Personnel Profile: Moby

Moby is the stage name of Richard Melville Hall, a multiplatinum-selling recording artist who combines rock and electronic music. This month, his 13-month long international tour passed through California for four shows. He pledged to donate his approximately $85,000 in profits for the shows to California Partnership to End Domestic Violence to draw attention to cuts in state funding for domestic violence shelters in California.

Tell me how you got the idea to donate this tour money.
About two weeks ago I was reading in the New York Times about the governor’s decision to cut all funding to domestic violence programs in California. I guess what struck me about that was as far as I know what was originally presented to him was the idea of cutting funding by 50% and he cut it an additional 50%. I’ve never been the governor of a state and I’ve never been a state legislator, it just seems that I can’t help but assume that there’s got to be better things to cut than domestic violence programs. They save lives. My mother was a victim of domestic violence, I have a lot of friends who were the victims of domestic violence, and it just seems like domestic violence programs really are an incredibly worthwhile use of taxpayer’s money.

Tell me about some of your personal experiences.
When I was about eight or nine years old, my mother was in a long-term abusive relationship and when she was trying to end it, her boyfriend tried to stab her. As an eight year old I had to step in and basically stop my mom’s boyfriend from trying to stab her to death.

How did you do that?
By throwing myself in between the two of them. Certainly not with my brute strength. I was a scrawny little eight year old, but I think somehow the presence of an eight year-old in this heated environment made him for a split second realize just how crazy he had become. He ran out the door.

You’ve done earlier advocacy work around this issue?
I’ve certainly donated money over the years to different domestic violence groups in and around New York City. I sometimes wonder how much I’m allowed to say because it’s a great safe house organization. It’s relatively anonymous and they have houses scattered about New York State where they can take women and protect them. It takes them out of abusive situations and hides them away. I’ve tried to be as supportive of that as I can.

You’re doing an extensive tour in the midst of a really terrible economy.  Do you have any plans so far to do any other donations in other states?
Not at the present. It seems like the California budget is so dire. Other states certainly are experiencing shortfalls, but I don’t think that other states are experiencing quite the sort of budget crisis that California is experiencing. And I don’t think other states are implementing the same sort of draconian cuts the governor is imposing. I’m sure there are a lot of great programs being cut everywhere, but I don’t know of any other states that had to cut their domestic violence programs 100%.

It’s very easy to take very real human situations and deal with them on an abstract level when you’re sitting in an office and you’re not actually confronted with the people who are affected by your cuts. I almost feel like if they’re going to cut social services, they should be cut in the presence of the people who are going to be affected by them. I remember about 20 years ago hearing Newt Gingrich going on a rampage against welfare mothers. Here’s a white privileged guy sitting in his House of Representatives office talking about welfare mothers, and I just remember thinking to myself, “Why don’t you go to a shelter and actually talk to some of the people that you’re talking about?”

People are not abstract. These programs, there’s defiantly waste in them there’s defiantly room for things to be cut, but from my perspective, from what I know of the domestic violence programs in California, they’re all running on a pretty lean budget to begin with. There is no fat to be trimmed. They’re either open or they’re shut. In a true democracy, it seems like representatives should be compelled to experience every facet of life among the people among their constituents.

You’ve said that the money from your four shows is going to be a drop in the bucket in comparison to what was cut. Are you trying to draw attention to the problem, so other donors will fill this in?
I believe $20 million has been cut, and I’m contributing around $80,000. Clearly, $80,000 compared to $20 million is very little. I mean, for me it’s a lot, but my hope is that somehow by doing this and drawing attention to it two things will result. One, that other people will feel compelled to donate money. And two, that the issue will be brought back up when the Legislatures are in session.

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