After 28 years of helmets, synths and dance music, Daft Punk calls it quits
February 22, 2021
There might not be a group that has been as impactful on electronic music as Daft Punk has. The French duo helped shape the genre. Over the pair’s 28-year history, they released four studio albums, composed the score for Disney’s “Tron: Legacy” and collaborated with artists like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, The Weeknd, Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, the Parcels and Giorgio Moroder.
In a video titled “Epilogue,” uploaded on Monday by Daft Punk on YouTube, two helmeted men, one gold and the other silver, are walking in an empty oasis; the film reel grainy and their backs faced to the camera. Leather jackets studded in gold read “Daft Punk.” Their arms slowly swing at the sides; The man in the gold helmet trails up ahead leaving the silver helmeted man far behind, in the dust quite literally. The two faceless helmets stop and stare at each other, recognizing the distance emotions can be felt.
The film, excerpted largely from their 2006 science fiction film “Electroma,” was uploaded to announce their break up. Daft Punk’s longtime publicist Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to Pitchfork but didn’t elaborate beyond that. The two men inside the helmets, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, will leave behind a rich legacy of French house music, science fiction film and iconic remixes.
According to Volksgeist, Bangalter and Homem-Christo met in high school in the late ’80s. They began experimenting with drum machines and synthesizers performing in simple halloween and party masks. “Homework,” their debut album, was released in 1997.
When it comes to recognition, Daft Punk has won a total of six Grammy Awards, including “Album of the Year” in 2014 for “Random Access Memories.” Culturally, they have been commended for combining the heart of older disco music with futuristic styles paving the way for many electronic artists today.
Porter Robinson, a popular DJ in the recent rave scene, tweeted, “thinking about how every stage of my life would have gone so differently if it weren’t for Daft Punk.”
Jasmine Kamariotis, 31-year-old SF State graduate, project manager for Cañada College’s Expanding Student Opportunity Adelante Project and a long-time Daft Punk fan, said she found out about the group’s split like many others: checking her social media feed when she woke up.
“I just get a little anxious every time I see somebody I love trending on Twitter, I’m like please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead,” Kamariotis laughed.
Bunny Prodan, SF State student, currently teaching an experimental class solely dedicated to the filmmaker Spike Jonze – is a huge and devastated Daft Punk fan.
“Half of my identity is Daft Punk,” Prodan said in a Daft Punk T-shirt. “And the other half is Spike Jonze. And one of those identities died today.”
“Da Funk,” released in 2009, is considered both an early classic single as well as an iconic music video directed by Spike Jonze.
Prodan tracks the band religiously, and according to her, the duo was rumored to be a part of an upcoming Dario Argento acid horror film as well as return to score another Tron movie. Their split was the furthest thing from possible in her mind, and she’s just really sad, she said.
The news today left her reminiscing of some of her fondest teenage Daft Punk debauchery – particularly, her senior prom.
Dressed in a white suit, a gleaming Daft Punk pin pinned to the lapel, topped off with a bright red beret – Prodan was determined to use a formal event as an opportunity to pay homage to Daft Punk.
“I requested for the DJ to play ‘One More Time,’ ” Prodan said between laughs. “The whole dance floor was empty. And then ‘One More Time’ came on, and I literally did rounds around the dance floor making people get up and dance with me. And, like no one wanted to dance to ‘One More Time,’ but I forced them all to.”
Like Prodan, Kamariotis connected Daft Punk with her high school experience. “I truly feel like they were a soundtrack of my high school,” she said. She recounted that her group of friends would hang out and listen to the band.
While in high school Kamariotis saw Daft Punk perform in Berkeley, and while she doesn’t remember specific details of the concert well, the energy of the night stayed with her. “I felt like it was more of a community experience than anything else,” she said. “It’s not so much to watch as it is to just experience, folks were dancing with each other and just purely enjoying the music.”
Prompted by a sense of nostalgia, Kamariotis took to YouTube to watch “Epilogue.” Though admittedly sad about the duo’s announcement, she thought that they ended things as respectfully as possible. “It wasn’t like they just faded out, it was really intentional,” she explained. “It felt like respect to their fans in a way to not just be like ‘Oh, we’re just broken up.’”
“To create this kind of ending felt so sweet actually,” Kamariotis said.
Prodan said that Daft Punk’s discography will forever be the score of her adolescence, and while it hurts they won’t be there with her as she embarks on adulthood, she, like many other Daft Punk fans, will forever be grateful for their impact on her life.