As guests walk off the elevator leading into the Westwood penthouse of producer-composer Giorgio Moroder, the first thing that greets them is his impressive trophy mantel.
The centerpieces are his Academy Awards – Best Original Score for Midnight Express and Best Song for both “Take My Breath Away” and “Flashdance . . . What a Feeling.” (He keeps another Oscar in his native Italy.) Alongside the Oscars are his three Golden Globes, multiple Grammy awards and various other international honors.
That shelf alone gives an indication of how wide-ranging Moroder’s role in pop culture has been over the last few decades, but it’s a small part of the story. Few behind-the-scenes presences have been as influential as Moroder, whose frequent collaborations with Donna Summer in Seventies and early Eighties dominated disco, making the late singer the queen of that era and paving the way for much of today’s EDM scene. It’s a claim backed by Daft Punk, who have introduced Moroder to a new generation by including his spoken words on “Giorgio by Moroder,” a track on their new album.
Thanks to that homage from the Parisian duo, Moroder finds himself with a whole new audience at age 73. Now a DJ, he will be appearing in Los Angeles in November at Hard Day of the Dead alongside Skrillex and Deadmau5. The jovial and energetic Moroder is thoroughly enjoying his newfound acceptance among young fans, something he continues to embrace as both a DJ and on a new remix (featuring Chris Cox) of Summer’s disco classic “Love to Love You Baby,” which appears on the forthcoming Donna Summers tribute compilation, Love to Love You Donna.
Rolling Stone spoke at length with Moroder about his work with Daft Punk (whom he calls “the Dafts”), the current dance scene, Summer and his reluctance to write a book.
How did the Dafts approach you at first?
We met here in the studio on La Brea, we had lunch, and they said, “We may have an idea about doing some kind of collaboration.” They didn’t tell me what. So last summer I was in Paris, and they called me and said, “Why don’t you come into the studio and talk about your life?” I said, “If that’s the collaboration you want, that’s an easy one.” So I spoke for almost three hours without really interrupting, just started from the beginning. They have so much about me, it’s incredible. Then in April they played it for me first time. I loved it. It’s quite emotional hearing you talk about your life, and then it’s a song, and it goes on for nine minutes. So it was quite interesting the way they did it.
What will they do with the rest of the material?
In fact, I asked them about that a few weeks ago. I said, “Could I have the recording?” They said they may do something with it. But I don’t think they would do three hours of music. Maybe a documentary, maybe something.
How would you feel about them doing a documentary about you?
With them that would be great, but I get so many offers lately. I have an offer from here for a big station, I got two offers from Europe, Germany and France, I have one or two in Italy. There is talk possibly to do a movie, maybe an HBO movie about me, [with] somebody playing me. It’s just an idea.
How would you feel about seeing someone else play your life and portray your friends, people like Donna Summer?
My main concern is that I’d have to tell a lot and some things you just don’t want to tell. So that’s a problem, like a book. I was offered to do biographies, at least three or four. A biography is only interesting if you have something really interesting to say, and I can’t talk about my girls and their stuff. And then you talk about friends, and if you tell the truth, they get all pissed. So I’m trying to avoid it, actually. When I’m dead, somebody can write my biography. I wrote a national hymn, an anthem, which I don’t want to present to that country. But I have a deal with my wife – when I’m dead, she should offer it, because then I’m safe.
Music is so cyclical, but is it weird to find yourself back on top of the charts three decades later?
Six months ago I was still alive, and if I was a composer then, I’m a composer now. I just did a song, which is probably coming out as a single. The basics I recorded six months ago, but nobody knew. Suddenly it’s a great song. It’s nice, so then I started to do the DJing for pure coincidence. I did 12 minutes of DJing, and I loved it. And then they offered me to DJ at the Elton John amfAR in Cannes and that was a minor disaster – I was not really prepared, and the people they couldn’t care less. They didn’t dance. That was almost depressing. Then Red Bull offered me to do a speech to the students, the Red Bull Academy, and I said, “Yeah, that’s great.” At the same time somebody suggested, “Why don’t you DJ?,” and that was the start. That was quite a big success – 80 percent young people in their 20s, early 30s in a club, which was supposed to be about 500 people, and they were in the thousands.
At Hard Day of the Dead in L.A. you’ll be performing with both Skrillex and Deadmau5. Do you feel like the kids get the music you’re doing, and what kind of music will you be presenting at Hard?
I just came back from Sweden and there were a little over a thousand people. I played my songs. All young people, exactly like in New York, but some really got wild. It reminded me when I went to Ibiza – you see everybody jumping and clapping. By November I may have two or three new songs. Maybe I do some special thing for the show, but interestingly enough, except one or two songs people didn’t know, the rest they all know. It’s almost like going back in disco time. I have all my songs. If I do “Hot Stuff,” it’s absolutely incredible.
You had a special collaborative relationship with Donna Summer. Is there another artist you’d like to try and create that vibe with today?
If the record company would have a new artist they would want to launch, that would be one idea. On the other hand, to have a chance to work with Rihanna, that’s a dream. If I do an album with myself, I need different acts. One of the ideas I’m thinking of is I would love to have a rock-disco-dance song with real bass drum, adding a little bit of synthesizers like the Dafts did, but then produce it with a rock group. One of the ideas was the Rolling Stones. They had “Miss You,” which was phenomenal. I don’t think they would do it, but it would be fun.
Do you have a deeper appreciation for the success after having a long gap between hits?
It’s great – I’m going to be thankful to the Dafts all my life. At 73 I may have a hit again. I didn’t perform for 30 years, and suddenly I am performing again. I feel that as a composer I don’t do new things like the dance, four bars, eight bars – I do it my way.
What other responses have you got from musicians?
I met Lady Gaga, who did this [bows].
There is a natural collaboration. Are you going to work with her?
I hope so. I love her. David Guetta, Avicii, they are all fans, because “I Feel Love” is the basis of so many songs. The Dafts were big fans. I think they had the concept of doing some stuff with people – obviously Nile [Rodgers], Paul Williams, he’s a great composer, great artist. So I think the idea was to get some of the guys who were big in the Seventies to work on their new project.
Are there songs of yours that have aged really well for you?
Not every song, but a lot. If I listen to “I Feel Love,” I’ve heard so many re-recordings now, there is not one that is as good. I did some bad stuff when I was in Germany, terrible. But let’s say in the Seventies, all the disco songs, and then “Take My Breath Away” or “Flashdance,” I would not know how to make them better. They are mostly quite well done for that time and they still sound good now. My favorite would be “Love to Love You” because from zero, I went to Number One. I don’t think it’s the best song – the best one is probably between “Flashdance” and “Take My Breath Away.” They work so well with the movie[s], the recording is good – the voice, the mix. And “Take My Breath Away” had that interesting bass line, which I hear quite often. It had that terrible change of key, which Terri Nunn hated, but I loved.
Would you work with Terri again, or are you only interested in working with new people?
No, I want to work with new guys. If Donna would be alive, maybe yes. I did some recordings, not even demos, like two years ago, and she still had a voice like she didn’t change one thing. So Donna would be perfect now. In fact, I found two or three 24-tracks, and there may be some Donna songs, which we never released. So I have to transfer it from 24 track to digital to hear it.
Would you release those?
If it’s a good song, yeah. But past is past. Let’s think of the future.