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City Scribe

Moby trains his eyes—and ears—on the streetscapes of Los Angeles, his adopted home.

Moby in the stairway of his John Lautner-designed guesthouse

When musician and DJ Moby (née Richard Melville Hall) moved from New York to L.A. in late 2010, he landed in a 1927 French Norman castle known as Wolf’s Lair. The eight-bedroom Beachwood Canyon estate embraces Old Hollywood, but with a midcentury John Lautner-designed guesthouse he uses as his office. Moby paid just under $4 million for the house, and estimates he put about $2 million more into renovations. “I don’t mind doing the structural work but it’s really unsexy. No one ever comes over and compliments you on your new plumbing,” he says. These days, his other preoccupations are his forthcoming album and his architecture-focused blog, mobylosangelesarchitecture.com, which focuses on the highs and lows of his adopted city through black and white photos and stream-of-consciousness musings. Here, thoughts from one of L.A.’s most interesting urban chroniclers.

On the local architecture
L.A. has the best urban architecture on the planet. And the worst. Often five feet away from each other.

On living in L.A.
It’s such a vast, complicated, Byzantine place. New York has entered the pantheon of Rome, Paris and London. They are well-preserved, iconic cities. They don’t succumb to entropy. I spent the last 22 years touring and there’s no city on earth as complicated and compelling as Los Angeles. It’s a weird desert, coastal city populated by immigrants and artists [that’s] always crumbling and always being documented.

On the Angeles National Forest
It’s big and beautiful and 30 minutes from my house. It’s thousands of acres of pristine mountain wilderness. I had a snowball fight with my aunts and uncles there last winter.

On his favorite neighborhood
I love downtown. It’s a magical, urban environment. It’s almost like Detroit—it has benefited from neglect.

On the relationship between music and architecture
The two are diametrically opposed. Music technically doesn’t exist—it’s just air moving. Architecture is the most permanently solid form of expression. If they have anything in common, it’s that they’re both affecting and defining space. They are the only two art forms that affect you when your eyes are closed.

On how the city affects his music
Look at the music that’s come out of here—from the Eagles to The Germs to Mötley Crüe to Joni Mitchell. Dr. Dre and John Williams at the same time in the same place. I’m open to all of it. I’m finishing my next record and it’s almost wholly inspired by living here, but I don’t know how. It makes sense to me when I’m driving on the 101 at 3am.