Last week, Daft Punk: Unchained – a documentary that takes an in-depth look at the success of French duo Daft Punk – got its French release on Canal+ to largely positive reviews.
Made alongside the BBC’s International production arm, the documentary starts with the duo’s early forays into music as Darlin’ through to their ground-breaking early albums, and then onto their award-winning live show, before finishing with an in-depth look at the 4 years the duo spent recording their last album ‘Random Access Memories’.
The documentary features interviews from journalists, collaborators, label executives, managers, and friends of the enigmatic duo who reveal how the duo became the most successful electronic act in history.
We’ve seen the documentary, and despite some dodgy subtitles it’s full of interesting insights about the duo – so here are 5 things that we didn’t know about duo and their music.
1. The duo were so secretive, not even Pedro Winter saw their live show before its Coachella premiere.
Apparently the organisers of the festival had been trying to book the duo for years, every year they’d ring Pedro Winter, and every year the duo said no. In 2005, Pedro Winter said the festival promoter offered $250,000 to the duo. They refused. One year later the Pedro was contacted again and was offered $300,000 for a performance. He approached the duo with the offer who replied three days later with a “maybe”. They agreed to the performance, and didn’t ask for more money, but did request the fee upfront, to pay for their elaborate stage show. 10 days before the performance Pedro Winter went to see a rehearsal. It was just him in an empty room in Paris and the duo played him just the music, and not the full light show. He revealed that he didn’t get to see the full setup until everyone else saw it. He remembers the duo being so secretive they made the festival organisers clear the entire backstage for one hour before debuting their now famous show.
2. RAM’s master tapes were so precious to the duo, that they made two studio technicians drive from LA to Portland by car to get them mastered.
The duo’s last album, ‘Random Access Memories’, took 4 years to complete and once it was finished it was loaded onto two master tapes that were so precious to the duo, they had to be hand delivered to the mastering studio in Portland. Daft Punk gave this job to two people they could really trust, as no-one knew outside their inner circle that they were making a new album. Peter Franco, one of four engineers to work on the album, got in a car with Daft Punk crew member Sam Cooper and drove the tapes from LA to Portland to be mastered. Peter Franco admits he did not take his eyes of the package for the entire time of the journey as if they got lost or stolen, there was no back-ups.
3. The duo’s third album, ‘Human After All’, was actually made in just 12 days.
Thomas Bangatler explains in a interview clip that album took a mere 12 days to make, and not the 6 weeks many had thought. The whole premise was to create a album in the most basic way possible, “’Human After All’ was maybe made in 12 days. But that was the concept of the record, which is looking back at those rock or garage records,” Bangalter told Radio 1’s Pete Tong in 2013 during an interview with the duo.
4. The duo played their debut album to Virgin label executives in Thomas’ bedroom studio on a simple ghetto blaster
During the documentary, there are several in-depth interviews with former Virgin label executives who remember the very day that Thomas & Guy-Manuel played them their debut album for the first time, “We went to listen to the album at Thomas’s house, in his little studio. We came with the team from Virgin London and some of the French team,” says Maya Masseboeuf, former artistic director of Virgin France. “It was great: a little studio with things everywhere. And we listened to the album on a ghetto blaster. We were really impressed. It was hit after hit.”
5. Thomas would read the instruction manuals to his software and synths once every month, and was one of the first people in France to get a Mac.
Thomas Bangalter is described as a “genius” when it comes to production techniques by Eric “Rico The Wizard” Chédeville, whilst De Homem Christo is described as “mythical”. In the documentary, Rico said that Bangalter would regularly read the instruction manuals to his software and hardware synths every month, multiple times. “He told me once around the time of the first album that he reads the instruction books for all his machines once a month.” Thomas Bangalter was the first person in France to get a Mac, according the French music journalist Jean-Daniel Beauvallet, which “allowed him to get working on music and images by computer very, very early.”