A conversation with Giorgio Moroder on DJing, disco, and Daft Punk
It’s not every day that you get to sit down with a dance music pioneer like Giorgio Moroder. It’s safe to say I was struck by a reverential awe as I approached the acclaimed Italian producer at HARD Day of the Dead. Sitting silently in his dark, clean suit jacket, Moroder had an aura of authenticity about him. Whether it was the signature brazen mustache or the curious look in his eyes, Moroder exuded a worldly sophistication: there were years behind those eyes — experiences of immeasurable depth and significance. It was evident in his voice, from his stuttered hesitations to intermittent bursts of laughter. This was no ordinary musician, but a legend.
While Generation Y may know Giorgio for his recent work with Daft Punk, our parents know him as the acclaimed producer behind disco queen Donna Summers and all-around dance music badass. Aside from his chart-topping disco songs, Giorgio is also noteworthy for having written the soundtrack to Midnight Express, Scarface, Flashdance, and Top Gun.
After introducing myself to the storied producer, I asked him what it’s like to be back in the spotlight of the music world, particularly, the dance music sphere:
“It’s good, quite good. Thinking that I did my first DJing late 60’s to make some money… I didn’t DJ for about forty years. I was never really interested. But I got an offer to do a little 15 minutes with Louis Vuitton in Paris, and then I got an offer from Red Bull Music Academy in New York. That’s where it started.”
40 years? My god. I was shocked to say the least. I couldn’t help but ask what it’s like getting back into DJing — if he found it difficult. Giorgio responded confidently:
“DJing is a lot of mixing. I’ve probably mixed about a 1000 times. Let’s say with Donna Summers. I think I composed about 80 songs. Each song I know we did a little mix here, then another one, then a special mix, then a mix for a compilation. I have a total of probably 200 songs. All in all I did a ton of mixes, so mixing as a DJ is absolutely no problem.”
With a headlining set at Hard Day of the Dead’s RBMA Discotheque Stage, Giorgio has wasted little time in stepping into the mixing world. When asked about his plan in regards to his stead as a DJ, Giorgio said:
“I think I’m going to do a year or so of DJing, then I think I’m getting a little old for that… the DJing itself is no problem, but the travel. I went twice to Tokyo, once to Amsterdam, once to Sweden.. It’s always eleven hours and jet lag so I don’t know how long I want to do it.”
At the seasoned age of 73, Giorgio must be the oldest musician getting booked for DJ sets at festivals. But then again, he’s Giorgio Moroder, the king of the synthesizer and a producer with one of the strongest legacies in dance music. Rather than start from scratch, Moroder has opted to revive some of his most iconic records. His recent remix to “Love to Love You Baby,” for example, puts a modern spin on the sexy 1975 Donna Summers record.
I asked Giorgio about his approach to making music in the current electronic landscape: “I go back to the live drums, live guitar, maybe live strings, and combine electronics. Take the best of the old and the new,” Giorgio said.
Struck by the memory of a Giorgio quote, I took the opportunity to ask a question out of left field: “You said in the 70’s that the synthesizer was the sound of the future… what is the sound of the future now?” With a somewhat startled reply, Giorgio laughed: “If I knew it, I wouldn’t tell you! Who knows!” Though I didn’t get the kind of prophetic answer for which I hoped, I got Giorgio to laugh, and let me tell you, there is no greater feeling than making Giorgio Moroder laugh.
As I continued to pick Giorgio’s brain about music production, he related: “Well I like what Daft Punk did with ‘Get Lucky’ — to use real drums, real guitars, bass and the electronics…. that’s ideal. That’s what I want to do.”
Because he brought it up first, I proceeded to ask the question that was burning on my mind: what the hell was it like to work with Daft Punk?
“They just asked me if I wanted to talk about my life,” Giorgio said. “So I went to a studio in Paris and I just spoke for two or three hours and then they did all the rest.” Short but sweet — I can’t help but smirk in delight at the idea of Giorgio talking about his life for two or three hours in the studio as Guy-Manuel and and Thomas sit back, patiently recording the anecdotal musing.
Giorgio didn’t mention any concrete plans to collaborate with Daft Punk in the future, but said he has some ideas in mind. Giorgio did, however, go on to talk about a fellow disco deity and Daft Punk collaborator: “I’m going to work with Nile Rodgers. I don’t know what we’re planning. My wife organized it. Whenever he is ready and I am ready we’ll do one,” Giorgio said.
As we began to talk about other producers whom Giorgio admires, his answers caught me off guard: “I love Skrillex,” Giorgio said definitively. “I love what Tiesto is doing… and of course, David Guetta. He is very talented, combining modern dance with R&B.” As a former hit-maker and pop-sequencer himself, perhaps the answers are fitting. Yet I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the immediate mention of Sonny Moore, whose screeching bass and sporadic electro is a far-cry from the disco heyday of Giorgio’s time.
Speaking of disco, I asked Giorgio to share his thoughts on how the seminal genre fits into the modern dance scene:
“I think it’s fitting in more and more. There is a club in Los Angeles called Giorgio. It’s owned by a friend of ours. It’s the most ‘in’ place right now, and they only place disco. It’s only Saturday. It’s always full, almost impossible to get in. I think disco is not a dirty word anymore.”
Though he may no longer be the young, feisty Italian producer of the 70’s and 80’s, Giorgio Moroder is as endearing as ever. Time may have aged him physically, but his spirit is young and his vision intact. At the end of the day, we’re left with one simple truth: none of us will be as cool as Giorgio Moroder when we’re 73.