Daft Punk: “Computers Are Not Really Music Instruments”

daft punk thomas bangalter

In a riveting new interview for the upcoming issue of Billboard, Daft Punk‘s Thomas Bangalter spoke out about the current music making process, denouncing vinyl samples, laptop producers, the lack of imagination in today’s recording industry and more.

On the laptop generation:

“The whole starting point of that record was to somehow question the magical powers of recorded audio at a time when pop music is mostly recorded on laptops with a small microphone and a pair of headphones in airport lounges and hotel rooms. We’re not really part of that generation. We’re part of the previous generation, where a studio was a collection of hardware and electronic components assembled in a discreet way to try to create a unique global system in a home environment; somehow a distinctive system.”

On sampling vinyl:

“The idea was really having this desire for live drums, as well as questioning, really, why and what is the magic in samples? Why for the last 20 years have producers and musicians been extracting these little snippets of audio from vinyl records? What kind of magic did it contain? Because harmonically the samples are just an F minor or a G flat, something not so special. It occurred to us it’s probably a collection of so many different parameters; of amazing performances, the studio, the place it was recorded, the performers, the craft, the hardware, recording engineers, mixing engineers, the whole production process of these records that took a lot of effort and time to make back then. It was not an easy task, but took a certain craftsmanship somehow cultivated at the time.”

On what EDM producers are missing:

“I think it’s mostly the tools; I think they might be missing the tools. The problem with the way to make music today, these are turnkey systems; they come with preset banks and sounds. They’re not inviting you to challenge the systems themselves, or giving you the ability to showcase your personality, individuality. They’re making it as if it’s somehow easier to make the same music you hear on the radio. Then it creates a very vicious cycle: How can you challenge that when the system and the media are not challenging it in the first place? We really felt that the computers are not really music instruments, and we were not able to express ourselves using a laptop. We tried, but were not successful.

Expanding on that point:

It’s not really a judgment or criticism of any of the music today; rather trying to bring a different point of view and different alternative. It’s mostly a question: Is it still possible to have this dream of looking at the way music is made like movies are made? It used to be teamwork. Is it still possible? Is there still an audience, a market for it? All interesting questions as an experiment.”

On Random Access Memories role models:

“The Eagles, “Hotel California.” Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors.” Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon.” The biggest artists in the world totally experimented and really pushed the limits. We were like, “Why aren’t pop artists today trying to experiment when they really have the means to do so?” There have been movies like “Paranormal Activity” or “Blair Witch Project” in Hollywood that showed you could do movies with little or no money. It doesn’t prevent them from creating larger than life spectacles as well.”

And lastly, on the current state of the recording industry:

“Now you can create very successful records on a laptop with very little money; what would prevent us from experimenting? We think there is a strong level of experimentation in alternative music—a lot of new artists who actually don’t have a lot of resources pushing the envelope as well. At the same time it seems that more established artists don’t do it. And you’re back to a vicious circle: the insecurity to push the envelope linked to the current collapse of the recording industry.”

Read the full interview excerpts on Billboard.

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