If we’d have to guess which two questions Daft Punk have probably been asked the most, we’d go with: “Why did you break up?” followed by “Why the robot helmets?” The French house duo, who called it called it quits in February 2021, are famously rarely interviewed, but Thomas Bangalter offered a little insight to the inner workings of Daft Punk — and being “relieved” that the era is over — on a recent episode of BBC’s The First Time with Matt Everett podcast.
Bangalter previously gave a kind of vague explanation for why Daft Punk broke up, saying that “the last thing I would want to be, in the world we live in, in 2023, is a robot.” Speaking with host Everett, he dug deeper into his and bandmate Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo’s relationship with their art.
“There’s a connection between fiction and reality, and everything we did was the different chapters in the story, and a story by definition has a beginning, a middle and an end,” Bangalter said. “The question I ask myself more than ‘why we did end it?’ [is] ‘how long could it last for so long?’
“We were very critical, me and Guy-Man, on the history of rock ‘n’ roll – of all these bands that eventually start to be disconnected and age, and we didn’t think that we could get away with it either. When we started I was 18 and when we ended Daft Punk I was 46. It’s been a significant part of my life but I am relieved an happy to look back on it and say ‘OK, we didn’t mess it up too much…’ And I think it’s actually interesting to have this opportunity to start, have the middle and to end it.”
While it’s now impossible to imagine Daft Punk without their robot helmets, Bangalter said that their techy alter-egos were initially a bit of an accident. “Oh, it got completely out of proportion — [we were] wearing some masks and having fun with a white label, anonymous quality of the rave scene or the underground scene,” he said. “After having done that for a year or so around the release of Homework I really remember thinking – it would be fun to just have some special effects guys from Hollywood do these robotic personas like if they were part of the cantina scene in Star Wars… In some way I felt it’s almost like directing a film without cameras.”
Somewhere out there, as Bangalter implied, there’s a multi-generational stash of “rusted” and “deteriorated” helmets of Daft Punk’s past. Elsewhere in the interview, he also discussed falling in love with Michael Jackson’s Thriller, having his mind blown at his very first concert seeing Bruce Springsteen, his affinity for horror movies, and more. Listen to it here.
Back in April, Bangalter released a solo orchestral album Mythologies. The following month, Daft Punk shared a 10-year anniversary reissue of their final album Random Access Memories that includes nine previously-unreleased tracks.