Of all the delicious moments on Daft Punk’s 2013 Random Access Memories—from Pharrell urging the world to “Get Lucky” to Julian Casablancas mewling “Instant Crush”—one guest vocalist stood out sharply from the fray, because he wasn’t even singing. Instead, Giorgio Moroder appears on the nine-minute track “Giorgio by Moroder” in something of a fireside chat, reminiscing in his Alpine lilt about his musical aspirations as a teenager in Ortisei and his introduction to the synthesizer, which he presciently knew was “the sound of the future.”
By Moby, photo Sebastian Kim
It speaks to Moroder’s iconic status that our robot overlords traced his life so reverently—and hints at the stories Moroder could tell us, as the man who had such a big hand in shaping disco in the 1970s. As a young musician living in Munich with a keen fascination with synthesizers, Moroder met a then-unknown American singer named Donna Summer in 1974 and partnered with her to merge electronic innovations in music with pop sensibilities. It was the funky, futuristic synth hooks on “Love to Love You Baby,” “I Feel Love,” and “Hot Stuff” that helped to identify disco as inclusive, sexy, and modern. With Summer and his production partner, Pete Bellotte, Moroder was irrepressible, at one point releasing a new album nearly every six months and a parade of gold and platinum singles. With his sound well honed, he expanded his oeuvre into soundtracks, his first being the seminal score for Alan Parker’s 1978 prison drama Midnight Express, for which he won an Oscar for Original Score. And he continued to experiment with electronic studio technologies, including his entirely digitally recorded 1979 album E=MC², one of nearly a dozen solo records that he’s released.
As disco ebbed in the 1980s, Moroder’s work continued to thrive on the silver screen; he brought his grand, impressionistic electronic soundscapes to films such as Cat People (1982), Scarface (1983), Flashdance (1983), and a reconstruction of Fritz Lang’s silent-era classic Metropolis (1984). He also continued to create hits throughout the decade, producing and co-writing songs for David Bowie, Blondie, and Freddie Mercury, among others. And he paired up with Summer one more time for the song “Carry On,” which won the first-ever Grammy for Best Dance Recording in 1998.
Since Daft Punk nudged Moroder back into the spotlight, synthpop in all its permutations has come back around to one of its architects in a big way, with everyone from Lil Wayne sampling his music to Coldplay asking him to remix one of their songs. Now at 74, Moroder is officially unretired-two agencies rep him for DJ gigs all over the world, and this month, he releases his first studio album in three decades, Déjà Vu (RCA), which features collaborations with Sia, Charli XCX, Britney Spears, and Kylie Minogue.
For all this, as he tells his longtime admirer Moby, he’ll graciously accept the title of “the pope” of electronic dance music—but go easy on that “grandfather.”