Uncovering the two mysterious French DJs who use the old school to shock the new school
For a duo that painfully cultivates its mystique, it’s not difficult to unearth Daft Punk’s secrets. One simply has to search. To dig. To Google.
For example, as far back as 1995, years before their seminal first album Homework was released, the elusive pair were photographed by a certain Kevin Cummins. That picture has long gone viral.
The always-helmeted Frenchmen are also subjects of multiple interviews, with the writers often describing how they look.
Daft Punk, who are two middle- aged fathers in real life, are Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem- Christo.
Based on various secondhand accounts, Bangaltier is worldly and talkative. The Cummins photo from 18 years ago captures a round-faced youth with beard stubble and an arresting stare. His lifelong collaborator, Guy- Manuel, is more photogenic, with a prominent Gallic nose framed by a head of wispy locks.
Together they are Daft Punk, a name taken from a scathing review of a long-forgotten recording Bangaltier and Homem-Christo experimented with.
Their all concealing masks are symbolic, insists Bangaltier. “The fantasy was actually so much more exciting than the idea of being the most famous person in the world,” he tells a leading men’s magazine. On another occasion they described their disguises as “creating fictional personas that exist in real life.” This approach to costume is novel but not new.
The perpetual headgear work as foils to keep them focused on composing music, an arduous and time-consuming task Daft Punk prefers indulging.
Their latest, Random Access Memories or RAM, is eight years removed from its predecessor. The gap hardly made a difference. When RAM hit the Billboard’s number one spot with 329,000 (mostly digital) copies sold at its peak, it was ultimate proof how cultivating a unique brand still matters more than mainstream hype.
From The Underground
Revisiting Daft Punk’s origins should teach a few valuable lessons to budding artists. Bangaltier and Homem-Christo were budding artists themselves, once.
The pair, who are a year apart in age, met at a rather prestigious secondary school in Paris. They liked punk and rock, but their own attempts at it were subpar, compelling a heartless writer to describe them as ‘daft punks.’ So they embraced the term and switched to the dance scene, where the girls were better looking.
Daft Punk’s first outing, 1997’s Homework, established their cult status. Two years later and in time for their second album, Discovery, Daft Punk donned robot helmets to preserve them from fame’s harsh glare. It’s all about control, they said. Control is freedom.
For their extensive tour to support 2005’s All Too Human album, they jet- setted across the globe and performed inside massive glowing pyramids. Today they’ve even got new custom- made helmets to match the fresh music.
With RAM, the listener is in for a stripped down tracked list with crisp production enlivened by numerous guests, including Giorgio Moroder and Pharrell Williams, to name a few. Turns out much of it was recorded in Bangalter’s house, with work divided between his bedroom studio and the living room.
The party starts with the enrapturing funk of Give Life Back To Music. It’s got the same soul as their hit a decade ago, Harder Better, Stronger, Faster from the Discovery album, but this time saucier, groovier, sexier, cheesier.
A worthy opening salvo is followed by the lukewarm Game of Love and the appealing quasi-instrumental monologue Giorgio by Moroder.
Get Lucky is where the duo shines with Pharrell Williams, who is on another song as well. Beyond, Fragments of Time, and Doin’ it Right are the most repeat-worthy cuts on RAM.
There are a lot of memorable tunes here elbow to elbow with passable tracks. The listener wins some but loses some. Not bad, actually.
Although not the epitome of perfection—the cover art sucks—RAM is the smartest album to have right now. Don’t be afraid to taste it.
Print ed: 07/13