By now it’s old news that Daft Punk tagged a motley crew of collaborators for their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories. Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, Todd Edwards, DJ Falcon, Chilly Gonzales, Paul Williams, and the loveable ol’ Giorgio Moroder all make up the laundry list of five-star talent. Though, if you’re familiar with the French duo’s fascinating and sometimes confusing history, you’ll know they’ve been hosts to enviable company in years past. On the off chance that you didn’t know, we thought we’d offer a brief tutorial of their past while you listen in on their future.
Before Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter donned their helmets to become Daft Punk, and prior to Laurent Brancowitz joining his younger brother Christian Mazzalai to complete Phoenix, there was Darlin. Formed in 1992, Bangalter slapped the bass, de Homem-Christo commanded the guitar, and Brancowitz attacked the drums for the Beach Boys-inspired rock group. Releasing just four original songs (which hit the shelves via compilation albums from the Duophonic and Banana Split imprints) and only making two live appearances, Darlin would most likely have been forgotten in the annals of time if the members hadnt gone onto more grandiose endeavors. And as legend has it, if it wasnt for a negative Melody Maker review that dubbed Darlins music “a daft punky thrash”, there may have never been a Daft Punk. -Derek Staples
Daft Punk and Pedro Winter (aka Busy P) – 1996
The saga of Daft Punk could have been much different if not for Pedro Winter (aka Busy P). One year before the duo released their 1997 debut LP, Homework, they met and hired Winter, a fellow DJ/promoter and law-student, as their manager. Within the year, Daft Punk was signed to Atlantic and churning out tracks in preparation of the album. Winter also assisted the duo outside of his managerial duties, as his Art Director credit on 2001’s Discovery attests.
During a lengthy 2012 interview with JAMhouse, Winter stated: I spent 12 years with them [Daft Punk] and I have to say that when we split together, it was more like when you are 18-years-old and your parents are looking at you and its like time to have your own place now you know? And I felt a bit like that with Daft Punk I felt it was about time, you know? And I wanted to start some other things. For the Busy P uninitiated, the other thing is his highly successful Ed Banger record label. -Derek Staples
Thomas Bangalter and Alan Braxe and Benjamin Diamond 1998
For a short period between Homework and Discovery, Bangalter was joined in his home studio by fellow French producer Alan Braxe and vocalist Benjamin Diamond. Calling themselves Stardust, the trio had one major hit, Music Sound Better with You. Recorded in only one day, and sampling Chaka Khans Fate, the track reached #2 in the UK and #1 on Billboards Hot Dance Music/Club Play Chart. The success of the house single had little effect on the outfit, as they have yet to produce a follow-up track. And surprise, Michel Gondry also produced the video for this single. -Derek Staples
Thomas Bangalter and Bob Sinclar 1998
Bob Sinclar, now one of the most revered names in popular French House music, tapped Bangalter to co-produce Sinclars second single, Gym Tonic. Both talented producers, the duo were still learning the business end of the industry and failed to clear the audio snippet from a Jane Fonda workout video that they sampled extensively throughout the song. With Fonda refusing to grant permission, the song was never released as a single and was placed as the final track of Sinclars debut LP Paradise. -Derek Staples
Daft Punk and Spike Jonze, Roman Coppola, Michael Gondry & Seb Janiak – 1999
For as much as both members of Daft Punk made it clear from their very inception that their music was not a function to further their wealth or fame, Bangalter and Homem-Christo certainly contradict that on D.A.F.T.. The collection of five music video and live performance clips pairs the duo with some rather “It” directors, including Spike Jonze, Roman Coppola, Michel Gondry and Seb Janiak. Ranging from absurd (the story of an anthropomorphised dog moving to New York) to surreal (a half flashback/half instructional on how to make tomato sauce) D.A.F.T. flexes the creative weight Daft Punk acquired after a single record. Jonze has gone so far as to call Da Funk a predecessor to Being John Malkovich, while Gondry remains a collaborator and cohort to this day. Now, if only we can get Sofia Coppola to direct the video for Get Lucky. -Erik Burg
Daft Punk and Phoenix 2000, 2010
In 2000, while Phoenix were recording their debut LP, United, Bangalter stepped in to add his synth skills to “Embuscade”. Ten years later, Bangalter once again united with the band, but in a much larger fashion. On October 20, 2010, Madison Square Garden was already in a state of ecstasy as Phoenix performed If I Ever Feel Better for their encore. With the guitars still screeching and Thomas Mars perched atop the stages massive speakers, Daft Punk appeared from the darkness to perform “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. After not performing for three years, the robots had avoided rust and seamlessly fused with the live instrumentals of Phoenix for Around The World and 1901. Not only did the duo once again have the opportunity to perform alongside Laurent Brancowitz, they amplified the buzz of their Tron:Legacy soundtrack and gave the audience a night they could never had anticipated and will not easily forget. -Derek Staples
Daft Punk and Romanthony – 2001
The first track on Daft Punks 2001 record Discovery has become one of the most recognizable dance tracks of all time. But it would be nothing if not for Romanthonys auto-tuned vocal hook. One More Time is as anthemic and universal as electronic music gets, a track lauded for its powerful precision and endless rhythm. And with that, it becomes all too easy to forget that Romanthony also provided the silky, sexy vocals for the ten minute outro, Too Long. Romanthony provided more R&B salvation on Too Long than what the rest of Discovery was indicating would be waiting in the waning minutes of the album, but nevertheless it turned out the be one of the most infectious tracks on the album. Romanthonys eventual contribution to Daft Club was a stripped down, expanded lyrical cut of One More Time, a sort of expanded fiction of the Daft Punk world. -Erik Burg
Daft Punk and DJ Sneak 2001
Outside of the underground house community, DJ Sneak is widely known as the producer who most often, and viciously, attacks the burgeoning EDM scene. However, back in 2001, Sneak was happy to assist the duo when they were breaking further into the mainstream with Discovery. Writing the lyrics for Digital Love, Sneak helped push the track to #9 on the Hot Dance Music Charts. Given Sneaks current distaste for the mainstream, this is one success that he’s eager to keep in the shadows. -Derek Staples
Daft Punk, GAP and Juliette Lewis 2001
Set to their own Digital Love, Daft Punk fell for the moves of actor/rocker Juliette Lewis in this comical 2001 Gap commercial. Scant details state that the duo were contractually obligated to wear Gap following this commercial, but denim definitely isnt flattering on their robotic figures. Luckily, Daft Punk have made much better clothing and marketing decisions as their career has progressed. -Derek Staples
Daft Punk and Todd Edwards – 2003
In the most recent episode of the ongoing Collaborators series, a weekly feature that looks to expose the many collaborators of Random Access Memories, New Jerseys Todd Edwards discusses his relationship with Daft Punk. Edwards calls RAM a record that changed his life, but it may have been his original collaboration with Daft Punk that ultimately decided the fate of his career. Producing and providing the vocals for Face To Face, it was Edwards signature sampling style that provided stylish spark for the latter half of Discovery. Quick cuts, meaningless snippets, all different parts coalescing as one gorgeous song, leaving Edwards voice as the guiding light. Since Face To Face, Edwards has gone to forge his own rather legendary career, but it’s his collaboration with these two French dance pioneers that made him a household name amongst critics. -Erik Burg
Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto – 2003
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is a subversive, science fiction critique of the music industry. The plot details the odyssey of four alien rockers who are captured, brainwashed, and repackaged as hit group The Crescendolls. These unfortunate pop-star slaves are ruled by the sinister producer and occultist Earl de Darkwood. Darkwood, whose mystical fascination with gold records and treatment of musicians as mere commodities, eventually faces off against starship cowboy Shep. Sheps heroic love for The Crescendolls sultry bass player, Stella, leads him to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the bands freedom.
The amazing thing about Interstella is that the complete lack of dialogue doesnt hinder its beautiful storytelling, but rather enhances it. The songs of Discovery provide the necessary audio component, while the dazzling visuals and fantastic, interplanetary sequences unfurl a mesmerizing space opera.
The feature length animated adventure was directed by Kazuhisa Takenouchi, but its production was overseen by anime and manga legend Leiji Matsumoto, who served not just as visual supervisor, but also as a childhood inspiration to Bangalter and Homem-Christo. From the slender humanoid bodies, to the lobotomy eyed heroines and starcraft packed with all sorts of gadgets, Interstellas style is a composite of Matsumotos illustrious career, while the coy, tongue-in-cheek humor is pure Daft Punk. The French duo make one brief cameo in the film as guests nominees at a music award show. Spoiler: they lose to The Crescendolls. -Dan Pfleegor
Daft Punk and Tony Gardner 2001, 2006
Like Busy P, Tony Gardner has had a lengthy relationship with the duo. First credited with Bionic Engineering, for designing their signature helmets, during 2001s Discovery, the famed make-up artist also worked on the video for Technologic, directed The Primetime of Your Life, and was associate producer for Dart Punks first feature film, Daft Punk’s Electroma. Outside of his work for the duo, Gardner’s resume sports blockbusters like Zombieland, 127 Hours, Bride of Chucky, The Addams Family, and Theres Something About Mary. -Derek Staples
Daft Punk, Martin Phillips and John McGuire – 2006
Daft Punk is a reclusive group, and as such, they dont perform live shows all too often. So one can imagine a fans surprise when, in 2006, they debuted a paradigm-shifting stage show and series of remixes that would eventually be released as the critically acclaimed concert album Alive 2007. I was fortunate enough to catch the gig at Miamis one-shot Bang! Music Festival and was blown away as soon as the duo hit the stage atop an Illuminati Pyramid that harnessed the still novel technology of LED lights. Keep in mind, this was a time when light emitting diodes were just starting their now wall-to-wall occupation of real estate amongst Times Squares Mecca to advertising. Behind the pyramid was a full screen of animation while a latticework of triangular webbing danced in step to the brilliant programming of the night. The lighting for each song could have been the entire show for any other concert, but as the set progressed, it just kept getting better, stronger, faster, and more intricate.
Design guru Martin Phillips and LED mastermind John McGuire were tasked with constructing the greatest stage show ever seen. The pair combined their unique talents and worked for months alongside Daft Punk, as well as Daft Crew member and overall go to guy Cédric Hervet, to erect a temple of entertainment that drew from the bands recurring theme of the dichotomy between humans and robot technology. It was at once measured, automated, and full of heart. Other artists, like Kanye West and deadmau5, have since tried to replicate this magic to varying degrees of success. But the Alive concerts still stand out as some of the greatest, most well produced, and important shows of this brave new millenium.-Dan Pfleegor
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Sébastien Tellier 2008, 2012
Unlike Bangalter, de Homem-Christo has generally shied away from collaborations. However, when singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Sébastien Tellier approached de Homem-Christo to produce his third album, Sexuality, the more introverted half of Daft Punk was eager to work with maybe the best singer and composer in France today. Shedding the robotic persona, Sexuality allowed de Homem-Christo to excite the R&B chromosomes of his production DNA, resulting in an LP that was unlike any project either gentleman had worked on previously. Although, the R&B aesthetics now seem of influence on Daft Punk Random Access Memories.
In 2012, presumably at the same time Daft Punk were recording elements of their upcoming full-length, de Homem-Christo was back in the studio with Tellier producing “My Poseidon” for Telliers My God Is Blue. Listening to the track, it’s clear that de Homem-Christo is quite comfortable producing with non-electronic instruments. Pay attention to the chimes and intricate guitar arrangements during portions of the track. -Derek Staples