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Human After All – The Story of Daft Punk

Published on 1 March 2021 at 11:03

Bricolage is the art of creation from scraps, junk, or diverse materials of what is available. This style of composition was core to the musical android duo, Daft Punk. Their musical use of drum machines, synths, samples of 70s and 80s funk and disco bangers helped define their own unique sound.

 

In 2013 the electric duo released their final album, titled Random Access Memories, which would go on to win Grammy awards. Since then, they produced several tracks with Kanye West on his album, Yeezus (2013) and The Weeknd’s, Starboy (2016).

 

Last week, Daft Punk announced their retirement via YouTube with a video entitled Epilogue. In this video, one of the androids blows up, and the other walks in the  desert sunlightto the melody of their 2013 song, 'Touch'.  The video closes with their two hands clasped in a triangle and the duration of the duo’s careers together: 1993-2021.

 

Daft Punk is comprised of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Gold Robot) and Thomas Bangalter (Silver Robot). They met in secondary school, and along with Laurent Brancowitz, they formed the band, Darlin'. 

 

Darlin' released the song "Cindy, So Loud" and received a scathing review branding their musical tone as "Daft punky thrash." The two friends, Guy, and Thomas lifted their future name from this judgment and began working on dance music after going to raves and being blown away by the atmosphere there.

 

They began releasing tracks like New Waves in 1994 and Da Funk in 1995, which became a European anthem.  They signed with Virgin records and could own their recordings as part of the deal. Their debut album was released in 1997 titled, Homework, a blend of 70s, funk, pop, disco, house, and dance. Homework featured some of the French House duo’s most memorable hits, "Around the world” “Da Funk” and “Revolution 909”. In short, the album produced club and commercial radio hits while also being hailed by critics.

 

When performing in the late 90s, Guy and Thomas began to wear masks. The Daft Punk we know, as helmet wearing androids, started on the 9th of September 1999. The back story is that during a studio session, a sampler they were working on exploded at exactly 9.09 AM that day, leaving them with facial scars and turning them into Androids.

 

From that day onwards, they began wearing their iconic helmets.  Their inspirations for wearing masks are believed to come from the cosmic disco group Space. Phantom of the paradise, a 1970s musical film, is also cited as an inspiration and The Day the Earth Stood Still is a visual inspiration.  Tony Gardner, a special effects guru, created their famous helmets.

 

Daft Punk’s iconic look and the quality of their work has many critics hailing them as great musicians of integral quality. Their visual identity tells the tale of fame. Today, musicians are just as famous (or in some cases more well-known) for their personal life. One can think of examples such as 6ix9ine and Britney Spears, who is the subject of a new documentary and a large social media movement based on elements of her personal life.

 

Along with keeping their identity secret, the duo did not want their personal life to be of interest to the public. Using their helmets, they would avoid photographs during public appearances and avoid fame as they had no interest in it. This part of their public image, of being slightly minimalist and iconic while forgoing the public invite into their personal life, allowed Daft Punk to be timeless. A commitment to privacy created the musical mythos around the two, which follows their legacy.

 

Daft Punk's Human After All is regarded as their 'worst' work, despite the majority opinion agreeing that there were some great songs on it. They recorded their 3rd album in just 7 weeks. Despite the feedback, when the group toured in 2006/07, and their live album release Alive 2007, many critics agreed that tracks from Human After All sounded better live. Daft Punk's ability to mix tracks live served to in some ways to redeem the songs from Human After All, and many fans suggested listening to Alive 2007 if you want to like Human After All. Critics also hailed Alive 2007 as one of the best live albums of all time. 

 

Daft Punk's notable releases include Homework (1997), Alive 1997, Discovery (2001), Human After All (2005), Alive 2007, Tron Legacy Soundtrack (2010) and Random Access Memories (2013). 

 

The group’s split has saddened fans knowing that there will not be any more music. Still, the legacy and musical quality the two leave behind are scandal-free, award-winning, and of near consistent quality when compared to their contemporaries.  Daft Punk's music project may have run its course, but their discography and production credits leave a rich library. 

 

In 2006 the duo directed an avant-garde science fiction film titled Electroma. It tells the story of two robots (Gold & Silver) as they venture to become human. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, but its legacy now lies with its ending scene used to announce their split. The two robots say goodbye in a desert before one of them asks the other to flick their self-destruct switch. There is a fade to black as a choir sings, “If love is the answer, you’re home”, closing the book on one of pop culture’s most definitive artists. 


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