×

Giorgio Moroder’s Third Act Evokes a Sense of ‘Déjà Vu’

Despite celebrating his 75th birthday earlier this week, Giorgio Moroder has very abruptly become a very busy man.

A year after winning his fourth career Grammy (for his spoken-word contribution to Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”), he’s back on the road touring the nightclub and festival circuits as a DJ, remixing his hits for audiences young enough to be his grandchildren.

In June, he’ll release his first solo album since the Reagan era, “Déjà Vu,” with assists from the likes of Sia, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. He’s also in talks to score a new film, and he’s composing music for Disney’s next “Tron” videogame.

With such a sudden flurry of activity, one has to ask: Exactly what had the electronic music pioneer been up to in the studio for the past decade and a half?

“Basically, almost nothing,” Moroder says with a nearly audible shrug. “I had done so many albums, I was really half retired. I played my golf. I had a hundred different ideas: I did computer art, I did neon art, I built a car. Some ideas worked, some did not.

“I wasn’t really looking for a new career. That came automatically, without my help.”

A key driver behind his resurgence, of course, is his still-outsized footprint on America’s surging dance music scene. From his landmark early records with Donna Summer to his digital-prophet solo work, Moroder’s sound is still being vigorously stripmined by hip-hop producers and indie aesthetes, while “I Feel Love” and “Chase” could be remixed into most modern DJs’ sets without anyone batting an eye. The first musician to win an Oscar for an all-electronic score (“Midnight Express”), Moroder’s influence on the newer generations of film composers is just as obvious.

“I was surprised when I heard the soundtrack for ‘Drive,’ ” the Italian-born composer chuckles of Cliff Martinez’s Moroder-indebted score. “Couldn’t they have just taken some stuff from ‘Cat People’?”

After accepting a one-off engagement DJing for a Louis Vuitton fashion show in 2012, Moroder decided to learn his way around Ableton and head out on the road with house music legend Carl Cox as his “assistant,” quickly going solo for gigs from Las Vegas to Ibiza, and joining Minogue as an opening act for a leg of her 2015 tour.

Disco-era Moroder kicks back with his “biggest singer,” Donna Summer.  (photo credit: Echoes/Redferns)

 

“I think I learned it quite fast. Being in a recording studio for more than 40 years and having mixed hundreds of songs, I didn’t really feel any pressure,” he says of his new trade. “It’s all relatively easy.”

His 1970s chestnuts still ignite dance floors, but lest anyone expect a collection of time-capsule disco workouts on “Déjà Vu,” Moroder reveals himself to still be a forward-leaning hitmaker at heart. The vintage vocoder effects and staccato synth pulses are still in place, but the new tracks reveal an old dog entirely comfortable with pop’s new tricks.

“Originally, we were talking with the record company about making a disco album,” he says. “But I didn’t want to go too far back. I really love EDM, but maybe I wanted to do EDM with more melodies, and I think I have them here. Because the scene has really changed in the past year. You have Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up,’ that’s quite a departure, and even David Guetta has been changing a lot. So I think EDM is getting more into the traditional stuff where you have an intro, verse, chorus and more natural instrumentation.”

“Diamonds,” his collaboration with Charli XCX, bounces between snotty pop hooks and a wobbly, distorted low end that might have caused serious damage to Studio 54’s subwoofers. (“This one’s a little weird, with that bassline,” he laughs.) The Minogue feature “Right Here, Right Now” is an effortlessly sparkly slab of neo-disco, while “Wildstar,” with 25-year-old British singer Foxes, takes a number of Moroder signatures and marries them to a euphoric electo-orchestral sweep.

Securing access to such a wide range of singers was his primary stimulus to sign for RCA Records, Moroder says, after turning down a previous contract offer from a European label. “Obviously, Donna was my biggest singer and biggest artist,” he says of the partnership that produced such hits as “Last Dance” and “Bad Girls.” “She was just special. But the qualities I look for in a singer haven’t changed,” he notes, adding that he strove for a mix of established and up-and-coming talent.

Moroder reveals that he’s negotiating an offer to score a new film whose title he won’t divulge, though he does call it “a big one.” And a studio date with Lady Gaga remains on the calendar. But even if one takes the title of Moroder’s 2014 single “74 Is the New 24” at its word, there are some limits to how far his latest act can take him.

“I always wanted to do a musical, but then at the end I never pursued it enough, so maybe that will just be one of those things that I did not do,” he says. “Maybe I should stick with making new albums and playing DJ shows … and maybe scoring some movies … and then the videogame. I think that’s probably enough, right?”

More Music

  • Terry Wakefield Exits Sony/ATV to Head

    Terry Wakefield Exits Sony/ATV to Head Up A&R at UMPG Nashville

    After a decades-long tenure at Sony/ATV Nashville, Terry Wakefield has followed another alumnus, Troy Tomlinson, across town to take a top position at Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville. Wakefield is senior VP of A&R at UMPG after having been senior VP of creative in his previous post. Personal loyalty to Tomlinson, UMPG Nashville’s recently named chairman/CEO, [...]

  • Sally Williams at PBS Country Music

    Sally Williams to Leave Longtime Opry Home for Top Post at Live Nation in Nashville

    Nashville executive Sally Williams is leaving Opry Entertainment, where she rose to the top over a two-decade tenure there, to join Live Nation’s regional office as the president of Nashville music and business strategy, the company announced Monday. Live Nation said Williams will not only lead programming and marketing for their concerts in the area, [...]

  • 'Welcome to New York The Empire

    Woodstock 50's Permit Denial Heap Keeps Growing

    In what’s become a broken record for music journalists everywhere, Woodstock 50 was once again denied a permit to hold its event, slated for Aug. 16 to 18, as a daytime festival at Vernon Downs in upstate New York. Previous attempts to convince the town of Vernon, on June 18 and July 3, were rejected [...]

  • London's CODA Agency Formally Becomes a

    Paradigm Agency Formally Absorbs London's CODA Into the Fold

    After five years of working together, London’s CODA Agency has formally become a part of Paradigm and will continue under its U.S. partner’s banner. The London office of what is now a fully integrated Paradigm will continue to be led by Alex Hardee, Tom Schroeder, James Whitting and Dave Hallybone. In a statement otherwise laden [...]

  • Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey Signs With CAA

    Mariah Carey has returned to CAA for representation worldwide after moving to UTA in 2015. Throughout her 30-year career, the five-time Grammy winner has released some of the best-selling albums of all time, including “Music Box,” which racked up more than 28 million in sales, and “Daydream,” which sold 20 million copies. Her other albums, [...]

  • Art Neville of The Meters performs

    Art Neville of the Meters and the Neville Brothers Dies at 81

    Art Neville, one of the key figures of New Orleans music as a member of the Meters and later the Neville Brothers, died Monday. He was 81. Neville’s manager, Kent Sorrell, confirmed the death. “It was peaceful,” Sorrell told Nola.com. “He passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side. He toured [...]

  • Roddy Rich

    Roddy Ricch Signs Wide-Ranging Deal With Kobalt

    Kobalt has signed Roddy Ricch to a wide-ranging exclusive worldwide deal in which the company will have full administration of the rapper, singer, songwriter and producer’s catalog, as well as publishing, creative services and synch for his future works. Ricch is a relative newcomer, first emerging onto the music scene in 2017 with the release [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content