A big part of Daft Punk‘s allure was the mystery behind the machine. The pioneering French electronic dance duo called it quits in 2021 after nearly three decades of anonymous music-making from underneath their signature shiny robot helmets. But, according to member Thomas Bangalter, part of the reason he and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo hung up their mechanical man gear was because of the advance of technology.
“[In Daft Punk,] we tried to use these machines to express something extremely moving that a machine cannot feel, but a human can,” Bangalter told the BBC. “We were always on the side of humanity and not on the side of technology… As much as I love this character, the last thing I would want to be, in the world we live in, in 2023, is a robot.”
Never ones to give a simple, clear answer, the pair revealed their break-up with the cryptic eight-minute “Epilogue” video in which the robots walked into the distance, with one of them exploding, with nary a word from either man explaining what any of it ever meant.
Now, Bangalter has pivoted to his first solo project in more than 20 years, Mythologies, which began life as a ballet score performed at Bordeaux’s Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in July 2022. The orchestral album, which drops on Friday (April 7), was inspired by his late mother and aunt — both dancers, and his uncle, a choreographer. He said that after decades of making electronic dance music, he was moved to write songs that were not amplified and “didn’t require any electricity. It was just me and the scoring paper.”
That is a hard pivot from the driving, electronic sound of Daft Punk, which Bangalter said was a conscious, necessary choice. “Daft Punk was a project that blurred the line between reality and fiction with these robot characters. It was a very important point for me and Guy-Man[uel] to not spoil the narrative while it was happening,” he said of their focus on keeping the story wrapped in mystery during their 28-year run in disguise.
“Now the story has ended, it felt interesting to reveal part of the creative process that is very much human-based and not algorithmic of any sort,” he explained, noting that the central thesis of Daft Punk was that the line between humanity and technology should be very stark.
“It was an exploration, I would say, starting with the machines and going away from them. I love technology as a tool [but] I’m somehow terrified of the nature of the relationship between the machines and ourselves,” he said, describing their robot characters as a kind of two-plus decade “performance art installation” in the vein of beloved performance artist Marina Abramović.
In fact, one of the reasons he’s stepping away from his group’s pioneering electronic sound on Mythologies is his fear about the rise of artificial intelligence and its influence on the creative arts at a time when ChatGPT and other programs are churning out music, art, literature and other creative facsimilies that are hard to separate from human-made endeavors.
“My concerns about the rise of artificial intelligence go beyond its use in music creation,” he said.