Despite achingly low levels of musical productivity, Daft Punk remain the most influential electronic act on the planet. They’ve set the tone for two generations of dance music, helped Kanye West rule the world of hip hop and created some of the most spellbinding live shows the world has ever seen. They’ve defied convention at every stage of their career – whether it’s creating enigmatic Robot alter-egos for themselves or making self indulgent feature films whenever they get the chance. And that’s without even mentioning the fact they’ve created some of the most endearing music of the last two decades.
Now on the eve of the release of the soundtrack to Tron Legacy, Daft Punk’s first original output in five years, we give you the low down behind the masked men in Shazam’s 5 Minute Guide to Daft Punk.
Daft Punk are Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, son of French musician David Bangalter who wrote such timely disco ditties as Otowan’s ‘D.I.S.C.O.‘. The pair met in 1987 and formed a band, Darlin’, along with Laurent Brancowitz; who later found fame with the band Phoenix. Darlin’s early output was described as a load of ‘daft punk’ by UK magazine Melody Maker. Although the band eventually disbanded, the name stuck.
Daft Punk began producing more dance focused material after Darlin’ split up. After a chance meeting with Scottish techno mainstay Stuart Macmillan the group’s early work found a home on Soma Recordings. Releases like ‘The New Wave’ and ‘Da Funk’ won them early plaudits from the music press and stoked interest from major labels. Virgin won the ensuing bidding war, however, in typical Daft Punk style, the band managed to negotiate a deal totally on their own terms. Daft Punk released their debut album ‘Homework’ on Virgin but kept all rights to their songs – thus giving them complete creative control.
‘Homework’ became one of the seminal albums of the ’90′s. Splicing ingeniously sourced disco breaks with visceral Chicago house and a hip hop attitude, it was a piece of work that hyperactive club kids and withered rock fossils could all agree on. It spawned singles such ‘Around The World’ and a collection of era-defining music videos directed by the likes of Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry– who later went on to have huge success with The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
‘Discovery’ marked a more pop orientated approach for Daft Punk. Hits such as ‘One More Time’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ saw their music reach an even wider audience than before. None the less, even if the music had become more radio friendly the high brow concepts remained. The release of ‘Discovery’ coincided with that of ‘Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem’ : a feature length Japanese animated film that follows the plight of four alien musicians. It’s soundtracked by Daft Punk’s music and, like all the best Anime, is thoroughly bonkers.
Daft Punk’s third album, ‘Human After All’, marked yet another musical departure. Replacing the synthesisers and slinky pop melodies for the heavily distorted guitars of their pre Daft Punk days, the album was a much more harsh listen than many would’ve expected. Critical reception to the album was initially luke warm, but the album’s ideas catalysed a whole movement in electronic music that helped acts such as Justice and Erol Alkan become some of the most celebrated artists on the blogosphere. The period after the album also ushered in a new era of live performance for the pair. Although Daft Punk had performed live irregularly through the ’90′s, the shows on the ‘Alive 2007′ tour solidified every thing that was great about Daft Punk and put it front and centre. Incorporating a huge glowing pyramid, outlandish robot outfits and a non-stop mega-mix of Daft Punk’s greatest hits; the shows set a new standard for stadium filling electro acts.
Since their 2007 live shows Daft Punk have been characteristicly enigmatic. They created another feature length film, ‘Daft Punk’s Electroma’; appeared in Adidas adverts; made a cameo in the comptuer game DJ Hero; and helped hip hop acts such as Kanye West and Swizz Beats top the world’s charts after their tracks were sampled by the aforementioned acts. Now with the release of ‘Tron Legacy’, the robots are about to launch a new phase in their career. Mixing their trademark synthetics with a 90 piece orchestra, the album has one foot in the world of classical and another in the world of techno. Full of Blade Runner-esque moments of epicness the music is the perfect compliment to the futuristic setting of the film. Thankfully, lead single ‘Drezzed’ contains the stereotypical punch and glitch we’ve come to know and love from the robot duo.