In this rare and exclusive interview with one half of Daft Punk, Matt Everitt asks Thomas about the origins of the electronic duo, their first show, why they wore helmets and why they decided to end Daft Punk.
Matt Everitt: When did you first perform in front of an audience?
Thomas Bangalter: As Daft Punk, it was in 1994 or 95 in a bar – slash – club in Marseille called The Trolleybus which was on the Vieux Port which is the harbour in Marseille on the left side of the docks. It’s this very long, narrow corridor that turns into a club. We were kind of terrified and Guy-Man was so terrified that he spent the entire – there was this table with all the machines and the samplers and synthesisers – that the spent almost half of the show hidden under the table. It was just me with him but him adjusting the buttons and the machines from below like that. And that was the first one with electronic music.
Matt Everitt: I have to ask you about – with Daft Punk – you start wearing the helmets and it starts becoming this separation. Obviously it’s a really clever thing to do because you just concentrate on the music. As people, did you have to do that? Because it got really big.
Thomas Bangalter: Oh it got completely out of proportion. Wearing some masks and having fun with a white label, anonymous quality of the rave scene or the underground scene…there was this collective in Detroit called Underground Resistance which we really liked and there was just a general aspect of just playing those records, listening to music that you really didn’t know sometimes what the name of the song was or the track […] After Homework, it’s true that – I mean our manager at the time Pedro Winter usually jokes about the fact that we would go a little bit before photo shoots to those shops where they sell tricks and party masks and things and just get random things and just have fun with hiding, with plastic masks, or clown masks and things like that. 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 personas – robotic personas like if they were part of the cantina scene in Star Wars or something like that. It was a weird idea and neither me nor Guy-Man ever imagined it would end up taking such proportions where it just seemed like a very weird idea to mix these ideas that you would get from watching a sci-fi movie. There’s been the Kiss makeup or The Residents’ eye and what could be fun to play around with an imaginary character.
Matt Everitt: Are they in a warehouse? Is it like in the end of the Raiders in the Lost Arc where they open a big warehouse and there’s a hundreds of different masks and helmets?
Thomas Bangalter: There have been many different generations and some are very rusty and rusted! So it’s where you feel like oh ok, time has passed. Some are really starting to become quite deteriorated. It’s fun memories. It was fun to start an adventure like this and to create this narrative and to blur this line between fiction and reality because in some way I felt it’s almost like directing a film without cameras […] It allowed for certain playfulness around this and without imagining that actually the performance act or something would actually last that long. You have an idea like that when you’re like 25, you don’t say ‘you know what, we’re just going to build robot masks and dress up like robots until the day we die.’
Matt Everitt: Why did you end Daft Punk?
Thomas Bangalter: I think you know, again 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 […] It’s as if every reason or every clue in that semi-fictional or semi-autobiographical body of work as a partnership is disseminated inside. […] The question I ask more myself is why we did end it rather than how long could it last for so long. We were very critical, me and Guy-Man, on the history of rock and 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. It’s a lot of discipline and effort – same thing with the characters, with everything, so it definitely felt good. But it’s a lot like story or mini sagas – sometimes there’s a TV show or something that has a special place in people’s heart and it keeps that place and it runs for one, two, three, four, five, sometimes 10 seasons and there’s a moment where it ends and I think it’s actually interesting to have this opportunity to start, have the middle and to end it.