For an international press that widely hails him the godfather of modern disco and now even EDM, it’s difficult to believe the man could do anything he would deem regretful. But interviews with the 73-year-old Moroder have continued to accumulate into a large pile of statement-contradiction-shame-statement for the past forty years. And he’s okay with it.
Moroder’s not unlike most of us, though: thinking one way, then changing our minds a few years later. Only, we don’t have a musical and recorded document of everything we’ve ever thought, made, and said, and most of us have never thought, made, or said as much as Giorgio Moroder. Take for instance, the first video here, a sort of promo for Moroder’s synth-based music, after he abandoned studio musicians for electronics-only compositions. In the video, there’s a shy tinge to some of his words when he mentions he doesn’t enjoy performing live. He forgets words. He’s not great at playing the keyboard. We might think it’s just Moroder being humble, making excuses for himself, but watching the performance from his first inception of pop music with his single “Looky, Looky,” you might find it difficult to endure the car crash of clumsy movement and hilariously mismatched English lipsynching. At one point, it looks as though he’s trying to find a place to rest his non-microphone hand and goes for the pocket, but stops himself. The Italian version (“Luky, Luky”) is far less confusing and makes more sense out of The Rivingtons “Papa Oom Mow Mow” sample, as the English version seems appropriately strained for a man who can speak Italian, German, French, and English, and only learned English for the sole purpose of making “continental” pop.
Moroder—born Hansjörg Moroder, then taking the Italian Giovanni Giorgio Moroder, then simply Giorgio— lived in the Dolomite Hills of Italy for most of his young life. The area lay on the northern border and comprises the southern limestone portion of the Alps. In the First World War, the Austro-Hungary border ran right through the Dolomites, and the gorgeous mountain terrain suddenly transformed into an intricate series of long-distance walking trails used by armed forces from every country in the war. And maybe growing up in this gray area of the battle is why Moroder ultimately settled in Switzerland for his permanent home after his successes in Germany and the US. A truly “continental” guy, it’s not surprising he was under fire in his early career for collaborating (musically) with the Germans, then under fire from the Germans for ripping off a German sound.
In the 70s when Moroder had completed his first work with Donna Summer, Kraftwerk’s fans began a heated battle in the press, claiming Moroder had stolen their precise German sounds and that his music wasn’t “art,” while Kraftwerk was true art. And from the other side of the world, the US loved his Summer collaborations, but questions of his too-sexy edge and use of a black singer brought up moral quandaries for a puritan America.
In fact, Moroder has always shrugged off all of these criticisms. Told he’s manipulating Donna Summer? Well, it was Summer who after all wrote the lyrics to “Love to Love You, Baby,” the whisper-voiced disco hit that launched her career (both Moroder and Summer did admit later that it was kind of an embarrassing song for her to sing, but it was a direct attempt to be campy and play off of Serge Gainsbourg’s success with “Je T’aime”). Told he’s ripping off another artist? Well, yes. And he’s completely fine with it as long as he can make it his own. Even today, when numerous artists sample his work without credit or royalties, including New Order’s use of “Our Love” for “Blue Monday” in the 80s, Moroder shrugs. He says he’s in agreement with Keith Richards on the subject, that a musician doesn’t steal good music. They steal something to make it better, and that’s all that it’s about. And maybe that’s why his grand introduction to sports car legacy—the Cizeta—is actually just a rejected design for Lamborghini that Moroder found fascinating for its blatant futurism.
While other sports cars in 1988 were blossoming into rounded bodies without the flashy pop-up headlamps, the Cizeta went in the opposite direction, boasting not just two pop-up lamps, but four. The wedge shape was even wedgier, and its two radiators were added to presumably keep the engine cool when you were driving Highway 1 at 200mph, though sadly no one ever did, because the Cizeta was never approved for driving in the US. In 2012, Zampolli, the designer featured in the news segment, was heavily fined for sneaking a Cizeta into the US, and the $700,000 car was immediately impounded. Only 12 were ever made, and Moroder, in typical Moroder fashion, slowly and quietly dissolved his involvement with the supercar when he realized he’d made a mistake. Oh well.
Another noted mistake? His Freddie Mercury collaboration on “Love Kills” for Moroder’s Metropolis reissue. Many Mercury fans speculate the Queen frontman only did the song to get the rights to the Metropolis footage for the “Radio Ga Ga” video from Moroder, who had already done the footwork to securing his own rights. Mercury’s longtime assistant Peter Freestone seems to confirm this, but it’s all still speculation. In a February 2014 interview, Moroder finally admitted that “some of the songs were not good…But then you can’t really go back and tell, for example, Freddie Mercury, ‘Let’s re-do the song.’” While he can’t re-do his Metropolis work, Moroder has found a new freedom in technology again, and has begun correcting more mistakes from the past by releasing hundreds of rare and unreleased music online that should have made it to the original cut. Within that clump of tracks is a collaboration with vocalist Beth Anderson for the Scarface soundtrack.
Beth Anderson, a frequent collaborator with Giorgio Moroder as well as Danny Elfman, rarely gets credited for her vocals. When Moroder produced The NeverEnding Story theme song for Limahl, Anderson recorded the female vocals in a US studio, then was promptly left off the credits, with Limahl’s assistant filling in as a lip syncher for most live performances. The track “The Right Combination” is one of a few gems Moroder did with Anderson that ultimately got cut from a final project, but now it’s available for stream and download on Moroder’s popular SoundCloud account page, along with basically everything the man has ever recorded, including his collaboration with Leni Riefenstahl for her last film, a documentary about undersea creatures called Underwater Impressions (2003). It’s not surprising Moroder chose to work with the famous director who still denies she was ever a Nazi. Riefenstahl has always claimed she did not care about politics, only making art, and politics got in the way. Moroder, despite his constant eschewing of an “artist” status, seems concerned only with making as well. He has no affiliations. He likes what he likes, often changes his mind later, then moves on with his life and makes something else, but if it sells, then it sells. While Moroder never did anything so questionable as to make battle hymns for the Nazis, one does get the idea that he’ll work with anyone who asks him, and if he regrets it, he’ll make no apologies.
After Daft Punk put Moroder back into mainstream music consciousness in 2013, Moroder played his first live DJ set ever for the Red Bull Academy, then promptly went on to make a deal for a live Las Vegas disco show, where he would appear on a near-nightly basis for sets. It seems safe to say he’s changed his mind about playing live. And pretty much everything else.