Who is behind these robot masks? Where do they come from? How did they start? Are they breaking up for real? But why? Daft Punk leaves behind many questions. Rather than trying to find an answer to these questions, let’s pay tribute to this iconic duo. Let’s thank them for these 28 years of unique, original, and innovative music. Let’s retrace their amazing career!

Who is Daft Punk?

First of all, you have to know that Daft Punk is a French electronic music band. Many people think that Daft Punk is American. However, this group is really composed of French artists. The members of Daft Punk were born in the mid-70s and are both Chevaliers des Arts et des Lettres, one of the highest honors from the French state. 

Daft Punk is a Parisian duo composed of Thomas Bangalter ( born in 1974) and Guy Manuel De Homen Christo ( born in 1974), both from Neuilly-sur-Seine (a golden suburb of Paris). They met at the High School Carnot in Paris at the age of 12/13. Long before the birth of Daft Punk, the two friends formed a band with Laurent Brancowitz called Darlin. 

Daft Punk, original music like their name

The name Daft Punk comes from a review by a journalist from the British magazine Melody Maker, Dave Jennings. The latter described the single of the group Darlin as “daft punky trash”. After splitting up with Brancowitz (now a member of the French band Phoenix), the two French musicians took the negative comment and turned it into a stage name. Certainly, a rather original name, but their music is no less. Their music style has varied during their career from techno-house to disco-pop. Daft Punk has revolutionized electro-pop music several times. Since its birth in 1993, the group has made four albums, apart from the cinematographic achievements.

Ambassadors of the French Touch

Thomas and Guy Manuel had the merit to have exported the French Touch abroad, a French electronic music movement started in the 90s by artists like Laurent Garnier or Daft Punk. This movement gave birth to many artists on the French techno scene such as Justice, Boyz Noise, Digitalism, or Cassius.   

From the beginning of the Daft Punk duo to their first album “Homework”

It was in 1987 that Daft Punk met for the first time. Indeed, they were in the same class in middle school. Five years later, in 1991, they decided to create a rock band called “Darlin”. They received positive reviews in England after the release of their first album. On the other hand, it is practically the radio silence on the side of the French press which does not give importance to this album. It is only in 1993 that the duo Daft Punk was born. The two artists release their two tracks on CD, with “The New Wave” and “Alive”. 

In 1995, they released two mythical singles “Da Funk” and “Rollin & Scratchin”, both tracks quickly spread through the clubs in France and Europe. Still, in 1995, Bangalter creates his label named “Roulé” and released “Tracks On Da Rocks”, we will come back to this point later, it is true that the two members have always been productive and creative, solo, outside the group Daft Punk. 

Besides that, they have the honor of being the opening act for the world tour of the British band The Chemical Brother. In response, Daft Punk began to be known and recognized in the world. They followed up with their first commercial success with their album “Homework” (including the single Around the World) released on January 7th, 1997. The album sold more than 2 million copies in 35 countries in less than two months. This album is the forerunner of the future international success of Daft Punk. This record is more oriented in the trends of the time. In other words, “Homework” puts forward a repetitive tone, because it is very electronic, house and techno. Moreover, the video clip of the title Around the World, taken from the main repertoire of the duo, made the world tour. 

In addition, it is before the release of their first album that the duo decides to become anonymous, to protect themselves from the media, by adopting a robot helmet each. It is also a good strategy to create a visual identity as well as to create a part of the mystery around their group. The lesson was that the image was as important as the music. Hence the concept of the robots and the almost non-existent appearances. Indeed, when we talk about Daft Punk, the image of the two helmeted musicians comes directly to mind. 

A singular musical identity confirmed with their second album “Discovery”

It is in 2001, with the second album “Discovery”, that Daft Punk put down their signature with a very disco, dancing, and enormously funk record. The title “One more time” is the perfect example. This second composition was a great success with the public and the press, they sold 2.8 million albums, including 500,000 in the United States, a great performance for an electro album. The tracks released have developed the musical identity of the group. Indeed, Daft Punk’s songs all have a disco feel, very eighties. But the use of the vocal treatment is also very strong. Some hits will be covered in the future, including “Harder Better Faster Stronger” by a certain Kanye West. With this album, they get two nominations at the Grammy Awards and release two years later their animated movie drawn by the Japanese artist Leiji Matsumoto “Interstella 5555”.

“Human After All” a less acclaimed album

“Human after all” is their third album released in 2005. It is said that the two artists recorded this work in only two weeks. This comes from the idea of creating a record in a hurry based on paranoia about technology. Indeed, “Human after all” was a way to say that behind their mask, there are sensitive human beings. This creation was not so well received at the beginning, it is probably related to the fact that the group adopted a new style more rock and black. We will retain from this album some fabulous titles such as “Human After All” or “Television Rules the Nation”. It is the album that performed “less” well commercially with nevertheless approximately 1,5 million albums sold.

The album “Alive” a masterpiece 

In 2006 they released an album that compiles their three previous albums and followed it up with a world tour the same year. Afterward, they recorded their live album during a concert on June 14, 2007, in Paris Bercy, it was released with twelve remixed tracks. Personally, it is the album that I have probably listened to the most of Daft Punk, a real masterpiece. 

The band Daft Punk in love with cinema

We know Daft Punk by their innovative electronic music highlighting the French touch. It should be known that Daft Punk has worked with the world of cinema several times. Indeed, the duo of artists knew how to distinguish themselves visually with their numerous clips. They decided to take it to the next level by producing their own film. During the creation of their album “Discovery”, they came up with the idea of making a science fiction movie about the music industry. They contacted Leiji Matsumoto, a Japanese manga artist, to handle the visual part of the film. The Japanese artist agreed and together they created the film Interstella 5555. This film was screened at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003.

 In 2006, Daft Punk made a second film “Electroma”, a film without dialogue telling the story of the visual and musical odyssey of two robots in the desert on a quest to become human. Directed by the band members, Electroma was in official competition during the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. 

The French musicians did not stop there. In 2010, they exclusively composed 24 tracks for the soundtrack of the Disney movie “Tron: Legacy”, a science fiction film, and even had the honor of appearing in the film as a DJ. It is worth mentioning that Thomas Bangalter, one of the members of Daft Punk, has composed for films on his own account. For instance, the soundtrack of the movie “Irreversible” and the sound effects of “Enter the void” by Gaspar Noé. 

The latest album “Random Access Memory”, a worldwide consecration for Daft Punk

After eight years of waiting, the group returns in 2013 with the album “Random Access Memories”. In terms of promotion, the machine is well oiled they release a 15-second teaser during the talk show “Saturday Night Live” on CBS, a teaser of “Get Lucky” on YouTube, and a 90-second teaser during the American festival Coachella. On the artistic side, they don’t do things by halves with this album by signing collaborations with renowned artists. We find, for example, Nile Rodgers, a guitarist, producer, and precursor of the funk. There is also Chilly Gonzales or Panda Bear, the founder of Animal Collective and experimental musician. 

It is also on “Random Access Memories” that we find the single “Get lucky” with the American singer Pharrell Williams. All this to say that “Random Access Memories” is the opposite of what Daft punk had proposed before. This is the real strength of this band to be where you don’t expect them. Many musicians had started to copy their electro style with robotic voices for example. They took the opposite direction and released an album with funky disco vibes. The album is a worldwide commercial success with a digitalized industry: the title “Get Lucky” reaches the French record of digital unit sales in three days, with nearly 39,000 copies sold, surpassing Adele’s title “Skyfall”. Ultimate consecration, the album wins in Los Angeles in 2014 the title of best album of the year at the Grammy Awards. 

An undeniable worldwide success for Daft Punk

Daft Punk are regulars at the Grammy Awards, the most prestigious ceremony in the music industry. They have won six trophies and have been nominated 12 times, a record for a French band. Their first nomination was in 2001. In 2006, after numerous singles, the group was elected best DJ by Mixmag magazine and went on to release a series of tracks. Daft punk managed to acquire a huge global success by selling 20 million albums worldwide. The robotic duo has consequently become a pop music icon. 

A prolific solo duo

The two Frenchmen are extremely talented outside of Daft Punk. Thomas Bangalter produced with Stardust a track belonging to the French touch “Music Sounds Better With You” but also “Gym Tonic” with Bob Sinclar or “So Much Love To Give” with his own label Roulé. The realization that made the most impression on me personally is the unlikely featuring with the French rap group 113 with the track “Le 113 fout la merde”. 

On his side, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo had a second electro group founded in 1997, called Le Knight Club. He is associated with the artist Eric Chédeville known as Rico. Another achievement, he produced in 2008 the album Sexuality of Sebastien Tellier. Guy-Manuel also produced in 2010 the track “Nightcall” for the French artist Kavinsky. This track is in the movie Drive, where we find the main actor, Ryan Gosling. 

Daft Punk Break Up: the end of an incredible music career 

On Monday, February 22, 2021, the French duo publicly released important news that turned the music world upside down. As the group is known for its originality, once again, they found an original way to announce their split up. No press release or interview, but rather with the help of a video on YouTube. A short film of about eight minutes, taken from their film Electroma released in 2006. In this passage, we see the two robots in the desert, one of them initiates the self-destruction of the other. After the explosion, the second protagonist continues to move forward. At the end of the epilogue, there is a very clear message: 1993-2021. 

Some fans think that maybe this is Daft Punk’s way of introducing a new project in progress. It is true that with these musicians whose level of originality is outstanding, we can expect anything. Unfortunately, the news was reinforced by Kathrun Frazier, their collaborator. After 28 years of existence on the international scene, Daft Punk is breaking up for real. Sad news for the fans and for the French.

To finish our tribute to the group, we must say that Daft Punk has brought so much to electronic music, that it is impossible not to know them. We are talking about a global phenomenon that started in the early 90s until today. Daft Punk has always been able to bring with justness and a certain vision the renewal of the electro. 

Nevertheless, Daft Punk leaves a great musical legacy behind for future generations. A rich discography, incomparable achievements. For the rest, the public is already hoping for a return, because it must be said, we can expect anything with them. The least we can do is to thank them for their career. We can also listen to their album again and watch the movies they made. In this way, Daft Punk will be able to live again for a few minutes, because music never dies, even less Daft Punk. I invite you to read now a blog post about a new emerging French artist: Petit Biscuit: The Success Story of the French DJ.

Work cited:

https://culture.tv5monde.com/musique/biographies-artistes/daft-punk-1070