The Sound of The Future: In Conversation with Giorgio Moroder

The Sound of The Future: In Conversation with Giorgio Moroder

The disco legend spoke to V about the invention of "the Click," the state of music today, and the enduring power of "I Feel Love."

The disco legend spoke to V about the invention of "the Click," the state of music today, and the enduring power of "I Feel Love."

Text: E.R. Pulgar

Giorgio Moroder's eyes light up when he talks about the invention of "the Click." The sound that would come to define his biggest hit, Donna Summer's revolutionary disco smash "I Feel Love," is now known as a "reference pulse" to contemporary music producers. "The synthesizer didn't give me that punch, so we tried everything to get the punch in," Moroder tells V. "We had my usual drummer Keith Forsey sit down for seven or eight minutes just hitting the kick. We just tried to do something new, and we came up with the idea of doing it with the Moog. The idea was to have just a synthesizer to do all the sounds." 

The synthesizer has since become one of the main tools of the trade for most pop musicians and producers, creeping its way into everything from Depeche Mode to the electronic dance music that's been dominating the charts for most of the 2000s; for Moroder, this was the only the first step in crafting the song. "Synthesizers usually have great bass, but there were some sounds that the old Moog didn't have so we created those sounds: the snare, the high-hat, some of the was an interesting job, especially at that time."

The skeleton laid out, Moroder, Summer, and the rest of their team would go on to marry the chugging, robotic heartbeat of a Moog synthesizer to the Click, a soundscape that would transform Summer's typical disco diva delivery into something atypical, her voice wrapped in gnashing synth beats and clicks, a moan in the void. "I Feel Love" topped the UK Singles Chart in July 1977, and would remain there for four weeks.

Forty years after the pulse of "I Feel Love" was felt the world over, Moroder is as in-demand as ever. Now 77, and fresh off playing a show in Brooklyn venue Schimanski hosted by Smirnoff Sound Collective to celebrate the song's 40th anniversary, he's solidified his place as a living legend, a writer of music history, and someone who has had a seismic impact on modern electronic and pop music. "When electronic music came out, like let's say with 'I Feel Love,' that changed quite a lot. Then house came up, and all the different DJ's and music, and now it's becoming pop." This reflection could not feel more premonitory in 2017—one listen to the unabashed deep-house beats Katy Perry makes use of in "Swish Swish" can confirm that—but even in the early 2000's electronic influence was already entwining itself into the veins of modern pop. "If you check the top 50 or so in America," reflects Moroder, "They're probably 20, 30, or 40% dance music."

In his 40+ years as a producer, Moroder has gone on to work with Daft Punk, Sia, and Debbie Harry of Blondie, but continues to hold a soft spot for Summer. "Donna was certainly my favorite [to work with]; I did so much for her," he recalls. "One day I have to compute how many songs, but I think I have seventy or eighty songs with her, so plenty of work, but basically every artist I've worked with I've been happy with. I've never had any problems." Thankfully, in Moroder's eyes, the modern day has no shortage of disco divas in her vein that he'd like to work with, naming Rihanna and V109 cover star Lady Gaga.

Despite remaining hopeful, he does acknowledge the problems in the modern music industry. "The singers are all great: they do great songs and great videos. The problem is that the music is selling less and less, and record companies are really thinking twice about who they should feature, who they should invest in," he says. Moroder does point to a solution: an emphasis on live performance, especially for smaller musicians." If [people] go to see a young electronic artist, they know exactly why they are going to see it. The clubs are usually small, but the audience is very, very well-informed and they love the artist," he says. "The core audience of those guys is incredible. They know the acts, and they go wherever they are."

As for bigger musicians, the performance has become as important as the music itself, and has mucked the definition of "the sound of the future" that Moroder identified as the Click back in 1977. "Hans Zimmer, the big composer, had a huge show for like 10,000 people... The live performances are coming back big, and even the big DJ shows now are somehow live performances with guest singers and instrumentalists, so I think the big—not new—but the next big interesting thing is live performance," he says. "People want to see live performances, and if you look at the big DJ's now like, say, David Guetta, the shows they're doing are so elaborate. They're shows like Madonna would have done a few years ago."


Get Lit: David Downton, Portraits of the World's Most Stylish Women