Giorgio Moroder: in the Moog for dancing
After years in the wilderness plotting pyramids, watches and supercars, the dance-music pioneer Giorgio Morder is back in the electronic limelight
“I didn’t hear anything again from them. They are very secretive, as we know. Three months ago they called and played me the song and I was absolutely amazed by how well it sounded.”
It’s a far cry from Moroder’s earliest recording sessions. “I remember the one for Looky Looky,” from 1969. “We were working on a four-track, and it was really tough. We would record all the tracks in stereo and then do overdubs and then do a mix and then put it back on a four-track. It was great, but it was just four tracks to work with. Then it became 16-track, and next the 24-track came along and so on, and it’s quite a development.”
Back then Moroder’s studio adventures were augmented by musicians, not machines. “The use of musicians in the 1960s and 1970s is what gives those recordings a human touch. I would be in the studio with my favourite musicians. I’d tell them the chords, set the rhythm at 110 and we would play. The keyboard player or drummer would come up an idea and there was quite a lot of collaboration.
“Now a lot of composers and producers do their own programming, and you don’t have that sense of musicians coming together. It was a much better time, because you didn’t have too many choices. Now you have a choice of maybe 1,000 bass drums, and it takes a few hours to find just one.”
But Moroder’s own sound owed much to one machine, the synthesiser. A classical composer, Eberhard Schoener, showed Moroder a Moog, and he was smitten. “It sounded so new, so different, so futuristic. I had to work out how to use this in the music I was making.”
He struck gold with Donna Summer. The late American singer was living in Munich and doing session work at his Musicland studio, in the basement of one of the city’s hotels. “She had an amazing voice, a fantastic image. To find someone like that, a beautiful, sexy American singer in Munich, was unbelievable. I was very lucky.”
That lucky streak produced a string of hits, including I Feel Love, and Moroder was cock of the walk. Film scores followed, Hollywood beckoned and Moroder moved into a mansion he called the Ice Castle, overlooking Los Angeles.
A wild time ensued, with some surreal encounters. “I did the music for one of Slyvester Stallone’s films, and he suggested doing a song with Bob Dylan for Rambo III,” Moroder says. “I went to his beautiful house in Malibu, and I played it to him and he was a little bit scared. I also don’t think he liked the idea of doing a movie with Rambo, which would have been very political with the Russians. There were many meetings like that at the time, always meetings.”
For all the work he did, Moroder thinks he could have done better. “I regret that I didn’t have a manager,” he says. “I did my own business stuff, and I didn’t need one, or at least I didn’t think I needed one. It wasn’t good, because you can’t separate out the different parts of a project. You can’t come up with 10 songs for a film and also be the one negotiating the contract.