Daft Punk are quickly ramping up excitement for Random Access Memories, whether it's their ongoing collaborator-centric video series or the extended teaser they recently dropped. One lucky man, Jonah Weiner of Rolling Stone, had the chance to peer behind the veil of the enigmatic robot duo. Yesterday, he posted an extensive interview with Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. Much is discussed and it's the first time the band have talked about their new album. Here are some significant highlights:
—"They began working on Random Access Memories in 2008, in Paris, with no clear plan. "After three records, there was a sense of searching for a record we hadn’t done," Thomas says. The duo were dissatisfied with early demos that leaned heavily on electronic equipment, feeling like they were operating on "autopilot," Thomas says. Eventually, a new approach emerged: "We wanted to do what we used to do with machines and samplers," he explains, "but with people." Except for a snippet of "an Australian rock record" that opens the final track, "Contact," Daft Punk foreswore samples entirely, and they limited the role of drum machines to just two of the album’s thirteen tracks. The only electronics come in the form of a massive, custom-built modular synthesizer that Daft Punk played live on the album... and an arsenal of vintage vocoders on which they manually manipulated factors like pitch, vibrato and legato. "There’s this thing today where the recorded human voice is processed to try to feel robotic," Thomas says, referring to the undying AutoTune vogue. "Here, we were trying to make robotic voices sound the most human they’ve ever sounded, in terms of expressivity and emotion.""
—"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.""
—"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!"'
—"They say there are no current tour plans to promote the album. Their "Alive 2007" world tour, in which they played within a giant steel pyramid covered in screens, was a marvel of pop stagecraft, but Thomas says "we have no current plans" to tour the new record. "We want to focus everything on the act and excitement of listening to the album. We don’t see a tour as an accessory to an album." When they do finally hit the road, he added, it will be with a career-encompassing set list, not one overly focused on the new material."
Check out the full interview here. Random Access Memories is out on May 21st.