For ‘Deja-Vu,’ the ‘Father of Disco’ returns to studio with new crop of stars
In the ’70s, when he became a legend, Italian producer-artist Giorgio Moroder had easy access to virtually any artist he wanted, such as Donna Summer, with whomhe collaborated on “Love to Love You Baby,” their feigned-multiple-orgasm-heavy early disco classic. In the ’80s, when he was a three-time Oscar-winning composer famed for feasts of bombastic, Bruckheimer-ian pop (“Flashdance,” “Top Gun”), same thing.
But when Moroder — the “Father of Disco,” an electronic music avatar and the subject-object of Daft Punk’s Grammy-winning, career-revitalizing 2013 track “Giorgio by Moroder” — began to assemble his new album, “Deja-Vu,” A-list talent was hard to come by.
Pharrell Williams said yes (“Then he got busy,” Moroder says wistfully). Chris Martin said yes, then he got busy, too. “Obviously, I had a wish list,” says Moroder, 75, on the phone from Los Angeles, “but between dreaming and doing it, there’s quite a difference.”
“Deja-Vu,” Moroder’s first album in 30 years, is nevertheless front-loaded with stars: Sia, Charli XCX, Kylie Minogue, even Britney Spears, who asked to do a cover of “Tom’s Diner,” one of her favorite songs. “I guess every singer has a dream of ‘One day I’m going to do [my favorite] song,’ ” Moroder figures. “She probably thought I was the right guy to do it.”
Was this a complicated album to put together?
Yes. When you work with nine or 10 artists, each has a different personality, a different management and record company, so the coordination is really difficult. Plus, I noticed contrary to when I worked with Donna, everyone is really busy. All the artists are doing so many different things, so coordination is very difficult now.
Do you have the same level of communication with artists that you used to? When you were in the studio with Donna Summer and you wanted her to do something differently, you could probably turn to her and tell her. These days, do you have to go through someone’s manager?
It’s not as personal. Donna and I did five or six albums, so we became friends. Sia, I did not meet her yet, so communication is much more difficult.
Donna Summer was also unknown and didn’t have a lot to lose, so she could make 22 orgasm noises. Today’s artists seem more protective of themselves.
It was such an innovative [idea]. I think Donna saw it as a funny thing to do. She thought she would do it in the form of a demo, so somebody else can do it. But once we had the incredible reaction of the record companies, we said, this is not a demo, this is a real recording.
It’s still shocking today.
Yeah. It’s definitely a moment in time. When we did the long version, in which Time magazine counted I think 78 orgasms, she kind of wanted to do it, then she was nervous because there were too many people in the studio — her husband, the engineer, my coproducer — so it didn’t work. Finally I threw everybody out and took the lights down, and she did it. I don’t know if she regretted it
later, but I had it on tape.
By the ’90s, you were semi-retired and playing golf a lot. Was that by choice?
I was doing so many things other than music. . . . I was doing computer art, CGI stuff. I did a short movie, I did music for the Olympics in 2008. I worked less in music, but I still was working on other projects.
Then Daft Punk calls, and everything changes.
Absolutely. I started to get back into the music a little bit by working as a DJ. When I worked with them and the album became such a hit, it definitely took me back into [the limelight].
They seem like they’re very nice guys.
Absolutely. I had lunch with them about 21/ years ago. They were doing the soundtrack for “Tron,” and they asked if I wanted to work with them, and I said yes, because I love them and I loved what they did. One day they called me when I was in Paris, and wanted me to come into the studio . . . and just tell the story of my life. I was talking for more than two hours. They were very friendly.
Before that, had you thought much about your place in history?
No, I never thought about that, because I knew one day somebody’s going to do it for me.
No, I’m joking. But then Daft Punk came along and they did do it for me.
Are there songs you look back on and wish you had done differently?
Oh, a thousand things, but all in all, no, I’m quite happy. Maybe some songs I could have worked a little better, but in the late ’70s and ’80s, I worked so much that obviously not every song was up to the top quality. But in general, I’m quite happy.
You were known as the “Father of Disco,” but by the time the [anti-disco movement started], you had moved on to movie work, correct?
I was lucky because when disco died, I was already doing movies. I started with “Midnight Express,” then big ones like “Scarface.” So the slowdown of the disco movement didn’t really touch me that much.
In America, we had huge bonfires and threw disco albums in them and ran them over with bulldozers. If you’re the Father of Disco, that’s got to hurt a little, right?
No (laughs). I didn’t even notice. You read a little bit, but to be honest, I wasn’t interested. Somebody told me a month later there was [an anti-disco rally] going on in Chicago. I didn’t even notice, and who cares? If people don’t like it, they don’t like it.
It’s definitely come back.
Right? I’m a little bit vindicated by that.
Italian producer-artist GiorgioMoroder collaborated with Donna Summer on the 1970s hit “Love to Love You Baby” and later won Oscars for songs in the movies “Top Gun” and “Flashdance.”