This is an expanded version of a story that appears in Entertainment Weekly‘s Summer Music Preview issue, on stands now.
Years before EDM became an acronym even your parents knew, Daft Punk were the byword of cool in electronic music. Now they’re back with their first new studio album in seven years, Random Access Memories (out physically today; read our review here), and a slick Pharrell Williams-aided single, “Get Lucky,” that may just be the song of the summer.
So we got the duo on the phone and asked them about the music that’s inspired them throughout the years. Paris natives Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo — who are so tight, they prefer to answer questions together — shared the songs that make them cry, crush out, and (flash)dance below; scroll to the bottom for a Spotify playlist off all their picks:
THE FIRST ALBUM WE EVER BOUGHT WITH OUR OWN MONEY
Thriller, MICHAEL JACKSON (1982)
BANGALTER: I think I bought both the album and the VHS companion tape that had the Motown section.
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: [In] childhood, it was all Michael Jackson and Thriller, all the time.
BANGALTER: It seemed that Thriller was pretty important for kids like us: Being seven or eight and having the ability to not only have an amazing record but one with a scary horror music video, a glimpse into the creative process. The behind-the-scenes was a really fascinating thing for us.
THE SONG THAT ALWAYS REMINDS US OF HOME
BANGALTER: When you’re French, everybody knows that song. It reminds us of early-morning Paris—you know, when you were young, going to parties and then coming out of the clubs, and it’s a very special and beautiful time, 5 a.m., 6 a.m., when the city wakes up. We think of these songs when we are traveling, especially, because it reminds us exactly of what Paris is about.
THE ALBUM THAT MADE US WANT TO BECOME MUSICIANS
Screamadelica, PRIMAL SCREAM (1991)
BANGALTER: It really was a very important record for us because at the time we were still very fragmented. We were 16 or 17, and you had, like, the rock kids and then the electronic ones, and [this album] kind of shattered that line. It really opened up our minds and got us excited and interested in breaking the boundaries.
THE ALBUM THAT REMINDS US OF OUR FIRST CRUSH
The Flashdance Soundtrack (1983)
BANGALTER: I remember we had a small party for, I think, my 9th or 10th birthday; it was in my bedroom with four or five girls and four or five boys. It’s funny because this bedroom was going to become our home studio eight or 10 years later, and we did [the albums] Homework and Discovery in it, but the home studio used to be a dance floor for kids flirting and dancing to the grooves of Giorgio Moroder in Flashdance.
THE SONG THAT ALWAYS MAKES US CRY
“Lovely Day,” BILL WITHERS (1977)
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: This could answer a few questions, like “What song do you wish you had written?” Because it’s a perfect pop song—really timeless and fresh, like it’s just been made out of the oven.
BANGALTER: It’s chills of happiness as well as chills of sadness. Those are usually our favorite songs, when there’s this kind of ambivalence.
THE SONG WE PLAY TO GET PUMPED BEFORE A NIGHT OUT
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: We love this. You know, it was [produced] by Quincy Jones, and the drummer on the song is John J.R. Robinson, who is one of the two drummers that played on our new album. And this song is kind of an elegant introduction to nighttime and to the party getting started. We could also say “Stomp!” by the Brothers Johnson and Quincy Jones, the kind of iconic dance track that has such a light touch. You can feel like it’s the beginning of the evening, but at the same time it’s really good for 1 a.m. on the dance floor. It has something that is right and elegant about it.
THE SONG WE WISH WE’D WRITTEN
BANGALTER: It’s a great example of a song that is so beautiful and so daring and so experimental at the same time.
OUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: It’s a good one because you don’t need to read the lyrics on the lines! [Laughs] The problem with karaoke is when you forget the lyrics, and you always get mixed up, so it’s a very simple one to remember. But the karaoke scene in Paris is pretty limited anyway.
THE SONG WE LIKE PERFORMING THE MOST
BANGALTER: It’s a very violent track from Homework. Somehow when we did it, we really felt that it was the ultimate techno track, and that we couldn’t really do another one as powerful as this. The great thing when we’re playing live, we can make the track again and give life to it [again].
THE SONG THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT EXPECT US TO LIKE
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: I listen to a lot of classical music, and Thomas [does] too. I don’t listen to electronic music at home. I guess that’s one thing that so many people are not so aware [of]. We are huge Bach fans, and huge Glenn Gould fans.
THE FIRST SONG WE PERFORMED IN PUBLIC
“Love Theme From Kiss,” KISS (1973)
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: The first song we ever performed, actually, was an instrumental, which says a lot about how shy we are. When we had this band Darlin’ with Laurent [Brancowitz] from Phoenix, this was the very first song from the very first show we played in public. It’s from Kiss’ first album. It’s really a badass instrumental rock-guitar groove that we always really loved. And we opened the show with it. We encourage anyone to check it out. It’s a great instrumental song.
OUR FAVORITE JUKEBOX JAM
“Hotel California,” EAGLES (1977)
BANGALTER: Not only because this song reminds us so much of L.A., which we love, but also the jukebox is really something that somehow today resonates as more an American behavior than a French one. It triggers so [many] visual memories and everything about it to us is perfect: every bar, every beat. It’s kind of the ultimate gem. Somehow it’s a very sensual experience, listening to that song. We really like to enjoy as well as create authentic music in a very cinematic way, and “Hotel California” really is that. You can just put it in a jukebox and it can be that soundtrack of the scene you’re living in at the time.
THE SONG WE WANT PLAYED AT OUR FUNERAL
BANGALTER: It seems pretty fitting.
DE HOMEM-CHRISTO: We’re keeping the mystery until the end. But it would probably be a closed-casket ceremony.
And here’s the playlist we promised! (Note: since the original “Hotel California” isn’t available on Spotify, we’ve subbed in a version from an Eagles tribute band. You’re welcome.)
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Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories': The EW Review
Daft Punk’s new single ‘Get Lucky’ lands on Earth: Hear it here!