You’ve previously said you were apprehensive about touring in the States. Why is that?
One of the reasons why I didn’t tour here for quite a while is because I was very, very outspoken in my opposition to the Iraq war and very critical of the Bush administration and I guess I was sort of gray-listed. I wouldn’t say black-listed, but gray-listed because a lot of these big corporations were very conservative and they specifically didn’t want to provide any coverage or support to artists who were not supporting the Bush administration. You can see it with a lot of artists; my friend Serge [Tankian] with System of a Down, a very similar thing happened to him.
What can we look for from your set at the House of Blues in Vegas on October 16?
I make the records by myself in my studio in New York, but when I tour it’s with a whole bunch of people -- there’s a strings section, drummer, two vocalists, keyboard player, percussionist, bass player and then me playing guitar, keyboards and percussion. The show itself is very eclectic. It’s a really diverse show and it’s working, but I keep expecting audiences to sort of give up at times. It’ll go from being a very loud, over the top bombastic rave song to a very quiet almost classically inspired ballad. But somehow, people seem to like it thus far. Hopefully the Las Vegas show will be okay. Las Vegas is an interesting place.
Your new album, Wait for Me, is a quieter, more ambient disc. What did you want listeners to experience?
My goal in making the record was to make something that was more personal and more emotional and maybe even more vulnerable. My hope was that someone would sit down and listen to the whole album and, for the time that they’re listening to it, almost feel taken care of.
What’s your setlist like for this tour?
It changes from show to show. But on average I’d say the shows are 40 percent songs from Wait for Me and 60 percent older songs. My ethos in putting on a show is to try and put on stage what I would want to see if I was in the audience. When I go to see a band, sure you want to hear some songs from the new record, but you also want to hear older greatest hits.
How did “The Little Idiot” persona begin?
The Little Idiot – I started drawing these cartoon characters when I worked at a record store when I first dropped out of college. When I first ever started signing autographs, just signing my name seemed a little cheap, so I started drawing these cartoon characters instead. He’s kind of taken on a life from there. The name “Little Idiot” comes from my manager [who] was insulting me once and he called me a “little idiot.” I thought that was really funny, so I just sort of stuck with it.
What about “Moby Gratis”?
Moby Gratis is a Web site that I started that gives free music away to independent filmmakers and film student, because a lot of my friends who are indie filmmakers have a really hard time licensing music because it’s expensive and difficult. I figured if I’d just give it away for free and it’s all preapproved that it’ll make one part of the filmmaking process a little easier.
You are very active in politics and charity. What are some of the causes that you’re currently passionate about?
I’m quite involved in the healthcare debate. A friend of mine who’s in the House of Representatives, recently hosted a healthcare town hall debate. There was a lot of senior citizens there and at the very beginning he asked everyone to raise their hands who was opposed to socialized medicine, and everyone raised their hand. Then the next question was, “Who here is on Medicare or Medicaid?” and everyone raised their hand. I just feel like people are so up in arms about the healthcare debate, I don’t think anyone fully understands what they’re talking about.
In such a rough economy, would you be angry at people downloading your music without paying for it?
I can only speak for myself because I know other musicians feel very differently, but I make music because I love music, and I hope that people would be willing to listen to it. If someone wants to pay for it, that’s great. The people at record companies deserve to make a living and musicians deserve to make a living. But if the choice is paying for music and listening to it or not paying for it and not listening to it? Basically it doesn’t trouble me in any way how people listen to music. At the end of the day it all comes out of the same speakers, whether it’s purchased, downloaded illegally… Honestly, there’s so much music out there that personally, I’m flattered and honored if anyone takes the time to listen to the music that I’ve made, regardless of how they’re listening to it.