For ‘Deja-Vu,’ the ‘Fa­ther of Disco’ re­turns to stu­dio with new crop of stars

The Washington Post Sunday - - MUSIC - BY AL­LI­SON STEWART style@wash­post.com Stewart is a free­lance writer.

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.

Re­ally?

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.

KATHYN HAN­COCK

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.”

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