Fitting In blows, especially TRYING to fit in when you know you’re not like everyone else. In my High School days I wanted to fit, but I also valued what made me stand out and tried to find new ways of doing just that. Musically, while I enjoyed the Pop and R&B tracks of the time, I was always looking for that new and underground sound to latch on to. My Fringe Music genre of choice at the time was Electronica. So I started to get into the Prodigy’s and Propellerhead’s and Basement Jaxx’s of the industry, the acts that were setting charts on fire overseas but were not really celebrated out in the states. Electronica, around 1996, was the “up and coming” music genre and I felt happy to be on trend.
I loved all of those groups and then some, but my favorite without a doubt was Daft Punk. Their style was a lot more ME, as it incorporated true “4 to the floor” type beats, funk and hip hop elements, and just overall a little more fun than the often repetitive, dark and jarring work of other popular Electronica acts.
My very first experience with Daft Punk came because of my obsession with MTV. I would rush home after school just to catch their afternoon line-up, which in 1997 had switched to a more Hip and Adult format. This was before “TRL”, and the programming at the time was a lot more into shining a light on the underground sounds. Ananda Lewis hosted a show called “12 Angry Viewers”, where random people would watch videos and vote on which one would make regular rotation on MTV, and one night Daft Punk’s “Around the World” was in the running.
I fell in love with the video and the song instantly. It’s one of those videos that you cannot take your eyes off, thanks to the genius of Michel Gondry, and ultimately the beat groove and funk of the song drew me in further. I pretty much became a lifelong fan once that video came to a close. I’ll admit though, I didn’t buy any of their music for a while after, I was still in High School and NOT working so whenever I made the trip to Tower Records or Rasputin’s I was spending my little allowance money on my sure-bets like Mariah Carey or TLC. But I always remembered Daft Punk, and grew to love some of their other songs like “Da Funk” and “Revolution 909” (also thanks to MTV and The Box, which actually played music videos around the clock back then).
The summer of 2001 was the time I COMPLETELY fell in love with the duo, when I went to visit a friend in Seattle for 4th of July. I had a great time in the beautiful city, and “Discovery” became the official soundtrack to that trip, so many memories about Seattle pop up when I listen to the album.
My friend’s friend hung with us for most of my stay, he had just bought the album and was playing it over and over in his truck. I remember being excited because I didn’t realize the album had been released yet. I wasn’t a huge fan of the albums first single “One More Time”, but I was excited to hear the whole album, and since my friend’s friend became our unofficial chauffeur, we got the chance to hear everything and get used to the new sounds of Daft.
I remember thinking “Crescendolls” was so noisy at first, but grew to love it, as was the case for most of the album which didn’t automatically hook me but grew on me quickly. One day when I was on my own, I went to The Wherehouse (remember those!) and bought “Discovery” for myself. I just knew at that point that it was going to hold a lot of great memories for me, and I couldn’t leave Seattle without buying it. Another memorable and telling thing, “Discovery” was kind of the first album I got high to. I had smoked weed before, but I was learning to become more functional with it during that trip and I remember smoking and then listening to this album and SEEING it. Let me explain.
Like with “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”, it was like I could SEE the words popping in and out in sequence with the song. Or “Veridis Quo”, I could SEE the effects. It was weird, but an awesome experience I’ll never forget. The most vivid memory though is when we had started our bar crawl one night, and for whatever reason my friend’s friend decided to just blast “Too Long” (which had become a favorite of ours) while his truck was parked in front of a random bar. We were drunk, and I know that all 3 of us were FEELING IT, because we were dancing in his cab (with, i want to say 3 or 4 other people) not giving a fuck what other people might be thinking. We had so much fun that whole trip, and Daft Punk is a big reason behind it.
Once I got back home, I went and bought “Homework” because I really wanted to get versed in the world of Daft Punk. Around that time I also bought their DVD “D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes”, a compilation of all of their videos which I watched obsessively. I remember being creeped out by the dog mask man in “Da Funk”, falling in love with the cleverness of “Revolution 909”, and of course getting my ultimate LIFE by watching “Around the World” over and over. By the time my friend had come to visit me in the Bay Area, she instantly fell in love with “Around the World’. I felt all proud of myself, because that particular friend used to get on me about my love of Popular music, and I was glad to turn her on to something a little more underground. I was the COOL one this time!
I don’t have many interesting memories when it comes to “Human After All”. At this point I was legit a Huge fan, so huge that I even bought “Interstella 5555”, the Anime accompaniment to “Discovery”. I didn’t enjoy it, but I enjoyed having it because it somewhat proved I was a die-hard fan. So when “Human After All” was released in 2005 I was working a Temp job in San Francisco, and just as soon as I heard the album was available I rushed down to Virgin Megastore to grab it real quick. My job was very menial, I was a “Loan Processor” that dealt with lots of paperwork, so that album was actually perfect for the work. I would sit there and zone out and do my work, which was somewhat mechanical so I guess on some level I related to the mix of technological blips and grungy/nasty/funk and fun of the album.
Me and my best friend fell in love with “Technologic”, and she used to like to make fun of “Emotion” (which I absolutely loved even in it’s simplicity). It was just another great phase in my Daft-Fandom, that lead to a whole new level of pride. Because about a year later, not one, but TWO of my favorite Hip Hop artists and producers used Daft Punk samples in their hit songs. I don’t remember who came first, but I feel like Busta Rhymes’ Swizz Beats produced track “Touch It” came first and that used a generous dose of “Technologic” over stuttering Urban beats. Kanye West later used “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” for his hit “Stronger”, a sample I thought was a lot more inventive than Swizz’s, but BOTH songs using Daft Punk just made me feel that much cooler. That my favorite producers were tuned in to the same fringe type music as me and were inspired by it.
Kanye, THE MAN, actually took it upon himself to celebrate Daft Punk even further when he had them perform with him at the 2008 Grammy’s in an amazing performance of “Stronger”. Amazing, because in Daft Punk’s small bit of the performance they showed their skills with their subtle mixes and alterations to the track. It showed that they ARE talented in a Live sense, something that I wasn’t fully aware of until “Alive 2007” their second live album.
Now I was excited to buy the outing, just because, but I didn’t expect much from it. I had this terrible prejudice about artists like Daft Punk where I didn’t think they could deliver an interesting live show. MAN was I wrong because “Alive 2007” floored me, these guys are so talented and skilled at what they do. The seamless mixing of their catalogue was really incredible to me, I would sit at my graveyard job listening to the album and be totally blown away by their skills, and how they manage to keep a great flow of music that’s great music and fun for the crowds. It’s actually turned into one of the best Live albums I own.
Over the years, leading up to “Random Access Memories”, I would get excited at the mere mention of the duo that is Daft. N.E.R.D.’s “Hypnotize U” excited me because it was one of the first times they produced for a popular act. I also got into more of their remixes and B-sides, which paved the way for the moment I fell in love with “Musique”. Oddly enough, when all the hype for “Random Access Memories” began months and months before the actual release, I wasn’t expecting much. I was let down by their score for “Tron”, and something about them merging with big-label Columbia made me think the worst of the album before it even came out. Once the album dropped though, I was so pleased and enjoyed almost every single second of it. On top of enjoying the great new material, I was happy that “Get Lucky” was becoming the HUGE hit it was over that summer.
And truth be told, when Daft Punk won Album of the Year at the 2014 Grammys, It became one of my favorite Grammy moments of all time. I definitely wanted them to win, and it seemed highly possible that they would win, but until they were actually announced as winners I thought “hey, they are still too Hip and Fringe for the Grammy voters to really give them the prize”, but I was wrong and happy that I was wrong.
That Grammy night was a great night to be a Daft Punk fan, aside from the win, Guy and Thomas joined Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder on stage for the BEST performance of that night. A performance that had EVERYONE in the audience on their feet and having fun. It was a moment that made me feel like FINALLY, everybody else in the world understood what I loved about the guys all those years prior.