Get lucky with daft punk

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 31.05.13

They are making Europeans and Indians dance as if the world is in the throes of a disco renaissance. With Random Access Memories (Sony Music), Daft Punk duo Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have cemented their place as dance music legends. An email chat with the guys behind the album — yes, starring Get Lucky — that has become the highest streamed on iTunes.

Get Lucky is a song of celebration, of optimism. How was the track conceived?

I know some people love Get Lucky and some people are critical, but what I love is that it reminds me of when I was a kid who would buy a 45 RPM and keep playing it over and over; it [the song] has that vibe. But I don’t think it’s a rebellious act of disco. I mean, when you think of Jamiroquai [British jazz-rock band], he takes on that sound as well. The song has a sort of all-encompassing timelessness to it –– the sort of song that could work in a club and at a wedding reception. Its timeless disco beats make it perfect for denizens of the late 1970s and early ’80s to cut a rug… as seen in the heart-warming Soul Train mash-up.

In what ways is Random Access Memories a blend of technology and old-style recording with instruments?

The album encapsulates our interest in the past, both Random Access Memory technology and human experience. The reasoning behind the name is that we are drawing a parallel between the brain and the hard drive –– the random way that memories are stored. We feel that the modern technology allows unlimited capacity to store recorded material (but) the content produced by contemporary artistes has diminished in quality. Our goal is to maximise the potential of infinite storage by recording a sprawling amount of elements. This is also the inspiration for our album’s title, so as to make connections out of a random series of ideas.

Going by the disco sound, it seems Daft Punk creates music that’s not influenced by what today’s listener seems to prefer.

I think people have been associating the Daft Punk album with a strict disco album, but I wouldn’t say that. Everyone is making that judgement because of Get Lucky [the first single]. But that track is not definitive. I think the whole concept of this Daft Punk album is a return to warmth in dance music. It’s about allowing dance music to have an organic sound, but still making it dance-y and catchy.

The crew involved with Random Access Memories are old favourites and also contemporary greats, Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams...

They are the best… our most favourite musicians that we could think of in a very organic way, random encounters, and friendships and connections. But it’s really based on the music that we love, people that we love as music lovers… not just as musicians… just us appreciating music and people that have inspired us on many levels.

What did Nile Rodgers bring to the album and to the Daft Punk sound?

Being in the studio with Nile Rodgers, one of our childhood heroes, was definitely one of the highlights. He just brought his guitar to Electric Lady Studios in New York and started to play. It is the same guitar he’s been playing on records and songs we love, like Le Freak, Good Times, I’m Coming Out, He’s The Greatest Dancer, Upside Down, Let’s Dance and Like a Virgin. It was an amazing moment.

When I (Manuel) met Thomas (Bangalter) we were 12 and 13 years old respectively, and Thomas was already a fan of Chic and I was a fan of Chic too. Nile was the founding member of Chic, our common idol when we were teenagers. So we were listening to a lot of rock, a lot of different stuff… but funky music is one of our favourite styles and Chic is the most elegant funk band.

We met him briefly a few years ago and last year we really got in touch. The craziest thing is that he has been our fan for years. I remember when MySpace had just come up he had this page and he requested us to be his friend; he had Daft Punk on his page! It was incredible. So we met him and started working on a song. It was just magic.

He came into the studio, plugged in his guitar, and it was one of the most magical moments we experienced with him. There are a lot of incredible musicians, but there was a concentration of magic when three of us were in the studio; we started playing and after one-two minutes, we were in the groove. On all his tracks, if you listen to his interviews, he is always talking about groove, the land of the groove, that space where he locks the groove, and so he starts playing and after two-three minutes, it’s like an alignment of planets or something… everything clicks. We were like children in front of a magician.

And with Pharrell Williams?

The first time he listened to the song (Get Lucky) was in Paris… he was really jet-lagged and he listened to the track with Nile on it. So we sat down for a few minutes and he listened to it. And straight away he went to the booth to record his vocals. We did the melody and he came up with the words really fast, and he recorded it really fast, and then he says he forgot everything. And when he listened to it again, he was blown away.... That’s funny because he doesn’t even know where it all came from! We’re very happy because Get Lucky and Lose Yourself To Dance are two of Pharrell’s best. Our favourite song that he ever produced and sang on (with Snoop) is called Beautiful. We think we came close to having something as good as Beautiful. Pharrell can sing, dance and produce the best songs, the best rap songs, R&B songs…. He has so many talents.

Your bike-space helmets lend a certain philosophical anonymity. How does that help your music?

Looking like robots is not like looking like an idol. One doesn’t look like a human being but more like a mirror –– the energy people emanate is bounced off the stage… and in the process everybody has a good time together… the focus is not on us. The visors are very, very tinted. I can hear the clamour but I hardly have any visual memory of the tours, apart from looking at our controllers.

How much has changed since the last Daft Punk album?

Everything now changes at a frantic speed. Our previous album seems to have been released a lifetime ago. We just created a timeless bubble around us for the last five years to create the music we wanted to listen to. Like I said, the album encapsulates our interest in the past, both Random Access Memory technology and human experience.

Does RAM look back while looking ahead?

We have always been fascinated by the relationship and connections between man and machine. This album is about technology going towards humanity, in a world where humanity is going towards technology. We tried to capture robotic emotions with music… and this time we have replaced electronic machines with real human beings.