Punk As They Wanna Be
04/12/2001 5:00 PM, Yahoo! Music
Daft Punk seems be taking the "punk" in its name to heart. Rebelling against industry regulations, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem Christo are the insurgent decision makers behind all their projects. And no one tries to stop them.
For instance, Bangalter and De Homem Christo don't let their faces be seen in photos. Four years ago, when Daft Punk's debut Homework was released, their hid their faces behind masks, or had their images distorted digitally. And in photos for their new album, Discovery, they only appear with robot heads. Furthermore, instead of sending Discovery out to the media, they made the media come to them, by arranged appointment. This may seem control freakish, but that's not what Daft Punk is about. To this French duo, it's all about freedom.
Fifteen years ago, Bangalter and De Homem Christo started out as an indie-rock group called Darlin'--a project they abandoned when a journalist dubbed them "daft punk." The description stuck, however, and the renamed twosome soon took the world by dance storm with their infectious vocal hooks and catchy rolling rhythms. Daft Punk had established a failsafe formula for hitmaking--without, interestingly, sounding the least bit formulaic. Ever since, all of Daft Punk's actions have been geared toward retaining control and artistic freedom. This talent--and creative control--even extended to Bangalter's side-project, Stardust, which recorded the monster smash "Music Sounds Better With You."
"We've got much more control than money. You can't get everything," says Bangalter, the more outspoken member of the pair. "We live in a society where money is what people want, so they can't get the control. We chose. Control is freedom. People say we're control freaks, but control is controlling your destiny without controlling other people. We're not trying to manipulate other people, just controlling what we do ourselves. Controlling what we do is being free. People should stop thinking that an artist that controls what he does is a bad thing. A lot of artists today are just victims, not having control, and they're not free. And that's pathetic. If you start being dependent on money, then money has to reach a point to fit your expenses."
Bangalter's label, Roule, and De Homem Christo label, Crydamoure, are the lucky beneficiaries of the Daft Punk/Stardust largesse, as Bangalter and De Homem Christo prefer to reinvest in their career and create innovative new material rather than just wallow in their wealth. For instance, they're pushing the boundaries of the CD format by including a plastic Daft Club card with each copy of Discovery: The record-buyer loads the CD-ROM into his/her computer, inputs the Daft Club number imprinted on the card, and is automatically enrolled in the DP fan club. Club members can then access much more than what's available on the Discovery CD--new music that's still in progress, unreleased material, and other bonuses.
"It's great to find a new channel where there is an open access, open door to more, but not more than had to be done before," explains Bangalter. "It's establishing a connection between people that listen to our music and ourselves. There's no limits of time, and it helps people get and listen to this music. A track that could have been done today can be online tomorrow. The other thing is to really express ourselves through the Internet. And the other thing is to really bring some value in the CD itself. Buying the CD should not become a charity thing for the record industry. That's really important, because that's what it became, in a way. People that would buy our CD would say, 'I'm buying the CD because I want to help the artist,' and it's bullsh-t in a way, to have to think like that. It's a real thing, and it's regretful."
Which brings up the whole Napster issue: As "punk" as Napster may be in ethos, surely the Dafties are vehemently against a creation that could theoretically help people "steal" their music, right? Not so, apparently.
"Napster is a cool thing with us," asserts Bangalter. "The important thing is to make a difference. Napster is a positive thing because it raises questions, it raises issues. It's like electro-shock to artists and record industry--for people to react and come up with new and cool things that are worth something more. We are against Napster as a legal thing, but we're not against Napster as an illegal thing. As long as people know they're doing something illegal when they're on Napster, then it's cool. The important thing is the consciousness of doing something illegal, rather than being able to do it. I don't think artists or people should be like the police. The danger with Napster is that it becomes a normal thing. There's no problem with being a hacker. If Napster is 50 million hackers and they're conscious that they're hackers, they can keep on doing that as long as they're aware that they're hacking things. They are saying that they're hacking things and they are against the corporate labels. They can do that. It's subversive. If Napster becomes something completely approved and established, then that would be the danger of it."