The final countdown has begun: In only 10 days, Daft Punk's first real album in eight years, Random Access Memories, will be released. The "robots"—Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo—agreed to a rare interview a few months ago, and the result was this GQ profile: "Daft Punk is (Finally!) Playing at Our House." I just read it. It's kind of wild, like hearing from a long-dead and mute historical figure, like Beethoven or something.
Here are a few of the more interesting tidbits to be found:
The Parisians, who haven't shown their faces to the media in over a decade, look exactly like you'd imagine.
Since you're probably wondering: They look not unlike a couple of guys in a rock band. Bangalter, 38, is tall, slightly rumpled, bearded, hair thinning, handsome in a cinema-studies-professor kind of way—he's funny, good with eye contact, palpably eager to make himself understood. Today he's wearing fashionable motorcycle boots, black jeans, an unstructured suit jacket, and a big drapey scarf, perfectly tied, framing a neat Daft Punk pyramid of bare chest. De Homem-Christo is one year older, and a lot shorter. He has long stringy metal-guy hair and weary pale eyes, and his black boots have gold spurs. Everyone calls him Guy-Man.
They think dance music is dead (but they like Skrillex, who says he was inspired to make EDM by Daft Punk):
Electronic dance music had never been more popular—has never been more popular than at this very moment—but to their ears it sounded derivative, safe, like a wan copy of something they themselves had done a decade prior, back when they were trying to overthrow their own elders. "It's always this thing where we're constantly waiting for something that will come in electronic music that says, 'Daft Punk sucks!' " Bangalter says. "That's actually much more interesting and exciting than someone who is paying homage."
We duck into a coffee shop de Homem-Christo says I should try, and I ask them what they think about Skrillex. Bangalter says he respects him for just that reason—that he isn't boring, or trying to be Daft Punk. "Here's someone that is trying to create something new and to not follow something," Bangalter says. "There's an attempt, you know?"
The album is going to be unexpected.
At a moment when mainstream pop has never sounded more like Daft Punk, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo went the other way, crafting a gold-plated homage to the pop music of their youth, the kind of sweet and sad and sexy sounds that ruled radio waves years before most of their fan base was even born. It's extremely impressive musically, weirdly pedantic in places—unless you think there's merit in listening to Giorgio Moroder haltingly talk about his early days as a German club warrior over a click track—and probably a little overgenerous to guys like Panda Bear, who basically gets to sneak a solo track onto one of the most anticipated albums of the past decade. I would say the disco-connoisseur-y songs outnumber the potential pop smashes by a ratio of about 4 to 1, but there are definitely a couple of potential pop smashes. I have no idea who they imagine Random Access Memories being for, besides themselves, but there is something seductive about that, the band's ability to do something so totally, breathtakingly self-indulgent—it makes you want to try to see it their way.
"It's maybe not 'Kill the father,'" Bangalter says. "But it's like: Things have to move on."
I'm excited. Read the whole profile at GQ.