I talk to Gregor (the guy who lent Moby his CDs, which he then sampled to make "Play")
and a few quick updates & deviations...
Hey lovely human.
If you missed it, I wrote a big piece for The Spinoff this week called How 5G and Covid-19 mixed to make a toxic conspiracy cocktail. I also created a thread of all my conspiracy pieces over on Twitter if you want to see them all in one place.
But I wanted to push conspiracy theories aside today.
I’ve been enjoying the feedback on my “10 podcasts to get you through” piece — thanks for all your suggestions! I’m loving Culpable and Up & Vanished, and have been listening to them while doing small walks around my neighbourhood (where I met this cool cat - look at those eyes!)
I noticed people seemed to really gravitate towards the “Gregor” episode of Heavyweight I’d suggested, which told the story of Gregor, the man who’d once lent his friend Moby an obscure boxset of CDs.
Moby sampled them and became a megastar. Gregor just wanted his CDs back.
Some of you reading this newsletter got in touch with various Moby-related stories, or with stray thoughts on that particular episode. And then there was Tiffanie Turner, who wrote:
“I know Gregor! Our children went to the same elementary school and he is best friends with my good friend’s husband!”
I was struck by how small the world was. Ever since listening to that podcast, I’d wanted to ask Gregor a few questions: Had he kept in touch with Moby? Had there been any fallout from that episode? How does he feel about Moby now?
Perhaps this was my chance to get those questions answered.
Giddily, I wrote back to Tiffanie, asking if she’d mind passing on my details. I expected to hear back in maybe a week, or not at all. But I heard back the next day:
“I DM’d and Gregor is down to talk with you (his words).”
His words! I was ecstatic.
Gregor, Moby & Me:
I fired off a message to Gregor, telling him a little about myself, that I was a fan of his story, and that I’d love an update. I also asked if he was safe, considering the state of things in America right now.
Gregor wrote back:
"Pleasure to hear from you. I'm in SF, where the shelter in place hasn't been much of a hardship at all. So really, mostly I feel guilty that we aren't suffering like New York or other places, since life here is pleasant, mostly."
I replied, excitedly rambling on about the time I’d visited San Francisco, years ago. The first thing I’d done was climb up Telegraph Hill, as I’d just seen a documentary about all the parrots that live up there. The flock must have been elsewhere, because all I saw that day was a dirty pigeon.
"I saw that movie, the wild parrots one, and went looking for them and didn't find them!” Gregor wrote back.
“But there was a telephone pole near where I grew up that had parrots infesting it and eventually the power company had to come cut it down and remove them since they were causing some issues with the lines.
"I assume you are on the island paradise that is New Zealand, where, for one thing, I almost moved, since my father got a job there when I was a kid and I can only imagine the life I might have lived. Probably a worse version of Mr Waititi's life, since he's living the dream. I also read recently that a lot of Bay Area tech rich people fled to NZ to hunker in their bunkers there, so apologies for that.”
Gregor was totally right: Taika does appear to be living the dream, and rich idiots like Peter Thiel appear to love bunking down in Aotearoa.
I could talk about parrots, Taika and Peter Thiel all day long, but back to the topic at hand: the bald little vegan called Moby. The guy Gregor had lent his CDs to.
Now, spoiler alert, but in the Heavyweight episode, Gregor ends up meeting Moby at his LA home, to ask about his CDs. It ends up being a discussion about fame, happiness, and how Moby had wanted to jump out of a window at the peak of his career.
After their meeting, Moby ended up emailing Gregor to thank him for lending him the CDs — acknowledging that they directly lead to two of his greatest hits. He also said he’d give Gregor a call next time he was in town.
I asked Gregor if that had ever happened:
"I actually had dinner with Moby shortly after that whole thing hit. And it was sort of cringe, but sort of a reconciliation more than the recorded one was.”
Gregor also told me that episode of Heavyweight had gone far and wide, which gave him a small, weird taste of how odd ‘fame’ could be:
"That ep was at 1 on iTunes for a few weeks, and got a lot of listens. And then they launched an app featuring the same ep, so it reached a pretty wide audience and I wound up speaking at Columbia journalism school, and the New York Times did a night with an audience and Q&A on the real Gregor, whoever that is. So that was all sort of interesting as far as a brush with micro fame and people seemed to think they know me from it, like any fame.”
I asked how this weird sort of brush with fame had effected him.
“I will say, one fallout from that episode, is on Twitter, I get quite a few @ mentions with @Moby as well, tying in whatever he's done lately back to the issue of the return of the CDs.
This was interesting to me, because Moby certainly does seem to get up to a bunch of odd stuff.
If you’ve read his last book, you’ll know what they are. Or maybe you just read the headlines that book created.
I actually remembered an embarrassing story while talking to Gregor - that I’d met his friend Moby back in 2001. I’d just moved out of home and started university, and Moby was doing an in-store signing at a CD store in town. He was still soaring on the monumental success of Play at the time (which unbeknownst to me at he time, was partially thanks to Gregor).
I’d lined up for ages, only to shakily say “Hel-l-l-o” and get my CD signed. It was totally overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Oh, and to be ‘cool’ I’d taken in his Animal Rights record to be signed, not Play like everyone else. LOL!
So I guess you could say back in 2001, I was a fan. And I still am, because I am old and white. I’ve been known to still listen to Play and Hotel in a completely un-ironic fashion. And when a Moby headlines pops up, I’ll usually read it.
So, anyway — I was curious what Greg was being @’d about:
I wouldn't say I became a meme exactly, but it caused me to become drawn into various cultural conversations about him. Moby is an interesting guy, because while on one level just a musician, but is also kind of larger than life as a symbol, interpreted variously as the poster boy for vegan self righteousness, (hence him being beaten in effigy by Eminem) and the poster boy for the techno era of rave culture, and his conspicuous christianity with the giant crucifix on his neck as a kind of dating ploy for purity, or something.
So in his latest evolution where he tattooed his face and arms with giant words saying animal rights, now he is standing for something else, along the lines of "won't someone think of the animals?", which I think Joaquin Phoenix is also proximate to, since after he won the Oscar or Golden Globe he led the press to a slaughter house and sang a song to the pigs."
Anyway, I've said too much.
Speak to you soon.
I really liked emailing back and forth with Gregor. I haven’t included all of our conversation here, but maybe I’ll return to it sometime.
I’ll definitely keep emailing back and forth with Gregor, if he’ll have me, because I really like him.
And if you haven’t listened to him tell his story on Heavyweight, please do.
PS - a little extra story for you.
I wrote back to Tiffanie, thanking her for the introduction. I told her that I love how small the world can be sometimes:
The fact she’d read my newsletter about about podcasts, and she knew the main star, Gregor, and had written to me — it blew my mind! So did the fact that in another timeline, Greg might have moved to New Zealand!
On top of this, Tiffanie told me she was meant to be in New Zealand the week before Easter. But then, Covid.
And it turns out she’s very familiar with one of my favourite TV shows at the moment, What We Do In The Shadows - which was created by New Zealanders.
“I just had some of my artwork on the season 2 premiere of What We Do in the Shadows. I worked with the set decorator on a large set piece featuring my dead paper flowers.”
I asked to see her artwork. It’s beautiful, and I wanted to show it to you:
You can see more of Tiffanie’s amazing floral art here.
I hope your week is going well.
wow this was so interesting! i love thinking about how small the world can be, lots of us are randomly connected, very cool!
i hope your week is also going well David! :)
But did he ever get his CDs back??