A meeting with one of pop’s foremost modernists…
At first, we don’t know what to expect. A series of journalists from various publications have been invited for a breakfast round table – with disco pioneer and uber pop modernist Giorgio Moroder. Emerging from creative slumber, the producer is in the middle of something of a purple patch – DJ sets, Daft Punk guest spots and numerous name-checks have allowed his stock to rise to its highest level for decades.
As it happens, though, Giorgio is a sheer delight. Now 74 years old, he’s a softly spoken, unassuming character who reveals a real sense of warmth – but essentially, there’s no getting around the fact that he’s the coolest grandfather on the planet.
Currently at work on a new studio album (provisionally titled ’74 Is The New 24′), the producer has been overjoyed at the chance of working with younger artists. “The idea was to have some established singers – but still relatively young – like Kylie and Britney,” he says. “Then have young kids like Foxes and Charli XCX. I love to work with the young ones, especially Charli.”
“The fact that I can get involved with young artists is just great,” he continues. “I got some artists – I cannot say who – but I got offers from acts who were big twenty, thirty years ago and I passed on at least two or three. I’m old enough, I need some new blood and it’s great, the mentality is different and I love it.”
Freely admitting to having spent the years since his disco peak solving newspaper puzzles and working on his golf handicap, Giorgio Moroder is open about the changes he has noticed in the music industry – notably, gaining access to artists. Whereas once the producer could phone up Donna Summer and craft an epochal, generation defining hit within a few hours, now he has to wait for approved clearance amidst the increasing demands placed on artists.
“Difficult to even get in contact,” he muses. “One thing I noticed: generally speaking, compared to then, the singers are all so involved in so many different things. Coming back to Donna, Donna would sing and then once a year she would do a little tour but right now it’s… like Britney, one of the problems is that not only is she so busy in Las Vegas but she has contracts where she can’t do this, she can’t do that. It’s getting a little different from the way I worked before.”
Fans expecting an album of disco material, though, will no doubt be sorely disappointed. Ever the futurist, Giorgio has no inclination to gaze upon his past – what’s done is done, and new music is waiting to be created. “Somebody said: ‘oh you should do all retro, all disco’. I said no,:’disco, I already did’. I don’t want to go back,” he states. “So what I wanted to do was have some electronics – and since, dare I say, I co-invented it, I have the right to use them – and then use some elements of disco. I added kind of typical disco strings, guitars to some tracks, so I try to have modern rhythm with the electronics and then add older, retro stuff.”
Alongside his production work, Giorgio Moroder has also undertaken a number of DJ sets. Exposing his music to a new, younger audience, the experience has clearly left its mark on the disco legend. “That’s the most incredible thing,” he explains. “I went to Japan and there was a big show and it was all young people and all Japanese. They knew the lyrics to all the songs and they were all in their 20s. So I still sometime wonder how is it possible? It’s great. I must say, I probably the widest difference in age of the audience because I have the older ones who grew up with disco and I have the young ones who were not born but, I guess, still enjoy it now.”
Perhaps the first inkling of Giorgio’s desire to get back into the studio and work on original material came from a series of remixes. Invited to re-work Coldplay, a startlingly brave take on HAIM emerged last summer. “Usually, when I do remixes I don’t do the typical remix where you take one little section and the rest is all new. Sometimes on remixes you don’t even know what song it is. Everybody wants to get their own stuff in, and sometimes there are only little pieces of the original. For me, it’s a combination of keeping relatively close to the original and then adding new stuff.”
Not that Giorgio would ever re-work any of his golden hits from a 2k15 perspective. “No,” he laughs. “No, I have so many remixes of my old stuff. Some great, some bad. Let’s do some new stuff.”
Noted for his soundtrack work – check out the eerily atmospheric work on ‘American Gigolo’ or ‘Scarface’ for starters – Giorgio Moroder admits to having had offers for movie work: one of which he has accepted. “I have an offer to do a big movie. I cannot tell you what, but it’s… not a 150 million dollars but a big movie, big production. So I have to go back into that, it won’t be easy. I do this with a great musician and a great composer, so we do it together.”
Alongside this, Giorgio has been recruited to provide the soundtrack for the upcoming ‘Tron’ video game – something which could involve a certain EDM heavyweight. “I’m going to meet Skrillex next week when I’m back. I’m doing the music for a game for Disney’s ‘Tron’. We have about five themes, electronic stuff and let’s see if he’s interested in remixing or re-working one of the songs.”
Eager to pursue new projects, Giorgio Moroder lives up to his tag as one of pop’s supreme modernists. Forever gazing forwards, the producer has even swapped his vintage synths for Pro Tools, but admits that this presents as many challenges as it solves. “In disco we kind of had a little bit of a formula. It was relatively easy, I would have the song done with a guitar, I would write down some chords, the musicians would come in, it would take us an hour to set up and then we would do a track in an hour, an hour and a half. With the drums, we had a sound which we liked. It was not like now, you go in and click on kicks and you have a list of 2000 kicks. So I must say it was easy, then.”
Forever looking for fresh ideas, the producer reluctantly admits that technology has adapted to such profound levels that songwriters must look for the ‘new’ in the music itself. “Everybody’s asking me: did you find something for the future? Unfortunately, I have no idea. The thing right now is that the sounds you get in the computers are so good and so many that it’s almost impossible to find something which is new. So I think if there’s anything new it has to be musical. ‘I Feel Love’ was a sound, while in this case I don’t think you can create new sounds because there are so many. The music has to be new.”
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Giorgio Moroder is currently working on new studio album ’74 Is The New 24′.