Daft Punk may win four Grammys, perform with Stevie Wonder and be called “Sell outs” today, but it all started with a techno track on Soma Records in 1994. Without the helmets.

It’s easy to call Daft Punk “Billboard Boys”, “Sell Outs” and “Electro-Pop uncles”. But it all really started with a techno track in 1994.

Daft Punk – The New Wave – Soma Records 1994.

It all started back in the early nineties with two french guys making hard-kicking techno and shifting synths from club to club for their early gigs. The first track under the Daft Punk monicker was called The New Wave and released on Soma Records in 1994. It was raw, dirty and techno back then.

Daft Punk – Da Funk (Armand Van Helden Ten Minutes of Funk mix) Soma 1996

For the next EP the duo shifted their sound to house (at least what was called house in the 1990s) with Da Funk with this classic 10 minute remix by Armand Van Helden (today one half of Duck Sauce).

The duos original intention was to make their own form of Gangsta Rap as influenced by the likes of Warren G and other West Coast rappers. But the sound came out as house. Da Funk was immediately picked up and licensed by Virgin Records. The Da Funk video directed by Spike Jonze with the dog walking around New York with a boombox bumped Daft Punk from underground vinyl stores and dodgy clubs to prime time on MTV on millions of television set across the world.

Daft Punk – Da Funk (Virgin 1996)

The Homework album (1997) was a big success featuring Da Funk, Around the World, Revolution 909 and Teachers. The Duos primarly influences at that time were the Chicago house producers of late 80s / early 90s.

The next big success was the concept album Discovery (2001), mostly a disco and synth-pop record, originally designed as a soundtrack for manga movie Interstella 5555. Some rearranged clips from the movie made enough video material for singles Harder Better Faster, One More Time, Superheroes, High Life and Voyager.

Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster (Virgin 2001)

The third studio album Human After All (2005) was an improvisation recorded in just six weeks, experimentally mixing rock and electro and a bunch of other electronic sub-genres. It received mixed reviews claimed in some cases to be too experimental, poorly produced and too outside the box.

Daft Punk – Robot Rock (Virgin 2005)

The duos final stage of climb to mega-fame started already in 2007 when Disney first approached the duo to produce the film score for the 2010 remake of cult movie Tron. The score was postponed a couple of times and finally recorded with an 86-piece orchestra in AIR Lyndhurst Studios in London.

Daft Punk – End of the Lind (Tron Legacy Soundtrack 2010)

Daft Punk’s latest and probably last album – Random Access Memories (2013) is probably the most controversial of them all. First of all, licensed to Sony Music through Colombia, it received one of the most expensive PR-budgets of all time. It featured a dozen of guest musicians such as Giorgio Moroder, Pharrell Williams, Todd Edwards, DJ Falcon, Chilly Gonzales, Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas and Nile Rodgers.

Some critics argued that many of these cameos were invited solely for the purpose of boosting the hype. Last but not least it was a pure pop and disco album that had nothing left of Daft Punk’s original house and techno sounds. (Swedish Expressen reviewed it as Soul). Never the less, as a combination of radio friendly tracks and having a huge PR budget the album debuted as number one in France, UK and US and broke many of the sales expectations.

In any case, it’s easy to call Daft Punk “mainstream, pop, sell-outs and greedy”. But the duo has been working hard, constantly innovating themselves from day one in 1994. After all every musician and producer has the right to decide to go mainstream one day.

So dear Daft Punk. Congratulations on your four Grammys. Well earned and well deserved!

Daft Punk with Pharell, Nile Rogers and Stevie Wonder at Grammys in 2014

About Alex Esser:

DJ, surfer and entrepreneur residing in Malmö, Sweden. HMWL label daddy. My music network is always open. Holler at alex@hmwl.org