Pop: As punks go, these guys are daft...
Daft Punk plan to take dance music into the next millennium without showing their faces to the world. Which is just as well, because they're the most miserable musicians Emma Forrest has ever met
Friday 31 January 1997
If the reviews are anything to go by, Daft Punk are responsible for the next step in the evolution of dance music, carrying on from where The Prodigy, Underworld and The Chemical Brothers left off. Virgin, who are also home to The Chemicals, picked up Daft Punk from the tiny Soma label, after it was said that the duo were doing for disco what The Chemicals did for hip-hop. Some are already calling their bass-heavy single, "Da Funk", the best of the year. Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de IIomen Christo are unimpressed. Crazy names, sullen guys.
"I suppose it is pleasing that people are buying the record," Bangalter sniffs. Christo frowns at his pal's embarrassing display of emotional hyper-dramatics. Christo resembles a small, angry dog, while Bangalter looks like a long, scraggly dog that can't keep his mouth from lolling open. How these two make such deliriously funky music is beyond comprehension. And they say dance music has no pop stars. If Underworld's Karl Hyde and The Prodigy's Keith "Firestarter" Flint were letting down the side by being utterly glamorous, compelling and outspoken, Daft Punk are here to redress the balance.
Playing live at The End in London last week, they stayed crouched beneath their decks for the whole night. The End was rammed packed with every luminary in dance music. It looked like a techno Groucho Club. Daft Punk sounded great, their trade mark bass flip tinnitus tunes bouncing across the adoring crowd. But there sure wasn't a whole lot to look at. This appears to be band policy. In every single photo of them published to promote the album, Daft Punk's faces are obscured, either by masks or by computer manipulation.
"This is our debut album and it is coming out in many, many countries. We do not want our faces all over the world."
Is there anyone you would like to work with?
"We are not expecting anything."
You are not expecting anything to happen? What, ever?
"No. We just make the music." The small dog lets out an extended yawn that sounds like a bark. I had been warned by those who had worked with them that Daft Punk would probably take offence to every question I asked, even if it was "Can I get you a drink?". I ask them if they admire the way The Chemical Brothers have moved to a major label and brought techno to Oasis fans without compromising their integrity. I soon find that comparing them to The Chemical Brothers is tantamount to slapping their mothers.
"The Chemical Brothers is maybe for people who are not aware of dance music. We are not part of that scene." Hey, Daft Punk make their own scene. In fact, their name comes from their previous incarnation as an indie guitar band signed to Stereolab's label. A scathing review in Melody Maker deemed them "daft punk". They split up, reformed and changed everything, but took the insult as their new name. Do they feel any other links with their past? "When we played guitar music, we listened to rock stuff and soul stuff. Even if the results are quite different now, it is still the same influences."
And who are those influences?
"We do not know."
You don't know who your influences are, or you don't care to tell me?
Christo yawns and stretches his arms so high above his head he might be doing Yoga. Bangalter's mouth lolls a little more. "We don't know."
I know, in the name of journalism, there are questions I might have asked: Why does the cover of your album look like a heavy metal tour T-shirt? Is it true that Bangalter's father wrote "D.I.S.C.O" by Ottowan? Why does your re-mix of Gabrielle's dreamy "Forget About the World" sound like a robot kicking a door? Why did you re-mix Gabrielle? But I can't ask them anything else. They are filling me with such all-consuming inertia that if I don't leave now, I'll never get out and I'll be forced to live with two angry dogs for the rest of my life, surviving on nothing but Gallic humour and disco break-beats.
Then, out of nowhere, they say something that amazes me. I have to check my tape recorder to make sure it's really true. For the Happy Mondays it was the "We don't like faggots" quote that undid them. For Noel Gallagher it's the "I hope Damon Albarn dies of Aids" outburst that will always haunt him. I swear I didn't mean to set up Daft Punk. All I did was ask them who their influences are. I had given up on getting an answer. But as I get up to leave, Bangalter sits up straight and announces, "We really love Andrew Lloyd Webber. I have seen Evita. It is not everything I hoped, but it was always going to be difficult to live up to. Lloyd Webber is a great man." The small dog opens one lazy eye and nodsn
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