When composer Giorgio Moroder played a live set last month in New York City, it was his very first turn as a DJ.
For the 73-year-old Moroder, the hour-long performance at Deep Space in the Meatpacking District may have come a little later in life, but it was just another milestone in a career that includes three Grammys, three Academy Awards, and a pioneering role in disco and electronic music.
“The word disco may be dead, but the word dance is not dead,” said Moroder. “DJs are becoming the new stars, so it is great to be back in the dancing world.”
The new DJ also recently collaborated with other stars in the dance world: the French duo Daft Punk on their recent album, “Random Access Memories.”
“I went into a studio in Paris and I just started to talk,” said Moroder. “I would just tell them my story and I didn’t have a clue how they would use it.”
The result is the track, “Giorgio by Moroder,” a fusion of spoken word and music.
Though Moroder is now firmly entrenched in the dance music world, he began in a world purely disco, composing most notably for Donna Summer on songs like “Love to Love You Baby.”
“Donna was beautiful, young, very talented,” said Moroder. “She wrote lyrics, she wrote music and finally we did ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ with that sexy song that made her a world star. And that was the beginning of her career and, actually, my career.”
Another song with Summer was “I Feel Love,” the first all-synthesized piece.
“Everything was computer-generated,” said Moroder. “And then Donna came in, and the interesting thing with that song was that hard mechanical track with her sweet voice -- very romantic, very melodic.”
From those disco hits came the opportunity to work on film scores, including “Midnight Express,” for which he won an Academy Award. He later won Oscars for the music for “Flashdance” and “Top Gun.” The latter included the multi-platinum hit “Take My Breath Away,” with its easily recognizable bass line.
“When I was working on ‘Take My Breath Away,’ I started with the bass line,” said Moroder. “I recorded it by myself and, two weeks later, we were recording the real tracks, and I couldn’t find the bass line anymore. If I hear it now, I know it is not perfect at all, and has several notes which are not great, but I could not retrieve those same notes again.”
Moroder said he listens to everything on his local Top 40 station, listing Rihanna, Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake among artists he loves.
Many of those performers are now featured in the music of notables such as David Guetta, Tiesto and Avicii, DJs who can create their music on just a laptop and a little keyboard. Moroder himself works with the audio program Pro Tools. He is still busy composing today, having recently done the music for the Google Chrome game “Racer.”
“It is quite interesting. You don’t have to be in a studio anymore,” he said. “The not-so-good thing is that you don’t have any input from musicians, and I like to play live with musicians because the bass player will be like, ‘Oh, I have a great line here.’ If you work by yourself, it is all you have to do it, and sometimes you miss a little bit of that great creativity, which the musicians give you.”
So will Moroder join his fellow DJs on the road for more sets? He said he is getting “a ton of offers.”
“It was absolutely fun,” said Moroder. “It’s a nice third career because I always wanted to perform, but I am not good enough as a musician. I don’t have a great voice.
“But as a DJ, I can do a lot of stuff.”