Daft Punk Epilogue
Daft Punk is still playing at my house: how the French duo redefined experience
To read the original article, head to Campaign for the article published 24th February 2021.
'Random Access Memories' of the French electronic music visionaries and the way they created a unique narrative.
Sometimes it's not until you have something taken away from you that you quite realise its significance. The release of Daft Punk's Epilogue on Monday prompted 1.4 million social interactions inside 24 hours but la séparation does give us a welcome excuse to revisit their prolific output as well as explore some of the lessons we can learn from the duo, who were way ahead of the time in creating and redefining experience.
The Daft Punk experience was always anchored around a core focus, their music. But their approach to experience was always more than that – holistic, multifaceted and multimedia. While their output was broad, Daft Punk had a single-minded vision with a cohesive narrative told over numerous and varied episodes. The pair created worlds, not just releases or shows.
Even their masks, originally a tool to tackle shyness and take the focus away from them as individuals to refocus on the music, was an accidental stroke of genius forming the blueprint for creating the future mystique and sense of the spectacle they were to build upon.
Face to Face
Core to Daft Punk's vision was a belief in the power of collaboration. Drawing parallels with David Bowie, whom they admired and had previously sampled, they used their status and fame as a platform to collaborate with artists, from the emerging Australian group Parcels, to the revered Nile Rogers and Pharrell Williams, through to cultural collabs with Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto and mainstream work with Kanye and The Weeknd. These collaborations helped bring to both parties the attention and admiration of new audiences.
Around the World
Their commitment to their music included live performance, thankfully captured in two key releases – early doors with Alive 1997 at Birmingham's Que Club (trainspotter alert – a gig I was actually lucky enough to be at) and again 10 years later at their peak with Alive 2007 and their ground-breaking pyramid show. Synonymous with Coachella, where it debuted, it set the standard for dance acts and event organisers alike to follow.
The duo performed in their signature robot outfits inside a 24-foot-tall aluminium pyramid covered with screens and dazzling LED lights. As dance bible Mixmag notes: "Their Pyramid production wrote them into dance music history as one of the most popular and mythologised acts of all time."
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
As true artists, taking their inspiration looking forward as much as looking back, Daft Punk weren't ever happy to be pigeon-holed or stuck in boxes. This applied to their music taking a concept approach to each album constantly reinventing themselves, defying expectation ensuring they were fresh and exciting. Compare their tough debut Homework, created purely on studio equipment, with their final outing, the smooth, polished Random Access Memories recorded predominantly live.
This equally applied to whatever medium they conveyed their creativity through, which spanned fashion shows (Yves Saint Laurent), exhibitions (Philharmonie de Paris), pop-up stores (in LA), film scores (Tron: Legacy complete with an 85 piece orchestra), video games (DJ Hero), commercials (with Juliette Lewis for Gap and with Star Wars for adidas), animations (Cartoon Network) and even much sought after toy figurines (Be@rBrick / Medicom).
Television Rules the Nation
In particular their contribution to and command of film as a medium cannot be ignored. The music videos for their singles from their Homework debut featured distinctive characters and placed emphasis on storytelling instead of musical performance. They worked with then up-and-coming directors including Spike Jonze, Roman Coppola, Seb Jania and Michel Gondry, who directed the incredible Around the World – my personal all-time favourite music video. This was followed by the 2003 full-length animation Interstella 5555 and their 2006 directed Electroma – which this week's eight-minute Epilogue referenced.
End of Line
What Daft Punk did best was being consistently exciting and consequently talked about. Over 28 years, Daft Punk ignored, challenged and defied expectations. Their artistry, music, image, collaborations, shows and side projects all meant the duo had a wide fanbase proving credible and mass don't need to be mutually exclusive. In the track Teachers from their debut album, Daft Punk paid homage to the artists and that inspired namechecking musicians including Bryan Wilson, George Clinton and Jeff Mills. Bowing out on a high they join that very same alumni – safe in the knowledge their legacy and influence lives on in those that they too have inspired.
Jonathan Emmins is the founder of Amplify