For more than two decades, elusive French duo Daft Punk — comprised of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo — have revolutionized dance music. Director Hervé Martin Delpierre gets fairly close to unmasking the robots in his documentary Daft Punk Unchained, which chronicles the duo’s career from the beginning to their massive Grammy night in 2014 and premieres on Showtime tonight, December 10th, at 9 p.m. EST/PST. Watch an exclusive clip above.
In the scene, Daft Punk’s ex-manager Pedro Winter and music journalist Michaelangelo Matos recall Bangalter and Homem-Christo’s debut of their now-famous pyramid stage set at Coachella 2006. More than 40,000 people attempted to catch them in a tent meant for 10,000 bodies, and the festival appearance helped break the duo into the mainstream.
“No one had seen anything like that,” Matos recalls. “No one had seen that level of production. Everybody who was in the tent was texting everybody else: ‘You are missing this! This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen! You’re missing the greatest performance of all time.'”
Via email, director Delpierre detailed to Rolling Stone the journey of making Daft Punk Unchained and the conclusions he came to about the pair while filming the documentary, which also features input from Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Michel Gondry.
What was your first encounter with Daft Punk?
My first experience with Daft Punk goes back to 1996, in a nightclub in Paris. Everyone was already talking about Daft Punk as the new “fashion,” this electronic music band. A band whose prestige was already recognized in nightclubs around the world. There was a special intonation in the voice of the people when they said, “Ah … Daft Punk …,” as if not knowing them was a huge handicap to having a Parisian cultural life. But I must admit that I was surprised because I did not hear electronic music, but rather music with a rock band, but also funk and pop influences. [They were] a group that had decided that the guitars were no longer the indispensable instrument to make music and to be cool.
And on stage, when I saw them one night, I saw two very regular boys. Nothing in their faces, their hair, their clothes seemed to want to say, “I need to create a look for myself every morning, with more than one hour in front of the mirror to prove to the world how cool I am.”
I realized later, when I thought of that night, that everything in Daft Punk was about freedom. To be free, musically, artistically, you must already be free in your head and your body. And those two boys were already visibly free in their mind and spirit.