In 1977 Giorgio Moroder decided that he wanted to make a song that sounded like the future. The result was so powerful that it changed the course of music. Giorgio hadn't just predicted pop's future: he'd defined it.
37 years later 'I Feel Love' still sounds like it's from the future and Giorgio continues to look ahead.
Back in the spotlight following an appearance on Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories', Giorgio's currently putting the finishing touches to his as-yet-untitled comeback album, on which he combines some of modern pop's best artists with sounds that have packed dancefloors for forty years.
So we find Foxes with the perky, disco-influenced 'Glitter', whose middle eight is a warm sonic homage to 'Flashdance (What A Feeling)'; Charli XCX's contribution 'Diamonds', meanwhile, is a noisy, clattering megabanger. Then there's Sia's song, 'Deja Vu' — a melodramatic, string-laded pop explosion of such devastating intensity that the crater it leaves will be visible from space. Then there's Britney — but we'll come to that in a bit.
Popjustice met up with Giorgio at the end of last week and it was amazing. Here's how our chat went.
So the new music is very good. I’ve heard five new songs so far — the tune you had out last year was very much a dance track, but these new ones are pop songs.
Yes! Well that’s what I wanted to do. I’m shocked actually — with the Kylie song, after three days we’re Number 61 in Italy, in the radio charts. On iTunes we’re in the charts in several countries, and yesterday Radio 2 played it. But do you know what, I’m not going to read comments online any more. You can have ten brilliant reviews, and it’s the one bad one you remember. I read one — I know I shouldn’t have done — but it was this guy from Italy. His first word? “Shit.”
When I spoke to Pharrell last year he said he wasn’t really intending to make a comeback until it all kicked off with 'Get Lucky', at which point Sony called him in and said ‘how’s about an album then’. Did you decide to make this album following your own appearance on the Daft Punk album, or was the idea already there?
Well Pharrell was still in business, right?
He was off the radar though — he hadn’t had a huge hit for a few years.
Well I hadn’t had a hit for THIRTY years! (Laughs) But I’d been doing some some DJing, and I’d got management, and management said: "To do better at DJing, you need an album." And suddenly I had three offers for an album. Quite good offers, too — because to do an album with big acts can be costly. So the offers were quite big. If you think, I’m 74 and there are thousands of kids who are 18 or 20, they’re talented, they’re eager to work. So I must say I was surprised to get not just one offer but three.
How did you approach making the album? A lot of your older fans probably want something that sounds like your early work, whereas as a producer you probably want to prove you can compete with current producers. And maybe there's a third angle too: you also want to make something completely different and new.
Yes. At the very beginning, people suggested that I should do something in the old style. ‘Get Lucky’ had been so big — they thought I should do a disco dance song. But I just didn’t want to do it, because I did it so often in the past, and I know I can do other stuff. Plus I’m the co-inventor of electronic music so I have the right to use that too! (Laughs) So I decided to do an album with modern sounds — EDM sounds and electronica — but blend it with a bit of retro. Like strings, and guitars. I think the combination is quite good. It’s not EDM in the bad sense of EDM, but the tracks are quite modern.
So there's the Sia song, ‘Deja Vu’, which is probably the best of the lot, and sounds like a classic disco song. Whereas the Mikky Ekko one has more EDM influence.
Yes, and I think it works quite well.
And you’ve recorded a cover of [SONG TITLE WITHHELD AT GIORGIO'S VERY POLITE REQUEST] with Britney, right?
HOW DID YOU KNOW? She wanted that song. (Looking troubled) Where did you hear it‽ I mean as long as I didn’t tell you, it’ll be fine. I don’t want to get in trouble! (Laughs) But yes. She didn’t call me, but she called my management and said, “do you think Giorgio’s interested in doing that song?” I mean it’s a great song. I came up with the chords, I added some stuff that’s not on the original — a bridge, for instance. It’s more than just a remake. Then she called me and wanted me to go to the studio to record it, but I was on a plane to Europe so I didn’t record those vocals [in person]. But she’s coming back, hopefully in the next few days, to record that bridge that I did.
So it’s a cover but it’s also a new song?
I added quite a lot of stuff actually — one melody in the chorus, which repeats, and one bridge. It’s old, but I consider it a new song.
And Britney’s happy with it?
Oh I’m sure if she wasn’t, I’d know! On the first mix I sent her she had some comments, which I agreed. That was a song which a lot of musicians worked independently on — I had my version, which I did with Patrick [Jordan-Patrikios] my co-producer, but I was not happy with myself. So I gave it to a group of guys in Germany, then I wasn’t sure, so I gave it to another musician I liked, and then finally I got everything together and put it together. It’s like a worldwide connected internet song! But I’m going to see her soon, and I hope she finds time to do it! If she can’t sing that bridge, I’ll have to take it out.
Could you add another featured artist to it, singing the bridge?
Now THAT'S an idea… To have a known singer, just to do the bridge. Hm. I’ll have to call my guys now. But who could it be?
How about Lady Gaga?
I was supposed to be in the studio with her a week ago, but I got a cold. I’ll see her when I’m back. I have about five or six tracks, just basic ideas. Drums, keyboard, bass. I’m going to be surprised, I think — I don’t have a clue about the way she’s recording. Will she play the piano? Will I?
So did she call you and say, “I want something that sounds like…”
No. I met her about two years ago. She loved me — the usual! (Laughs) And I did a remix for her last year — I did two versions and she took the more traditional of the two.
Are these sessions for her album, or yours?
This is for her new album — that’s the intention. I was hoping that maybe I can convince her to have one of the songs for my album. If I could convince her, well that would be incredible.
From what I’ve seen of her she can be quite spontaneous — if the mood takes her to do something fun, she’ll do it.
Maybe! Maybe. If I have a good track that could fit my album but not necessarily hers, that could be ideal.
What’s the best BPM?
Right now, 128. I love it.
You mentioned earlier that you hadn’t done much for thirty years. But before that, you had a run where you were huge.
Yes, it was about ’76 to ’86 — about a decade.
And a decade’s still a long time, considering most producers fall out of favour in half that time when scenes and sounds move on.
Yeah, but I could have done much better.
Well, for instance, in ’82, I was on top of the world — but I decided I wanted to do art, so I moved to New York and did big neon art. If I’d wanted I could have worked so much more [on music], and probably better. Even before I retired, I was half-retired already: I had enough money, I had enough hits. But I’m sure I could have continued until now. Musically I know what I can do. When disco went out, I didn’t die! I mean Nile Rodgers is still sad that disco went out, because it was his life, but I went on to score movies, I did music for the Olympics, I did the World Cup…
The Animals Of Farthing Wood!
Yes! I even did a religious song! Just a few years ago I was at a wedding in a church in Italy and people were singing it — I thought, “I know this song”. It was one of mine!
And you mentioned retirement. Did you formally retire? Some producers find that one day they notice that the phone’s not ringing as much as it used to. And then one day…
…it doesn’t ring at all. I mean with me, being between Los Angeles and Italy, going backwards and forwards, you lose contact. And with movie soundtracks, people don’t run after you if you’re not there. Unless you’re John Williams. So I was in and out and that was one of the problems. But even in '82 I never really wanted to. If Jerry Bruckheimer hadn’t begged me to do the music for Flashdance I’d probably still be in New York. I was kind of getting tired. And that’s when I faded out — but I was happy.
Speaking of fades, of the five upcoming songs I’ve heard from your new album, four of them fade at the end.
You don’t like that?
Obviously you’re the expert here but I do prefer songs that end with a bang.
Well I can remix them for you. But I couldn’t touch the Sia song — I can’t make a different ending for that. She would kill me. She’s in charge and that’s it. And the Kylie song's done. Er…
How about the Charli XCX one, 'Diamonds'?
Yeah. I could do a different ending. Okay, I’ll do it for you. I’ll give you two actually — the Charli XCX song and there’s a great one with a girl called Marlene. Okay. I’ll rearrange two songs. And maybe the Britney Spears one too…
'Britney featuring Lady Gaga', don’t forget.
Do you really think I can ask her?
Well she's hinted on Twitter that she still wants to work with Britney.
Can you imagine that she would just do an eight bar part? Hm…
You did some occasional mixes here and there before the Daft Punk album put you back into the spotlight. Were there any points where you tried to get back into music properly, and found it harder than expected?
Not really. I think, by becoming a DJ before the Daft Punk album, I could probably have got some interest from some record companies anyway. In fact before Daft Punk I got an offer for an album, but it was an offer from Spain and I just didn’t want to do it. It came from a guy I didn’t like. So I said no! Obviously after Daft Punk I got those three major offers to make an album, and I decided to go with Sony.
When you were doing promo around the Daft Punk album you didn’t have a moustache. But now it's back! Is this your way of getting back into character?
That’s my wife! I hated that moustache. I had the moustache in the 80s, and I hated it even then but I couldn’t get rid of it. But then one day, I remember, I was in New York with a girlfriend, and she said to me, “why don’t you just cut it off?” And in a second, I did it. I’d been thinking of doing it for years, and suddenly it was gone. But my wife is the biggest fan of that moustache. She’s 22 years younger than me and in the 80s she was dancing to the sounds I made with a moustache. When I started again, she said, “Giorgio, you have to get your moustache back.” I said, “I don’t want to!” But she convinced me.
People do want the moustache. Your wife’s right about this.
I’ll tell you for sure, once I do finally retire, the moustache is going for good.
There's a great story about when you first sent 'Love To Love You Baby' to Donna Summer’s record label. The head of the label played it continuously at a party he was hosting, and I think it's fair to suggest that he and his guests were fairly 'refreshed' at this party. He subsequently asked you to make the song longer. When you sent him back a version that was 17 minutes long, were you taking the piss?
(Laughs) I LOVED the idea. Just the concept of having something new like that — nobody had one whole side of an album with one song. Secondly, it was relatively easy. And the fact that it was 17 minutes was the reason for its success. It was played in discotheques and especially in the gay community they LOVED it. I loved the whole thing.
Do you think the Daft Punk album might have been better if there were more songs you could dance to?
It couldn’t have been much better because it was so good. But yeah, you’re right.
Finally, are you familiar with the Glade Plugins — those things you plug into the wall, which squirt air freshener into your room?
Do you think it would be good if you could buy those, but rather than air freshener they were filled with poppers? And if when you walked past, they blasted out poppers and played the ‘I Feel Love’ riff? Instead of it being a room odoriser you could market it as a Room Morodorizer.
(Laughs) Is it dangerous? You’re talking about the one that gets your heart moving? I’ve used poppers once, maybe two or three times, in my life. It’s too much! How would this work? You would have it at home?
Yes. Every time you walk past, no matter what time of the day or night, it bangs out a load of poppers and the ‘I Feel Love’ riff at full volume.
The problem is, surely you wouldn’t even notice it? You have to inhale the poppers, but they would come out near your feet.
Maybe the idea needs some refinement.
Give me your phone number and let’s talk sometime. This could be the end of civilisation!