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If you were to assign yourself the near-impossible (and frankly infuriating) task of naming the most influential dance track ever made, certain records would keep cropping up: ‘Strings Of Life’, ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘One More Time’, for example. All worthy shouts – but then there’s Donna Summer’s collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, ‘I Feel Love’ from 1977. Its endless synthesized crescendos, coupled with Donna Summer’s erotic and operatic vocal, was enough to make Brain Eno tell David Bowie, “I’ve heard the sound of the future!” Nothing was ever really the same again.
But as well as creating possibly the most influential dance track ever made, and inspiring generations of producers with it, Giorgio Moroder’s legacy is an enviable one. Other production credits include Blondie, Sparks and The Human League, while the 80s saw an amazing run of film score work including Scarface, American Gigolo and Cat People. This year, the Italian producer and composer was brought out of semi-retirement for a Daft Punk collaboration, and since then a swell of interest in his work has led to Moroder taking up DJing. We caught up with the 73-year-old legend to find out what he plays to rescue the dancefloor, and whether he’ll head out on the road with Daft Punk.
Hey Giorgio. You’ve just started DJing at 73. Why now?
I started by pure coincidence. I have a friend at Louis Vuitton and they asked me to do twelve minutes of DJing for a catwalk show. Then I did some at the Elton John Foundation show in Cannes, but my first real gig was in New York for the Red Bull Music Academy in May. I’m really loving it, though! I just came back from DJing in Tokyo and before that I was in Los Angeles and Mexico City. The more I do it, the more I love it.
You’re playing in London tonight. What can people expect from your set?
I do an hour and a half, and it’s seventy per cent my own songs and thirty per cent other people’s. I’ve made two totally new songs, and also done a special recording of the main theme from Scarface. I’m using Ableton to DJ with two additional tracks of percussion, and I use some effects
so it’s almost like a live show.
A lot of DJs have a ‘get out of jail free’ card that they always play if they’re losing the dancefloor. What’s yours?
I usually finish the evening by playing ‘Call Me’ by Blondie. It’s a great track to end with as you get all the crowd singing it back to you.
For a lot of DJs, that track is ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer. In fact, it was played as the last track of the night at Mixmag’s 30th birthday party recently. To what do you think it owes its enduring appeal?
I think it was the first time that only synthesisers had been used on a big record. Also, I must confess that when I made the track, it was a bit slower. While mixing it down, the engineer edited the delay and it became quicker. I think that gave the track the sound that people still love today. Also, a lot of people tell me that the thing they like about that song is you have the mechanical and cold sound of the synthesiser coupled with the beautiful, romantic and ethereal sound of Donna Summer’s voice. That combination made the whole song.
Your collaboration with Daft Punk this summer included an interview of you talking about your life. How did it come about?
It was no idea of mine! Thomas and Guy asked me to do a collaboration and when I was in Paris they called me and said, ‘Why don’t you come into the studio and just tell the story of your life?’ I sat there for two or three hours and just talked. I had no idea what they would do with the recording, so when I first heard it in April this year I was very surprised. I felt quite emotional to hear myself talking about my life. I absolutely love the track.
On ‘Random Access Memories’ Daft Punk created the ultimate disco super-group. If they were to take that on the road, would you like to be involved?
I’m afraid from what I read and hear that it’s going to take them a long time before they go on tour, but if they want me to tell my story again, I’d be more than happy. In fact, it would be great because whatever they’re going to do it will be sensational! From what I kind of sense they may go the big stages and do shows for fifty to eighty thousand. I would jump at the chance to do it.
You once designed a pyramid with the intention of it being built as a residence in Dubai. Maybe you could get involved in designing the stage set?
Ha! They’ve already done a pyramid though... maybe we could make the Great Wall Of China.
You’ve just played the Day Of The Dead festival in California alongside Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris. What do you make of the big EDM DJs?
I didn’t get to see any of them on Saturday, but I love all of them. Deadmau5 came to say hi and he was a really great guy. I think Skrillex is incredible! I love the technology that he uses. The effects are very complicated but he appears to do them in his sleep. I think he’s probably a bit of a genius. Also, the songs Calvin does with Rihanna are absolutely incredible.
You’ve just done a remix of Californian girl band Haim. Do you have any other collaborations on the go?
I’m also working with a group called Class Actress, and I’ll be doing a remix with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. I’m a little bit scared because Trent is so good that I don’t know how I’ll possibly make it better. I’m also going to do a song with Nile (Rodgers) as he wants me to work on one of his songs and he’s going to work on one of mine. I get so many offers since Daft Punk that I’ll have to learn to be picky.
We spoke to Nile earlier this year and he said disco owed its enduring appeal to a sense of optimism. Do you agree?
Today, you hear some of the bigger hits, the kind of stuff they play on Kiss FM, and you get the feeling that it’s been made by a few composers rather than one, so pop songs today can sound a bit disjointed. They still have great melodies, but they can sound a little disconnected. Disco had great melodies and told a story with the lyrics. I worked a little bit with David Guetta and said ‘What kind of song do you want to make?’ and he wanted to go back to the origins of disco. I was in Amsterdam two weeks ago and he was recording with a symphony orchestra. So I guess everyone wants to go back to the disco sound!
‘Love To Love You Donna’ featuring Giorgio Moroder is out now on Verve