early '80s," explains Moby (real name Richard Melville Hall).

"One day, I thought I'd try to make a record that somehow took a long complicated, crazy, eight-hour night and condensed it into 65 minutes; that's the fairly loose concept behind this record.

"The songs were written before I had any idea of that concept. I wanted the music to be like a reflection on one hand of my history in dance music and on the other, to reflect the music the DJs in my neighbourhood are playing."

The result, in stores now, begins – as most nights out do – relatively gently, before gradually getting darker, more upbeat and more dance-oriented. "It ends in a quiet, tranquil fashion, which is supposed to reflect 7am when you're stumbling home or sitting on the roof with your friends," he says. "One thing that makes a night out in New York so unique is that you walk everywhere, going to 10 or 12 places in an evening. It's like the provincial equivalent of nightlife."

As with previous Moby albums, Last Night features many guest vocalists, although don't expect to recognise any. "A lot of people try and get huge superstars on their record, which increases the marketing viability of the record. Or you can do what I did and record with friends," he says.

"There are tonnes of guest vocalists on the record, but for the most part they're unknown or very underground musicians. It just made the process fun and a lot easier. So rather than dealing with, say Justin Timberlake's lawyers and managers, I called up friends and asked if they wanted to work on my music. I'm not thinking of the marketing value someone might bring, just the creative contribution they'll make."

Such words are a refreshing change, but few musicians' output has been as heavily marketed as Moby's. Each of the 18 songs on his album Play, for example, was licensed for use in films, ads or TV shows – an unprecedented move that brought the descendant of Moby Dick author Herman Melville no small amount of criticism.

He defended the move, however, stating it was the only way he could think of to get more people listening to his music. The album before Play, Animal Rights, had not been a big seller, nor had his earlier experiments in dance and ambient music crossed over into the mainstream.

Moby has never talked about the financial rewards for such licensing, but it is safe to assume they were plentiful. Such a move may also explain his current lack of interest in commercial success.

"I certainly wouldn't criticise anyone who wants to have a big huge superstar on their record. But for myself I guess I'm fortunate and I can be relatively exempt from that," he offers.

"It's interesting, because the record business is falling apart and as it does so, it leaves a lot of musicians and people in the business to make desperate decisions. More often than not such decisions tend to be bad ones."

He has also set up a website, Mobygratis.com, which is a way of giving free music to independent film makers and film students. Radiohead did a similar thing with their album In Rainbows. But says Moby: "I actually did Mobygratis long before they put In Rainbows online, but Radiohead get much better publicity than I do."