The following article is provided by Rolling Stone.
By Jonah Weiner
Daft Punk's Paris studio sits on an ugly, bustling thoroughfare on the south side of town, near a train station and a hospital, behind a green garage door. To enter, you press a buzzer and present your face to a security camera, at which point the door lurches upward to reveal a lovely cobblestone courtyard and a cluster of beige buildings covered in whorls of ivy. On an early spring afternoon, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter – lifelong Parisians, longtime friends and the compulsively secretive musicians behind the Daft Punk robot masks – are standing on the cobblestones, blinking in the sunshine like they've emerged from a deep cave. Which they sort of have. "It's the first beautiful day we've had in weeks," de Homem-Christo says. Nodding toward a windowless room where he and Bangalter have spent untold hours hunched over synthesizers, chasing new sounds, he musters a resigned Gallic shrug: "We're always in the darkness, anyway."
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Bangalter plucks a key from his pocket and unlocks the room – it was here, in April 2008, on the heels of a world tour, that Daft Punk withdrew to write songs for their fourth album, Random Access Memories. On the road, they'd transformed packed amphitheaters, baseball fields and soccer stadiums into euphoric raves, manning an arsenal of custom-built supercomputers from within a 24-foot-tall aluminum pyramid covered with screens and centered within an Atari honeycomb of glowing LED beams. Daft Punk had first broken big during the Nineties electronica boom, but the tour – a hallucinatory spectacle of pop stagecraft without precedent – made them several orders of magnitude more popular, transforming them from survivors of a bygone fad into unwitting pioneers of a dance-music craze that has since swallowed the pop world whole. Another act in a similar position might have coasted – selling out bigger and bigger venues, pumping out the same throbbing beats – but Daft Punk quit the road after 48 shows, and when they started on their new material, it was with a fidgety desire to reinvent themselves. "Electronic music right now is in its comfort zone, and it's not moving one inch," Bangalter says. "That's not what artists are supposed to do."
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Tall and bony, Bangalter, 38, is wearing a gray sweater and skinny jeans with a hole in the knee big enough to toss a tennis ball through. He has a long, bearded face and curly brown hair grown into a modest Jewfro. (Bangalter's father, a Seventies-era disco artist and producer who recorded as Daniel Vangarde, is Jewish, but the Bangalter household was not religious.) When Bangalter is feeling relaxed, his eyes twinkle and his body language grows demonstratively warm: He'll lean in close, nudge you heartily to emphasize a point. At other times, though, while someone else is speaking, he'll scrunch up his nose in apparent disdain, like he's noticed a bad smell. The director Michel Gondry, who's known Daft Punk since they hired him to make the video for their percolating 1997 hit "Around the World," says that Bangalter has a blunt criticality that can be off-putting. "We were in a coffee shop in Paris one time, and he told me he hated my first movie," Gondry recalls with a laugh. "He said it was lacking in life, it was contrived! Really harsh, right? Some people, they just say what they think."
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De Homem-Christo, 39, has a wide face, delicate features, stubbled cheeks and long brown hair. As a teenager he wore his mane greasy and stringy, and he was often spotted wearing a fur coat and carrying his possessions in a plastic shopping bag. Phoenix guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, who first met the duo in 1992, says that de Homem-Christo used to resemble "a girl" and "a crackhead," but today his look is more hygienically scruffy: brown leather jacket, scuffed motorcycle boots, a tiny wishbone pendant hanging over a black velour sweatshirt. He's not overly fond of eye contact, and he's taciturn where Bangalter is expansive. "Guy-Man doesn't talk too much," says Daniel Dauxerre, who used to work at a Paris record store, New Rose, where the Daft Punk guys crate-dug as teens for Augustus Pablo and Beach Boys vinyl. "When he does talk, he's got a very dry sense of humor – he might be making fun of you, you never really know."
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Daft Punk are the most enigmatic superstars in pop. In addition to hiding their faces at performances, in videos and in photographs, they operate largely in secrecy and keep a tight grip on biographical details in those rare instances when they grant interviews. So it's with widened eyes that an outsider enters their work space, where even mundane objects thrum with seeming Talmudic significance. In the synthesizer room, there's a weathered vinyl copy of Rod Stewart's Blondes Have More Fun in one corner and a dinky JVC boombox for listening to rough mixes nearby, with a black plastic pyramid perched on top. Blu-ray copies of Tron: L'Heritage (Tron: Legacy, for which Daft Punk composed the music) and Star Wars: L'Integrale de la Saga occupy a shelf near a book of Saul Bass designs, a Walker's Rhyming Dictionary, and an old Life Science Library volume called The Mind. Tacked to the wall is a snapshot of the Daft Punk robots standing with R2-D2 and C-3PO at an Adidas advertising shoot. "This was the moment I felt we truly entered pop culture," says Bangalter.
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He moves toward the room's centerpiece: a massive modular synthesizer roughly four feet tall and six feet wide. "This is a custom system, new and handmade for us by a guy in Canada," he says. Bolted into four dishwasher-size wooden cases are dozens of oscillators, noise generators and envelope followers; above these are Borg filters, Boogie filters, step sequencers and a vintage oscilloscope. Blinking lights, silver switches and 933 different knobs sprout from the facade within an overgrowth of red, gray and yellow cables. "With a synthesizer like this, there are so many elements affecting the sound, from room temperature to capacitors – thousands of chaotic little parameters," Bangalter says proudly. "It's the opposite of the sterile environment of a computer." He heard that the Canadian producer Deadmau5 caught wind of the setup, contacted the manufacturer and "ordered the exact same one."
Over the past decade, Daft Punk's influence has grown gargantuan – it's hard to name another act with its fingerprints on as many bands, sounds and trends. You can hear them in the reference-dizzy dance punk of LCD Soundsystem, who made their admiration explicit on "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House"; in the Auto-Tuned bleat pop of T-Pain and his imitators (Daft Punk got to the effect before anyone but Cher thought it was cool); in the hazy loops of chillwave acts like Toro y Moi and Washed Out; in the rehabilitated easy-listening cheese of Phoenix and Chromeo; in the brash new meld of hip-hop and electronic music that Kanye West staged when he turned de Homem-Christo's vocoder-bent voice into a chart-topping hook on "Stronger." In 2011, backstage at Madison Square Garden after a Watch the Throne show, Jay-Z told de Homem-Christo that Daft Punk's pyramid had been "a huge influence" on the tour. Even Disco Stu wore Bangalter's chrome robot helmet on The Simpsons. But when Bangalter invokes the sterility of computer music with a scowl, he has in mind Daft Punk's most direct musical descendants: the heroes of the mainstream dance takeover, all of whom are bananas for Daft Punk. David Guetta spins their tracks in Ibiza and called their debut, 1997's Homework, "a revolution." Avicii has described his earliest entree to electronic music as "listening to a lot of Daft Punk, way before I knew what house music was." Deadmau5 owes them his helmets. Skrillex has commented that seeing Daft Punk's pyramid "changed my life." Swedish House Mafia proclaim that "Daft Punk are our heroes in all ways possible."
All that love notwithstanding, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo are deeply ambivalent about these heirs, with their pummeling buildups and clockwork kiloton bass drops. "Today, electronic music is like an audio energy drink," Bangalter says. "Artists are overcompensating with this aggressive, energetic, hyperstimulating music – it's like someone shaking you. But it can't move people on an emotional level. It's a way to feel alive, but . . ."
"It's not deep, it's surface," de Homem-Christo offers.
"Maybe it's the difference between love and sex, or eroticism and pornography," Bangalter says.
As Daft Punk got deeper into making the new album, they were eager to junk old habits and proceed "from scratch," Bangalter says. Their longtime technique of sampling funk, disco and soft-rock vinyl suddenly struck them as canned, overfamiliar. The drum machines they'd once used to propel tracks sounded rote – "autopilot," Bangalter says. They struck upon a new plan of attack that would lead Daft Punk further away from electronic music than they'd ever gone: "We wanted to do what we used to do with machines and samplers," Bangalter says, "but with people."
The idea was to overhaul their sound while keeping its DNA intact, and to outpace their successors in the process. "In electronic music today, there's an identity crisis," Bangalter says. "You hear a song: Whose track is it? There's no signature. Everyone making electronic music has the same tool kits and templates. You listen, and you feel like it can be done on an iPad." He frowns. "If everybody knows all the tricks, it's no more magic."
Bangalter shows me a little magic on the fly. He tweaks an oscillator on the massive synthesizer, and a piercing drone rings out. He drops to a knee, runs a cable from an output into an input, turns a knob a millimeter. Scratchy distortion musses the edges of the signal. He fiddles some more, and the drone flips into a hypnotic hiccup, then down into a mighty house-music thud. Bangalter beams like a kid with a chemistry set. The synthesizer is "a little bit everywhere" on the new album, he says, played by hand each time: "With this, you'll never get what you're getting again – there's no Save As. It's a playground for building a sound from the ground up."
De Homem-Christo checks the time on his phone. The plan is to go for a drink and then get dinner across town, but we've got some time to kill.
"What do you want to do?" Bangalter asks de Homem-Christo. "Un café? Un thé? Chocolat?"
"Strip club," de Homem-Christo deadpans.
No musical act strikes the same balance between gravitas and goofiness as Daft Punk. On one hand, they speak loftily about artistic evolution and music being "an invitation to a sonic journey"; on the other, they wear kitschy helmets straight off the covers of Eighties-era Isaac Asimov paperbacks. Bangalter describes the robot look as both a high-concept philosophical gambit – "We're interested in the line between fiction and reality, creating these fictional personas that exist in real life" – and a way to enfold Daft Punk's music within a tradition of flamboyant pop theatricality that includes "Kraftwerk and Ziggy Stardust and Kiss; people thought the helmets were marketing or something, but for us it was sci-fi glam."
The robots also let Bangalter and de Homem-Christo, both receding gearhead types, exert a gravitational pull on audiences that their bare faces – handsome in rough-hewn but unremarkable ways – could never equal. "We're not performers, we're not models – it would not be enjoyable for humanity to see our features," de Homem-Christo says wryly, "but the robots are exciting to people."
Back in the Nineties, the duo placed black bags on their heads during promotional appearances and bought creepy Halloween masks to wear at photo shoots. The robot helmets, designed by French artist friends, originally featured campy brown wigs – curly for Bangalter, flowing for de Homem-Christo. En route to the 2001 magazine shoot where they first unveiled the helmets, though, Daft Punk yanked off the hair, deciding the robots looked better bald. "Sleeker," Bangalter says. Today they own several different versions of the helmets – some with built-in air conditioning and communications systems, for live shows; others constructed of materials that photograph better, for shoots and projects like 2006's Electroma, the trippy, dialogue-free feature film that Daft Punk directed. Their latest helmets were made by a Hollywood special-effects shop "that worked on the new Spider-Man," Bangalter says, adding that the firm signed a nondisclosure agreement regarding the helmets' exact specifications. He compares Daft Punk to "Warhol, mixing mass production and art," but the duo can also resemble the Walt Disney Company, or Coca-Cola – a big-money multinational safeguarding its IP. Homemade robot helmets proliferate online, modeled on fan sites and sold on eBay, "but the proportions are really hard to get right just by looking at pictures, so they all seem a little bit off," says Bangalter.
With the sun about to set, Daft Punk leave the studio, grab espressos at a cafe down the block, then descend into the Metro and board a waiting train. The car is three-quarters full, and no one pays the pair any mind. It's impossible to imagine riding the New York subway with comparably famous American musicians – you trade in your MetroCard the day you start booking arenas – and this speaks to the paradoxical, and enviable, position that Daft Punk occupy: They're anonymous icons. "One thing I like about the masks is that I don't have people constantly coming up to me and reminding me what I do," Bangalter says. "It's nice to be able to forget." (There are occasional downsides: Several years ago in Ibiza, Bangalter says, some guy ran up exorbitant bar tabs at clubs while claiming to be him.)
We come aboveground in the tony Ninth Arrondissement. De Homem-Christo lives 15 minutes away, in the arrondissement that includes the pretty neighborhood Montmartre. Bangalter splits time between a home in the fashionable Marais and a glass-walled house in the Hollywood Hills that he bought in 2004 from one of the producers of Natural Born Killers. Both are the fathers of young children, though they don't like discussing their families publicly. (Bangalter does note that his son is currently enjoying a biography of Jim Morrison.)
En route to a famous old bar called Harry's New York, we pass the stately music hall L'Olympia. "When we were kids, Guy-Manuel and I went to see My Bloody Valentine there," Bangalter says. "It was incredible. Guy-Manuel was bare-chested, with his long hair, pogo'ing!"
"Crazy pogo!" cries de Homem-Christo, smiling at the memory.
"I ran into a guy I knew a few days after, and he said, 'Was that your girlfriend at that show, jumping with her shirt off?' " Bangalter continues. "I told him, 'No, it was my friend Guy-Man!' We would go to concerts and dance. We were in the pit for sure."
They claim a burnished wood table at Harry's and order sidecars. Bangalter starts wolfing down nuts from a ramekin and describes the duo's origins. "I met Guy-Man in eighth grade," he says. "At the end of the year we took a class trip to Pompeii, and in the car ride we began making up songs. When we got back, we recorded them with a little Casio keyboard."
"It was Italo disco by 12-year-olds," de Homem-Christo says. I ask if the tapes still exist, but he shakes his head: "Just our first music video. My father still has it. It's Thomas singing, and I'm laughing at him while I hold the camera."
Daft Punk grew up comfortably. The school where they met was the Lycée Carnot, whose alumni ranks include Jacques Chirac, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Trade Organization head Pascal Lamy. Bangalter and de Homem-Christo would rent horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Omen on VHS, watching them together at Bangalter's father's Montmartre apartment, which Dauxerre, the onetime record-store clerk, remembers visiting in the early Nineties: "It was beautiful – a big apartment with two floors, a room with a piano in it and a room for the studio equipment. I didn't go to nearly all the rooms." (Bangalter père has since moved to Brazil, living in a tiny coastal village so remote it was without electricity until recently.) The first thing Brancowitz remembers hearing about the teenaged Bangalter, before he met him, was that he bought a different new record every day. "That meant a lot when we were kids," Brancowitz says. "It meant you had to be very rich."
De Homem-Christo's parents ran an advertising agency together, and he hails from a clan of dubiously distinguished Pan-European extraction: His great-grandfather, Francisco Manuel Homem Cristo Filho, was a writer, described by present-day historians as "the first authentic and indisputable Portuguese fascist" and a personal friend of Benito Mussolini's. "I know him only from photographs, of course," de Homem-Christo says. In the Portuguese city of Aveiro there is an Homem Cristo street and an Homem Cristo school, both named after his ancestors.
In their late teens, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo formed a scrappy rock trio called Darlin' with Brancowitz, who joined through a guitarist-wanted flier. Darlin' had a bald hamminess notably in contrast with Daft Punk's coy MO: Onstage they covered "Love Theme From Kiss"; de Homem-Christo wore his fur coat, with glitter on his hands and a star on his cheek. They were "talented," says Dauxerre, who helped Darlin' book the only two shows they played, but "a lot of people thought they were wankers." (At one show, in Versailles, they shared the bill with a local act called Loveboat, featuring Thomas Mars, Deck D'Arcy and Christian Mazzalai, who would later form Phoenix with Brancowitz.) "Some people thought maybe they were pretentious, because they said, 'We want to be stars' and things like that," Dauxerre continues. "They knew exactly what they wanted."
Daft Punk's division of labor has always been murky to outsiders, and the pair prefer it this way. Bangalter says that he's more "hands-on" when it comes to "technology" but that he and de Homem-Christo typically feel like they have a special connection, "like Siamese twins." Gondry says, "To me, Guy-Manuel is a little bit like Meg in the White Stripes – she was quiet, but she anchored Jack White." Dauxerre remembers being stunned by de Homem-Christo's facility with melody: "He'd hear something, say, 'That's great, just change one chord,' and it was obviously better." House-music hero Todd Edwards, who's collaborated with Daft Punk numerous times, says, "Thomas is more the frontman, the one setting everything up, taking the lead on all the executive decisions – so the work is getting done, then Guy-Man comes and puts his input in, which is crucial." For the new Daft Punk album, Giorgio Moroder, the disco godfather, delivered a spoken-word performance into three microphones from three different decades. "Thomas has superears," Moroder says. "I asked the engineer, 'Who will ever hear the difference between these microphones?' He told me, 'Nobody. But the boys will.'"
In the early Nineties, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo lost interest in rock music and gravitated toward underground raves in Paris. "The story I heard is that the girls were not so much beautiful and sexy in the rock scene," says Dauxerre, "but they went to the rave, they saw so many beautiful girls, and they said, 'That's the music we have to do!'" In 1993, after completing high school, Bangalter – who spent several summer vacations as a kid at sleep-away camp in Maine – took an impromptu three-week trip by himself to Manhattan, checking into "some hotel on Madison Avenue" and partying nonstop: "I was out every night, going at four in the morning to NASA, seeing Junior Vasquez at the Sound Factory," he recalls. "I remember the energy of these drag queens – I wanted to move to New York." With $1,500 he received for his 18th birthday, Bangalter bought some synthesizers and samplers and started noodling in his Paris bedroom with de Homem-Christo. They both dropped out of college, naming their new dance outfit in honor of an unimpressed U.K. review of Darlin' that referred to their lone single as "daft punky thrash."
Around this time, Daft Punk experimented with party drugs, briefly. "I did Ecstasy for one year, from early 1993 to early 1994," says Bangalter. "The problem was that I was liking any music I'd hear, any crap – I had no critical judgment. The last time I did Ecstasy was the day Kurt Cobain died. We were at a party in Glasgow when I heard. Then we were going to an afterparty and I almost got hit by a truck."
"That was the first night I tried Ecstasy," de Homem-Christo, who tugged Bangalter out of harm's way, says. "And also the last."
Intent on becoming an international presence, Daft Punk signed with Scottish dance label Soma rather than a French imprint. They made their debut album, Homework, in Bangalter's bedroom, using synthesizers, drum machines and samplers associated with early techno and hip-hop. ("When we toured, we re-created everything live," de Homem-Christo says.) Homework is relentlessly propulsive and assuredly spare, breaking into squelchy acid-house riffs here, syncopated funk beats there. "The first time I heard them, I was like, 'Is this too simple or is this great?'" Gondry says. The album has a prankish air and a prescient genre-agnosticism. Lead single "Da Funk" was inspired by West Coast gangsta rap; for "High Fidelity," they reassembled louche sax snippets from Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" into epileptic house. "For us, there's no separation between what's hip and what's not," Bangalter says.
Much dance music withers when it leaves the floor, but Daft Punk's imagination exceeded raves nearly from the jump. "Music was a vector that we wanted to build a universe around," says Bangalter. Like the other flagship Nineties electronica artists, Daft Punk presented more like a band than DJs: touring behind an album of proper songs, placing singles on alt-rock radio, commissioning inventive videos with then-fledgling directors like Gondry and Spike Jonze. "Dance music is not cool," says DJ A-Trak, who's known the duo since 2007, and who introduced Kanye West to their music. "It has the worst fonts, the worst artwork – let's not forget what a rave flier looks like. And then here come Daft Punk with these crazy videos, beautiful album art. They have a flash and an elegance that other dance acts envied."
It took Daft Punk three years to make their second album, 2001's Discovery. Densely woven but improbably buoyant, it consisted heavily of obscure disco and rock samples plucked from the music of Bangalter and de Homem-Christo's youth. Daft Punk strafed these samples with filter effects that made them seem to glimmer and degrade like memories blossoming and fading; the album, by turns naive, audacious and elegiac, established Daft Punk as pop visionaries. "I call it the Thriller of France," says Chromeo's Dave Macklovitch, who says Discovery was "the blueprint" for his band. "They were fearless on that album," says Pharrell Williams, whom Daft Punk commissioned to remix the single "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" in 2003. "When you're listening to their music, you feel like you've been enlightened."
This past march, five years after Daft Punk began work on Random Access Memories, a commercial aired during Saturday Night Live, serving cryptic notice that the duo were back. The spot featured eight bars of a song called "Get Lucky" along with a graphic of the robot helmets fusing together. The music – jaunty throwback disco played with whip-snap precision on guitar, bass, drums and keyboards – heralded the earthbound shift in the duo's sound. It was over in 15 seconds.
Fans promptly uploaded the ad to YouTube; someone looped the bars over and over into a 10-hour marathon. Music sites and message boards went into red-alert Daft Watch mode, breathlessly relaying the news, for instance, that 13 untitled songs attributed to Daft Punk had appeared in the database of a British royalty-distribution agency: "They range in length from 3:48 to 9:04," one writer noted.
"Our output is rare," Bangalter says, "and that means people pay attention more." A few weeks later, Daft Punk dropped a second SNL ad, which revealed the album title. Posters and billboards featuring the album art went up in cities, as part of the masterfully suspenseful, deliberately old-school rollout. "When you drive on the Sunset Strip and see these billboards, it's more magical than a banner ad," says Bangalter. In a matter of weeks, Random Access Memories had gone from a stunningly well-kept secret to one of the decade's most hotly anticipated releases.
Daft Punk's last album, 2005's Human After All, was a lean exercise in mechanized dance rock, bashed out in under two months. The album sounds bracing today, but it severely underperformed its predecessors, critically and commercially. Perhaps in reaction to this, Random Access Memories is, in extreme contrast, the most ambitious, costly and time-consuming album of Daft Punk's career: an opulent suite of gold-plated disco grooves, purple lyrics and prog-operatic flourishes, precision-engineered to overwhelm. "We spent more than a million dollars making it, easily," Bangalter says. "But that's not important."
When Pharrell, visiting Paris, first sang his verse for "Get Lucky," Daft Punk told him to "sing it again, again, again," Pharrell recalls. "Then I did four or five more takes, they picked what they liked, then I sang each of those parts over and over. The robots are perfectionists." Daft Punk hired choirs, string sections, trumpeters and pedal-steel players; they recorded sound effects on the foley stage at Warner Bros. They played parts themselves, then paid session pros who'd worked on Thriller and Off the Wall to play them better. They coaxed vocals from guests like Panda Bear and Julian Casablancas; Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers played guitar on three tracks. They flew to legendary recording studios in New York and Los Angeles, like Electric Lady and Henson, to capture the unique sounds and vibes of the classic rooms. Wherever they went, they kept the mics running, capturing freewheeling jams – "We had Ampex reels everywhere," says de Homem-Christo – that they edited later using Pro Tools, conjuring songs out of the footage "like we were making a film," Bangalter says. "There are songs that span two and a half years and five different studios."
Finishing a second round of sidecars, we take a cab to the restaurant at Amour, a boutique hotel in nearby Pigalle co-owned by Daft Punk's friend Monsieur André, a graffiti-writer-turned-scene-king who greets them warmly in the lobby. Conversation about the new album continues over dinner: "The Seventies and Eighties are the tastiest eras for us," says de Homem-Christo, tucking into a sausage salad. "It's not that we can't make crazy futuristic-sounding stuff, but we wanted to play with the past."
Their gaze wasn't entirely backward-facing, though. Kanye West swung by the Paris studio at one point, and they took a break to work on music ostensibly for his next album. "We had a combination of live drums and programmed drums going," says Bangalter. "And Kanye was rapping over it," de Homem-Christo recalls.
"Not even rapping, more like screaming in this very primal way," Bangalter says. A few months ago, West played rough demos for A-Trak, who describes them as "futuristic, electronic monsters" with no melody, just "very distorted percussion and Kanye screaming – they're incredible." In the Chicago hip-hop auteur, Daft Punk clearly see a kindred spirit. "Kanye feels comfortable around us, so he allows himself to be vulnerable," Bangalter says.
"He's radical in the choices he makes," says de Homem-Christo. "He doesn't give a fuck."
On a sun-baked Friday in the Mojave Desert a month later, de Homem-Christo is sipping yerba mate tea poolside at a gorgeous old Palm Springs mansion, his ass crack sailing out of black Dior Homme swim shorts. Bangalter is a few feet away, wearing tiny blue Lacoste trunks and a fraying Borsalino straw hat, telling Pharrell he's totally got to see Oz the Great and Powerful. "Really, man?" Pharrell says. "All right, I gotta check that out." Disco blasts from wall-mounted speakers; hired chefs work a barbecue grill; empty bottles of Veuve Clicquot litter tables. Two dudes sit in the kitchen with a large baggie of weed, rolling joints.
It's the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and Daft Punk have rented the mansion, which used to belong to Bing Crosby, for a long weekend. Pharrell's just stopping by, but 10 or so of the duo's other friends are crashing here – sharing bedrooms, playing ping-pong in the living room, fixing cocktails from the stocked bar, climbing up to the roof and cannonballing into the pool out back. (Daft Punk's families are elsewhere.) The duo are here to drop a surprise on the crowd tonight, but they're tight-lipped as to what it might be. Are the robot helmets here? "No," Bangalter says. "We can't tell you where they are." Todd Edwards, the DJ, is in the living room, drinking tequila. "Even I don't know what they're doing," he says. "If they don't tell me, I don't pry."
There's an air of bygone music-biz excess to the place that's fully in keeping with Random Access Memories' throwback ostentation. A Porsche Carrera is parked out front, near a massive gong that visitors can bang to announce their arrival. "Guy-Manuel is staying in a bedroom where JFK is supposed to have had his affair with Marilyn Monroe," says Bangalter. Quips de Homem-Christo, "It puts a lot of pressure on me to do something interesting in there."
What they will not do tonight, Daft Punk insist, is perform. Bangalter says there aren't even plans in place to tour the new album: "We want to focus everything on the act and excitement of listening to the album. We don't see a tour as an accessory to an album." (When they do finally hit the road, he adds, it will be with a career-encompassing set list, not one overly focused on the new material.)
Around 7:30 p.m., Daft Punk and their friends – Edwards, DJ Falcon, Maison Kitsuné designer Gildas Loaec and a handful of others – hustle into a van, headed for the festival. Pharrell and his crew follow in a black Sprinter. Bangalter plugs his phone into the stereo, starts blasting Quincy Jones and Led Zeppelin, then turns around and confers in hushed tones with Daft Punk's manager, Paul Hahn, about the imminent surprise: It turns out that an extended trailer for the new album, featuring video of Daft Punk performing "Get Lucky" in sequined tuxes alongside Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, will play on the HD jumbotrons flanking each of the festival's stages. "Will the sun have set by then?" Bangalter asks. "Will people be able to see it?" Hahn says it will be fine.
Security waves us through to the edge of the Coachella grounds, where two idling golf carts haul us to the artists' area. De Homem-Christo darts off to take a piss while Bangalter sketches out a battle plan: The video will be staggered between the various screens, and he wants to catch as many airings as possible. With a dozen-odd friends in tow, he and de Homem-Christo soon make their way to a railing at the edge of the VIP section with a view of the main stage. If any people recognize them, they don't make it known.
At 8:35, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are about to take the main stage, the sun has set and the jumbotrons suddenly burst to life. The Daft Punk logo pops up, and "Get Lucky" rings out on the speakers. People begin dancing instantly, lifting up their cameraphones, shrieking when the robots appear in the video. In less than two minutes it's over, and the screens go black. The collective mood is one of ecstatic confusion: What the hell was that? The Daft Punk crew exchange congratulatory backslaps. Pharrell gives Bangalter a high-five. In a few days, hand-held footage of the trailer will have racked up more than a million views on YouTube, threatening to overshadow the rest of the festival. Right now, Bangalter throws his arm around de Homem-Christo and murmurs in his ear in French. Then they turn from the railing and walk off together, just two more grinning faces in the crowd.
Daft Punk Frenzy
Daft Punk is a French electronic music duo from Paris formed in 1993 by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. The duo achieved significant popularity in the late 1990s as part of the French house movement and had continuous success in the years following, combining elements of house music with funk, techno, disco, rock and synthpop influences. They are also known for their visual stylization and disguises associated with their music; the duo have worn ornate helmets and gloves to assume robot personas in most of their public appearances since 2001 and rarely grant interviews or appear on television. The duo were managed from 1996 to 2008 by Pedro Winter (also known as Busy P), the head of Ed Banger Records.
Bangalter and Homem-Christo were originally briefly in an indie rock band named Darlin'. When the group disbanded, it left the two to experiment musically with drum machines and synthesisers. The duo released their debut studio albumHomework through Virgin Records in 1997 to highly positive reviews, and spawning singles "Around the World" and "Da Funk". The duo's second album Discovery was even more successful, driven by the release of the hit singles "One More Time", "Digital Love" and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". In March 2005, the duo released their third album Human After All to mixed reviews. However, the singles "Robot Rock" and "Technologic" achieved considerable success in the United Kingdom.
Daft Punk toured throughout 2006 and 2007 and released the live albumAlive 2007, which won a Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album. The duo later composed the score for the Disney film Tron: Legacy in 2010, and released its soundtrack album that same year. In January 2013, Daft Punk left Virgin for Columbia Records, and released their fourth album Random Access Memories in 2013 to worldwide critical acclaim. The album's lead single "Get Lucky" became an international success, peaking on top 10 charts in 32 countries. Random Access Memories won five Grammy Awards in 2014, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for "Get Lucky". In 2016, Daft Punk gained their first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with the song "Starboy", a collaboration with The Weeknd.
1987–1992: early career
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter met in 1987 while attending the Lycée Carnot, a secondary school in Paris. The two became good friends and later recorded demo tracks with others from the school. This eventually led to the formation of a guitar-based group called Darlin' with Laurent Brancowitz in 1992. Bangalter and Homem-Christo played bass and guitar, respectively, while Brancowitz was brought on board after the two sought an additional guitarist. The trio had branded themselves after The Beach Boyssong of the same name, which they covered along with an original composition. Stereolab released both tracks on a multi-artist Duophonic Records EP and invited the band to open for stage shows in the United Kingdom. Bangalter felt that "The rock n' roll thing we did was pretty average, I think. It was so brief, maybe six months, four songs and two gigs and that was it." A negative review in Melody Maker by Dave Jennings subsequently dubbed the music "a daftpunky thrash." Instead of dismissing the review, they found it amusing. As Homem-Christo stated, "We struggled so long to find [the name] Darlin', and this happened so quickly." Darlin' soon disbanded, leaving Brancowitz to pursue other efforts with Phoenix. Bangalter and Homem-Christo formed Daft Punk and experimented with drum machines and synthesisers.
In September 1993, Daft Punk attended a rave at EuroDisney, where they met Stuart Macmillan of Slam, co-founder of the label Soma Quality Recordings. The demo tape given to Macmillan at the rave formed the basis for Daft Punk's debut single, "The New Wave", a limited release in 1994. The single also contained the final mix of "The New Wave" called "Alive", which was to be featured on Daft Punk's first album.
Daft Punk returned to the studio in May 1995 to record "Da Funk". It became the duo's first commercially successful single the same year. After the success of "Da Funk", Daft Punk looked to find a manager. The duo eventually settled on Pedro Winter, who regularly promoted them and other artists at his Hype night clubs. The band signed with Virgin Records in September 1996 and made a deal through which the duo licensed its tracks to the major label through its production company, Daft Trax. Bangalter stated that while the duo received numerous offers from record labels, they wanted to wait and ensure that Daft Punk did not lose creative control. He ultimately considered the deal with Virgin to be more akin to a partnership.
In the mid-to-late nineties, Daft Punk performed live without costumes in many places including the United States. In 1996, the duo were featured at an Even Furthur event in Wisconsin, their first public performance in the U.S. In addition to live original performances, they performed a number of times in various clubs using vinyl records from their collection. They were known for incorporating various styles of music into their DJ sets at that time.
"Da Funk" and "Alive" were later included on Daft Punk's 1997 debut albumHomework. In February of that year, the UK dance magazine Muzik published a Daft Punk cover feature and described Homework as "one of the most hyped debut albums in a long long time." According to The Village Voice, the album revived house music and departed from the Eurodance formula. As noted by critic Alex Rayner, Homework brought together established club styles and the "burgeoning eclecticism" of big beat. In 1997 Daft Punk also launched their Daftendirektour to promote Homework in several cities throughout the world. For this tour the duo opted to utilize their home studio equipment for the live stage. As Bangalter stated, "Everything was synched up—the drum machines, the bass lines. The sequencer was just sending out the tempos and controlling the beats and bars. On top of this structure we built all these layers of samples and various parts that we could bring in whenever we wanted to." 25 May 1997 saw them perform at the Tribal Gathering festival at Luton Hoo, England, headlining with Orbital and Kraftwerk.
The most successful single from Homework was "Around the World", which is known for the repeating chant of the song's title. "Da Funk" was also included on The Saint film soundtrack. Daft Punk produced a series of music videos for Homework directed by Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Roman Coppola and Seb Janiak. The collection of videos was released in 1999 and titled D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes.
By 1999, the duo was well into the recording sessions for its second album, which had begun a year earlier. The 2001 release of Discovery took on a slicker and distinctly synthpop-oriented style, initially stunning fans of Daft Punk's previous material in Homework. The group states that the album was conceived as an attempt to reconnect with a playful, open-minded attitude associated with the discovery phase of childhood. This accounts for the heavy use of themes and samples from the late '70s to early '80s era on the album. The album reached No. 2 in the United Kingdom, and its single, "One More Time", was a major club and mainstream hit that nearly topped the UK Singles Chart. The song is well known for being heavily autotuned and compressed. The song and album created a new generation of fans mainly familiar with the second Daft Punk release. The singles "Digital Love" and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" were also very successful in the UK and on the United States dance chart. "Digital Love" was subsequently covered by the bands Kodaline and Hellogoodbye. The song "Face to Face" hit No. 1 on the USA club play charts. A 45-minute excerpt from a Daftendirektour performance recorded at Birmingham, UK in 1997 was also released in 2001, titled Alive 1997. The year 2003 saw the release of the feature-length animated film, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. Daft Punk produced the film under the supervision of Leiji Matsumoto, who is their childhood hero. The album Daft Club was also released to promote the film. It features a collection of remixes previously made available through an online membership service of the same name.
2004–2007: Human After All
Starting on 13 September and ending on 9 November 2004, Daft Punk devoted six weeks to the creation of new material. The duo later released the resulting album Human After All in March 2005. Reviews were mixed, mostly citing its overly repetitive nature and seemingly hasty recording. The singles taken from this album were "Robot Rock", "Technologic", "Human After All", and "The Prime Time of Your Life". The earliest official statement from Daft Punk concerning the album was "we believe that Human After All speaks for itself." A Daft Punk anthology CD/DVD titled Musique Vol. 1 1993–2005 was released on 4 April 2006. It contains music videos for "Robot Rock (Maximum Overdrive)" and "The Prime Time of Your Life" directed by Daft Punk and Tony Gardner, respectively. Daft Punk also released a remix album of Human After All called Human After All: Remixes. A limited edition included two kubricks of Daft Punk as robots.
On 21 May 2006, Daft Punk premiered its first directed film, Daft Punk's Electroma, at the Cannes Film Festival sidebar Director's Fortnight. The film does not include Daft Punk's own music, which is a first for the duo considering its previous DVD and film releases (D.A.F.T. for Homework and Interstella 5555 for Discovery). Midnight screenings of the film were shown in Paris theaters starting from the end of March 2007. Initial public comments have since been positive.
The Alive 2006/2007 tour began with a sole United States performance at the Coachella Festival in Indio, California in April 2006. Several festival appearances in Europe followed throughout the summer. Two consecutive performances also took place at the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan, held in Osaka and Chiba City respectively. Daft Punk's final performance of the year occurred in the autumn, when they visited South America and played their second U.S. performance at the Bang! Music Festival in Miami, Florida.
In June 2007, the duo resumed touring, beginning with an appearance at the RockNess music festival in the United Kingdom. After further shows and festival performances in Europe, the act returned to North America for a full-fledged eight date tour. This reached many markets for the first time on the trek and included a headline festival slot at Lollapalooza in Chicago. A second leg of shows in October followed, consisting of an appearance at the Vegoose music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada and three shows in Mexico. Daft Punk also mixed and composed much of the music for the Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2008 Womenswear Full Show on 7 October 2007. In December 2007, the duo returned to Japan to play a trio of dates. This was followed by a series of special shows in Australia, dubbed "Never Ever Land". The dates featured regular tour stalwarts SebastiAn and Kavinsky and were ultimately the fastest selling Daft Punk-related events to date. The tour eventually culminated in Sydney at the Showground Main Arena.
Daft Punk released its second live album titled Alive 2007 on 19 November 2007. It contains the duo's performance in Paris from the Alive 2007 tour. The live version of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" from Alive 2007 was released as a single. Olivier Gondry directed a music video for the single that features footage shot by 250 audience members at Daft Punk's Brooklyn appearance at KeySpan Park, Coney Island.
2008–2011: Tron: Legacy
Following the Alive 2007 tour, the duo focused on other projects. Daft Punk made a surprise appearance at the 50th Grammy Awards on 10 February 2008. The duo appeared with Kanye West to perform a reworked version of "Stronger" on stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. For the appearance, Daft Punk utilized four JazzMutant Lemur controllers. A press release specified that this was the first televised live performance by the duo in their career. Bangalter's wife Élodie Bouchez also attended the event. Daft Punk later stated in an EMI-sponsored live webchat that there would be no tour performances for 2008, and that they would instead focus on new projects.
A 2008 interview with Pedro Winter revealed that Daft Punk returned to its Paris studio to work on new material. Winter also stepped down from managing the duo to focus attention on his Ed Banger Records label and his work as Busy P. He stated in a later interview that Daft Punk is working with an unspecified management company in Los Angeles.The duo held its Daft Arts production office at the Jim Henson Studios complex in Hollywood. In 2008, Daft Punk placed 38th in a worldwide official poll of DJ Mag after debuting at position 71 in the year before. On 8 February 2009, Daft Punk won Grammy Awards for Alive 2007 and its single "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger".
Later in February 2009, a website stated that a "hidden" tour had been set for 2009. An event for 13 February 2009 in Shanghai, China was mentioned in the website. It was later revealed to be a hoax unaffiliated with Daft Punk and a scam to sell tickets for a nonexistent event. Representatives of the band announced that Daft Punk had no tour plans for 2009, but stated that the duo was looking forward to performing in China during their next world tour "in 2010 or 2011". The announcement also stated that all of Daft Punk's shows are and would be posted on their official MySpace page, and that the page can therefore be used to verify validity.
Daft Punk provided eleven new mixes featuring its music for the video game DJ Hero. The duo also appears in the game as a pair of playable characters, along with a unique venue. The duo appears wearing its Discovery-era helmets and Human After All-era leather attire. Daft Punk's playable likenesses are absent from the sequel DJ Hero 2, which includes a remixed version of the song "Human After All".
At the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that the duo composed 24 tracks for the film Tron: Legacy. Daft Punk's score was arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese. The band collaborated with him for two years on the score, from pre-production to completion. The score features an 85-piece orchestra, recorded at AIR Lyndhurst Studios in London.Joseph Kosinski, director of the film, referred to the score as being a mixture of orchestral and electronic elements. The members of Daft Punk also make a cameo appearance as disc jockey programs wearing their trademark robot helmets within the film's virtual world. The soundtrack album of the film was released on 6 December 2010. A deluxe 2-disc edition of the album was also released that includes a poster of the duo from the film. Additional bonus tracks are also available through various online vendors. An official music video for "Derezzed", with a running time of less than two minutes, also premiered on the MTV Networks on the same day the album was released. The video, which features Olivia Wilde as the character Quorra in specially-shot footage, along with images of Daft Punk in Flynn's Arcade, was later made available for purchase from the iTunes Store and included in the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film. Walt Disney Records released a remix album of the score titled Tron: Legacy Reconfigured on 5 April 2011.
In 2010, Daft Punk were admitted into the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an order of merit of France. Bangalter and Homem-Christo were individually awarded the rank of Chevalier (knight). On October of that year, Daft Punk made a surprise guest appearance during the encore of Phoenix's show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They played a medley of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "Around the World" before the song segued into Phoenix's song "1901". The duo also included elements of their tracks "Rock'n Roll", "Human After All", as well as one of Bangalter's side projects, "Together".
2011–2015: Random Access Memories
Soma Records released a previously unpublished Daft Punk track called "Drive" that was made while the duo was still with Soma Records and recording "Rollin' and Scratchin'" and "Da Funk". The track was included in a twentieth anniversary multi-artist compilation of the Soma label. In October 2011, Daft Punk placed 28th in a "top-100 DJs of 2011" list by DJ Magazine after appearing at position 44 in the year before. On 19 January 2012, Daft Punk ranked No. 2 on Mixmag's Greatest Dance Acts of All Time, with The Prodigy at No. 1 by just a few points.
Daft Punk worked on their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories in collaboration with musicians Paul Williams and Chic frontman Nile Rodgers. In May 2012 it was also announced that Italian musician Giorgio Moroder had collaborated with the duo, recording a monologue about his life in a vocal booth containing microphones ranging from 1960 to present day.Chilly Gonzales stated in an interview that he had performed material for the duo's project in a one-day session: "I played for hours and they’re gonna grab what they grab and turn it into whatever." He also said that the album would be released "next spring". In October 2012, Daft Punk provided a fifteen-minute mix of songs by blues musician Junior Kimbrough for Hedi Slimane's Yves Saint Laurent fashion show. The duo also placed 44th in DJ Magazine's annual Top 100 DJs list.
In January 2013, Homem-Christo revealed that Daft Punk was in the process of signing with Sony Music Entertainment through the Columbia Records label, and that the album would have a spring release. A gradual promotional rollout was later launched featuring billboards and television spots, leading to the reveal of the album title and the release date of 21 May 2013. On 3 April, the official Random Access Memories website launched The Collaborators, a series of documentary videos about the album. Later that month, a video preview for the song "Get Lucky" featuring Rodgers and Pharrell Williams was played at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The radio edit of the song was released as a digital download single one week later on 19 April 2013. "Get Lucky" became Daft Punk's first UK No. 1 single on 28 April 2013 remaining at number one for 4 weeks (as of 24 May) and the Spotify music streaming website reported that the song is the most-streamed new song in the service's history. At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Daft Punk debuted a trailer for their single "Lose Yourself to Dance," and presented the award for "Best Female Video" alongside Rodgers and Pharrell.
For the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, Random Access Memories was awarded the Grammy for Best Dance/Electronica Album, Album of the Year and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, while "Get Lucky" received the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and the Record of the Year. Daft Punk performed at the ceremony with Stevie Wonder, Rodgers, Pharrell Williams as well as Random Access Memories rhythm section players Nathan East, Omar Hakim, Paul Jackson, Jr. and Chris Caswell. The ensemble performed "Get Lucky" before moving into a medley consisting of Chic's "Le Freak" and Stevie Wonder's "Another Star" as well as elements of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger", "Lose Yourself to Dance", and "Around the World". The stage backdrop used for the performance was designed by Daft Arts to resemble a recording studio, incorporating a functioning mixing console operated by Daft Punk. Pharrell later released his second studio album G I R L, in which Daft Punk performed additional vocals for the song "Gust of Wind". On 10 March 2014, an unreleased Daft Punk song called "Computerized" surfaced on the Internet. The song features Jay Z and appears to contain elements of "The Son of Flynn" from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack.
In April 2015, Daft Punk appeared in a short tribute to Rodgers as part of a documentary on his life titled "Nile Rodgers: From Disco to Daft Punk". In the short clip, the two send a "transmission" to Rodgers with the message, "Dear Nile, We are sending you this transmission to thank you for all your amazing songs. Your music continues to inspire the world... With love, Daft Punk". Later in 2015, a documentary on Daft Punk titled Daft Punk Unchained was released. The film covers Daft Punk's music career from the 1990s up to and including their 2014 Grammy appearance. The documentary features interviews with Rodgers, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and others who have interacted with the duo in their projects.
2016–present: recent projects
On 22 September 2016, Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd released a track, "Starboy", featuring Daft Punk. The song later hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Daft Punk's first No. 1 song in the U.S. On 17 November, The Weeknd released "I Feel It Coming" which also features Daft Punk. The songs appeared on The Weeknd's album Starboy.
Throughout the end of 2016, many rumors began to surface of a Daft Punk Alive 2017 tour. In September 2016, the rumors led to Pitchfork reporting that Daft Punk had no plans for a future tour. A website that first appeared on 27 October 2016 featured a blank page with text reading Alive in plain text. Within the website coding were geo-coordinates based in Paris, Los Angeles, London, New York, Tokyo, São Paulo, Ibiza and Indio, the latter being location of Coachella. The website has since been taken down.
In February 2017, Daft Punk launched a pop-up shop in Hollywood, California featuring memorabilia, artwork, and a display of the various costumes the duo has worn over the years. The duo also performed with The Weeknd at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards on 12 February 2017. On 20 June 2017, the Australian band Parcels released the song "Overnight", co-produced and co-written by Daft Punk.
Bangalter and Homem-Christo have credited many sources that influenced their musical style. Bangalter recalled that the records motivated him to learn English as a second language, since he wanted to understand the lyrics. The duo's mutual admiration for rock bands led to the founding of their own indie group called Darlin'. Bangalter explained: "It was still maybe more a teenage thing at that time. It's like, you know, everybody wants to be in a band." They also drew inspiration from the rock and acid house in the United Kingdom during the early 1990s. Homem-Christo referred to Screamadelica by Primal Scream as the record that "put everything together" in terms of genre".
The liner notes of Homework pay tribute to a large number of musical artists and contain a quote from Brian Wilson. Bangalter stated: "In Brian Wilson's music you could really feel the beauty—it was very spiritual. Like Bob Marley, too." When questioned on the success of Daft Punk's debut album and the rising popularity of their associated musical genre, Bangalter responded, "before us you had Frankie Knuckles or Juan Atkins and so on. The least you can do is pay respect to those who are not known and who have influenced people." The Daft Punk track "Teachers", from Homework, refers to several influences, such as Romanthony and Todd Edwards. Homem-Christo stated: "Their music had a big effect on us. The sound of their productions—the compression, the sound of the kick drum and Romanthony's voice, the emotion and soul—is part of how we sound today." A 2011 Bodytonic podcast featured tracks from all of the artists named in "Teachers", the Brian Wilson speech quoted in the liner notes of Homework, and a Kraftwerk-like 1983 track produced by Daniel Vangarde, father of Bangalter.
Romanthony and Edwards later collaborated with Daft Punk on tracks for Discovery. For the album, Daft Punk focused on new styles of electronic music. A major inspiration was the Aphex Twin single "Windowlicker", which was "neither a purely club track nor a very chilled-out, down-tempo relaxation track", according to Bangalter. The duo also utilized vintage equipment to recreate the sound of an artist from a previous era. As stated by Homem-Christo, "On 'Digital Love' you get this Supertramp vibe on the bridge," which was generated through an in-studio Wurlitzer piano. During a later interview, Homem-Christo clarified that "we didn't make a list of artists we like and copy their songs." Daft Punk would collaborate with Edwards again on the song "Fragments of Time", featured on the 2013 album Random Access Memories.
During a 2009 interview, Bangalter named Andy Warhol as one of Daft Punk's early artistic influences. For the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, the duo drew inspiration from Wendy Carlos, the composer of the original Tron film, as well as Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter, Vangelis, Philip Glass and Maurice Jarre. Daft Punk later sought a "west coast vibe" during the production of Random Access Memories, referencing such bands as Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers and the Eagles. They also highlighted the influence of Jean Michel Jarre in an interview following the album's release. In January 2017, London-based music publication FACTmag featured a 1000 track playlist of Daft Punk's influences to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Homework.
Visual components and image
Daft Punk are noted for their use of visual components associated with their musical productions. The music videos for their singles from Homework featured distinctive characters and placed emphasis on storytelling instead of musical performance. The album Discovery subsequently became the soundtrack to Interstella 5555.
Their outward personas have also changed over time. In one of the duo's earliest magazine appearances, Homem-Christo stated in a Jockey Slut interview that, "We don't want to be photographed. [...] We don't especially want to be in magazines. We have a responsibility." Although they allowed a camera crew to film them for a French television arts program at the time, Daft Punk did not wish to speak on screen "because it is dangerous." During their Homework years, the duo would usually wear a variety of masks to hide their appearance. Bangalter noted that “the foundation for a lot of what we’re about artistically" is the 1974 film Phantom of the Paradise, in which the title character prominently wears a mask. Daft Punk were also fans of the 1970s band Space, known for wearing space suits with helmets that hid the performers' appearance. In 1998, the Bangalter side project Stardust experimented with the band wearing reflective costumes in their music video. When not wearing disguises, Daft Punk occasionally preferred to be replaced by animation (as they appeared in The Work of Director Michel Gondry DVD) or have their faces digitally obscured for press kits. Few official photos of the duo's faces exist, including a blurry one found in the Homework liner notes.
In their more visible Discovery years, Daft Punk appeared wearing robotic headgear and metallic gloves for publicity photo shoots, interviews, live shows and music videos. The helmets were produced by Paul Hahn of Daft Arts and the French directors Alex and Martin, the duo who also designed them. With engineering by Tony Gardner and Alterian, Inc., they are capable of various LED effects. Wigs were originally attached to both helmets, but the duo removed them just before the outfits were publicly unveiled in 2001. Daft Punk introduced the costumes to many U.S. television viewers in an advertisement during a special presentation of the music videos from the Discovery album during Cartoon Network's Toonami block. Bangalter once stated, "We did not choose to become robots. There was an accident in our studio. We were working on our sampler, and at exactly 9:09 am on September 9, 1999, it exploded. When we regained consciousness, we discovered that we had become robots."
Daft Punk have said that they donned their robot outfits to easily merge the characteristics of humans and machines. However, Bangalter later stated that the costumes were initially the result of shyness. "But then it became exciting from the audience's point of view. It's the idea of being an average guy with some kind of superpower." When asked whether the duo expressed themselves differently within the robotic suits, Bangalter stated "No, we don't need to. It's not about having inhibitions. It's more like an advanced version of glam, where it's definitely not you." With the release of Human After All, the musical duo's outfits became slightly less complicated by consisting of black leather jacket and pants and simplified versions of the Discovery headgear. The attire was designed by Hedi Slimane. Bangalter stated that, "We never like to do the same thing twice. It's more fun and entertaining for us to do something different, whether it's wearing masks or developing a persona that merges fiction and reality. We're happy to give back to the masses".
According to Bangalter, the duo has a "general rule about not appearing in videos." Although Daft Punk rarely grants interviews, Bangalter is cited as being the more talkative and opinionated one of the duo. With regard to fame and stardom, he said:
|“||We don't believe in the star system. We want the focus to be on the music. If we have to create an image, it must be an artificial image. That combination hides our physicality and also shows our view of the star system. It is not a compromise.|
We're trying to separate the private side and the public side. It's just that we're a little bit embarrassed by the whole thing. We don't want to play this star system thing. We don't want to get recognised in the streets. Yes. Everyone has accepted us using masks in photos so far, which makes us happy. Maybe sometimes people are a little bit disappointed but that's the only way we want to do it. We think the music is the most personal thing we can give. The rest is just about people taking themselves seriously, which is all very boring sometimes.
In the same interview, he was also asked a question if stardom can be avoided.
|“||Yes. I think people understand what we are doing. I know many people who maybe like the way we are handling things. People understand that you don't need to be on the covers of magazines with your face to make good music. Painters or other artists, you don't know them but you know what they are doing. We are very happy that the concept in itself is becoming famous. In France, you speak of Daft Punk and I'm sure millions of people have heard it, but less than a few thousand people know our face—which is the thing we're into. We control it, but it's not us physically, our persons. We don't want to run into people who are the same age as us, shaking our hand and saying, 'Can I have your autograph?' because we think we're exactly like them. Even girls, they can fall in love with your music, but not with you. You don't always have to compromise yourself to be successful. The playing with masks is just to make it funnier. Pictures can be boring. We don't want all the rock n' roll poses and attitudes—they are completely stupid and ridiculous today.||”|
During the filming and promotion of Daft Punk's Electroma, the duo went to great lengths to avoid showing their faces. While on the set of the film, the duo chose to be interviewed with their backs turned. As reported on October 2006, the band went as far as to wear black cloth over their heads during a televised interview. During this interview they noted that the use of cloth bags in particular had been a spontaneous decision, reflecting their willingness to experiment with their perceived image in the media.
It is believed that the mystery of their identity and the elaborate nature of their disguises have added to their popularity. The iconic status of the robotic costumes has been compared to the makeup of KISS and the leather jacket worn by Iggy Pop. Bangalter has noted, "The mask gets very hot, but after wearing it as long as I have, I am used to it." He later stated that the helmets in their current iteration are fitted with ventilators to prevent overheating.
Daft Punk continued to wear the robot costumes in their live performances at the 2008, 2014 and 2017 Grammy Awards, with variations in clothing. During the 2014 ceremony, they also accepted their awards on stage in the outfits, with Pharrell and Paul Williams speaking on the duo's behalf. At the time the decision to stay in costume drew criticism from viewers on Twitter, including future White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In both their appearance at the 2017 Grammy Awards  and in the Weeknd's "I Feel It Coming" music video, the duo wore long black capes and chrome-plated gloves along with their customary helmets.
Appearances in media
Daft Punk's popularity has been partially attributed to their appearances in mainstream media. The duo appeared with Juliette Lewis in an advertisement for The Gap, featuring the single "Digital Love", and were contractually obliged to appear only in Gap clothing. In the summer of 2001, Daft Punk appeared in an advertisement on Cartoon Network's Toonami timeslot, promoting the official Toonami website and the duo's animated music videos for their album Discovery. The music videos later appeared as scenes in the feature-length film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, in which Daft Punk make a cameo appearance as their robot alter-egos. The duo later appeared in a television advertisement wearing their Discovery-era headgear to promote Sony Ericsson's Premini mobile phone. Their robotic costumes also make an appearance in the "Masterclass" section on Chilly Gonzales' 2006 DVD release From Major to Minor. In 2010, Daft Punk appeared in Adidas advertisements promoting a Star Wars-themed clothing line.
Daft Punk has also produced music for other artists. They produced the Teriyaki Boyz's debut single "HeartBreaker" on the album Beef or Chicken?. The song contains a sample of "Human After All". Daft Punk later produced N.E.R.D's song "Hypnotize U". Daft Punk are featured on the cover of the December 2010 issue of British publication Dazed & Confused to promote the film Tron: Legacy, for which the duo composed the score. They also made a cameo appearance within the film as masked DJs at the "End of Line" nightclub.
In 2011, Coca-Cola distributed limited edition bottles designed by Daft Punk, called Daft Coke. They were only sold in France. A newer version of these themed bottles now exist as collectors items, some parts of the bottles such as the cap and Coke logo being plated in gold. Daft Punk, along with Courtney Love were photographed for the "Music Project" of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent. The duo appear in their new sequined suits custom made by Hedi Slimane, holding and playing their new instruments with bodies made of lucite. In 2013, Bandai Tamashii released a S.H. Figuarts (SHF) action figure for Daft Punk coinciding with the release of Random Access Memories in Japan. Following a series a teaser trailers, Daft Punk made a rare public appearance at the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix in May on behalf of the Lotus F1 Team, who supported the duo by racing in specially-branded cars emblazoned with the band's logo.
Daft Punk were scheduled to appear on the episode of The Colbert Report on 6 August 2013 to promote Random Access Memories, but were unable to do so because of contractual obligations regarding the duo's later appearance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. According to Stephen Colbert, Daft Punk were unaware of any exclusivity agreement and were halted by MTV executives the morning prior to the taping. In 2015, Daft Punk appeared alongside several other musicians to announce their co-ownership of the music service Tidal at its relaunch.
The duo has also been acknowledged in works by other artists. "Losing My Edge", the first single by LCD Soundsystem, bragged about being the first to "play Daft Punk to the rock kids." LCD Soundsystem also recorded the song "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House", which reached No. 29 in the UK and was nominated for the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. The Soulwax remix of the song also contains samples of many Daft Punk tracks as well as tracks by Thomas Bangalter. The song "Number 1 Girl" by the Dutch music project Le Le mentions the names Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo among other producers and artists. In the Flight of the Conchords episode "Sally", a music video for the Flight of the Conchords song "Robots" is shot with homemade robot costumes fashioned by the band's manager, Murray. Jemaine comments, "It doesn't look like Daft Punk. We wanted ones like Daft Punk."
A number of Daft Punk tracks have been sampled or covered by other artists. "Technologic" was sampled by Swizz Beatz for the Busta Rhymes song "Touch It". In a later remix of "Touch It" the line "touch it, bring it, pay it, watch it, turn it, leave it, start, format it" from "Technologic" was sung by R&B and rap artist Missy Elliott. Kanye West's 2007 song "Stronger" from the album Graduation borrows the melody and features a vocal sample of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". Daft Punk's robotic costumes make an appearance in the music video for "Stronger". The track "Daftendirekt" from Daft Punk's album Homework was sampled for the Janet Jackson song "So Much Betta" from her 2008 album Discipline. The track "Aerodynamic" was sampled for Wiley's 2008 single "Summertime". "Veridis Quo" from the album Discovery was sampled for the Jazmine Sullivan song "Dream Big" from her 2008 album Fearless. DJs Marc Mysterio and Téo Moss released a cover version of "One More Time" featuring the vocals of Yardi Don. Daft Punk's "Around the World" was sampled for JoJo's 2009 song "You Take Me (Around the World)". The song "Cowboy George" by The Fall contains a clip of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". A cappella group Pentatonix performed a medley of Daft Punk songs, released as a YouTube video. As of March 2017, the video had been viewed over 236 million times. The medley won for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or a Cappella of the 57th Grammy Awards.
In a December 2012 episode of The Simpsons titled "The Day the Earth Stood Cool", recurring character Disco Stu wears an outfit which is very similar in design to Bangalter's. The online role-playing game World of Warcraft references the musicians with non-player characters Guyo Crystalgear and Tivilix Bangalter, which wear distinctive diving suits and helmets based on the duo's signature appearance. In the 2014 animated film My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks, the character Rarity briefly dons an outfit with a helmet similar to that of Homem-Christo's.
The 2014 French drama film Eden includes appearances by two actors who portray Daft Punk at various points in their career. An hour long documentary named Daft Punk Unchained was televised on 24 June 2015 in France and on 9 February 2016 in the UK. It uses prexisting Daft Punk footage along with new interviews of their colleagues to document the rise to fame and the lives of the duo and their pioneering influence on the electronic music scene.
The duo was satirized in a 2015 episode of Family Guy. In the 2016 reboot of The Powerpuff Girls, two ghosts shaped like both elements of Daft Punk appear in the episode "Puffdora's Box". Daft Punk was later referenced and parodied by the pigs in The Angry Birds Movie as "Daft Piggy", along with Steve Aoki (as "Steve Aoinki") in the movie.
A medley of Daft Punk songs was played at the 2017 Bastille Day parade by a French military band, in front of French President Emmanuel Macron and his many guests, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
Main article: Daft Punk discography
- Studio albums
Awards and nominations
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Daft Punk