With “Giorgio by Moroder” a tribute song by French electronic duo Daft Punk from their seminal album Random Access Memories, the granddaddy and apostle of 70s and 80s disco Giorgio Moroder was busy answering calls that ended his 23 year hibernation.
Having received three Oscars, three Grammys, and three Golden Globes to his name, the 75-year-old legendary Italian composer and producer has got his chops intact, what with contemporary superstars half a century younger than him eager to collaborate. Déjà vu, his latest recording adventure after 1992, has the likes of Sia crooning the title track and Britney Spears doing a rendition of American artist Suzanne Vega’s 1984 classic “Tom’s Diner”. Collaborations with Lady Gaga and Rihanna are also in motion.
So how has disco evolved since the eighties?
In a way his prophecy has come true when he says, “It has evolved quite a bit. The synthesizer has now become an extremely important instrument,”.
Moroder’s phenomenal success can be traced back to hits such as Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” which still resonates within the retro playlist. Not to forget his pervasive soundtrack for Scarface and collaborations with stalwarts ranging from Freddie Mercury and Cher to David Bowie and Barbra Streisand.
Ask him about the current acts he enjoys and he says, “Working with Daft Punk was a good experience. I think all the artists today have their own style of music. I enjoy all of them because they are unique in their own way. I like Skrillex, Avicii, Rihanna and Sia.”
It’s also worth mentioning that one could hear his signature synthesizer strains and disco beat shuffles in the soundtracks of slapstick and screwball Indian movies of the eighties and early nineties. Chances are you’ve heard his brand of music before even knowing who he was.
Ahead of his Indian debut for Johnnie Walker The Journey, along with American post-rock band Explosions in the Sky and ambient music act Tycho, Moroder spoke to us about his return to the scene, touring around the world at 75 and playing to a young audience.
23 years in hibernation is a long time. How are you coping with the technological advancement and evolution of disco in the electronic music scene today?
I like it – the EDM shows are becoming real big. They have great videos, great sound, great shows, great dancers, great lighting. They are becoming the biggest, like Madonna who had the biggest shows. It has evolved quite a bit. The synthesizer has now become an extremely important instrument. People prefer playing real drums. A lot of interesting instruments are now a part of the music scene.
If it wasn’t for the synthesizers and drum machines, would you have been a musician?
Yes I would have because I used to play bass and was very active with my music for 15 years before the synth came into existence. I have a pretty good idea about live music.
How’s your frequency with the younger generation of electronic music lovers when you’re spinning your set from behind the console
Oh I love it! It feels great and the younger the audience the more I like it. It feels great to see the youth enjoy my songs which were created 30 years ago. It is a lot of fun and great to see the youngsters appreciate my kind of music. My son is 26 years old and we discuss his taste in music quite often. I like to understand their choice in music.
What’s the one thing that differentiates the current generation of dance music listeners from the audience of your generation?
The youth today understand and appreciate music of all genres. I think they understand music a little better which is good.
What has been the craziest thing you’ve done during a show?
One time in Mexico I asked my wife to bring me a glass of wine and I introduced her to the audience and they asked us to kiss and I did! I don’t know if it’s crazy but it was memorable.
You’ve said that you didn’t have much of a social life in the eighties. Has it changed now?
No it’s the same. When you work so hard as a DJ you travel, you don’t have time, you work in the studio. When you come home you’re just happy to be home - so my social life could be a little better but I’m not complaining.
What are you looking forward to during your visit here?
I love seeing people from different parts of the world react to my music – I change the set based on their reactions. My music is influenced by my surroundings and its sounds and traditions. I’m glad I’ve finally made it to India. It is going to be very exciting. I’ve played some great sets on my travels and I can’t wait to feel the energy India has to offer.
Touring when you were young, and touring at 75, what has changed?
When I was a musician at 20-25, we played for months in one club or hotel. We traveled but only once a month, and not intercontinental. But now it’s absolutely crazy – I am in a plane about 16 times in 22-23 days. It’s really a lot more now and very international.
What was the recording process for DejaVu. The last time you recorded an album was in 1992….
First I start composing the songs and once I have the songs, I’ll think of who would be the best singer for this. That’s how it works – first compose, and then decide who to approach for the song.
The management and my record company were contacting various artists of the label. We got in touch with the artistes interested, and then came up with ideas for the songs. These were presented and a lot of the artistes did their own top line, wrote the lyrics, sang it, there were background voices. It all worked out quite well.
Giorgio Moroder performs on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at Mehboob Studio. Entry: Rs 3000 onwards.
By MOHAN KK