Moby Doc: A Life in Reprise

Moby Doc: A Film to Accompany 'Reprise' Album - Factual America Podcast

Richard Melville Hall, better known to most of us as Moby, is an electronic music pioneer. In the 1990s he scored numerous top ten hits on the Billboard Dance Club chart and his album Play (1999) has sold over 12 million copies.

Even with all that success, Moby still found himself hitting rock bottom, contemplating suicide and wondering why he wasn’t happy despite achieving everything he wanted.

Joining us is the director and writer of the Moby Doc, Rob Gordon Bralver. Rob teamed up with Moby to make a documentary about the musician’s life, activism and his struggles along the way in the quest for happiness.

Rob tells us how he got the opportunity to make this film and what it was like closely collaborating with Moby.

Moby Doc will be released online at the same time as Moby’s new album Reprise on May 28th.  

“There’s an element that’s meant to be a cautionary tale for not just aspiring artists, but aspiring anything. It’s seldom the road that you believed that it would be when you started.”Rob Gordon Bralver

Episode Transcript  

This is Rob Gordon Bralver, and I am the director and co-writer of Moby Doc.

We think that if we have the right amount of money, if we have the right amount of recognition, we'll find perfect human happiness. But I tried, and it didn't work. My life as a musician has taken me to a lot of very odd places.

I grew up with two very angry parents who were screaming at each other and drinking. At an early age, I found music. And then there was this day when I learned how to mix two records together. It was like magic.

In 1990, I put out a song called Go. I thought it was fantastic. 

And a lot of other people thought that, too.

All of a sudden, I had a big hit single. And every day I drank more. I started doing drugs. I was out of control. And I learned my mom died. And I missed her funeral because I was in bed drunk, passed out. Everything I'd ever wanted had been given to me and I'd never been more depressed. Deep down, we assume that if anyone looks too closely, they'll be repelled. I was working on this album Play and it just sounded terrible to me.

Slowly but surely everybody who discovered the music felt like there was something special there. 

It started off small and then it just kept selling more. I was able to take the fear and make it beautiful. None of this was expected. Making music has been baffling, confusing, but wonderful. Sounds like hyperbole, but music saved me.

That is a trailer from the documentary, Moby Doc. And this is Factual America. We're brought to you by Alamo Pictures, an Austin and London based production company making documentaries about America for international audiences. I'm your host Matthew Sherwood. Today, we're talking about Richard Melville Hall better known to most of us as Moby, the electronic music pioneer. Joining us to discuss Moby the musician and DJ as well as photographer and animal rights activist among many other things, and the soon to be released Moby Doc, is writer, producer, and director, Rob Gordon Bralver. Rob, welcome to Factual America. How are things with you? 

Doing pretty well, thanks. Thank you for having me on. 

Yeah, well, no, it's great to have you. Moby Doc is the film we've seen or heard the trailer releasing on May 28. I haven't been able to say this in a while, but it's gonna have a theatrical release, I gather, and also being released on digital platforms and certainly in North America. Do you know where it is streaming?

I do not yet, actually. So, I'm sure we'll have news released soon. I think all of the obvious places, you know; you will be able to find it on Apple and Amazon and you know, everywhere else, I expect.

Okay, and it also corresponds with the release of Moby's 19th studio album. On the same day Reprise. I wanted to say reprise, but have now figured out that it is actually reprise. But thanks so much, Rob, for coming onto the podcast, and congratulations on getting this released. Now, this may be the - probably the stupidest question I've ever asked on this podcast, because it seems so obvious. But you know, I'm also aware that I was talking to some Gen Z's, and millennials, and some not as familiar about Moby, who Moby is. Maybe you can tell us what is Moby Doc about?

Oh, well, I think the way that it makes the most sense to discuss is - which only emerged to us kind of in the process of making it - you know, is that it's not really a music biography or a, you know, biopic, so much as it is a psychological portrait of a man who happens to be a musician of world, you know, some world renown. Then I think that's a better way to go into the film as opposed to, you know, a traditional music biopic, so it takes place inside the brain. Something like that.

Really, it's a film about Richard Melville Hall, aka Moby, isn't it? I mean, we really...

Very much so, yeah, that is who it's about.

Yeah. I mean, may I ask: do you call him Moby or do you call...? What do you call him? Is that how you refer...

Usually Moby if we're in a real flow. Then just Mo for short is a good nickname. But yeah, never Richard.

Okay. He's not Ritchie or Rick or anything like that.

I don't think he would respond to that unless it was his aunt, you know. But yeah, so it's, you know, it's about Moby and it's his life and career and all of the life lessons he's learned along the way.

And I think for maybe even someone like me, who remembers, I mean, we forget just how big - I mean, I know he's still big, he's, as you say, he's a musician of renown. But I mean, you know, and we'll get back to this, but this isn't your typical music biopic by any stretch, as you've already said, but I think we forget how big he was certainly when his album Play came out. I mean, he was just ubiquitous. And in doing some research myself, I mean, I see he still resonates- that album was the soundtrack for many people's lives. I mean, they pretty much - I think that's almost a direct quote from someone, I think. You know, and I think, but what we do get to see is maybe something that people weren't aware is, and this is - kind of takes us down traditional biopic route, but we are introduced to his backstory, aren't we?

Yeah, you certainly get the biographical component. And so I think it's perhaps more in the way that it's presented that may be a little bit more offbeat. But yeah, you get all of the greatest hits, and most important moments, you know, of his life that shaped him. Childhood was obviously a big deal to him, as it is for everybody. You know, it, I think we focus in on a number of, you know, pretty key moments in his development that made him become both the artist and activist that he grew up to be.

Yeah, so he has this very troubled childhood, as is outlined in interesting ways, in the film, and then he, you know - basically music, as he would say, I think, literally, I think it's a quote says, saves his life. And what I found interesting is, I hadn't realized, I wasn't aware of his punk background.

Yeah, that's right. He, yeah, I mean, as he describes - it's an evolution, you know, to find what compelled him most, and I mean, really, he's a completely multifaceted musician. I mean, while, you know, he's most known for Play, he, you know, he can play an instrument, and he could do, you know, you could - blindfolded, have him play any type of music from classical to, you know, thrash metal He would be equally capable of doing it. But, you know, when he was learning as a child, you know, he started like anyone does, who starts taking piano lessons and guitar lessons with more classical background kind of education. And then, you know, there - when he was a teenager was when, you know, you're learning classical with your teacher, but seeing things like The Clash, and back then, Bad Brains, and some of these other bands at the time, and, you know, that just got him a lot more excited and want to, you know, he wanted to emulate that. And so you can, as many teenagers might have a similar reaction.

Yeah. And I think it's so - I mean, just as someone who was, I think has known of Moby since sort of the, let's say mid to late '90s. I mean, that was a background I hadn't, you know, I think, as you said, he's multifaceted. We get, and people get fixated on the sort of the electronic or electronica element...

Yeah, the more spacey, you know, which is, you know, it sort of has become the bulk of his catalogue, I guess in terms of what's most well known, the more ethereal electronic stuff but, you know, you can go from album to album and hear, you know, all kinds of music. So...

Yeah. And then he - so, I mean, if you do bear with me, we'll do a little bit of this, what's a bit more traditional sort of biopic questions.

So yeah, how much story you want me to tell, or like, bio you want me to relate.

Yeah, that's right.

Yeah, no, I don't think we - we don't need to - I think it just helps set the stage for some of our listeners, actually, just so they have a better, you know, kind of an idea, and also kind of serves as a bit of a taster, so they can obviously go watch the film and find out for themselves. And we're a UK based podcast, so, his first big break really comes here with Go. And he becomes this, I mean, I think kind of what I get to and that gets back to the psychological portrait is that he, you know, he becomes this dance electronic music giant, doesn't he. And...

... you know, and, I mean, I've even listened to - I was not aware of some of the songs that were on Everything is Wrong, was on some people's Album of the Year lists and stuff that I still hear them now, that get played in whatever context.

Yes, it's very tough to escape. There were days when I would leave his house. And, you know, after a day of shooting or editing stuff together and get back to my apartment building, and his, you know, he'd be playing in the lobby, and you couldn't escape. It's like, Man, this can't get out of my head!

But I guess what - so, but then he - I mean, he's very, you know, he's very upfront. He's very matter of fact about this. In the film, his, you know, maybe it's a bit hyperbole, but his career crashes with that album Animal Rights, doesn't it? I mean, he went in a different direction, and the listening public kind of gives him a big, big slap, don't they?

Yeah, it was very much. He has sort of, almost like a stock ticker, there was like a preliminary rise, and then a very big fall, and then, you know, the slow climb back up to, you know, greater heights than ever before, so...

And how did he handle that? I mean, because I think what we see in the film, too, is just this: he's struggling with a lot of, well, he has a lot of these demons, as well. From his childhood, you know, so, I mean, it's sort of a sign of his resilience. But how does he handle this, you know, so mid '90s he's kind of, I think he thinks he's gonna have to go back to Connecticut and become a teacher or something, doesn't he?

Yeah, it was definitely, I think, you know, a difficult period for him. You get to that point where you feel like you have, you know, ascended and made it and no longer need to worry about, you know, the lifelong career struggle and dreams that you've always had. And when you think you've got there, and then you're, you know, you're one mistake away, or not really a mistake, but you know, whatever you like, isn't what other people like all of a sudden. And so, yeah, it was a down period for him, and I think he retreated into the booze a lot and some other things. And that was a very introspective, negative period, I think you would put it that way. But like many such periods of torment for artists, it ultimately leads to the gestation of something really great, which was Play. So, yeah.

And then that comes out in '99, but most of us don't hear about it till 2000 for various reasons. And he is, as you said, and even now, it's everywhere. He's ubiquitous. He's, I mean, I'll share an anecdote. I was, I came over here - I'm from the US originally - but I came here to work for The Economist. And they, about that time he was interviewed and he said he read The Economist from cover to cover every week. And all the business and marketing guys of The Economist were like, all abuzz. They're like, oh, Moby reads The Economist from cover to cover. I've never read it from cover to cover!

I love to skim The Economist, you know, yeah. I don't usually read the whole thing.

But I mean, you know, so it was Moby said that it was huge news, you know, I mean, it was...

I mean, he carved out a place in the culture for himself as I think something more than a musician you know, for a good long while. He's kind of an iconoclast and someone who, you know, he likes to give his opinion about things.

Well, speaking of - I seem to remember back then even not too long, I mean, again, this is sort of what you're documenting, again, in a bit more traditional way, if I'm gonna look at it that way, is the sort of rise and fall, fame being built up, being torn down, he did face some major blowback after that, didn't he?

He did. It was not an easy ride or a straight line to success at all, you know, it's been a very, you know, a choppy and twisty-turny road for him. And I think that's one of the things that he really wanted to relate in the film, you know, it's because there's a big element, I think of this that's meant to be sort of a cautionary tale for, you know, not just aspiring artists, but you know, aspiring anything. That it's just, you know, it's seldom the road that you believed it would be when you start it, you know, whatever your big pursuit might be. And that there's some hope, you know, some helpful lessons that he, you know, he likes to pass along from the way that he went.

Because throughout all this, I mean, he's, because he talks about it, he's now playing with David Bowie. He's got, you know, it's amazing who he's hobnobbing with. But throughout all this, he's crashing hard, isn't he?

Very much so. I mean, so that's - yeah. This is, you know, one of the big ironies that he relates in, which people may not be aware of or expect is, when he was at the top of the world with Play... then he was getting all of the EMAs, you know, you he was going through a period of, you know, pretty deep depression and suicidal thoughts and things like that, that one, you know, I mean, now, there's a lot more awareness of it, but I think maybe back then, and only up until very recently, one might not have thought someone living the dream life would be experiencing, you know, you have all the money you need, and staying at great hotels and cars and dating movie stars and can still be pretty low inside. That's, you know, and that's not too uncommon a story, but it wasn't, certainly wasn't communicated at the time and people haven't talked about it as openly, I think, up until recent years.

I think that's a very good point, actually; we've had a few docs on and guests on, and that's - it's only 20 years ago, but you know, you look back on it, and even 20, just 20 years ago...

Yeah. A long time in pop culture, history and trends, and the manicured nature of stars, too, you know. I think everyone being so much more transparent now, I think, you know, things were a lot more PR managed in the old fashioned way, even 20 years ago. So, it's funny.

That's an interesting point. And also, our own views of mental health and illness and what it means and if you've got cancer, well go get treated; if something is in your head, well, there's something wrong with you kind of almost attitude. So, I think this is a good time to take a quick break for our listeners. And we'll be right back with Rob Gordon Bralver, writer, director, and producer of Moby Doc.

You're listening to Factual America, subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter @alamopictures to keep up to date with new releases or upcoming shows. Check out the show notes to learn more about the program, our guests, and the team behind the production. Now back to Factual America. 

Welcome back to Factual America. I'm here with writer, director, and producer Rob Gordon Bralver. Moby Doc releasing on May 28. Limited theatrical release for those of you in North America. For everyone else, it is certainly on digital platforms in North America on the 20th as well; everyone else just pick your favorite to, well, it's going to be Google, let's face it; google it and see - but it will be out on your various platforms. Comes out same day as Moby's new album Reprise on Deutsche Gramophone. Rob, it's safe to say that this isn't your typical biopic. It's not a biopic at all, as you've already told us. How did this project start?

So, yeah, I had been doing music videos with Moby. And he had been kicking around the idea of doing a documentary I think, you know, for a year or so but without a specific focus for what that would be, I think he just wanted to make one, you know. And we had developed, you know, a good creative rapport and relationship from doing the videos, and we, you know, just kind of naturally got to talking about the doc, and what that would be like. And he had a decent amount of footage just kind of compiled from, you know, various events that he does and following him around in his life that we could look at kind of as a start and see if there was anything we wanted to do with that. Some of which is, you know, just sort of, verite following around, you know, stuff in the film, but mostly, we kind of just discovered from talking and sifting through things, you know, all of his old music videos, that what he was really getting at was doing something that was like therapy through film, you know, and I think he didn't want to do the standard midlife crisis, fading rock star, music doc, as happens, you know, kind of every year, you can pick one out. But instead to try and do something with the format that would be both helpful for him really as a process of a way to sort of sort through his life and make sense of things. And then optimistically, helpful for viewers, you know, who could, perhaps, be guided to take better choices on some things. So, that was the motivation at the beginning.

No, I mean, isn't making a doc about yourself extreme, potentially, could come off as extremely self-indulgent, couldn't it?

Yes, it has that potential. And if anyone, you know, wants to feel that way about it, they are entitled to, but I think it's probably more the norm than it isn't with a lot of, quote unquote, rock docs these days, where artists commission projects about themselves. And what's different about this one, I believe, is there is a candid nature to it, where it's, you know, it's very confessional to the viewer, I think. And as much as might be guarded, by doing something about yourself, there's also an openness and an avail-, you know, an access that would not be there if it were being come at from a completely outsider's perspective, you know. So, I think, and what's not said, is as obvious as what is said, you know, and so there's certain things that you know, you don't, it's - you're not really beholden to explain someone's entire life in 90 minutes, I think. And I think that things that are chosen to explore in those 90 minutes are, you know, worth analyzing.

Yeah, I mean, I think, and, you know, I have to say, we don't, won't do spoiler alerts. Well, there's a spoiler, it's not a spoiler alert, because I won't say what he says. But I mean, he's extremely frank about some things that happened that are, we pretty much hit bottom that I don't think your average personality, however you want to describe subjects of these, you know, when rock stars or musicians are the subjects of docs don't usually admit to.

No, it's pretty grim. And, you know, and soul bearing and he says, you know, yeah, many anecdotes that would not be there were it a more airbrushed portrait. We'll put it that way.

And so you're working - so how does this creative process work? Because this isn't - because obviously, you're working with Moby who's - he's more of an artist than just a pure musician. So, I mean, and was this intentional, it kind of feels like is - it feels like Moby's directing the movie. I know he's not, we know he's - well, I can tell people, we've got you on here, he's not, but it kind of has that kind of - the way it's structured is like he is making this - he even makes fun of it with him wearing that one scene where he's wearing like a beret.

Yeah. Which we - I had him do, you know, because there's no point beating around the bush that, you know, an artist is commissioning a project about themselves. But well, what's the question, exactly? What is the process like?

Well, how's the - I mean how is it - is it collaborative? How did you work this? 

Yeah, very, very.

... because you're the director, and then you're collaborating, and then so, in terms of the, as you said earlier, this kind of, like a lot of docs that kind of the story, or whatever, the movie itself gradually appears to you. Or you eventually have a eureka moment, I guess. But how did that work? Did you just get cameras rolling, and then...?

So, yeah, the creative process was pretty interesting on this, and unique as well. And I think it's interesting to discuss actually as from a broader filmmaking perspective, actually, in terms of an approach that I found really great, relative to other creative processes that I've done. And so, I mean, usually, you know, that the phases of filmmaking are, you know, script financing, production, post-production, and it comes out. And, with this one, you know, we're in that one, you know, if you make a mistake, it can be incredibly costly or impossible to fix something, you know, and with this, we had just a sort of rolling production, where we would just bat ideas back and forth, and, you know, email me things, I'd email him on things, we'd sit down and talk about concepts. And it was really just an absolutely 'everything is on the table' approach. And I found I would struggle to think of a concept that I would put forward to him that he said no to; it was, everything was let's, you know, let's just try it, let's just go do it. And we would just film everything, and then we would edit some more of the film and go, 'Oh, that didn't work, you know, that did work' and go back out and do it a little better, or do something different. And the nature of that was actually it was really great for the energy levels that it requires to make a movie, where you're not going through these sort of spikes of energy with a lot of people, and then you're kind of isolated writing or editing again, you know, we sort of had a good steady clip of, you know, let's get into some production, and then we'll look at it, and get into some production and we'll look at it, and we kind of just kept ironing it that way, and discovering what the right tone was, and what we were free to explore. So that, you know, that was really how it worked. It was just very open. And we had a way of just almost beta testing ideas, you know, where we go out, you know, with just the cameras that we have, and doing some, you know, doing something for $0. And then being like, Alright, well, that's, you know, kind of fine, but why don't we bring the crew over now and actually do it properly and, you know, and so that's - and you end up what I think with what feels like, you know, kind of an honest handmade - yeah.

Yeah, no, I think it's - no, I would agree, I think, I mean, the thought that's just come to me: is Moby a fan of, or maybe not so much a fan, but has he watched these kind of docs, because it seems to me that, now that I think about it, almost seems like he's - a bit of it is parody, in a way. I mean, it's serious, but...

I mean, we definitely make fun of other docs plenty, you know, I mean, and I've, as someone who's done a number of biographical docs, you know, I'm all too familiar with the conventions of them, and, you know, what you're not supposed to do or how, frankly, you know, other things that I've done, where it was not in collaboration with the person it was about, in some cases, they passed away, or in some cases, they were alive, and I was doing it more as an outsider that were, you know, 10 times more restrictive, in terms of the story that you could tell, and - than this was, you know, with the person just being like, kind of in the rocket seat with you going, you know, I don't care let's just, let's just make the weirdest and most interesting thing we can and if I look like an ass, that's totally fine, you know, and that was very refreshing and different, you know, I mean, I won't - you know, of other films, though, I just, you know, someone could have been passed away and exerted more control over the process!

That's very interesting, actually. Yeah, I mean, even like with some of the, I mean, there's reconstructions, and then there's the really cheesy style reconstructions, and there's certainly a few in there that are, you know, it's pretty humorous, actually, although dealing with serious subjects from his life. And it seems to be all in there. And I think what I like, I mean, there's this one section where I forget where it is, is it about a third, halfway- it's probably about a third through where he even says, 'Okay, it's been pretty boring biopic, up through to this point. So, let's go do something different'.

Yeah. Well, it's like, yeah, we were obliged to tick the biographical boxes, you know, it's, you have to tell the basics of his life in order for the messages that he wants to communicate later, to mean anything, right? You have to know where he's coming from and what he's been through. But it was, it's very much a struggle for me to make anything interesting that's a retrospective look at someone's life, you know, this is what happened to the person when they were five, and it's - to not Ken Burns everything, you know, as most docs do is so... it really motivated us to just be as light-hearted with it as possible, I guess.

So, what is he trying - So, what is he trying to achieve? Or you, you too, are trying to achieve with this film?

Ah, well, it's been a long year since I thought about it, but I think for him, it's what he says in the film, you know, that the relentless pursuit of rock stardom and fame and money, and drugs, and whatever else that, you know, still quite a significant number of people dream about, you know, as being the be all, end all to your life. There is more often than not, you know, nothing on top of that mountain, and you get up there, and it's not a particularly great place to be. And so, I think as much as that can be communicated to people who are younger, or older and just be helped back on to, you know, maybe a safer, gentler, and more rewarding path, then that would be a positive thing. You know, that's almost as simple as that. Just pay attention to what you know is, you know, is actually good for you.

I think it does remind me of a - we had RJ - we've had RJ Cutler on twice, actually, but he did the Belushi doc. And he's got a scene in there, where he's got a great quote from the guy - he just passed away a few weeks ago - Tony Hendra is a British-American comedian, comic writer who said something about, you know, certainly more particular about the US, but just in general, this pursuit of material things really, just once you've achieved what you're trying to achieve the question always is, what's next?

Yeah, then what? 

Then what? You know?

Exactly. What's your next mountain? And that's, you know, there's a lot of recurring imagery in this film of Moby literally alone on top of a desert landscape. And there's nothing there. You know, it might be a fairly obvious physical metaphor, but, you know, that's kind of what it's all about. And, yeah, it's something that everyone I think, struggles with, whatever their field might be. You get the thing. And then you're like, all right, all right. I don't - I figure out what I want to do next.

Yeah, I mean, I think that's a good point as you're talking about him being so upfront about things. Pretty much says every album after Play was not quite as successful as the one before. I mean, for whatever reason, I mean, not just how do you top something - I forget how many...

Yeah, sold twenty million. You know, you're not gonna really do better than that. So, yeah, and a lot of people have one good book in them, you know, and then everyone keeps looking, you know, what are these next five books? Nobody read them? I don't know.

And then 200 years later, some scholar comes across him and says these are amazing. Yeah.

Yeah. This one's even better. Well, yeah, exactly. 

Wow. How did they not know that.

Exactly. So, it's - a lot of it is that though: it's a cultural moment, you know, I mean, it's just the world being as it was in '99 and his music hitting when it did and the licensing of a lot of it, you know, help spread it. But yeah, it's very difficult to repeat the exact same circumstances, you know, impossible usually.

But, I mean, this does coincide with the release of his 19th album, Reprise. Now, I - was that, obviously, it's intentional, they're releasing on the same day.

It's intentional now. But it wasn't up until, you know, we were making the film for a few, you know, the last three years. And it, you know, it just so happened in the last year, coinciding with the timing of us finishing the film, Hey, I'm also finishing this new album, you know, so might as well release them on the same day. Obviously, that made sense, but it wasn't the idea originally.

From the get go. But the thing is - he's got some interesting videos on his website about sort of the - some of the backstories of some of these songs because this is a kind of a greatest hits, but with orchestral and acoustic versions, and were you involved with some of those shorts that are on his website?

I helped him with the music video for Natural Blues, but I didn't do anything else for that.

Okay. Because I think that's part of - it was interesting, it's a - it's, how do you put this - it's almost a different side of him, you know, the doc is one side, which is, as you said, is a psychological portrait of someone trying to come to grips with their life and where they are. Whereas the - some of these things on social media and YouTube and places like this are very interesting. It's all about sort of the creative process, things that I had not - probably didn't give enough credit for, to be honest.

Yeah, I haven't seen those exact videos, but I know that, you know, the kinds of making of you mean. Yeah, I know, he loves doing those. And a lot of people who follow him on social media are obviously, you know, aspiring musicians, and otherwise music fans. So, I think, you know, he really enjoys being able to just show people, you know, how he does what he does, and make it relatable.

And, I mean, do you have any more Moby projects in the works? Are you about Moby-d out at this point?

That's a good question. I think I wouldn't be surprised if we did, you know, one or two more music videos. Past that, I don't know. But, you know, I'd always be up for another video. They're a lot of fun, and they don't take that long. So, you know, I think we did our thing in this feature pretty well, and, you know, achieved what we wanted to when we started making something that was... yeah, just a different look at the creative process.

So, that's a good question. He's happy with the end product?

Yeah. You wouldn't be seeing if he wasn't! Yeah, no, it is. I mean, I think, I remember when we first, you know, had lunch about it. And we're talking about things like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Being John Malkovich, and some other, you know, anything that takes place inside someone's head, as they examine these vignettes of their life, you know, and that was to see if we could do a music doc that even remotely emulated that kind of feeling. And now... we'll see if anyone else thinks of it.

Yeah, no, that's a very good point, because the references are our narrative. They're not other docs, are they? I mean...

No... Yeah. But yeah, I mean, I think as someone who makes docs, I can't stand watching most docs and because I'm just too, you know, I'm too aware of it, you know, and it's like, the number of things you turn on, it can be about a subject I'm fascinated by. But if I'm seeing Talking Heads sitting on a couch intercut with the photo, for the duration of the thing, it's very difficult, you know, to stay engaged. So, as much as we could avoid that, we did, I think, other than David Lynch's in the film, so...

You know, I can't believe I hadn't actually asked you about that. It is amazing to have him in there. Because I was about to, I mean, he's, well, you've got him, you've got a - well, a few others; well, I think that's the only real sort of talking head type.

Yeah. It's David Lynch, right. So, if you're allowed one get out of jail free card, and there's a talking head, well, it's David Lynch. So, that's pretty good. And, you know, we tried to spice it up a little bit, but...

Yeah. But I mean, what - for you, because you've made a very good point what makes a good engaging doc? In terms of your...

Yeah, I don't know. That's a constant search. It's for, you know, and what is interesting to me might not be to anybody else. But it's really just a question of energy, and engagement, you know, it's very easy to get bored these days. And, as everyone always points out, there's a million other things to flip to, so the challenge is really on you as a filmmaker, to just keep it interesting, or different, whatever, you know, whatever that might be. So, it's really, you know, we just throw things at the wall until they make us laugh. You know, that was the approach more often than not was like, Is that funny? Is that stupid? I don't know. Keep it, throw it out. You know, it's just having that kind of free creative spirit to do anything remotely differently. And it's just, you know, we got lucky that approach, synthesised well with Moby's creative persona, I think, you know, so the film can reflect his - there's sort of a literary side and whimsical side. You know, he has all these other things that he's known for. So, if the film, you know, if this had been a piece that was really by the numbers and literal, it would not be reflective of the guy he is, right, or what his fans want. So, I think, hopefully, it makes his fans feel that this is, you know, this is a Moby film; you want it to feel like a Moby film. So, there, you know, it is.

So, the whimsy element is one that did strike me in that, going back to that Economist quote, or anecdote I made, is, in retrospect, I'm thinking, you know, all these interviews over the years that he's given, I mean, I wonder how much of it to - some of it to take with a grain of salt. I mean, obviously, he's got things he's very serious about. But I often wonder how much is, you know, the real Moby; is he just kind of like, Oh, here's another interview. Here's this guy like me, or someone asking me questions, I'm just gonna just feed him a lot, you know, and let him run with it. You know?

Yeah. I'm sure there are some where he's being very serious, and others where he's not. It's, yeah, too many for me to assess.

So, you've, I mean - and we're actually, it's hard to believe, I think we're coming close to the end of our time together - but you mentioned, I think, before we actually started recording, but you've got this uncle who was in the film industry, but how'd you get started with doc films, yourself?

Oh, sure. Yeah, it's kind of I think it's a common story with docs wanting to make films, and documentaries, just being an easier access point, you know, it's cheaper to make it - it cheaper to make them, you don't need a giant budget and a giant crew and all this stuff, and you can just kind of shoot with whatever you have and start cobbling things together. And I was lucky enough to get brought into a music doc when I was still in college, about Mark Sandman, who was the lead singer of the band Morphine in the '90s; accidentally ended up doing these '90s music docs 20 years later, you know, I don't know why. My plan, it just ended up being what happened. But, uh, so I did that one. Which, you know, did its thing and I think, you know, Morphine fans really appreciated it. And that led to another music doc and kind of just doing the bio thing in general and did the Gore Vidal film from some years ago. And yeah, I just, it's just kind of the medium that has, you know, appeared before me as the thing to do.

And as you said, you've a bit of a music theme. Is that something you're gonna stick with?

I don't think so, you know? The honest answer is I don't know. I'm pretty sure if I can pick that I would be done with music films, but I said that before the Moby film, so; I think if the right thing came along, that was about an artist I was, you know, extremely interested in that had a, you know, that had an interesting approach, then maybe, but I'm more interested in, you know, almost anything else, you know; there's only so many ways to skin this cat.

Yeah, I mean, there's that. And I've also heard, I've had people tell me that music docs are a lot of work. 

Yeah, and they take a long time, you know?

Maybe that's the way to put it. They do take a very long time. I guess in this case, you didn't have to worry about all those music rights and those kind of things because Moby's got...

No. That was a big, yeah, that was a big plus, all the music in the world was available to use, so that was pretty great. You know, his whole catalogue, obviously, you know, is put to use in the film. So, that was a very nice tool to have in the kit, you know, when making this.

And what's - do you know, what is next for you?

I'm looking at some stuff more in the scripted world. But I can not to say anything more about any of that at this time. Unfortunately, such is the nature of things.

I don't even know why I ask that question, anymore, because people are always saying, well, I've got this and that, but I really can't say any more about it. But it's just the nature of the game until something drops for sure, you can't really...

When there's news, there'll be news. Exactly.

All right. Hey, well, congratulations again with getting this made, getting it released. I'm sure it will make a splash. And, you know, thanks again for coming on, Rob. It's been a pleasure having you on and talking to you about Moby Doc, which releases on May 28. And as well Moby's 19th studio album Reprise also releases on May 28, on Deutsche Gramophone. If you have any questions regarding how you can become a documentary director and producer like Rob Gordon Bralver, or other roles in the industry, I recommend you check out to learn more about careers in the film industry, I want to give a shout out to Innersound Audio just outside of York, England. And a big thanks to Nevena Paunovic, our podcast manager at Alamo Pictures who ensures we continue getting such guests like Rob on to the show. And finally a big thanks to our listeners. As always, we love to hear from you. So, please keep sending us feedback and episode ideas, whether it is on YouTube, social media, or directly by email. And please remember to like us and share us with your friends and family. wherever you happen to listen or watch podcasts. This is Factual America, signing off. 

You've been listening to Factual America. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, specializing in documentaries, television, and shorts about the USA for international audiences. Head on down to the show notes for more information about today's episode, our guests, and the team behind the podcast. Subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @alamopictures. Be the first to hear about new productions, festival showing our films, and to connect with our team. Our homepage is

Time Stamps:  

00:11 – The trailer for Moby Doc.
04:30 – What the film is about.
07:07 – Moby’s childhood and how his music tastes evolved.
11:30 – How Moby’s career crashed and how he dealt with this.
16:37 – The depression he had even at the height of his success.
19:46 – How the project with Moby started.
25:06 – How the collaboration between Rob and Moby worked out.
28:40 – The way the film makes fun of other documentaries.
31:33 – What Moby is trying to achieve with the film.
36:07 – The music videos that Moby and Rob make together.
37:58 – Moby’s thoughts on the final result of the film.
39:50 – David Lynch’s involvement in the film and what makes a good doc.
43:17 – How Rob got started in making documentaries.  


Moby Doc (2021)
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Episode 62