I struggled with writing something at first about Daft Punk breaking up beyond the breaking news because of the shock initially, but also I didn’t want to approach this as if they died and we will never hear from the members of Daft Punk again. They didn’t give us an explanation for their break up, which could provide clues for their future, but they left the next chapter completely blank.
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter met as students in 1987 in Paris. They eventually formed a group called Darlin’ with Laurent Brancowitz (now the guitarist of Phoenix). Their first EP was released in 1992 and famously called “a daft punky thrash” by Dave Jennings of Melody Maker. The group admitted the music was “pretty average” and they broke up.
Daft Punk was born.
Just two years later they released a song “The New Wave,” which later became “Alive.” In 1995 “Da Funk” was released as a single and the legend started to grow in France and across Europe. Once Homework dropped in 1997, they were stars. Combining trashing electro, big beat, soul, disco samples, French touch and house music in a way that people had never heard before, people were clamoring to know who the hell these people were.
Once Discovery came out in 2001, they had become one of the biggest dance acts in the world. Donning robot helmets to conceal their identities, their music had crossed over from the club to television and to radio. The French robots were everywhere.
Human After All, at first derided, has become something that hardcore fans hold onto dearly. Their cultural impact goes beyond just recorded music. We now take for granted the massive LED DJ shows, but Daft Punk helped pioneer that. The Alive show at Coachella in 2006, and subsequently around the world, planted the seed for the EDM boom (EDM was something they disliked a lot and even thought was just one person Eric David Morris).
The biggest DJs in the world today draw their influence in some way or another from Daft Punk. Daft Punk draw their lineage from the originators of the 1970s and 80s – their song “Teachers” spells that out beautifully, and many of today’s dance hitmakers are the children of Daft Punk.
Daft Punk went in a different direction with Random Access Memories. Instead of the hard, synthesized beats, opted for organic instrumentation, flying musicians from around the world to LA to record a love letter to 70’s era disco that spawned the biggest hit of 2013, “Get Lucky.” It was their well-deserved victory lap at the 2014 Grammys, picking up five major awards along the way.
Since then, there was been mostly silence. They worked with The Weeknd on a few songs, including a number one, while also individually producing tracks for a few artists like Arcade Fire, Parcels and Charlotte Gainsbourg, but there hasn’t been any indication (not like we would get any) of new Daft Punk music. The rumor mill occasionally goes into overdrive without any real proof behind it.
I believe Guy Manuel and Bangalter will continue to make music some form or another. They are too talented to just walk away completely from music. The business may be too different and strange from what they originally got into for, but the love for music and being creative doesn’t go away. It could be producing a song for another band or something similar, but leaving music behind completely would be a shame, though that could be their choice.
Some believe they will do some reunion tour at some point soon, but I doubt it. They have turned down big money before and there was undoubtedly life-changing money on the table if they wanted to tour over the past decade. I doubt things would change with each passing year and the knees getting worse.
For now, Daft Punk have left music on their own terms. They leave behind an unimpeachable legacy as not just one of the most important acts in dance music ever, but one of the most influential music acts of the past 30 years. With four albums, one soundtrack and two outstanding live albums to their name, they embodied quality over quantity.
The robots have said goodbye for now. What they will do next we don’t know. It could be something outstanding on their own individually, or they could somehow completely walk away from music. Either way, be grateful for what we they did for all of us, the music that changed the world and if you ever were lucky enough to see them live, treasure those memories for the rest of your life. The robots may have decommissioned, but they are encoded in us forever.