Pitchfork: Interviews: Daft Punk

Interviews

Daft Punk

Daft Punk


by Mark Pytlik, posted October 2, 2007

Between French touch, Kanye West, and the traveling pleasuredome that was the Alive 2007 tour, Daft Punk were pretty much everywhere in 2007. And while a hefty portion of that was due to the brain-melting amazingness of their live show, a lot of it also seemed to emanate from forces bigger than the band itself. From "Stronger" right on through to the approximate 9,000 Rapidshare-distributed bedroom DJ mixes to feature some kind of Daft Punk namecheck, this year felt a little bit like a marathon Hall of Fame induction party.

Once just your garden variety DJ heroes, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo suddenly seem much larger. As French house continues to pop up in all sorts of unexpected places, their role as dance music's ambassadors to the mainstream becomes more pronounced by the day. So where to from here? Well, we were lucky enough to nab Bangalter for an American exclusive, one-pass email interview. While he didn't answer all of our questions (one about will.i.am's allegedly rejected sample request for "Around the World" sailed right past the net), Bangalter dispensed a few juicy tidbits of his own, and in record turnaround time to boot. With only four weeks until what's shaping up to be Daft Punk's final American show for the foreseeable future (at Las Vegas' Vegoose Festival on October 27), here's Bangalter on pyramid schemes, Youtube and Bob Mould.

Pitchfork: For a while, there were rumors that you were going to break up, and instead you put together this massive touring extravaganza. What, if any, effect did that have on your decision to do a tour on such a huge scale?

Thomas Bangalter: We like the idea that the things we do seem to come out of nowhere. It's probably because we do not feel it is appropriate to speak about our next projects in general that all sort of rumors are consequently generated. The show, like everything we have done and still do, is just one more experiment. It is the show itself that defined the scale of the tour.

Pitchfork: Can you talk a bit about your live setup? What are you guys actually doing up there? How much room is there for improvisation?

TB: Our setup is very different than the live shows we were doing in 1997. Instead of many of the old drum machines, synths, and sequencers we were using at the time, we created similar virtual kits in a software-based environment, controlling the music computers that are offstage via ethernet remote controls inside our pyramid, with moog synthesizers alongside. We have always been thinking about different ways to perform electronic music, i.e. music made with machines. In the end, we really consider ourselves operators of the system that we built for this show.

The show, which is as much a musical experience than a visual experience, is very structured and precise, following a strict setlist. It uses in a way an abstract narration. There is indeed a level of improvisation where we can distort and shuffle the music patterns, samples, and loops in each phase of the show within fixed cue points, but at the same time there is a constant result that we are trying to achieve each night while performing and operating our system-- quite similar in spirit to a broadway show for example: If you go see a musical two nights in a row, the performances are different yet similar.

Pitchfork: Tell me a litle bit about the multimedia elements. Who came up with the pyramid, the light show, the LED costumes, the light piping on the helmets? How much input did you guys have into that whole endeavour, and how long did it take to develop?

TB: We personally worked as much on the music as on the different multimedia elements. We designed the general concept with our long time friend and creative partner Cedric Hervet and also Paul Hahn who runs our production company Daft Arts based in L.A.

We were joined by Martin Phillips, who became our light designer. More and more people joined our crew as the production started. Production began early 2006 for the first show in Coachella 2006, then the show was upgraded in 2007.

Pitchfork: Speaking of the visuals, why isn't there a DVD of this tour? Do you ever look up yourself on YouTube just to watch audience members go nuts?

TB: We are really excited by the idea that so many different people captured a video of their experience of the show in their own way. The thousands of clips on internet are better to us than any DVD that could have been released.

Pitchfork: Have you ever toyed with the idea of sending someone else up on stage in costume?

TB: Of course not. Who would want to trade such a spot?

Pitchfork: What's your opinion of DJs like Justice, who are obviously hugely influenced by you? Do you feel any sense of friendly competition with them?

TB: Justice are talented. They make good tracks and have fun doing it. We come from a generation that wanted to make electronic music accepted, at a time [when] it was not. The place of electronic music, culturally and socially, is today completely different-- it is now everywhere, and it has been totally accepted. Consequently, there is now a younger generation that is more focused on making great electronic music, good parties, and having fun, where there is not any more so much need for cultural and ideological statements in electronic music itself. We're genuinely happy if some musicians of this younger generation are influenced by our music, as we were ourselves influenced 10 years ago by older musicians.

Pitchfork: It seems like the general response to Human After All was that it was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first two albums. Were you surprised that people felt that way? Was it vindicating to put those newer tracks together with older ones and have them work so well in the live environment?

TB: Human After All was the music we wanted to make at the time we did it. We have always strongly felt there was a logical connection between our three albums, and it 's great to see that people seem to realize that when they listen now to the live show.

Pitchfork: How did "Stronger" come about? Did Kanye West get in touch with you personally? Did you have any reservations about letting him use it?

TB: [Ed Banger owner and Daft Punk manager] Pedro Winter received a sample request from Kanye's management a few months ago. We liked the track so we agreed. We met Kanye later in Lollapalooza.

Pitchfork: Hip-hop seems suddenly fascinated with your music: Would you be at all interested in producing for rappers?

TB: Why not? Hip-hop has always been exciting and interesting to us.

Pitchfork: Will there be another Daft Punk album? If you've started to work on it, what does it sound like so far?

TB: It's always too early to tell how it will sound.

Pitchfork: What were the last five records you put on because you wanted to dance?

TB: Kavinsky: "Testarossa Autodrive"
Hüsker Dü: "New Day Rising"
Kanye West: "Flashing Lights"
Ratatat: "Lex"
Sebastien Tellier: "Sexual Sportswear (SebastiAn remix)"


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