Why Daft Punk hid their true identities

 

Daft Punk came to superstardom in mysterious circumstances - now they've left in the same way.

The French duo, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, announced they were parting ways after 28 years in a new video released this week, but no one knows why they're calling it quits.

The break-up video titled 'Epilogue' is a clip from their wordless 2006 film Electroma showing the pair walking through the desert.

One of them blows themselves up as the other walks off alone to the sunset before the years 1993 to 2021 appear on the screen.

Daft Punk as the world knew them: Futuristic disco robots. Picture: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
Daft Punk as the world knew them: Futuristic disco robots. Picture: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

But their lasting legacy will be as one of the most influential acts in dance music history whose solo work and tracks with the likes of The Weeknd and Pharrell Williams kept them at the top of the charts for decades.

Here's the story of the men beneath the robot masks.

'The robots are exciting to people'

A 1997 publicity photo of Daft Punk – before the masks, but with their faces weirdly distorted.
A 1997 publicity photo of Daft Punk – before the masks, but with their faces weirdly distorted.

Before there was Daft Punk, there was Darlin'.

That was the name of the rock band de Homem-Christo and Bangalter first formed after meeting in secondary school in Paris.

A million miles from the sound that would eventually make them famous, a review in Melody Maker dismissed Darlin's work as "daft punky trash".

The pair found the criticism funny and paraphrased it as the name of the electronic act that they started in 1993.

A year later they handed a demo of their new tracks to the boss of a Scottish techno label at a rave in Disneyland Paris.

The influential single Da Funk followed and, in 1997, their debut album Homework was released after they recording the songs in Bangalter's bedroom.

 

 

Interest in the band exploded, thanks in part to the mystery surrounding their identities.

The pair performed with black bags on their heads in the 90s and wore truly disturbing Halloween masks to photoshoots.

And on the way to the 2001 photoshoot where they unveiled their now iconic robot masks for the first time, they decided to ditch brown wigs that had originally been planned as part of the look.

"We're interested in the line between fiction and reality, creating these fictional personas that exist in real life," Bangalter told Rolling Stone about why they put on the masks.

"We're not performers, we're not models - it would not be enjoyable for humanity to see our features," de Homem-Christo added, "but the robots are exciting to people."

 

 

'Life-changing' live shows

Their 2001 album Discovery featured some of the biggest dance tracks of all time.

One More Time topped the French singles chart and came in at number two in the UK.

Arguably the most influential song on the album was Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, which sampled a largely forgotten 70s funk song called Cola Bottle Baby by Edwin Birdsong.

The tune got a second wind in 2007 when Kanye West sampled the Daft Punk song in his single Stronger, which went to number one in four countries, including the UK.

A year earlier, Daft Punk played the first of their legendary pyramid live shows which featured a highly influential LED light show, with the likes of Skrillex saying it "changed my life".

And in 2010 they wrote the soundtrack to the sci-fi film Tron: Legacy starring Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde.

The masks soon progressed to full-on robot headpieces.
The masks soon progressed to full-on robot headpieces.

 

But their final album came in 2013 in the form of Random Access Memories.

Its lead single, Get Lucky featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

In a promotional video ahead of the single's release, Williams said he'd talked to Daft Punk "at a Madonna party" and told them he was so keen to work with them "if you just want me to play the tambourine, I'll do it".

Get Lucky was Daft Punk's most successful single at the time - only to be surpassed by the 2016 song Starboy by The Weeknd on which they featured.

It was their only song to top the US Billboard Hot 100 and, following news of their break-up, it looks to be their last.

'THE greatest EVER to do it'

Just as they were shrouded in mystery on their way to the top, their reasons for breaking up now also remain unclear.

Their publicist Kathryn Frazier has confirmed Daft Punk's split but hasn't given any explanation or statement as to why they've gone their separate ways.

 

Countless tributes to Daft Punk and their influence have poured in from the stars since Epilogue was released.

"Daft Punk left the game with a flawless legacy," Mark Ronson tweeted.

"I would say enviable but impossibly unattainable is more appropriate."

English electro duo Disclosure posted a string of crying emojis on Twitter captioning an image showing Daft Punk had split.

"THE greatest to EVER do it," they added.

"Words can't describe the inspiration & knowledge we gained from listening to the 2 robots over the years.

"Wishing them nothing but good energy & positivity for the future - Thank you for everything Guy & Thomas."

In a world where audiovisual electro shows are a huge industry and laptops have become a common sight on stage at live gigs (remember those?), Daft Punk always showed how technology could be used to push the boundaries of music without losing its spirit.

To put it another way, there was always a human behind the robotic mask.

"It's true that for the last few years, with this laptop-generated music around us, whether it's e-pop, EDM, even pop music - all the genres have been done with these computers - what was really lacking to us is the soul that a musician player can bring," de Homem-Christo told NPR in 2014.

"I hope we manage to bring back some soul and emotion."

 

This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.

 

Originally published as Why Daft Punk hid their true identities



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