Giorgio Moroder: 'Sylvester Stallone wanted Bob Dylan to sing on a Rambo movie'

The pioneering disco producer couldn’t make that collaboration happen – but he has got a new track with the late Donna Summer coming soon

Hi Giorgio! You're coming over to London to DJ at a festival. Does it feel strange to take up DJing at 67?

I love it. I love it! When I was first asked to DJ, I think four years ago, I thought: "No way, no way – I'm a composer." But when I first started out, I was a DJ. I was a composer and a singer and would go out at weekends with my tape and sing and then play some records. I had a contract with a disco dance organisation and would make 400 or 500 marks for the weekend. Then 18 months ago, a friend who works at Louis Vuitton asked me to do about 15 minutes DJing on a catwalk show for the men's winter fashions, and I liked it. Then Elton John's Aids Foundation asked me to DJ in Cannes for a benefit and I liked that too. Then Red Bull asked me to play in New York. It had a discotheque, but it was too small, so it moved it to a bigger one, and I had about 1,200 people. it went from there. I played in Japan: I think there were about 10,000 people there. Then I went to Mexico City and, according to the promoter, there were 40,000, although I think it was less. I play mostly my own songs. I just finished a new track with Donna Summer [who died last year], which she recorded about three years ago, just a little demo, but I've cut it up and added some new chords and stuff. Then I have two new instrumentals as well.

You started out playing bass and guitar and making schlager, German bubblegum pop. What drew you to the synthesiser?

I did one or two bubblegum songs (1), which I loved by the way. But I heard the album of Walter Carlos called Switched on Bach, and was intrigued that it was all done with a computer, with a synthesiser, so I researched and found an acquaintance, a classical composer, who had one of the modular Moogs, the big ones. I think it was the second Moog out. He had a great engineer, who knew how to connect the cable, so that was my intro into the synthesiser world. I think Son of My Father (2) was the first pop song with a synthesiser.

You also made an experimental synthesiser album, Einzelganger.

I think it was in '75. I'd completely forgotten about it, but I listened to it a year ago, and thought: "Wow, this is not too bad, I had some interesting sounds." I guess I wanted to do something new. I liked all those guys: Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre. It wasn't a commercial success, but I guess it got me a lot of experience working with a synthesiser and some effects.

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And then you met Donna Summer …

In Munich. She was not famous, but she was part of the musical Hair, which they performed in Germany. She spoke German quite well. Pete Bellotte, my co-producer, and I needed some backup singers with real English, no accent, and so we found her and the two other girls, I forgot who they were, and we were really impressed by Donna. We said, if we have a song that she can do, we will call her, so we had the idea of doing a song called The Hostage (3), and that's how it started.

Summer claimed that her entire 1977 double album Once Upon a Time was recorded in one three-day session, without sleep, and that she was hospitalised with exhaustion afterwards. Is that true?

No! [thinks] Maybe she sang it in three days. But it took us about two weeks. That's to compose, write the lyrics, record and mix, which compared to today is pretty fast.

You survived the disco backlash remarkably well.

Well, I was lucky to have that song, I Feel Love. Alan Parker, the director of Midnight Express, loved it. There's a thing in Midnight Express where the kid is running away from the police, and Parker just said: "Giorgio, give me a song in the style of I Feel Love, like with the bassline and things, and make it work for that scene. The rest, you use the synthesiser, just do whatever you want." That was scary, because I had never done soundtracks before, but it went well and I got my first Oscar, (4) and that opened up a new life in the film business.

There's a story that you attempted to collaborate with Bob Dylan, which seems a bit unlikely.

That's right. It was actually Sylvester Stallone who asked me to ask him to sing a song for a Rambo movie. So I composed a song. I wanted him to write the lyrics, of course. I went to see him in Malibu, where he had a beautiful house. He listened to it about four times. I'm not sure if he didn't like the music that much, or if he wasn't interested because of the nature of the movie, which was totally anti-Russian, anti-communist. I think he didn't feel like being involved with a movie such as Rambo. It was nice to meet him, and it could have worked, but it didn't work out.

Why did you wind down your musical career in the late 80s?

I wanted to get into art. I did some neon stuff. I worked in, not computer-generated, but computer manipulation of pictures. Oh God, I did so many things. I did a car. I was involved with a sports car called Cizeta-Moroder, which was the first 16-cylinder car, beautiful. I think we sold about eight cars, and then in 92 the economic crash came and we had to close the shop. (5) Then I started to play golf and, you know, having a nice life, half-retired. I worked for a year on a short movie where I used only pictures, only photos, for which I won an award at the Festival in Palm Springs. I designed a bottle of cognac. So I did a lot of things, except music.

You also designed a pyramid.

Yeah. In Dubai. I worked with two famous architects and we came up with the idea of a residence that was a very high pyramid, hollow inside, and probably a little bit too high for the time. There was a lot of interest, but then the Sultan of Dubai decided to do the Burj al Arab hotel (6) instead, so I guess his attention went to that project.

You've said your appearance on the Daft Punk album Random Access Memories put you "back in business".

Suddenly a lot of people want to work with me. I've done a song with Avicii. I've worked with David Guetta. I just spoke to Nile Rodgers, who is reviving Chic, so I'm going to collaborate with him on one song, and hopefully we will talk about him playing on one of mine. I'm producing kind of an underground group from New York called Class Actress. I'm starting on that when I get back from London. So, I have a lot of stuff going on right now.

Giorgio Moroder is appearing at Leaf, on 8 November.


Back to article Moroder's schlager hits included Looky Looky, Bla Bla Diddly, Moody Trudy, Reesy Beesy and Doo-Bee-Doo-Bee-Doo.

Back to article A 1971 single by Moroder, taken to No 1 in the UK the following year by Chicory Tip.

Back to article This song, about a woman whose husband is taken hostage, was on Summer's 1974 debut, Lady of the Night. The wife pays the ransom, but the kidnappers murder her husband anyway.

Back to article He subsequently won two more, for Flashdance and Top Gun, as well as three Grammys. He has also been knighted in his native Italy.

Back to article There's one currently on sale online for $600,000 (£374,000).

Back to article The fourth tallest hotel in the world.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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