You started as a performer in the late ’60s. Why did you become a producer?
‘Well there was several reasons. One is that I don’t think I have a great voice. But mainly I was so afraid of forgetting lyrics onstage. I do not know one lyric from my songs! Years ago I did some gigs to make some money, and I would sing Beatles songs and everybody in the crowd was singing the lyrics and I forgot them.’
How has the business changed since the ’70s?
‘It’s totally different now. When I would work with Donna Summer or Blondie, I was much more in charge. I would tell the singer what to do. Now, some singers you don’t even meet, because tracks are done in Los Angeles or Stockholm over Skype. I think management protect singers a lot more now too. I used to call a singer up and say: “Do you want to do something?” Now they have to talk to management, lawyers and a record label. It takes so much longer now.’
So which singers didn’t you meet?
‘I didn’t meet Sia. I sent her the tracks and I almost forgot about them, then suddenly I got a call saying the song was ready. It was great because she sang it and she did the harmonies and she had her co-producer mix it, actually. She is such a professional.’
Are you a perfectionist?
‘No, not like Daft Punk, who really are perfectionists. There’s no limit for those guys. If I listen to some of the old Donna Summer songs, for example, I can hear some notes that aren’t played quite right. Now, of course, it’s easy to fix – you don’t have to get the bass player back in – but I don’t use Auto-Tune to fix stuff.’
Is it true that Britney Spears is on the album?
‘She is. Britney I didn’t meet. I think the poor girl is so busy, between Las Vegas where I think she performs two or three times a week. From the very beginning, I always liked her. Then she had that little incident with the drug problem and the shaving of her hair but she is fully back and very successful in Vegas.’
You DJed for the first time last year, aged 73. How has nightclubbing changed from the days of Studio 54?
‘Well Studio 54 was crazy, with all the drugs and the VIP rooms and the sex on the stairs. The big difference is that the DJ at Studio 54 would play the songs and people would dance – that’s it. Now they don’t even dance. They just look up at the DJ.’
The fact that you’ve grown the moustache back seems to indicate you mean business.
‘Yes, well it was my wife’s idea. She wanted it. To be honest, if it wasn’t for her, I would shave it off immediately.’
Finally, you’re 74. Does your family think you’re crazy?
‘No, my son thinks I’m crazy but my wife loves it, because my wife is my biggest fan. She’s 22 years younger than me, so she grew up with my music. She’s Mexican, so at 15, she was dancing to Donna Summer. Also I like this better than not doing anything interesting all day long, stuff like playing golf. I mean, how long can you really play golf?’