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Earlier today we’ve found out who will collaborate on Daft Punk‘s upcoming new album Random Access Memories. Adding fuel to the hype, Rolling Stone has now released snippets of their recent interview with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo which unveils some interesting details regarding their new album. Read some excerpts below.
Making the album: They started working on it in 2008. It was recorded in Paris, New York (at Electric Ladyland), and Los Angeles (at the old A&M studio). “There are songs on the album that traveled into five studios over two and a half years,” Thomas said. There are drum machines on only two tracks. The electronics are played on a custom-built modular synthesizer, plus with a series of vintage vocoders. Thomas said, “We wanted to do what we used to do with machines and samplers, but with people.”
The title captures the duo’s endless fascination with blurs between humans and technology…”We were drawing a parallel between the brain and the hard drive – the random way that memories are stored,” says Thomas.
…and their endless fascination with the past. 2001’s Discovery was in part a backward-looking concept album about revisiting the funk, disco and soft-rock of Thomas’ and Guy-Manuel’s childhood. For Random Access Memories, they hired “top-notch session players,” says Guy-Manuel, with credits on classic records by Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, and Eric Clapton. Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers played rhythm guitar on a few tracks. “The Seventies and the Eighties are the tastiest era for us,” Guy-Manuel says. “And all these guys were tripping on meeting again and playing together again.” He adds: “It’s not that we can’t make crazy futuristic sounding stuff, but we wanted to play with the past.”
Pharrell, Julian Casablancas, Giorgio Moroder, and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear are among the guest vocalists. “We were at a party for Madonna’s last album,” Pharrell recalls, “and I was like, You guys should have produced this! Why did that not happen? Madonna and the robots would have been unbelievable! They were like, We’re working on something. I said, Whatever you do, call me – I’ll play tambourine on it. They looked at each other and they were like, We’ll be in touch.” Pharrell wound up singing on “Get Lucky” and a stomping disco track called “Lose Yourself to Dance.”
The album’s move away from computerized sounds reflects Daft Punk’s “ambivalence” about the EDM craze they helped to inspire. “Electronic music right now is in its comfort zone and it’s not moving one inch,” Thomas says. “That’s not what artists are supposed to do.” He adds that the genre is suffering “an identity crisis: You hear a song, whose track is it? There’s no signature. Skrillex has been successful because he has a recognizable sound: You hear a dubstep song, even if it’s not him, you think it’s him.”
Keep an eye on those Saturday Night Live commercial breaks. So far, Daft Punk have debuted two fifteen-second chunks of “Get Lucky” in ads that play during Saturday Night Live, incrementally revealing more of the song. Along with billboards advertising the album, these TV ads represent a throwback impulse that’s guiding the new album’s roll-out. “When you drive on the sunset strip and see these billboards, it’s more magical than a banner ad,” Thomas says. “SNL is this part of American culture with a certain timelessness to it.” (A billboard overhanging the I-10 east greeted motorists driving to Coachella this weekend.)
The new songs came together around the world. Most vocals and overdubs happened in Paris, but the rhythm sections were committed to Ampex reels in Los Angeles and New York, at Electric Ladyland studio, Henson (formerly A&M) studios, and other venerated old rooms. “There are songs on the album that traveled into five studios over two and a half years,” Thomas says. “They’re vials being filled up with life. Today, electronic music is made in airports and hotel rooms, by DJs traveling. It has a sense of movement, maybe, but it’s not the same vibe as going into these studios that contain specific things.”
While recording, Daft Punk found time in their schedules to jam with Kanye West for his next album. At their Paris studio, they laid down a combination of live and programmed drums while Kanye worked out rough vocals on the fly. “It was very raw: he was rapping – kind of screaming primally, actually,” Thomas says. “Kanye doesn’t give a fuck,” Guy-Manuel adds. “He’s a good friend.” Director (and longtime Daft Punk compatriot) Michel Gondry says that Kanye recently played him “two songs” that sprang from the session. “One of them, I told him it sounded solid and powerful – I envisioned a cube when I heard it,” Gondry says. “He told me, Chris Cunningham’s already directing the video!”
Random Access Memories is due May 21 via Daft Life Limited/Columbia Records.