The house music DJ, producer and singer Romanthony possessed such an emotive, warm, soulful voice that it could withstand any treatment and still touch listeners and club-goers in a unique way. Most famously, his distinctive vocals survived the auto-tune processing the French electronic music duo Daft Punk put them through in order to create the euphoric “One More Time”, the worldwide smash that took their career to another level in 2000.
“We thought the funkiness of his voice would fit the funkiness of the music,” said Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, while his Daft Punk partner Thomas Bangalter stressed that the technology-savvy Romanthony, himself an advocate of aural torture and the occasional edgy frequency, enjoyed the result. “He had done a lot of different things and he always tried to innovate, which is what we like to do on our records. He never had his voice treated like an instrument like that.”
Daft Punk, long-standing admirers of Romanthony, had already name-checked him on “Teachers” on their 1997 debut Homework, when they met him at the Winter Music Conference in Miami. “He told us he was into what we were doing, which made us very happy,” said Bangalter. “We wanted to invite him to sing with us because he makes emotional music.” Romanthony also composed the lyrics for “One More Time” and “Too Long”, the 10-minute closing track on Daft Punk’s 2001 multi-million-selling album Discovery. He co-produced and sang lead on “Too Long”, delivering an untreated performance much closer to his own recordings, in particular the uplifting single “Hold On”, issued on Bangalter’s Roulé label in 1999.
Born Anthony Moore in 1967, he grew up in New Jersey. His parents saw his musical aptitude and he was encouraged to take music lessons and learn the guitar. This instilled a love of melody and songwriting that remained a constant and made him a natural match for Daft Punk, who undoubtedly drew inspiration from his eerie, dreamy 1994 single “The Wanderer”. He explained: “I’m in the techno genre but my influences come from the timeless acts: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Kraftwerk, Prince. That’s what’s in my heart and my soul. But I like the technology. Blending the two together, timeless songs, the sound of techno, filtering the bass. It all goes into my sound and makes it what I do.”
He took up the Romanthony name to avoid confusion with the British Anthony Moore, the experimental composer, keyboard-player and a founder member of the 1970s avant-rock pioneers Slapp Happy. This was necessary because Romanthony’s recordings – in a variety of styles ranging from garage to deep house via hip-hop and techno – found a much wider audience in the UK and continental Europe than in the US. His remarkable attention to detail and tendency to work at his own pace and exert strict quality control, traits he shared with Daft Punk, meant that he wasn’t prolific but he proved as innovative and influential as the more ubiquituous deadmau5, Justice or Boys Noize. The infectious tracks he produced for Eve Angel in the mid-1990s have endured better than many of the so-called club classics currently revived by Dave Pearce on his Radio 2 Saturday programme Dance Years.
While Daft Punk have not been photographed without their robot helmets since 1995, Romanthony remained as elusive and turned down major label deals. His anonymity was helped by the fact that the fictional interstellar band in the video for “One More Time”, pictured in a Japanese anime style, bear no resemblance to the performers. The Discovery album was turned into a full-length anime musical film, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, by Leiji Matsumoto and the Toei Animation studio.
“The success of ‘One More Time’ changed my life in a lot of ways,” said Romanthony, who was seldom interviewed but was filmed in Berlin for Slices – The Electronic Music Magazine. “It gave me a chance to step back and look at how a machine like Virgin really works a song. It’s marketed, it’s pushed, it’s promoted. It was part of that for once. I took time to just sit back and let the machine drive itself and I was in it, instead of me calling the distributors. The underground is overground. From Mariah Carey to Kanye West, dance music is popular music now.” He died of kidney disease.
Anthony Moore (Romanthony), singer, songwriter, producer and DJ: born New Jersey 1947; died Austin 7 May 2013.