Giorgio Moroder, the godfather of disco, will be performing in Mumbai on the 12th of December
Fancy the world’s most bankable pop music producer as the frontman of a heavy metal band? Giorgio Moroder certainly thinks he’d do well in that avatar. “I love heavy metal. If I had to choose being the frontman of a band…they are big, big actors, very sexy,” says the celebrated Italian music producer, adding, jocularly, “You get a lot of girls too with heavy metal. I’m saying this [about the girls] for fun because my wife is next to me.” Moroder is on Skype from Los Angeles, preparing for a show at London’s Koko in Camden Town, for a one-off DJ set. It’s a role that he will reprise in Mumbai at the second edition of the Johnnie Walker – The Journey series in Mumbai this month.
The 75-year-old says in his famously modest demeanour that DJing “is a dream come true”. “I never really performed in front of a large audience,” he adds. “Now, it’s absolutely incredible. A few months ago, I DJed in front of 55,000 people in Hyde Park in London.”
He underplays his own outrageously successful career — he’s bagged three Grammys and Oscars apiece, besides securing countless hit production credits — to attribute the revival of his career to French artists Daft Punk [Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter]. The duo’s 2013 track “Giorgio by Moroder” on their album Random Access Memories introduced millions of millennial Google-happy fans to the veteran producer. “The fact that their album was disco and retro-disco — that helped a lot to establish disco again,” he says, blissfully unaware of the countless producers and DJs who still play out and continue to be inspired by his tunes. Closer home, check out Biddu’s straight rip of the Moroder bassline on “Boom Boom” featuring Nazia Hassan, from the Star soundtrack in 1982.
It comes as no surprise that Moroder had never experienced first-hand the reaction his tunes generate on the dance floor, even at the peak of his success in late Seventies and Eighties. Quizzed if he ever made it to Studio 54, the glitzy mecca of clubland at the time, he replies, “Unfortunately, I was only in Studio 54 one time. It was a little disappointed (sic). When I got in, it was almost empty at 11 o’clock. And I didn’t know that life in the discos, at Studio 54, started more or less at 2 o’clock. So I stayed for, like, twenty minutes and then went to have a nice dinner.” To electronic music fans, Moroder has always been synonymous with Donna Summer’s 1977 classic “I Feel Love”. He produced that song inspired, in part, by the disappointingly contemporary sounding music in the canteen scene in George Lucas’s first Star Wars film. He went into the studio determined to come up with “the sound of the future”. And one man using synthesizers to create dance music is the template producer-DJs follow until this day.
But before he became the go-to guy for musicians and filmmakers alike [director Alan Parker asked Moroder to score his 1978 classic Midnight Express as he was a fan of “I Feel Love”], the septuagenarian ran Musicland Studios in Munich in late Sixties. There, he rubbed shoulders with rock & roll royalty like Queen, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards [“I did not see Led Zeppelin because I wasn’t in”]. He also toured across Europe with his three piece band, but after scoring minor solo hits such as “Son of My Father” in 1972, Moroder took a step back and reinvented himself as a producer. “Being a musician and going into becoming a producer- composer, that was difficult,” he says. “Until you are successful, it takes several years.”
It’s a tribute to his success that by 1984, he’d already worked with a score of top musicians including David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. With the latter, he produced “Love Kills” for a restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis soundtrack. And he almost worked with Bob Dylan on Rambo 3 . “I went to see him in Malibu [in Los Angeles]. He had a beautiful home, all in wood. I played the song to him and he liked it. He said, ‘I am going to call you tomorrow.’,” he says. “But finally, he decided not [to go ahead with it]. May be he didn’t like the song, may be he didn’t like to be involved with a movie like Rambo 3, which was a little bit of a political movie.”
What Moroder fans can definitely do without is his obsession with today’s EDM superstars, producer-DJs who equate as the current Top of the Pops, much like himself during his heyday. “I follow the disc jockeys that are relatively famous,” he says. “I love, I love Skrillek (sic), Diplo is great. Then, [among] the big ones I like David Guetta.” That’s a minor blip for someone who is responsible for timeless classics like Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”  on one end of the spectrum and the aggressively menacing “Tony’s Theme” from Scarface  on the other. How would he like to be remembered then? “Probably the best Italian composer after Verdi, [Pietro] Mascagni, [Giacomo] Puccini, [Ennio] Morricone,” he says, laughing. “But honestly, I hope that one or two [of my] songs are still going to be played in the next fifty years, which by the way, I am absolutely sure.”