Daft Punk, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo aka (Guy-Man) and Thomas Bangalter, met in 1987 in the Parisian school, Lyceé Carnot. The duo formed a rock ‘n’ roll band with a school friend called Laurent Brancowitz in 1992 going by the name Darlin’ (after The Beach Boys song, of which they later covered).
A Melody Maker journalist described their take on music as “a daft punky thrash”, and concurrently birthed the international household name we’re familiar with today. After a very short lived success the group disbanded, leaving de Homem-Christo and Bangalter without an outlet. They soon started experimenting with sampling, synth loops and drum machines that were quickly becoming more prevalent in the French house scene.
The 70s were exceptionally important in Daft Punk’s musical journey. Before either of our helmeted heroes could even pick up a plectrum, Germany’s Kraftwerk, a self-proclaimed ‘robot-pop’ group, were paving the way in European techno and primitive hip-hop. Kraftwerk worked with drum machines and digital metronomes, pivotal instrumentation in the development of this new minimalistic and artificial sound. Meanwhile, on the East coast of America, a rapidly growing movement in disco (Sister Sledge, Chic), hip-hop (Run-DMC) and soul was swiftly advancing and it would eventually carve elements of Daft Punk’s sound at the beginning of the 21st century. In 1997 the group release their debut studio album, Homework, after a trio of successful singles (‘The New Wave’, ‘Da Funk’ and ‘Mystique’) with Virgin Records. The album sold well and charted in fourteen counties.
It’s safe to assume that Daft Punk may have taken Kraftwerk’s self-assessment a bit too literally and quickly began work on their famous guises; however there was a genus of Daft Punk before the pristine Yves Saint Laurent suits and dramatic robot headgear. In their formidable years our lads would simply don cheap Halloween masks to obscure their identity and ever since, they’ve managed to avoid the photographic capture.
Somewhere towards the end of the century and just before the birth of the Discovery album the helmets were soldered on, rumoured to have cost around $65,000 to produce, each being capable of displaying scrolling text and housing thousands of LED lights that would react and sync with their music.
2001 brought the release of the groups most acclaimed and recognised album, Discovery. The record was massively successful and peaked at two in the UK charts, forty-four in the United States and was triple-platinum in France by 2007. The album provided itself as a soundtrack to the anime film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, and each single exhibited a different extract of the film. ‘One More Time’, ‘Digital Love’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster Stronger’ firmly put Daft Punk on not just the house and techno map, but introduced them to a mainstream fame. ‘Something About Us’ was the sixth and final single to be released from Discovery, however it went almost unrecognised and didn’t chart well. I personally feel it’s massively important and should be viewed as the potential building blocks of the future, exhibiting licks of not just techno and disco but a soul element that has reared its much more evolved head in the 2013 album, Random Access Memories.
In 2005 the duo released their third studio album, Human After All of which received very mixed reviews – supposedly created as a counterpoint to the their 2001 studio release. Fans cited it as repetitive and noted that it wasn’t as ‘fun’ as the groups previous release. Luckily the tour that followed (Alive) put all the naysayers back in their seats, reimbursed the lost revenue and set the journalists straight with their poor reviews. Bangalter commented, “We were definitely seduced at the time by the idea of doing the opposite of Discovery.” He compared the deliberately unpolished record to ‘an unworked stone’. The album was essentially produced with a couple of guitars and an automated drum machine, and was mixed and boxed in four weeks. Probably not their greatest move, but at the time it was noted that Daft Punk thought of it as their best work to date.
After the aforementioned 2007 tour, the trail went cold for Daft Punk until they magically appeared in the 2010 Disney sci-fi blockbuster, Tron. The boys were brought in to compose the soundtrack and received a cameo appearance in the club scene providing the entertainment.
Almost three long years passed without a peep from our petit protégés until the duo let slip that they had something in the pipeline in early 2013, and of course thus came the highly acclaimed drip fed marketing campaign of Random Access Memories.