An arrow through the hearts of EDM lovers across the world, French duo Daft Punk announced earlier this year that they are disbanding after 28 active years in the industry. While natural instinct would call for a mourning period for all the potential music the world will now never hear, this is also a time of celebration. Daft Punk leaves behind a mountain of a legacy, and their permanent impact on music outlives the act.
Daft Punk started out as just two college friends, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Christo. Let’s take a look back at some monumental moments in these two friends’ careers.
On September 9, 1999, at 9:09 A.M. there was an explosion at the studio while Daft Punk was working on new music––or at least that’s the thrilling fictitious story the pair molded around the reason behind their famous robot suits: “We did not choose to become robots… When we regained consciousness, we had discovered that we had become robots.”
While prior to 1999, the duo wore other disguises (including black bags over their heads, and helmets with wigs), the robot helmets seem to have been anonymity-granting uniforms that stuck. Daft Punk fans knew that a slight change to the light-up helmet meant the beginning of a new musical era for the duo.
When speaking on a more serious note about their robot look, Bangalter commented that they were “interested in the line between fiction and reality, creating these fictional personas that exist in real life… people thought the helmets were marketing or something, but for us it was sci-fi glam.” De Christo added, “We’re not performers, we’re not models––it would not be enjoyable for humanity to see our features. But the robots are exciting to people.”
Influences to Electronic Music
Daft Punk was already reshaping the music industry by the time their second album rolled around. Discovery was released internationally in March of 2001, and not only did it mark a shift in Daft Punk’s personal music style, but it shifted the paradigm of dance music at that point. The album drew influence from house, disco, and R&B, yet no one had heard anything like it at that point. Whatever this new sound was, the world loved it: Discovery was a commercial and critical success, ranking high on several charts internationally.
Billboard dubbed Daft Punk “the most influential electronic act of its time.” The tall praise is not without merit. Daft Punk’s influence precedes them: many artists, in EDM or outside of the genre, sample or cover their tracks. Kanye West’s 2007 song “Stronger” from Graduation borrows the melody and features a vocal sample of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” In 2017, a Daft Punk medley was played by the French military band during the Bastille Day parade, with French President Emmanuel Macron and then-U.S. President Donald Trump in the audience.
While there are a number of iconic and revolutionary Daft Punk performances written down in history, one of the earlier ones perfectly exemplifies the uniqueness of the duo: in 2006, Daft Punk played in Coachella in a glowing pyramid of geometric colors backed by an LED screen.
Their influence has even infiltrated biology: a species of flatworm, Baicalellia daftpunka, was named after Daft Punk in 2018 because part of the worm resembles a helmet.