Photograph by: Victor Frankowski
“I’m DJing now, and I lurrrve it,’ purrs Giorgio Moroder, aged 73, one of the most successful and pioneering electronic musicians of all time.
A few years ago, Giorgio was semi-retired — mainly playing golf with his wife Francisca. His successful music career was on hold as he immersed himself in digital art and building a customised 16-cylinder car, but then he was asked for lunch in Paris by Daft Punk.
“They asked me if I could come to their studio and tell my story,” says Giorgio in his infectious Italian burr. “I went and told my story for about two or three hours, and Thomas [Bangalter] was very patient, saying: ‘More details here’ — and so on. I told everything, I confessed my whole life! I wasn’t sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch, but I may as well have been!”
Giorgio says he didn’t know what Daft Punk were going to do with his spoken word tale, but thought that they’d probably chop up his voice in some way. This wasn’t really the case. “I heard the song for the first time in April of this year — two or three weeks before the album came out,” he says. “And I was really, really emotional. Not only does it tell the story of my life, but the story musically — they did a very good job. And the album did so well, it was a masterful strategy how they promoted it.”
The album, of course, was Random Access Memories, the biggest electronic album of the year in global terms. Homage track ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ is one of its highlights, with Giorgio telling in his own words snatches of his life story. It’s a tale that has taken him from playing in a jazz band when he left school in Italy to starting to work in studios in Germany in the late 1960s. He had minor success as a solo artist and producing for UK band Chicory Tip, but it was when he started making disco records with Donna Summer that his career really took off.
‘Love To Love You Baby’ was one of the first extended 12-inch club records, the label boss asking Giorgio to elongate the three-minute single after girls at an orgy he was at kept asking him to play the track over and over. Giorgio got Donna Summer back into the studio to moan and groan and basically simulate orgasm for the extended part.
‘Love To Love You Baby’ followed the traditional disco blueprint in that it was recorded with musicians, but for ‘I Feel Love’ Giorgio used just a synthesizer — a Moog Modular — to construct the whole track. The futurist metronomic bassline has remained a club staple ever since, and Giorgio went on to soundtrack movies such as Midnight Express, Scarface, American Gigolo and Flashdance, and work with Sparks, David Bowie, The Three Degrees, Japan, Blondie and Phil Oakey from the Human League amongst many others.
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Now that he’s rediscovered his mojo, Moroder has been throwing himself into producing again – and DJing. “You see the wavelengths, you know a break is coming and you need to bring in the next song,” he enthuses about his DJing exploits, like a kid who’s discovered a new toy. He explains how he plays mainly his own stuff, and that he started off DJing a Louis Vuitton fashion show and then a party in Cannes for Elton John, “but it was very Hollywood, everybody just stood around drinking and nobody danced”.
But subsequently he’s done big shows and is amazed at the modern-day club culture which he helped spawn. “I can do this [raises arm] and the people are shouting,” he grins. “I have a little Novation where you have sounds [makes punchy synthetic stab sounds] and because they see me doing it, they shout and cheer.
“I’m using Ableton, so I go from one track to the next, but at the same time I have one or two loops,” he continues. “Then sometimes in the chorus I add a huge bass drum, where the melody almost goes away — I hate when you fade out a song and the next one comes in and it isn’t in key — so when I start to fade out, I come in with a loop and maybe just a hi-hat. I keep it up for maybe ten seconds and then I fade the new one in, so it’s nice. That works quite well.”
“I play most of my own stuff,” he adds, “and three or four new songs. One is ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ by Daft Punk, then I did one with a young Mexican producer which was a little heavier and was based on ‘My Name Is Giorgio Moroder & You Can Call Me’. With this one on Soundcloud, they killed me. That song worked so well with the crowd, but if you just listen to it… I still like it, it’s the kind of sounds I’m using when I’m playing.”
Giorgio talks about how he’s still learning, that he’s developing visuals to accompany his DJ shows (“one of the best visual guys who did the new Jay Z show and does all the Rihanna shows, so I’m going to lose money — obviously”), and that he’s been turning down DJ gigs because he likes to stay for a week in places that he travels to — none of this regular in-out DJ behaviour for him. He then ponders getting Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Blondie’s Debbie Harry to appear on his album, as well as seeking collaborations with EDM people like Guetta. Your hack suggests collabs with Todd Terje and Skream, but he doesn’t appear to hear. He then talks about wanting to use a vocoder, so we suggest getting Daft Punk to help him. “Thomas [Bangalter] told me that it took days just to get the sound right,” he says.
Then, with a twinkle in his eye again, he says that he has a new idea for a ‘sex song’. “‘Love To Love You’ was the start of my career, now I have the sequel!” he claims, but won’t reveal any more about it. He also says that he’s got a new song nearly ready to go that features his long-term disco collaborator — the late, great Donna Summer. “It’s called ‘La Dolce Vita’, she sang it about three years ago,” he reveals. “I think I have a great combination of synthesizers and live drums and live guitar to go with Donna’s voice.”
Special thanks to London’s LEAF Festival, which took place last weekend (November 8) and featured Giorgio Moroder, Omar Souleyman, Dinos Chapman and more. FACT’s Mr. Beatnick counted down Moroder’s 10 essential records here.