Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk, work with an acute self-awareness of their innovation, and of their audience’s incomprehension of their ingenuity and impact.
“To jump from 1,800 people to 40,000 was pretty brutal,” he says, stretching out the word. “Because of the anonymity, the relationship with our audience until that point was an abstract concept, so to feel this energy was very strange. It felt like we had validated something that had been so abstract— in French, it’s called le concrétisation…”
De Homem-Christo offers a translation: “Make it real.”
“We like the idea of trying to be pioneers,” continues Bangalter, “but the problem with that is when you’re too much ahead, the connection doesn’t really happen at the time. At Coachella, we still may have been five years ahead of people, but the connection was happening at that moment. It was the most synched-up we ever felt.”
Regardless, they still want that fan connection. It’s strange to think their “show”, the costumes and helmets, which separate them from their fans, in fact allows for that real connection to happen through the music.
Bangalter recalls a well-behaved teenage acquaintance who wished to be an accountant because he could “have a cool retirement plan.” The pair, who were among only a few in their school who were into the likes of Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Big Star, the Beach Boys, and the Velvet Underground, quickly bonded. And, in their own way, they’ve been bucking the status quo ever since. It’s why Daft Punk are more punk than almost any punk band of the last 20 years: They refuse to take the familiar path, all in the name of keeping themselves— and their audience— engaged. Random Access Memories, their first proper album in eight years, takes this impulse to the extreme.
How to be ahead of your time as an artist:
1. Know your history
Daft Punk is incredibly knowledgable about where their type of music came from and where it’s going. It’s strange to think disco has done so much. Go into the history of your art form. You’ll find that history has already shaped you and can grow your potential even more.
2. Find inspiration in those who came before you
Dead or old, the masters of your craft, many you’ve never heard of, will teach you more than you’re ready for. Seek them out. Copy them. Learn their strengths and weakness.
Daft Punk realized their limitations as artists so they shared their vision with other musicians. Not only did they develop their craft, but the inspiration challenged their vision.