NASA landed a new rover on Mars this month, and Daft Punk blew itself up in the desert. The explosion marked the end of an era, at a time humanity embraces a new one.
The mysterious French EDM duo announced an end to their nearly three-decade journey with a YouTube video titled “Epilogue.” It was portrayed in true Daft Punk fashion: suited up, helmets on, without a word. The video depicted one walking in the desert while the 60-second timer counted down to his demise. He never looked back before he was blown into pieces, resembling a machine over human flesh. The other watched motionless and expressionless before embarking on his own journey toward the sun on an endless desert horizon.
Daft Punk’s “Epilogue” encapsulated the duo’s style in their 28-year reign over electronic music. More interested in art than fame, the group made rare public appearances and performances as they revolutionized the industry with electronic beats that pushed modern music into the future. Their publicist offered nothing more this week other than simple confirmation that the group had broken up after 28 years — 28 years that saw four albums and six Grammys and a career masked from personal fame.
Daft Punk transformed electronic music from the early disco, electro-pop days of the ’80s and ’90s by incorporating new futuristic sounds from another world (maybe Mars), and the pair’s influence now extends beyond the genre of electronic music. Modern mainstream hip-hop, from Britney Spears to Usher, now features electrical elements that wouldn’t make their music recognizable without them. Daft Punk played no small role in shaping the influence EDM would impose on the rest of the industry, beginning with the techno genre itself.
Skrillex, a legendary DJ producer in his own right as one of the first stars to bring EDM mainstream, said seeing an early Daft Punk performance “was like walking into the portal of my own destiny,” according to The Guardian. “It left an instant and indelible mark on my psyche,” Skrillex said. “The idea of delivering a full concert experience while departing from a band on stage was game-changing — not just for me but for all creators.”
Pre-pandemic, entire festivals could be attended without seeing a single instrument played. Daft Punk was an original pioneer of the format, with a signature U.S. relaunch in a 2006 Coachella performance, showcased in pre-iPhone era video footage below.
Daft Punk, created by the French artists Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter in Paris in 1993, went on to produce some of their most successful work pairing up with mainstream artists, such as The Weeknd and Kanye West. This further cemented their legacy and influence on the broader culture.
Daft Punk surely wasn’t the only group to push EDM mainstream, but it was certainly one of the first and to mammoth effect. The pair’s journey, however, is over now, after modern music became gripped with sounds from the cosmos.
The times, they are a-changin’.