I’ve had friends reaching out to me all day today about Daft Punk’s break-up, and there’s a lot to say about it.
Daft Punk is one of the most important bands I’ve ever listened to. They are one of a very small number of groups that defined my relationship with music from the time I branched off from what my parents listened to (Stray Cats and the Ramones), as I started to explore my own tastes. I got into them around the time their Alive 2007 tour was starting, largely consuming them through MySpace. Around the time, Stronger (the Kanye West one, not the Kelly Clarkson one) was really popular on the radio.
I was playing a lot of online games on the computer at this age (and not practicing very much on my instruments), and Daft Punk was the soundtrack for me at the time. I’d load up albums in a World of Warcraft music player add-on, and I remember a small community of shoutcast radio stations popular with my internet friends we’d stream through Winamp, and I’d incessantly request Daft Punk.
It was all magnificent to me. At that age, Discovery was my favorite. Some of Homework’s more abrasive tracks I forced myself to love until I appreciated the whole album. Even Human After All was good to me. I didn’t understand what made Musique a different album, but I remembered listening to the Daft Club album and especially the Aerodynamic remix from Slum Village on my Motorola KRZR in Boy Scouts, thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I put on an image of being really into “Techno” at the time, and while I did branch a bit off into artists like Basshunter, it was always centered on Daft Punk.
Alive 2007 remains to me their masterpiece. It so perfectly synthesizes their entire body of work up to that point, and I spent years wishing I could see that performance. Daft Punk, in all their mystery, set up a pattern: From 1997, it was an album every four years and a tour every ten it seemed. 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2009’s Tron: Legacy (which I never got into very hard, but now that it’s all we’ll ever have, I’m going to be listening to it a lot more).
2013’s Random Access Memories was the “album of the summer” after I finished high school, and what an incredible album to have for that time. While I didn’t expect that I’d have a lot of extra spare change, I was so eager for 2017 to bring the next album and the tour that I’d been waiting for. And it never came.
Four years later, it’s over. It’s not really a painful blow; their silence in 2017 was wholly unexpected, and this is just the answer to the question of “what next” that went unanswered four years ago. It’s hard to imagine them doing a “reunion” tour down the road, or anything of the sort, but this is the final nail in the coffin, and it’s being hammered pretty gently given the relative silence since featuring with The Weeknd on Starboy.
I don’t know what it really is about them that worked so well for me, but it did. I don’t really care for anime, but I enjoyed the heck out of their movie for Discovery, Interstella 5555. I never watched D.A.F.T. and I never had the patience to finish Electroma (their movies for Homework and Human After All respectively).
Daft Punk’s music set me up to connect to music in a whole host of ways. In all honesty, it probably wasn’t anything particular about Daft Punk that did it, but the repetition — especially of those first three albums — feels tangentially related to how much I loved learning about hypermeter and phrase rhythm in college. Maybe another band would’ve filled the place Daft Punk did, but something about their distance from their music, the lack of anything “edgy” or seemingly counter-cultural — while never feeling mainstream to me as a youth — let me make the music mine in a way that I can really appreciate now as an adult.
Would I be a band director if Daft Punk weren’t an honest obsession (for a part of my life) and a continued love (to this day) for me? Sure, maybe. But the fact that Daft Punk was the band for me that they were is one of those “nurture” things that make me the person I am.
To be a bit less navel-gaze-y I wanted to share a cool interview from 2001, shortly after the release of Discovery. The interesting thing in here is their appreciation of Napster from an artist’s standpoint. While I’ve gained a much better appreciation for copyright when it works well than I had as a youth, it’s interesting to see this free of an attitude from such successful artists.