The bad news came to fans in the form of an online video: Daft Punk is no more. Apart from a few collaborations, the duo had been pretty quiet since the huge success of their 2013 album Random Access Memories, a critical and public hit, becoming known to the whole world (whether the world was aware of it or not) thanks to the hit “Get Lucky”. At the time, one wondered what on earth could follow such a meteoric hit from the helmeted duo.
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo met on the benches of a Parisian high school in the mid-80s. Under the influence of noise-rock they formed the band Darlin’. Their only single, released in 1993, earned them a review in a British music weekly that called them ‘daft punk trash’. The name stuck as the two created a series of rave parties, this time with a more electro feel, basing their sound on synthesisers and samplers.
The Scottish label Soma released their first EP (The New Wave) in 1994, followed in 1995 by “Da Funk” / “Rollin’ and Scratchin’”. The duo signed a contract with a record company which required them to finance their productions themselves in exchange for their artistic freedom. Released in early 1997, the album Homework quickly became a classic, capturing their homemade version of house music. The legend was beginning. They joined the internationally reaching French touch movement, along with Laurent Garnier, Cassius, Air, Dimitri from Paris, Etienne de Crécy etc. The duo continued to perform live with raw sets made for dancing, that were immortalised on the 1997 album Alive.
A sign of their obsession with not repeating themselves, their second album Discovery marks a return to their childhood worlds: disco sounds and references to video games and cartoons. They entrusted the album’s aesthetics to Japanese cartoonist Leiji Matsumoto, creator of the character Albator and designer of the animated film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, whose soundtrack includes all the tracks from Discovery. From then on, they only appeared in public wearing robot-like helmets, more for their own privacy than as a PR stunt.
The album’s successor, Human After All, shows a will to take the pressure off. Recorded quite quickly, Daft Punk refound their sense of spontaneity, giving off an almost rock-like energy that opened the way for the techno banger (Justice, Mr. Oizo, Sebastian, Boys Noize, Para One, Digitalism, etc). The tour they put together unveiled something wholly new in electro music – the two artists enthroned at the top of a pyramid, surrounded by a devastatingly effective light show. This tour triggered the EDM wave in the United States, showing that mainstream electro was capable of filling stadiums.
The pair’s move to Los Angeles laid bare their cinematic ambitions. In 2010 they composed the soundtrack for the film Tron: Legacy which saw them working with a real string orchestra. This sort of collaboration prepared them for their latest masterpiece, Random Access Memories, on which they paid tribute to the music they love, from disco to funk. They surrounded themselves with musicians such as Nile Rodgers from Chic, which resulted in the grooviest (and therefore most human) work of their career. This triumph was cemented with five Grammy Awards and a number of extraordinary invitations to collaborate, from Kanye West to Pharrell Williams to The Weeknd. Is it, perhaps paradoxically, these new heights of fame that led to the band breaking up? Or is it rather that each has their own individual direction to take, with desires to find fulfillment in separate musical spheres or perhaps in the cinema? We’ve no doubt that Thomas and Guy-Manuel will answer our questions soon, helmet or no helmet.