Daft Punk are a band indebted to but not limited by their influences. Ever since the robotic French duo formed in the early 90s they’ve shone a spotlight on everything from disco and rock to cheesy pop though the use of carefully curated samples and extensive knowledge of music both underground and mainstream, adding their own unique twists to make some of the most exciting, progressive music of the last 30 years.
Despite their mysterious personas, the way in which Daft Punk took the obscure disco, rock and pop samples of their youth and added their glimmering, distinctive sheens allowed listeners to feel like they were being welcomed in to specific memories and moments in time for the pair. “You have this classic repertoire of great music that feels like it's coming from this other, timeless place” said one half of the group Thomas Bangalter, in a rare interview with The Guardian back in 2013, “we wanted to say that these classic albums that were ambitious in scope don't just belong to the past.”
As a group constantly evolving, Daft Punk eventually moved away from samples (more on that later) but there’s no doubt that a huge part of their story lies in their samples – here we take a look at some of the most iconic, obscure and surprising samples of their career.
Check out the Daft Punk tracks and the original songs they sampled by flicking through the playlists below.
1. 'Phoenix' Homework (1997)
Daft Punk’s debut Homework has been heralded by many as the album that brought house music, and especially French house music, out of the clubs and into the mainstream. Others go as far as saying it was the album that saved house music, proving that there was more to the genre than formulaic euro beats, drugs and keyboard loops. Surprisingly then, here on the Daft Punk album least twinned with pop music, is where you will find some of their most recognisable and cheesy samples.
From Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’ (High Fidelity) to Viola Wills ‘If You Leave Me Now’ (Fresh), the album is littered with guilty pleasures and household names. Best of all though is on the driving, thumping disco house of ‘Phoenix’ there appears a just-discernible use of the classic bridge from Elton John and Kiki Dee’s wedding staple duet ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ for the track’s infectious looping synth line.
2 . 'One More Time' Discovery (2001)
Second album Discovery is arguably the defining Daft Punk sound. More intricate song structures and broader influences replaced the raw house style of Homework to provide some of their most iconic tracks. More indebted to garage, R&B and above all else, disco – the album’s samples dig into the joyful childhood memories of the group.
Perhaps the album’s crowning glory ‘One More Time’ lifts the steadily climbing brass euphoria of Eddie John's ‘More Spell On You’, taking that progression and flattening it into that infectious loop. (Note: it’s widely agreed that ‘One More Time’ uses this sample, but Daft Punk supposedly deny it – sneaky robots.)
3. 'Robot Rock' Human After All (2005)
Human After All ironically was received as the Daft Punk album with the least heart – here they pivot more into live recordings over samples to a mixed reception and an album that feels their least innovative, their live instrumentation not quite capturing the magic of their previous material.
Unsurprisingly the most successful songs ‘Robot Rock’ and ‘Technologic’ are some of the few that do heavily sample other tracks. ‘Robot Rock’ heavily lifts that famous hook from Philadeliphia funk band Breakwater’s ‘Release The Beast’ to make the album’s highlight and one of the most well loved Daft Punk songs to date, so not all bad then.
4. 'Contact' Random Access Memories (2013)
For their forth album Random Access Memories Daft Punk questioned what is was about the samples they used to such great effect in the past that made them work so well. Still pivoting to live instrumentation this time they gave more thought to what it was that they needed. Their conclusion according to Thomas Bangalter was that, “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”.
This album then, shunned the use of samples almost entirely in an attempt to chase those very special qualities that the band have found in samples for years and create new ones of their own. The album’s closer ‘Contact’ is the only track on the album that uses samples. Namely, 70s Australian rock legends The Sherbs and one of their less successful moments ‘We Ride Tonight’. It also lifts speech from Nasa recordings of the Apollo 16 and 17 missions, because if you’re only sampling on one track – might as well take it into to space.
5. 'Funk Ad' Homework (1997)
Daft Punk’s use of samples has never been lazy or too reliant on the sample itself. Even in places where they lift heavily from existing tracks, Daft Punk always find ways to twist the sample in a way only they could.
It’s fitting then that on their debut they took things one step further and closed out the album by sampling themselves. Using a reversed sample of ‘Da Funk’ for the aptly named ‘Funk Ad’ Daft Punk took sampling to meta new levels right. ‘Da Funk’ also samples Barry White’s smooth, sexy ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More’ - just for good measure.