15 Things We Learnt From Daft Punk Unchained

Our editor got an exclusive first look at Unchained - the Daft Punk documentary that's been making waves across the Internet.

We got an exclusive first look at the Daft Punk documentary that's been making waves

The English Language Trailer For Daft Punk Unchained

With the Internet collectively losing its mind after the English language trailer for Daft Punk Unchained finally dropped on Friday, we thought it was time for us to come clean - we've already seen the whole thing. Music documentary festival, Doc 'n Roll Fest held an exclusive screening of the documentary on Sunday 20th September in East London and we were there scoffing popcorn and scribbling down notes.

The documentary is a sprawling, lovingly made account of Daft Punk's journey from Darlin' all the way to The Grammys. It's funny, it's insightful and it one point it had us on the verge of tears. There's a lot to take in and we really wish we could've watched it again before writing this, but here's fifteen of the most memorable insights we got into Thomas and Guy-Man.

***Spoiler Alert (Obviously)***

We Finally Heard A Darlin' Track

It's pretty common knowledge that Daft Punk got their name from a band review of their original band, Darlin'. But hardly anyone knows what Darlin' actually sounded like. We know that Thomas and Guy-Man formed the group with current Phoenix guitarist, Laurent Brancowitz, so I guess we always kind of assumed Darlin' would sound a bit like Phoenix. That couldn't be further from the truth, as in Unchained, we're treated to some shaky VHS footage of a Darlin' gig, where the band is playing a droney, grunge-esque track.

Pedro Winter Is An Expert At Finding Fancy Dress Shops In Strange Cities

When Daft Punk were on their first tour, they'd send Busy P off to find a fancy dress store and buy masks for them to wear when being interviewed later that night. The film shows a wide array of the masks they sported in interviews from black bags to devil faces. Pedro was indeed a busy guy.

Their First Outing In Robot Masks Was The "Around The World" Video

Acclaimed French screenwriter and director, Michael Gondry, was brought in to direct the video for around the world. He hit on the idea to have five groups of characters dancing around a vinyl. Each group represented an instrument on the track, Robots for the vocals, athletes for the bass, disco girls for the keyboard, skeletons for the guitar and mummies for the drums. He wanted Daft Punk to be in the video, but knew they didn't want to show their faces, so he got them to choose between being skeletons, mummies or robots. They chose robots and the rest is history.

But We Have Y2K To Thank For The Robots Becoming A Full Time Thing

In 1999, Daft Punk became obsessed with the idea of The Millennium Bug and watched countless public service broadcasts like this when not in the studio. The idea of the Millennium Bug infecting people and irreversibly changing them grew into the idea of them becoming robots at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve 1999.

The Final Versions Of The Masks Came From A Guy Who Worked On "Thriller"

Tony Gardiner's first job in special effects makeup was on Michael Jackson's colossal "Thriller" music video. He'd go on to work on everything from Jackass to 127 Hours to Zombieland, but perhaps one of his most iconic designs is the Daft Punk helmets. He created the original set in 2000 and went on to work with them on their full length film Electroma and direct three of their music videos.

From The Very Beginning Daft Punk Were Always Calling The Shots

When they were in negotiations with the Majors, they refused to sign over the rights to their music or be tied into producing a specific amount of albums or producing anything within a specific time frame. They basically went to each major label and said, you can either release our music on our terms, or not at all.

Discovery Was Also Recorded In Bangalter's Bedroom

It's fairly well know that the band's debut, Homework, was recorded in Thomas Bangalter's bedroom, but it's often assumed that the more polished and popy Discovery was recorded in a professional studio, this however is not the case as both albums were recorded in the same room.

It Was The Backlash From Discovery That Influenced Human After All The Most

Discovery brought Daft Punk to stratospheric heights, but as with many crossover records, it attracted it's fair share of criticism from a hardcore contingent of the band's fanbase for being too commercial. It was this backlash and the led to the recording of Daft Punk's most controversial releases.

Human After All Was Recorded In Six Weeks And Daft Punk Refused To Do Any Press To Support It

At the time Daft Punk said that they felt the music spoke for itself and that they didn't want to explain the album. The album, which was intentionally a lot rougher and harder to listen to than either of their previous efforts received a lot of criticism from both fans and the music industry. Daft Punk have since admitted that it was a mistake not to respond to the criticism or defend the album, with De Homem-Christo later saying that remaining silent was the worst decision they ever made.

After Electroma, Even Busy P Thought That The Robots We Over

After remaining silent about the Human After All backlash, it was looking like Daft Punk were on the rocks. How did they respond to this? They made a feature-length art house film about two robot's who look suspiciously like Daft Punk. At the end of the film the robots self-destruct and even the band's closest confident feared they were trying to send the world a message.

But After Coachella 06, They Were Back On Top

Coachella had been approaching Daft Punk for nearly a decade and were repeatedly turned down. But in 2006 they offered $300,000 dollars and they were told they'd think about it. What happened next was one of the biggest comeback and one of the most legendary live shows in not just the history of dance music, but of music itself.

Coachella '06 Was Everything

The Coachella show went down in dance music legend and a whole generation of producers were inspired by that one show. Skrillex reveals in Unchained that every producer of his age group claims to have been in that crowd, though he suspects some people may be bending the truth. To make the Coachella show even more legendary, no official video footage of the show is known to exist. There are a few shaky videos taken on phones that had just started to do video, and that's it.

Working On The Tron Soundtrack was Like Going Back To School

Daft Punk have always been known for doing things on their own terms. But they didn't realise that agreeing to do the Tron: Legacy soundtrack would mean relinquishing control to Uncle Walt. This was very much a going back to school moment, but the skills the learnt during the project - working with full orchestras, classical arrangements and a pretty much unlimited budget - would allow them to make the record they'd always wanted to... Random Access Memories.

Random Access Memories Is Their Magnum Opus (Even If It's Not Your Fave)

RAM received a mixed reaction from Daft Punk fans. Some people really got on board with it and saw it as the masterpiece that the Grammy's clearly thought it was, others thought it just wasn't a Daft Punk record. But whatever your opinion, it doesn't matter to Thomas and Guy-Man, as for them this was everything. It was a chance for them to work with only live instrumentation for the first time in their careers, for them to work with every single one of their heroes and to produce a record of the same quality and production value as the classics they grew up listening to.

We Learnt Almost Nothing About Thomas And Guy-Man

Unchained is a fascinating insight into the story of one of the most secretive acts on the planet. Being a big Daft Punk fan, there was a lot in here that I already knew, but I also learnt a hell of a lot about their journey and the moments that shaped them. What I didn't learn was almost anything about Thomas and Guy-Man as actual people. They never appear speaking direct to camera and their personal lives are glossed over as much as possible. I know that they've always wanted to let the music do the talking, but it would've been nice to learn something - anything - about the relationship between the two Frenchmen.

Thank you so much to Doc 'n' Roll Film Festival for inviting us down to their exclusive English Language screening. For more information on the other music docs in their festival, go to their official site.

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Written by Matthew Francey

28 Sep 2015