Giorgio Moroder’s Beat Goes On first appeared in DINOSAUR Vol 2, Issue 1, under the title “The Beat Goes On.” Interview conducted by Kurt B Reighley. This is Part II of that interview.
Missed opportunities aside, the producer sounds unruffled as he recalls the many months spent assembling his first studio record in thirty years. It helps that music technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the mid-1970s, when the giant, monophonic synthesizers Moroder used on disco classics including Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” required constant retuning and frequent overdubs. Nowadays he dispatches half-finished tracks around the world with the push of a “Send” button. And in the case of “Déjà Vu,” the album’s hook-laden second single, he didn’t have to do much more.
“I don’t know where or when, but Sia composed the top line, wrote the lyrics, sang the song… she even provided all the harmonies,” he admits. The version she sent back required a few tweaks and mixing, but little else. “I didn’t have to worry in the studio at all.”
Nor did he have to fly around the world to work with his superstar guests. But on at least one occasion, they traveled to him. “Kylie lives between Australia and London, and I was quite surprised when she came to Los Angeles to finish a little bit of the song [‘Right Here, Right Now’] – which was absolutely not necessary – but also to shoot the video. If the director wanted something, she was ready. A real professional… nothing like a diva.”
The same could be said of Giovanni Giorgio Moroder. The Italian-born septuagenarian has been working hard since he started as an upright bass player with touring combos in European clubs during the mid-1960s. By the time he met Donna Summer in 1974, Moroder – and his busy mustache – had already garnered modest attention with singles including “Looky Looky,” a 1969 pastiche of bubblegum and The Beach Boys, and Chicory Tip’s 1972 version of his glam-rock stomper “Son Of My Father.”
“Giorgio by Moroder,” his collaboration on Daf Punk’s 2014 Album of the Year Random Access Memories, propelled him back into the limelight, but his uncial influence has been audible even when his profile remained low. Want proof? Play New Order’s “Blue Monday” next to “Our Love” from Summer’s Bad Girls. Th drum patterns sound identical. Moroder’s 1983 soundtrack for Scarface remains a favorite in hip-hop circles; Kanye West sampled “Tony’s Theme” prominently on his 2012 single, “Mercy.”
Likewise, Moroder’s trademark arpeggio bass lines continue to pop up in the work of contemporary club acts including Robyn and The Juan MacLean. “That’s my legacy,” he admits. “Even in the EDM songs, the dance songs, a lot of people are still inspired by that sound.”
His less familiar work also has its fans: Earlier this year, Zola Jesus tweeted appreciatively about his out-of-print 1975 album Einzelgänger. Today, Moroder shares her enthusiasm for this early work (he recently posted the entire album on SoundCloud), but that wasn’t always true. “That was one that didn’t do anything when it came out, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s stick with what you really know and don’t experiment.’ Until two years later, when I did ‘I Feel Love,’ and that changed everything.”
Moroder fared fine after disco bottomed out, too, having transitioned smoothly into the film industry in 1978 with his Academy Award-winning score for Midnight Express. He would go on to win tow more Oscar statuettes in the 1980s, both for Best Original Song, with the U.S. chart-toppers “Flashdance… What A Feeling” by Irene Cara and “You Take My Breath Away” by Berlin. To his credit, Moroder songs like “The NeverEnding Story” and his 1984 pairing with Human League singer Phil Oakey, “Together in Electric Dreams,” have held up much better than the films that spawned them – in large part due to sing-along hooks.
“I’m still a little old-fashioned in that sense,” says Moroder of his unerring ear for strong melodies. “I construct a song with an intro, verse, chorus, back to the second verse… whereas now with EDM, it’s slightly different: eight bars of one melody, then eight bars of a different melody. There’s less buildup. I like it when you have a verse, and then, hopefully, that big chorus comes in.”
Ultimately, that songwriting craft remains the No. 1 reason Moroder’s music holds up three or four decades later. Like the narrator of “Cat People,” his best work seems impervious to age. “I’ll be traveling and in a hotel, and suddenly hear ‘Flashdance’ or ‘Call Me,’ and I must say, that feels great.”
Interview by Kurt B. Reighley. Illustrations by Jim Winters. Visit www.jimwinters.com