Moroder reveals his rules for a 40-year career: say yes to divas, no to drugs and rock bands.
How did a 75-year-old become one of the hottest DJs in the EDM scene? Giorgio Moroder is enjoying a late-career renaissance, while a new generation of electronic musicians honors him as a pioneer in the field -- a producer and songwriter who created Donna Summer's string of smash hits in the 1970s ("Hot Stuff," "I Feel Love," "Last Dance") and also has worked with Blondie, David Bowie, Janet Jackson, Elton John, Barbra Streisand and, more recently, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Skrillex. The plaudits in his distinguished career include three Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, four Grammys and more than 100 gold and platinum records.
The mischievous, Italian-born Moroder met with Billboard to discuss his new album, Deja Vu -- the first under his own name in more than 30 years, out June 16 on RCA -- his disdain for drugs and other wisdom he has gathered through the decades.
EMBRACE YOUR LIMITATIONS "I'm not a great musician. I'm OK to play chords, I know a little bit of the laws of harmony, but when it comes to technique, I'm not good. And I'm happy about that."
KNOW WHOM TO CALL "I make nice demos, and for that I only need four fingers. Then I use the best musicians I can find."
HEED YOUR PROGENY "Two years ago, David Guetta was lecturing me: 'You have no idea what you're getting into. You find a drum sound, and in six months, it's out.' The problem now is, every EDM song has incredible sounds."
KICK OUT THE ENTOURAGE "If you're convinced you have a hit song and the singer isn't convinced, the only thing you can do is say, 'Trust me.' With Donna Summer, it was difficult to get her to do the moaning on 'Love to Love You Baby.' She did a little on the three-minute single, but when I did the 17-minute version, there was a long section where I needed more. That didn't work so well at first. There were too many people in the control room -- her husband, a technician, a friend, musicians. She couldn't let loose. So I threw everybody out. I took all the lights down. And suddenly, she did it. Once it was recorded, I took the tape away before she could come in and erase it."
DON'T WORK WITH BANDS "I usually don't work with rock groups. [I co-wrote and produced] Blondie's 'Call Me.' There were always fights. I was supposed to do an album with them after that. We went to the studio, and the guitarist was fighting with the keyboard player. I called their manager and quit."
REPEAT: DON'T WORK WITH BANDS "I want to come in, be in charge and have the songs ready. Do you remember A-ha? They came to Los Angeles to record with me. They were supposed to come to the studio at one o'clock to start, and at six o'clock, they still were not there. The next day, same thing. So I left. Life is too short to work with bands."
KEEP YOUR PASSPORT HANDY "My first hit ["Love to Love You Baby"] was in 1976. Donna wanted to move from Germany to L.A., so I did too, in 1980, when I was 40. If you make it in America, you make it worldwide."
JUST SAY NO "I'm probably the only guy in Los Angeles who never took coke. I'd come to the studio around noon, work until seven, then go home and have dinner. The second I was out the door, piles of coke would come out."
GO THE EXTRA MILE FOR BRITNEY "On my new album, Britney Spears wanted to do the Suzanne Vega song 'Tom's Diner.' The song doesn't have a big range, and I added a bridge and some instrumental stuff. Britney sounds so good, you would hardly recognize her."
GREED IS GOOD "Money is very important in a music career. The more you make, the more active you are, and the more you want to do good songs. [In the early '70s] I was all by myself in Berlin, and didn't have any way to make money except to have a hit. I had one relatively fast, but it took almost a year for the money to come in. You have to eat."
DON'T SELL YOURSELF SHORT "Publishing is for life. Keep as much of it as you can. I sold my publishing in the late '80s, because I got a big offer. My excuse is, who knew there would be so many new revenue streams? All the commercials use music now. I tried to buy it back, from Warner/Chappell. They said, 'No. We don't sell -- we buy.' "