Daft Punk open up in exclusive interview with French magazine; ‘We make music for the fans’
As the release of “Random Access Memories” inches closer, the hype machine around Daft Punk‘s latest album continues to reach meteoric proportions. With the release of “Get Lucky,” thousands of shoddy bootlegs have landed in the trash, putting the robotic duo back where they belong – at the top of their game and back in the spotlight. Known for their enigmatic personas, Thomas and Guy usually shy away from the press circus but have made an exception for France’s Rock & Folk magazine wherein they discuss the origins of the album, their approach to the production and the fact that “no one tries anymore.” In this lengthy interview, Daft Punk open up about the state of electronic music, expressing their motivations for creating a new album and their concerns with the way the scene is trending acknowledging that they believe “there is less ambition today.” Translated by LGND-R at thedaftclub.com, the transcript is far from perfect but paints an exciting picture of the thought process behind the biggest electronic album of the last 10 years.
Read past the break for the article translated in its entirety – or read the original French version here.
A REAL DRUMMER
ROCK&FOLK: IN WHAT STATE OF MIND WERE YOU IN AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS ALBUM?
Daft Punk: We started this disc in 2008. For a real long time, it wasn’t an album. We just made music, researching and experimentation. We weren’t saying: we’re making our fourth album. We started the project at a time where we felt deconnected from music all around us. We were a bit perplexe, more in the search. The novelty, it was to say: for the first time, we’re going to go in a recording studio. It is our first studio album, until then it was always homemade music.
R&F: WHY THIS WANTING OF A STUDIO?
Daft Punk: There are things we can do in studio and that we couldn’t do at home. Therefore, we live in an era where music is made on portable computers. It was the idea to say: something is getting lost. Let’s go in studio, let’s contact with our idols, these musicians that made us who we are as persons… Since five years, if we subtract the “Tron” pause, we were in search mode.
R&F: IN SEARCH OF AN ENDED ERA, THE ONE OF THE STUDIOS…
Daft Punk: Exactly, to try to find back a know-how ability. Careful here, we’re not trying to go back in time. We just try to find again that invisible line between classics. We wanted to break the curse, show we could still make today an enthusiastic ambitious album. Even if the present climate is totally pessimistic, depressing, cynical. We propose a generous thing, innocent and very free. However if we take a look at the pop and electronic scenes, we can see that this concept of liberty has been somewhat lost. Nobody tries to push the boundaries.
R&F: LISTENING YOUR ALBUM, WE DISCOVER 73 MINUTES OF CREATIVE MADNESS. A BIT LIKE WHEN WE LISTENED WITH ACID TO TODD RUNDREN’S “A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR”. IT’S LUXURIOUS, FULLISH… IT PLEASES TO KNOW A BAND CAN STILL DARE THIS KIND OF THING…
Daft Punk: The idea of “still can”, it’s exactly that. We tried to see if it was still possible. Nobody never tries anymore. Why? Lack of material, of ambition, of wanting, even the three? In the meantime, the know-how gets lost, an economy crumbles, a general discouragement wins. And then the weight of the great classics is heavy.
R&F: NOBODY DARES A DOUBLE WHITE… A “SONGS IN THE KEYS OF LIFE”…
Daft Punk: Right! And it’s true that it takes time. This album took us years. Who can work in the search, like us, autofinanced but without any guarantee of results?
R&F: IF THE RESULTS WERE BELOW YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
Daft Punk: Trash! We threw everything away. We released nothing. It was of course a bit anguishing, month after month, to try to enter the sound experience, it ended up being tentacular. In the last months, finally, everything crystalized. There, we had multiple titles… At a certain moment, we thought only make ONE track! Another challenge that the rockers in ourselves thought: can we still make a dance album with a real drummer? It was the guide line. Escape the general automatic pilot that caractarises today’s music.
R&F: AND SO, IT’S YOU THE ROBOTS, THAT’S GOING TO STOP THE AUTOMATIC PILOT OF POP MUSIC?
Daft Punk: It would be classy, no?
R&F: DID YOUR STOP BY AT DISNEY FOR THE “TRON” MOVIE MODIFY YOUR PERCEPTION OF MUSIC, OR OF YOUR BUSINESS?
Daft Punk: Totally. From an inside point of view, everything changes every time (laughs) but let’s get back to 2008… We passed the year in lock-out in a studio, we made music all day. After a year, we listen and say: “Interesting compos, but the production doesn’t follow. We throw out everything.” Disney contacts us at that moment to make the music of “Tron”. It’s not that well payed at all but we accept, because we want to work with an orchestra and we like the idea to participate to a cyber-sound and light in 3D, ultra technologic and great show. After a year on “Tron”, after having met engineers and made a huge work on the acoustic we come out revitalized. On find our liberty and suddenly the desire to make our own music… with musicians. “Around The World”, already, made an homage to Nile Rodgers and Bernards Edwards. But it was homemade disco. We fantasize, we decide to take the best of the gold age of funk, 1975-1982, before the coming of the new wave and the numeric sound. We want to recreate a really warm sound with few machines and lots of the elite of musicians, drummers, bassists, guitarists. Everyone that worked on that record were the witnesses of this magic era. The sound engineer, for instance recorded Prince’s “Controversy”, among others. These people transmit us a know-how, a technician, an art that is about to vanish.
R&F: THIS ALBUM’S SOUND IS EXCEPTIONAL: VERY SOPHISTICATED AND YET A HEART BEATS IN THE MIDDLE OF THESE MACHINES…
Daft Punk: There is life. We’re talking about layers and layers of recordings. We started in Paris, then Hansion studios, Capitol, Conway, Electric Lady in New York. And progressively through this hours of work, all this talent reunited, it necessarily contrasts with all that comes out, naturally.
R&F: THERE ARE SINGERS… PAUL WILLIAMS, JULIAN CASABLANCAS, PHARRELL WILLIAMS… AND WE FEEL IN THERE SOMETHING POINTING TOWARD SOMETHING OF AN HOMMAGE TO MICHAEL JACKSON, THE CARS OR STEELY DAN…
Daft Punk: You found all three. Steely Dan is a good example. One of the drummers we hired was the one of “Off The Wall” (JR Robinson) and of “Gimme The Night” of George Benson. We had the guitarist of “Thriller”, Paul Jackson Jr, in addition to Nile Rodgers. So, people connected to a certain elegance, an interpretation West Coast rooted in Los Angeles, in those famous studios where were created the Fleetwood Mac, Quincy Jones and other legends.
R&F: AND YOU PRINTED YOUR SOUND TOUCH BLOWING SYNTHS… WHAT ROBOTIC MACHINES DID YOU USE THIS TIME?
Daft Punk: We work with a modular synthesizer all new but that found back the sound of the “Clockwork Orange” era… The production and the recording were made like something prog. So we had to keep a pop spirit, like Wizzard and The Move. Wizzard de Roy Wood, it’s really powerfull, inspiring. In 1973, they adopt a glam and rockabilly look with big wigs, bananas and the dive in an hallucinating Spector trip.
HAD TO BE A KILLER
RF: AND IF IT WAS THAT, ROCK MUSIC? MAKE THE SOUND MOVE? YOU TALKED ABOUT SPECTOR, THEN THERE WERE JAMES BROWN, HENDRIX, KRAFTWERK, DEPECHE MODE, THOSE PEOPLE HAVE CHANGED THE SOUND…
Daft Punk: We make music for the fans. That’s what motivates us. Try to give what we’ve received. We have to chance to do it, at least we tried. So we started from magic albums, those like Quincy Jones’ for Michael Jackson. Those records are an invitation for travel. We travel less today.The big trip, it’s the concerts. People find life in a theater, in festivals. The other strong idea, it’s some of Pink Floyd’s and Led Zeppelin’s albums that are a little bit like Stargates, the psychadelic portals to a parallel world.
RF: EXPLAIN IT TO US?
Daft Punk: For years, we made loops and our albums worked, Ok. Those loops, which we contributed to, emprison the music.When we listen to loops, it’s like we run in circle in a prison yard… Well, music can become once again a panoramic invitation to the travel, to the dream… but technology didn’t help. The level lowered. The musicians can’t compete no more with the History of rock. Too huge. Many give up. It’s not doable anymore, the predecessors were too strong. And however, electronic music in kit, it’s really easy to do, the computer does it all by himself. Anybody can craft from home something that rings right now like what comes out of his radio. Loss of magic. The studio, it was for the seizes.To enter there, you had to be a killer, with a level of humpf. Inside, it was virtuous and esoteric. A dream. Today the Kubrick’s monolith, it became that (shows his phone). Before, rock was an udentity marker, there you have it, I like the Smiths…
RF: THERE, YOU HAVE IT, I LIKE THE STONES (LAUGHS)…
Daft Punk: Us too! We saw them at Mogador, first row, it was phenomenal. Today, new generations use other ways than music to represent themselves. What became of music? I don’t know… The pop music, however, it became like the television: in two years, shows that have a very important value will be forgotten, totally deflated.
WE’LL SEE AFTER
RF: THE BUSINESS STATE OF RECORD?
Daft Punk: There is less ambition today, that’s clear. Alternative scene is good, MGMT, Animal Collective, those are the people that follows the alternative psyche, like Pink Floyd early on. But Pink Floyd, at that time, it was mainstream! That, we lost it. The challenge is to see if we can make something mainstream experimental massive and panoramic all at once… No music anywhere sounds like this album. We come back from four years of studio, sorry, we were a bit disconnected (laughs).
RF: TWELVE YEARS LATER, ARE YOU SATISFIED TO HAVE STICK BEHIND YOUR HELMETS?
Daft Punk: Hard to know what would’ve happen for us with the anonymity. We have no regret on that subject. We have a normal life. We met at twelve, we listened the Velvet Underground and the Doors. We created those robot personas, we see the next generation appropriating it and it pleases us. Last year, the robots made an Adidas ad with the “Star Wars” robots. Then the robots were in a “Simpsons” episode. To achieve mixing Ziggy Bolan and “Star Wars” and integrate pop culture while staying anonymous, it was fun. We both have a superhero ego.
RF: WHAT SUPERHERO MOST DEFINE DAFT PUNK?
Daft Punk: The overpowered alter ego grants you powers. It’s really interesting to live. We’re like Bruce Wayne in “Batman”. Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any power. He’s got a motorcycle, lots of cash to make gadgets…
RF: YOU’RE LIKE BATMAN AND ROBIN?
Daft Punk: We’re two Batman (laughs).
RF: HOW WILL YOU THROW A PROJECT THIS INCREDIBLE AS THIS 4TH ALBUM? VIDEOCLIP? TOUR?
Daft Punk: For now, there won’t be any clip. The record was made in studio pretty much old school, we’re going to find back the the spirit of the great shows of the giant billboards on Sunset Boulevard for bands like Love, Doors, Led Zeppelin. On certain tv shows, we send 15 or 60 seconds spots. One, we don’t want to put too much image in the mind of people, secundo tha major part of records we like and that are the inspiration source for this record, those are pre-MTV albums. You’ve got the sleeve, lots of pictures and info, that’s all, and the absence of visuals around the Beatles doesn’t bother us, which in fact opens even more their music. “Thriller” is the ultimate masterpiece. After, it won’t be the same anymore because of videoclips. Our vision, it’s: there, the record’s here, listen to it, dive in it, we’ll see after…
RF: YOUR TEAM IS A STRANGE MIX OF OLD RASCALS AND CRAZY YOUNG DOGS…
Daft Punk: Right, all reunited to create the future music… Everybody, all those myths, looking in the same direction.
RF: OF ALL THE DECEASED, WHO DID YOU MISS?
Daft Punk: Many… but especially Elvis and Tupac.
RF: LET’S TALK ABOUT SOME RUMORS ABOUT YOU… JEROME REIJASSE, REPORTING ON YOUR BERCY GIG IN ROCK&FOLK, SUBMITS THE IDEA THAT AT A MOMENT, ENTIRELY HOUELLEBEQUIAN [NOTE OF THE TRANSLATOR: MICHEL HOUELLEBEQUIAN IS A CONTEMPORARY FRENCH AUTHOR], THAT YOU COULD PASS YOUR HELMETS TO SOME ACTORS AND WATCH YOURSELVES FROM THE SEATS OF THE STADIUM. TRUE OR FALSE?
Daft Punk: It would be possible. But we make too much few concerts that it would be dumb to not be acclaimed by 20 000 persons. In 1997, it was sixteen years ago, we play at the London Astoria. We weight the scales. I leave. Many people are waiting in line to get in. And there, some dude tries to sell me tickets on his guards. In a Bunuel movie, we’d buy tickets, we’d enter and we’d wait. And then, things would happen…
RF: WEARING A HELMET LIVE, IS IT HARD?
Daft Punk: Yes, yes. For a lot of reasons, visibility most of all. We can’t see very far, it’s hard. But we enjoy the adventure to its fullest. Context: in 1997, we played at the Elysee Montmartre in front of 1700 people, in 2007 we play at Bercy, 17,000. Foreign concerts: from Sarrebruck, 400 people, to Coachella, 40,000…
RF: EXACTLY, WHAT HAVE YOU FELT AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN WHEN PHOENIX INVITES YOU FOR THE ENCORES?
Daft Punk: At fifteen, we met Laurent from Phoenix. We made a band together, Darlin’, “Influence Velvet, Stooges, Beach Boys”, Guy-Man placed our flyers at Danceteria, at Mouffetard… What is the probability that twenty years later, we’re back back on stage of the Madison Square Garden, all three of us? Our stories keep crossing, we’ll be reunited again at Coachella in two weeks.
NOT TO BECOME A BOURGEOIS
RF: FROM FACTS, YOU MADE EVERYTHING WELL. FROM THE START OF THE BAND, YOU LOOKED IN CONTROL…
Daft Punk: Right, we protected ourselves with anonymity that prevents us from losing our minds… And we’re only two. It’s much easier for the band decisions. We exist since twenty years. It’s our fourth album. We hope it’s our best. Normally, it doesn’t go better… The ultimate rock mystery: what kills creativity? Success, cash, embourgeoisement? Fame? How can we make a protest music when we live with kids in a 800 meter square? Us, we approach music like a movie. The great directors get better with age. They found the secret to grow old without getting too bourgeois.
RF: ANOTHER RUMOR, DAFT PUNK REFUSED A MILLION DOLLARS TO MIX ONE NIGHT IN DUBAI. TRUE? FALSE?
Daft Punk: It’s possible, it’s very possible (smiles). We don’t do Daft Punk for the money and often we refused stuff like that. Together, when we make our records, we don’t like to be disturbed. It was that, for us, the idea to all do well. So, no menage. We refused 4 million dollars plans. Let’s understand us: we absolutely do not have this money in our bank account, but our artistic approach has more value than that. In fact, since twenty years, we refused 95% of stuffs that we’d get proposed. We are happy with what we have, what we live. We live our passion. We don’t need this, especially we’re not artistically compromised.
RF: EXCEPT WHEN YOU WORK FOR THE INCORPORATED MOUSE, WALT DISNEY, NO?
Daft Punk: Then again, we remember that the illustrator Moebius did this run before us, he worked on the first “Tron”, and it interests us. We spent more than a year on the project and we lived it like a stage, a learning.We had a common objective with them, the movie, and we delivered our vision of the project, it pleased them, no clash. On the other hand, straight in our shoes, we refused promo and the 600 interviews proposed by Disney. We disappeared without having to handle that.
RF: YOU BECAME IN A WAY DIRECTORS YOURSELVES, PROPOSING YOUR RECORD SCENARIO TO A BUNCH OF ADMIRABLE ACTORS…
Daft Punk: Direct those musicians, mix our performances to theirs, it’s an unique record. We can even speak of musical event. Moroder and Nile Rodgers are also remarkable. To make them meet, it was like an exceptional great concert, Bangla Desh, We Are The World, that kind of spontaneous meeting. That record, it’s Daft Punk & Strokes & Chic & Moroder & Paul Williams & Animal Collective & Gonzales & Pharrell Williams, and it can generate a thing as coherent as a Tarantino casting.
RF: HOW TO CONCLUDE?
Daft Punk: We’d like to add that the album doesn’t have any programming. Everything is played, notely the synths are played live. Everything was recorded on analogic bands. The hallucinating part, it’s that we just made our first studio album with a band after twenty years, and there is only one and one sample only, on the last track. We are vectors. Since twenty years, we seek to contribute. To make something worth what we used to love. Even if it doesn’t please anybody (bich, plis *OOPS SORRY!*), it’s not that important, we got closer to classics from the past
[H/T Zack Gambill]