Editorial: 5 game changers behind Daft Punk’s new album
It’s official. Daft Punk will finally release their fourth studio album this spring. Until a few weeks ago, that was confidential information limited to Thomas, Guy, Sony/Columbia and the select handful musical masterminds that have participated in the production. Thomas and Guy’s first album since 2005’s Human After All is slated to feature legendary forces; award winners of all sorts, hall of fame members of all trades, and some of the most cultivated geniuses in all of entertainment.
Meet the five game changers that will shape Daft Punk’s forthcoming album this May.
5. Chilly Gonzales
Chilly Gonzales — real name Jason Charles Beck — is a jack-of-all-trades musician who has mastered singing, songwriting, producing, and even rapping. The Canadian has gone from teaching himself piano at age three to earning a Grammy nomination late in his career. That nomination came with his production behind Feist’s The Reminder, just another collaboration between the two in which Chilly flexes his indie rock muscles. He has since dabbled in various electronic flavors, hip-hop, and has released two instrumental albums, Solo Piano and its sequel.
After moving to France and eventually settling down in Germany, Gonzales continues to provide his symphonic skills to A-list artists. Most recently, he has hit the studio with fellow Canadian, Drake. Not to record material, but to play piano and inspire melodies and harmonies. He has done the same deed for another superstar entity — Daft Punk.
“They’re asking me to play the piano and provide some inspiration, I come up with something and then I can leave it with them. It’s pretty clear that I am there as a pianist, and more specifically as someone who knows how to wield harmony.” – Chilly Gonzales
4. Michael Jackson’s Thriller Team
Among the many whispers about involvement of Daft Punk’s new album, one name stands alone — Michael Jackon. No, Michael had not contributed pre-mortem, but the team of musicians behind his legendary Thriller have allegedly gone back to work the duo’s fated album. This has opened up discussion for a few gurus in particular.
First is Quincy Jones, the executive producer of Thriller who has set Grammy records with 79 nominations and 27 awards to earn his induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. While he may not be the most likely member to join Daft Punk, several other options remain viable: Tom Scott, chief of the wind-controlled analog synthesizer called the lyricon, or any of the brilliant keyboardists ranging from Michael Boddicker to David Foster.
The contributor to most likely have lent his talent is bass guitarist Louis Johnson, also known as one half of The Brothers Johnson. Daft Punk has manifested the French electronic sound, a sound in which the bass design is drawn from Louis Johnson himself. Take a listen to Justice’s “Newjack.” Sound a little like The Brothers Johnson’s “You Make Me Wanna Wiggle.” Try a lot. Of the deep talent pool behind Thriller, we can expect that Louis Johnson will provide Daft Punk with a direct dose of the authentic bass stylings that they embody.
3. Paul Williams
Daft Punk are beyond the standard process of production, they are of the film-scoring caliber. The duo had exquisitely scored the soundtrack for Disney’s Tron in 2010, and do not intend to drop those standards for their original material moving forward. In turn, rather than working with strictly music heavyweights, they’ve teamed up with silver-screen all-stars.
Academy Award-winning songwriter Paul Williams has been composing music and scoring soundtracks since the early 1970s. From “Evergreen” with Barbara Stresiand for A Star Is Born to “Rainbow Connection” for the original Muppet Movie, Williams has racked up nominations from the Golden Globes and the Oscars. More than 10 years after his induction to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Williams has confirmed (in multiple interviews) that his most recent work has been writing music for Daft Punk’s fourth album.
“I have written songs for Daft Punk. This material will appear on their new album, coming maybe June.” – Paul Williams
Predicting the album’s release date, he was only a month off. As for his contribution to the album, he’s expected to be spot on. Williams is the type of musician that will take Daft Punk’s newest material from the status of electronic gems to that of euphonious perfection; the type of composition worthy of America’s most prestigious awards. His unique bestowal combined with the duo’s own film-scoring experience may indicate the album’s styling as a perpetual, soundtrack-esque arrangement of sounds — something unrivaled by even the best of dance music releases.
2. Giorgio Moroder
If you’ve attended enough dance events (or have stolen enough of your parents’ old records), you should recognize Donna Sumer’s “I Feel Love.” Thank Giorgio Moroder, the Italian disco legend who set the stage for dance music in the 1980s. Moroder has won three Academy Awards for songs produced and written for Midnight Express, Flashdance, and Topgun. His soundtrack for Scarface went without reward, but “Flashdance (What A Feeling)” and “Take My Breathe Away” should both ring a bell. Most artists would be content with three Academy Awards, but Giorgio matched his feat with three Grammys as well.
The 2004 Dance Music Hall of Fame inductee has been fairly quiet over the past two decades, but has broken his respective silence to affirm the news of his work with Daft Punk. That work, however, had not been the traditional production process that he has mastered for 30 years. The French duo asked Moroder to step into a vocal booth to speak about his life for a spoken word recording. Inside the booth were several microphones ranging from different eras and decades between the 1960s and present day, each that would record the stories from the corresponding time periods of his life.
In attendance for this mythical studio session was another Dance Music Hall of Fame luminary…
1. Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers has gone from Sesame Street guitarist to disco legend responsible for some of the greatest dance records ever made. As a lead guitarist, Nile manned the funk and soul band Chic to release 10 albums and dance anthems such as “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” On his own, he has produced countless records for the likes of Madonna, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Duran Duran, and Diana Ross. Last August, Rodgers hinted at a Daft Punk collaboration, but only last month he proclaimed; “The next time [April 2013] I set foot in Japan, my collaboration with Daft Punk would have started to hit people’s eardrums.”
He recalls Guy and Thomas showing up to his New York City apartment one day for a surprise session. He described the experience as the time of their lives; listening to music, playing guitar, and just having fun. They eventually made their alliance formal — very formal, as Nile had referred — before declaring that the result would be “amazing.” Described as unprecedented spiritual and artistic vibes, Rodgers’ collaborative efforts with Daft Punk rank aside his time spent with legends.
“Those guys are geniuses. Working with them was as good as anything I’ve ever done. As great as being in the studio with [David] Bowie. It’s as great as being with Bernard Edwards. It’s as great as the best stuff I’ve ever done with Duran Duran or Madonna.” – Nile Rodgers
How They’re Changing The Game
Daft Punk’s hiatus has not been a lazy break from music, it has been an 8-year learning experience that’s brought them from elite electronic producers to prodigious musicians. Between the release of Human After All in 2005 and the approaching release of their fourth album, Guy and Thomas have extracted ideologies and skills from some of the most cerebrally gifted men in music — and their score for Tron in 2010 was only a benchmark . They’ve adopted a style of production that aligns them with, not only the greatest DJs and producers in the world, but overlords of musical composition.
The forces that have thrown their support behind Daft Punk’s new album are each historical figures in the world of entertainment; Grammy record holders and Hall of Fame members of Song Writing, Rock & Roll, and Dance Music. Linking up with such elite company for their looming masterpiece, Daft Punk have solidified a position in the same historical context as the ones we call legends.