Daft Punk band members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo met at secondary school and started their musical career in 1992 as two thirds of a Beach Boys inspired guitar-based group called Darlin’ (also the name of a Beach Boys song). Though Darlin’ was short lived (‘six months, four songs and two gigs’ according to Bangalter) it’s legacy was the name Daft Punk, following critical reviewer referring to the bands music as ‘a bunch of daft punk’.
They subsequently dropped the guitars in favour of synthesizers and drum machines and after meeting Slam‘s Stuart Macmillan (also co-founder of the label Soma Quality Recordings) gave him a demo that was to become their first single ‘The New Wave’ (Soma Quality Recordings) in 1994.
In 1996, following the success of their follow up single ‘Da Funk’ (Soma Quality Recordings 1995) Daft Punk signed to Virgin Records. The following year they released their first album ‘Homework’. ‘Homework’ was to prove to be a seminal record, showcasing the duo’s filtered electro house sound. It included the filtered disco of ‘Revolution 909’ and the debut single ‘Da Funk’. But the high point of the album was the dance floor hit ‘Around The World’ (Virgin 1996). ‘Around The World’ contained a little bit of all of Daft Punk’s emerging sound, featuring a looped vocoded vocal repeating ‘around the world’ set against a backdrop of an analogue electro lead, filtered funky guitars and bass and a driving house rhythm.
By this stage Daft Punk found themselves at the vanguard of a wave of French DJs and producers, such as Bob Sinclar, Cassiusm, Dimitri From Paris and David Guetta that collectively became referred to as a house music genre in their own right: French House.
Daft Punk’s next studio album – ‘Discovery’ (Virgin) - didn’t come until 2001, though work had started in it in 1998. The album was more commercial than ‘Homework’ and was even more successful than its predecessor. The stand out track on the album was the huge club hit ‘One More Time’. Featuring a full vocal ‘One More Time’ took the Daft Punk filtered disco house sound and gave it a feel-good, radio-friendly make over. The album still though retained much of the electro-tinged dance floor feel of ‘Homework’ such as with the driving ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’, which was also a successful single.
The duo took a break from recording in 2003, releasing the animated film ‘Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem’. They returned to the studio in 2005 with ‘Human After All’ (Virgin). Though the title track contained all of the typical Daft Punk ingredients (strong melody, driving beat, electro sounds) the album was not a success and met with a lukewarm critical response.
In 2006 Daft Punk returned to the director’s chair with the feature length film ‘Electroma’.
In 2007 Daft Punk released a live album ‘Alive 2007’ (Virgin) and subsequently the live performance of ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ was released as a single, which would later win a Grammy in 2009. Before then though US rapper Kanye West added vocals to the track and released it in 2007 as ‘Stronger’ (Roc-A-Fella Records) who also won a Grammy for the track in 2008. At the ceremony West performed the track live with Daft Punk, the first time the duo had ever performed live for a live broadcast.
In 2010 Daft Punk returned with the soundtrack to the box office hit film TRON: Legacy. The album proved a success and the lead track ‘Derezzed’ (Walt Disney Recordings) was a return to form for the duo, featuring a more retro-electro sound.
Daft Punk were one of the most influential electronic music acts of the 1990’s, spearheading the late nineties wave of French House music and delivering some of house music’s biggest anthems. Their often left field approach and wearing of robot masks has helped create a mystique which has served them well. After a few lean years the TRON soundtrack sees the duo back to their old form.
Since the album ‘Homework’ Daft Punk have hidden their identities, wearing robot masks at all events and photo shoots.