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One good thing about it is that the visual sense of the band, the contrast between you two guys, just how inexplicable it seems that a glam-rock dandy is brothers with sort of a dour, Hitler-mustached guy. Did you have a sense back then that the image of you performing together would be a thing that would continue to be interesting and startling into the future?
Russell Mael: No, I don’t think so. We always liked bands that had a strong visual image, and we were aware of that, but the images of Ron and myself is not something that was that calculated. Ron’s look was more that he was bored with trying to fit in as a rock-looking guy, so when we moved to England in the 70s he just got his hair cut off and slicked it back and everybody’s like, “Ooooh, what a radical thing to do! You don’t look like a guy in a band!” But then I still look like a guy in a band, so it was like, “God, what a contrast between the two of you!”
It wasn’t something that was thought up as a long-term plan, for that imagery to last. I’ve kind of morphed through various phases of bad hairdos and all that, but Ron’s thing has been pretty consistent from the 70s til now. It has lasted in its way.
Ron Mael: It’s a lot more difficult to be a keyboard member and be cool than to be any other kind of member of a band and be cool.
That’s true. Did you have anybody that you looked up to as a “cool” keyboard player?
Ron Mael: No. I never liked...I mean, I respect the musicianship...but I never liked all the Rick Wakeman jumping around. I decided to go the other way. I loved flamboyant guitar players, you know Townshend and all, but to do that on a keyboard always seemed ludicrous. So I tried to just become really stoic, which is kind of more in keeping with my personality anyway. People, for whatever reason, thought that was something striking, especially on television. So, it worked out fine. But it’s difficult to find role models in popular music for keyboard players, because either moving or not moving doesn’t look good for a keyboard player.
Is there any one thing that stands out in your mind about working with Giorgio Moroder?
Ron Mael: We approached him. We had heard “I Feel Love”, the Donna Summer song, on the radio. It was in the late 70s and we were looking for a way to work outside of a traditional band format, and we contacted him. He really taught us everything we would ever know about electronic music at that time.
It was also strange, because it was at a time that we could never perform those songs live. The studio where we recorded the music with Giorgio was just banks and banks of computers that could never go on stage! The other side of it was, I think it was inspiring for him because he had never worked with a band. So to work with people who, even though there weren’t five or six people in a room but our sensibility is a band sensibility, that was different to him than working with solo singers, as great as those singers were. I think it was something that really helped both of us.
Russell Mael: We’re still proud that we were the first band that Giorgio ever worked with. We still are friends with him now and see him, off and on.