Millions of music fans around the world know Oscar-winning songwriter Giorgio Moroder as the father of disco, synth-pop and, more recently, EDM (short for electronic dance music).
Credit for this goes to his pioneering work as the producer of key recordings by Donna Summer - whose “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love” he co-wrote - Blondie, David Bowie and others. His credits also include pivotal songs and music in the films “Flashdance,” “Top Gun” and “Midnight Express.” More recently, Moroder made a guest appearance on French electronic-music duo Daft Punk’s 2013 Grammy Award-winning album “Random Access Memories.” Its longest song, “Giorgio by Moroder,” features him recounting his musical history.
But many fans may not know what inspired this Italian-born, Los Angeles-based innovator to create his trademark thump-thump-thump-thump, four-on-the-floor beat, which has been copied on countless disco and EDM hits.
“It probably came about because I’m a lousy dancer!” said Moroder, who - at 75 - is easily the oldest performer at this weekend’s two-day CRSSD Festival at Waterfront Park. The DJ-heavy lineup includes dozens of young artists whom he has directly or indirectly influenced, along with the proudly left-of-center rock bands Flaming Lips and TV on the Radio.
“To dance, I needed something a little more direct, meaning four-on-the-floor, which was my kind of rhythm,” Moroder explained. “It’s great because, now, everybody’s using four-on-the-floor. At that time, it was a quite difficult decision; I almost felt a little guilty because it was so simplified. People would say, even now, that using the kick drum with four beats has stifled creativity. So, at the beginning, I felt a little guilty doing it.”
Moroder’s four-on-the-floor beat has been ubiquitous on countless recordings, and in nightclubs around the world, for the past four decades. Speaking from his Los Angeles home, Moroder chuckled as he recalled the initial reaction to “Baby,” which put him and Summer on the map.
“In the beginning, there was not too much interest,” he said. “It was not like people were saying: ‘Oh, great! This is the new sound.’ Until, one day, Brian Eno told David Bowie he’d found the ‘sound of the future.’ And, coming from Brian Eno - who is a genius - that started me thinking: ‘Maybe this is something interesting.’ The more the years passed, the bigger the song became.”
In June, Moroder released “Déjà Vu,” his first album since 1992’s “Forever Dancing.”
His dozen-song new release features guest vocals by everyone from Sia and Kelis to Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. It also features Moroder’s slyly titled instrumental number “74 Is the New 24.”
“I never thought I would be able to, or could, work at 74 or 75,” he said. “I didn’t do too much in the last 15 years, apart from playing a lot of golf, and I was kind of getting bored. Then something happened and Daft Punk rediscovered me. And I can tell you: I love it! I love to work. I travel the world now as a DJ and make nice money, so it’s perfect.”
Moroder’s first album, “Bubblegum,” came out in 1969 in his native Italy. His Saturday performance at CRSSD Festival will mark the first time he has appeared here.
“Giorgio is one of the forefathers of dance music,” said festival co-founder Johnny Shockey. “Iconic acts like him rarely come around, so it makes perfect sense to book him given the opportunity. He’s inspiring to say the least, and reminds us all that producing dance music is a lifestyle and nothing less.”
CRSSD Festival debuted March 6 and 8. The first ticketed event to be held at Waterfront Park, it drew a capacity crowd of 15,000 people the first day and nearly as many the second. It was a remarkable accomplishment for a first-time festival, let alone one featuring electronic music acts with little mainstream recognition.
The second edition still skews heavily towards deep house, neo-disco, techno and other electronic music styles, while again deliberately omitting the bass-heavy EDM acts that typically draw large crowds to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and other major festivals.
But this year’s CRSSD lineup also features two innovative rock bands, Flaming Lips and TV on the Radio, who have both performed at Coachella. Their inclusion this weekend could help to bring in new attendees.
“I think there was an opportunity to define ourselves us as a well-rounded festival. And throwing a little rock ‘n’ roll in definitely helps,” Shockey said.
A former professional hockey player, Shockey is the head of LED, a 5-year-old San Diego concert production company, and FNGRS CRSSD, its 2-year-old sister company. FNGRS CRSSD produces CRSSD Festival in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based Goldenvoice, which stages the annual Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.
With: Flaming Lips, TV on the Radio, Giorgio Moroder, Jamie xx, Banks, Panda Bear, AlunaGeorge, Bob Moses, Oliver Nelson, Bonobo and more than 50 other acts
When: Noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Waterfront Park (next to the County Administration Center), 1600 Pacific Highway, downtown
Tickets: $60 single day; $125 two-day pass (must be 21 or older to attend)
The March debut of CRSSD Festival was a commercial and artistic success, but was not without its bumps. There was $65,000 in damage to plants, valves, irrigation heads, granite surfaces and a playground sign. CRSSD Fest paid for those damages in full, according to Jessica Geiszler, the marketing and public outreach manager for the San Diego County’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Shockey vowed that the lessons learned in March would make for a smoother event this time around.
“We have things we want to improve on,” he said. “Looking back (at March) and digesting what happened, we realized we did a lot of things right and then a few things - I won’t say wrong, but that we need to improve on. And we will.”