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