During Daft Punk’s 20-year career the famously shy Parisian duo have managed to impossible: they’ve scaled the heights of the music industry while managing to maintain their anonymity and creative control.
From their early days at the forefront of techno to the their more recent explorations of disco and house, Daft Punk are arguably one of dance music’s most important pioneers, paving the way for an entire generation of artists and fans alike.
Here, we count down 12 things you probably didn’t know about France’s most successful electronic duo.
1. Thomas Bangalter’s dad was a disco producer and guided the duo during their early years
During the early years of their career, Thomas Bangalter’s father Daniel Vangarde was instrumental in helping the fledgling duo in signing their first major record deal with Virgin Records.
“He [Daniel] helped them to make decisions,” explains journalist Pascal Bertin, during the recent Daft Punk: Unchained documentary. “He helped them to understand clearly what people were proposing.”
Vangarde had a string of successful singles during the ‘70s, including as a writer and producer of Ottawan’s ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ and the Gibson Brothers’ ‘Cuba’.
“He was [the] perfect person to give advice to a group doing dance music, made in France, sung in English and aimed at the whole world,” Antoine Ressaussière, a friend of the band, added during the documentary.
2. Guy-Man is related to Portuguese writer and fascism advocate, Homem Cristo Filho
Both Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo rarely speak about their respective families, but we do know that Guy-Man’s great-grandfather was the Portuguese writer and fascism advocate Homem Cristo Filho, whose father was the military figure Francisco Manuel Homem Cristo. Now that’s some serious family heritage!
3. Thomas Bangalter was one of the first producers in France to get an Mac
“Thomas was one of the first people to have a Mac in France,” explained journalist Jean-Daniel Beauvallet in an interview for Daft Punk: Unchained, “which allowed him to get working on music and images by computer very, very early.”
Thomas was so dedicated to his craft that he would also read the manuals to his drums machines and synths many times over, in order to really hone the duo’s production style. According to long-time collaborator Eric Chédeville, who worked with Guy-Man as Le Knight Club, Bangalter “would read the instruction books for all his machines once a month”.
4. They spent $4 million of their own money to create their animated film, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
The project was an ambitious undertaking for both Daft Punk and Japanese designer Matsumoto, and cost a reported $4 million to make and some three years to produce. The trio were forced to communicate through a bilingual friend, which made the process even longer.
It was an enormous accomplishment that Daft Punk were able to enlist Matsumoto. The 66 year-old is responsible for 25 years of film productions, including Galaxy Express 999, Arcadia, and Star Blazers, which, after Akira, are widely-regarded as some of the country’s most revered anime.
Each of Interstella 5555’s character betrays the different styles of animation Matsumoto had taken up throughout his long and storied career.
5. Not even their manager Pedro ‘Busy P’ Winter saw their Pyramid stage show before its debut at Coachella in 2006
Pedro ‘Busy P’ Winter was given a sneak peak of Daft Punk’s hugely ambitious live show before it debuted at Coachella 2016 — but he was only allowed to hear the audio and wasn’t shown the LED-festooned pyramid.
“I wasn’t allowed to see the lights yet,” he joked during an interview for Daft Punk: Unchained. Before the show’s debut the duo made Coachella’s organisers clear the backstage a full-hour before the show so no one could spoil the surprise.
6. The duo were reportedly paid a million a show for their 2007 tour
It’s been rumoured that Daft Punk were getting paid $1 million per show during their epic 2007 tour, Alive 2007. Over two years, the iconic French duo played a staggering 47 shows, reportedly pocketing the pair $47 million, which might go so way to explain how both members are reportedly worth over $70 million… each.
7. Justice were invited along as a support act for Alive 2007, but turned down the offer
During a recent interview with Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge, French duo Justice revealed that Daft Punk invited the then up-and-coming duo to be a support act for their Alive 2007 tour, but Justice — who we’re managed by Daft Punk’s former manager — decided to turn down the offer and instead wanted to make it on their own.
8. Someone pretending to be Thomas Bangalter racked up thousands of pounds worth of drinks bills in Ibiza
Someone pretending to be Thomas Bangalter managed to persuade several Ibiza clubs that he was Thomas Bangalter, racking up thousands of pounds worth of drinks bills across the island. It would turn out he was actually an impersonator and not the real Thomas Bangalter.
9) During a performance at Space Ibiza, Bangalter unplugged the mixer and made a tune out of the feedback
During an interview with Eats Everything, the DJ/producer recalled a performance from Thomas Bangalter from the iconic Terrazza at Space Ibiza in 2008.
“I saw Thomas Bangalter play the best DJ set I’d ever seen in my life on the Terazza at Space. He was playing two copies of the same record, reversing the other backwards in sync, throwing massive 909 kick drums into the mix…and then began cradling the mixer in his arms,” said Eats Everything.
“We were like, “what the f**k is he doing?” He yanked the phono leads out the back of the mixer and started playing a bassline with the feedback. He was creating this enormous roaring sound with nothing but his clammy hands — and this curly-haired, terrified-looking French man didn’t look up once for four hours, I swear to God.”
10. The duo were given their name after a scathing review of their band, Darlin’
Daft Punk got their name when the late Dave Jennings dismissed their early efforts as “daft punky trash” during a review for the now shuttered Melody Maker magazine. At the time, the group called themselves Darlin’ and had a third member in the form of Laurent Brancowitz, who now plays guitar for Phoenix.
11. Despite the success of their first two albums — it was actually their fourth album ‘Random Access Memories’ that was the duo’s most successful
Despite their early success with the critically acclaimed ‘Homework’ and ‘Discovery’, the duo only really hit the big time with their enormously ambitious ‘Random Access Memories’ album, which took four years to make and was completely funded by the duo themselves before they shopped the album to the highest bidder, which turned out to be Sony’s Columbia Records.
The album went onto win the duo four Grammys and as of 2014 had sold 3.2 million copies worldwide, topping the charts in more than 30 countries.
12. The sound engineers for ‘Random Access Memories’ were so nervous about transporting the duo’s album to be mastered they decided to drive it across the U.S. to deliver it by hand
When ‘Random Access Memories’ was finished after four years of intense work, Peter Franco, one of four engineers to work on the album, got in a car with Daft Punk crew member Sam Cooper to drive the tapes from LA to Portland, Maine.
“Four years in the studio, it was crazy. So at the end when we finished mixing, there was no way we were going to let the master tapes leave our sight. So we started another journey,” Franco said during an interview for Daft Punk: Unchained. “If the tapes were lost, I think I would change my name, become a scuba diving instructor in Costa Rica. Each tape is unique and each mix is unique. There’s only one of them and they existed in that trunk of the car.”