The enigmatic, pseudo-anonymous, retro-futuristic French electronic duo Daft Punk has broken up, the group announced February 22 in classic form — wordlessly, through music and iconography, in a YouTube video called ‘Epilogue’.
A publicist for Daft Punk, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the breakup and said there would be no further comment at this time.
Founded by former indie-rock bandmates Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter in Paris in 1993, Daft Punk went on to win six Grammy Awards (including album of the year for ‘Random Access Memories’ in 2014); collaborate widely, with decade-spanning artists from Giorgio Moroder to The Weeknd; and influence countless other producers, DJs, rappers and pop stars with its devotion to mystique and its unique blend of house, techno, pop, disco and rock.
“The duo’s defining balancing act has been breaking new ground while simultaneously invoking earlier golden ages of club music, like disco and 1980s electro-pop,” critic Simon Reynolds wrote in The New York Times in 2013, when Daft Punk granted a rare interview.
Since the late 1990s, the duo has presented itself as otherworldly and uninterested in the trappings of fame or celebrity, donning robot helmets that would become its trademark (Bangalter often in silver, de Homem-Christo in gold), and rarely saying anything at all.
When the men collected their trophy for ‘Random Access Memories’ at the Grammys — one of four they won that night, bringing their career total to six — musicians Paul Williams and Nile Rodgers, who worked on the album, spoke instead.
In the ‘Epilogue’ video announcing Daft Punk’s demise, which was taken in part from the group’s 2006 film ‘Electroma’, the two members are seen walking together in the desert in matching motorcycle jackets.
When they come face to face, the one in the silver helmet removes his jacket, which is adorned with the Daft Punk logo, and the other presses a button on his back that starts a 60-second timer. As it counts down, he walks away, never looking back, and is then blown apart, breaking into pieces that resemble a machine more than a man of flesh and blood.
The song ‘Touch’, from ‘Random Access Memories’, begins playing — “Hold on,” go the lyrics, “if love is the answer, you’re home” — as the remaining bandmate walks into the sunset. The years 1993 to 2021 flash on the screen.
How it began
Daft Punk released its debut album, ‘Homework’, on Virgin Records in 1997, finding unlikely international hits in ‘Da Funk’ and ‘Around the World’. The duo’s follow-up, ‘Discovery’, came out in 2001 and included singles such as ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ (later sampled by Kanye West) and ‘One More Time’. In 2005, the group released ‘Human After All’, touring extensively the next two years, including a memorable performance atop an elaborate light-up pyramid at Coachella in 2006 that was Daft Punk’s first concert in the United States in nearly a decade. A live album from this period, ‘Alive 2007’, later won the Grammy for best electronic/dance album.
In the years that followed, even as its myth grew and so-called EDM DJs and producers became a billion-dollar business, Daft Punk retreated somewhat from the sample-based dance music it helped popularize. For ‘Random Access Memories’, which would be released by a new label, Columbia Records, the group used renowned session players and sought to make “every sound from scratch, creating a sonic world from the ground up,” Bangalter told The Times.
“In some ways it’s like we’re running on a highway going the opposite direction to everybody else,” he said, adding, “Computers were never designed in the first place to become musical instruments.”
‘Get Lucky’, the album’s lead single featuring Pharrell Williams, would go on to become the group’s most successful song to date, hitting No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Daft Punk later achieved its first and only career No. 1 as guests on ‘Starboy’ by The Weeknd, which they performed (along with another collaboration, ‘I Feel It Coming’) at the Grammys in 2017. It would be their final show.