Besides novelty sunglasses and a shimmery red button-up, his silver hair, bushy mustache, and mannerisms are more akin to one’s grandpa than, say, Skrillex. But the night’s marquee act is Giorgio Moroder, electronic music pioneer, disco titan, composer, and at this stage of his career, headlining DJ.“The range of my audience is incredible,” he says. “I see young kids and older people, sometimes people in their forties, fifties, and even sixties! It’s fantastic to see people around the world dancing to my songs.” He’s now seventy-five and frequently tours—this time with a laptop loaded with hits from his opulent catalogue. On being called the oldest touring DJ, his response: “I don’t know if being the oldest is a good or bad thing [laughs]. But I really think it’s wonderful, if anything.”
Born in Southern Italy in 1940, Moroder grew up on a bevy of American hits — Paul Anka and Elvis Presley mostly, but “African American singers” were his favorite, according to him. Beginning with guitar, he released a paucity of singles in his early twenties as simply “Giorgio.” By twenty-six he left for Germany to pursue music on a serious full-time level. “There was nothing for me in Italy besides family,” he says.
In Berlin, his career bloomed with Oasis Records, an imprint he also helped establish. Once the label grew, he aligned himself with future disco powerhouse Donna Summer who was in Europe on extended stay, modeling and dabbling as a backup singer. The two worked in tandem, eventually yielding incredibly huge hits with “Love To Love You,” “Last Dance” and a few others that swept Europe for many summers. Moroder, simultaneous to all this, had opened Musicland, a recording studio that eventually housed greats like Queen, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. He would later often mention how proud he was of his studio’s long run as a mecca for outstanding talent
Running Musicland proved lucrative, as was adhering to a burgeoning interest in electronic equipment. And while contemporaries like Kraftwerk were also highly experimental, particularly with drum machines, Moroder strengthened the era with prolific game-changing releases: the swirling synth-splendor From Here To Eternity, as well as E=MC2, the first album to be entirely digitally recorded.
By the 1970s, Hollywood noticed his successes and came calling. With opportunities brimming, Moroder moved to the States and began orchestrating paramount soundtracks and movie scores. He earned himself an Academy Award in 1979 for Best Original Score for the film Midnight Express. Other classics American Gigolo, Top Gun, Scarface, and 1984’s restoration of Metropolis, are all credited or co-credited to Moroder.
The 80s were a mixture of high profile collaborations — David Bowie (“Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”) and Blondie (“Call Me”) — and more work in film. 1984 also marked his international standout with a track that would define him many years later, “The Neverending Story.” Despite written as the film of the same name’s main theme, it became a worldwide sensation. Nowadays, decades since its inception, it’s become living nostalgia with endless remix credits to its name.
Between 1985 and 1992, he understandably halted prolificness, releasing only four solo albums with occasional, smaller collaborations. He says, simply: “I needed a break.” After a lifetime of pushing projects he relished the royalties from his thirty-plus years of triumph. In 1992, he released a fourteenth studio album to his name, the aptly titled Forever Dancing. Despite having Donna Summer on a much-ballyhooed reunion track, and despite the support of die-hards, it was released to critical-yet-quiet acclaim.
“Then one day a few years back, the Daft Punk guys called,” he says. “I had of course heard of them and was a fan but had no idea why they called me. It was random.” Daft Punk is an admitted and obvious spawn of Moroder and wanted to record a tribute track with their hero. “They basically asked me if I wanted to collaborate for their new album and I said, ‘Sure, when you need something call me back.’” He continues: “I was in Paris at the time and they said to come to the studio when I have time. All I really did when I arrived was talk about my life.”
Daft Punk’s juggernaut, Random Access Memories, not only soundtracked 2013’s summer months but also reintroduced Moroder to a new generation of dance music fans. The song, titled “Giorgio by Moroder,” is a 9-minute opus chronicling his life and influence, expertly anchored by arrangements that align with his different phases. “I was very happy when I heard it. It’s phenomenal.” It jumpstarted his current watershed moment, a revival of sorts as a traveling DJ. Last year he released Déjà Vu, his fifteenth studio album and first official solo work in over two decades. He also gigs year round.