Daft Punk go from sampling disco records to creating disco records
by Andre Torres
From Wax Poetics Issue 55.
Five years ago when Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk went into the studio to begin recording a new album, it wasn’t a traditional move for the duo. Though they had already turned out three very influential records in the decade prior (1997’s Homework, 2001’s Discovery, and 2005’s Human After All), up until that point, they, like many other electronic music producers, had been making music in their home studio. In the case of Daft Punk’s first two albums, in Thomas’s own childhood bedroom. But unlike many electronic dance-music producers, their ten years in the game had garnered success few others had achieved. When they found themselves discontent with the limitations of not only drum machines, samplers, laptops, and home studios, but with the state of electronic music in general, they knew it was time for a change. Instead of plugging away as usual, they re-imagined their process and thought big—Quincy Jones big, an idol whose recording process they had only dreamed about attempting.
So began the steps of calling in a few music legends (Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Williams), session musicians (keyboardist Chris Caswell, drummer Omar Hakim, bassist Nathan East), and a bevy of contemporaries (Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes, Panda Bear of Animal Collective, house producer Todd Edwards, and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes) to create the kind of record that hasn’t been made in over three decades. Rather than taking a retro-futurist approach to recreate the past, they went the Marty McFly approach to utilize all the knowledge gained over the last three decades of dance music, both good and bad. The result, Random Access Memories, is a modern classic recorded on analog tape in the spirit of albums of a bygone era at the height of audio fidelity. In one of the most revealing interviews of their career, the loquacious Thomas and reserved Guy-Man open up about their love of dance music, musical heroes, Los Angeles, and why they had to go back in order to bring dance music forward.
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