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Thomas Bangalter

As one-half of dance heroes Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter was at the forefront of the French house wave during the 1990s, then altered the landscape of popular music as the duo made their mainstream breakthrough with an ambitious, retro-futuristic fusion of pop, rock, and underground club influences, paving the way for the EDM boom of the 2010s. Throughout Daft Punk's nearly 30-year run and following their disbandment, Bangalter has been heavily involved with cinema and theater, with work on several films and a ballet among his accomplishments. Daft Punk mixed filter-heavy disco-house and gritty lo-fi techno on their heavily hyped early singles and 1997 debut, Homework, which became a worldwide hit and confirmed their arrival as one of the biggest acts in dance music. Concurrent with his activities as part of the duo, Bangalter ran the Roulé label, through which he released solo material in addition to successful singles as part of two short-lived side projects, Stardust and Together. Daft Punk reinvented themselves with 2001's Discovery, donning robotic costumes and producing a hybrid dance-pop sound that openly embraced rock, disco, and R&B from the '70s and '80s. The album was made into the animated motion picture Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, while Bangalter composed the score for Irréversible (2002) and later worked on other films by Gaspar Noé. Daft Punk's status grew with a worldwide tour, documented on the album Alive 2007, which helped bring dance music to a larger audience, particularly in the United States. The pair provided the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy (2010), and topped charts worldwide with their guest-heavy fourth album, Random Access Memories (2013), which won several Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Daft Punk formally announced their breakup in 2021, and Bangalter composed music for a ballet titled Mythologies, which was released as an album in 2023. Thomas Bangalter was born in Paris in 1975. His father, professionally known as Daniel Vangarde, was a French pop singer who additionally wrote and produced several disco records for other artists. Bangalter started to play piano at the age of six, and his parents were diligent in making sure he practiced thoroughly. He met Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo as a student, and the two formed an indie rock band called Darlin', named after a Beach Boys song, with Bangalter playing bass guitar. Two songs by the band were released on 1993's Shimmies in Super 8, a 7" compilation EP released by Stereolab's Duophonic Super 45s imprint, which also included tracks by Stereolab and Huggy Bear. Melody Maker described the songs as "a daft punky thrash," and after the group disbanded, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo jokingly used the name Daft Punk for their electronic music duo. Their first single, "The New Wave," was released by Slam's label Soma in 1994, followed by "Da Funk" in 1995. While the duo became one of the most buzzed-about acts in underground dance music, Bangalter started a label called Roulé and released the solo EP Trax on da Rocks, as well as the 1996 single "Spinal Scratch." Daft Punk signed a major contract with Virgin, and their debut album, Homework, so named because it was mainly recorded in Bangalter's home studio, was released in early 1997. Aided by several groundbreaking music videos, the album was critically acclaimed and helped expose French house to a worldwide audience. Bangalter collaborated with fellow producer Alan Braxe and vocalist Benjamin Diamond, producing the infectious "Music Sounds Better with You," built around a guitar sample from the Chaka Khan tune "Fate." Initially released by Roulé in early 1998 and later issued by Virgin, the song became a bigger hit than Daft Punk's previous singles, and has endured as a classic dance track. Despite being offered millions of dollars by Virgin to produce a full album, the trio decided to keep Stardust a one-off project and move on to other pursuits. Around the same time, Bangalter produced the Bob Sinclar track "Gym Tonic," which cheekily sampled a Jane Fonda workout tape. The song became a major Ibiza favorite, but Fonda denied permission for the song's release, yet it appeared on Sinclar's Paradise album anyway. Meanwhile, an unrelated British duo calling themselves Spacedust recorded an exact cover of the track, retitled "Gym and Tonic," and with Spacedust credited as the songwriter. EastWest released the song, and due to high demand for the original, which was unavailable as a single, the cover managed to hit number one in the U.K., where the Stardust track peaked at number two. The underground dance scene vocally supported Bangalter, who continued running Roulé, issuing Trax on da Rocks, Vol. 2 the same year. Bangalter and DJ Falcon formed a duo called Together, releasing an eponymous single on Roulé in 2000, followed by "So Much Love to Give" (which hit number three on the U.K. dance chart) in 2002. Daft Punk returned in late 2000 with "One More Time," an Auto-Tune-heavy song featuring house legend Romanthony, which became a major worldwide hit and set the stage for the pair's highly anticipated second album, Discovery. Far more song-driven than their debut, the record drew heavily from the disco, rock, and pop of the duo's youth while retaining a futuristic feel; they adopted their signature robot costumes leading up to the album's release. The multimillion-selling album introduced electronic dance music to rock and pop audiences, and additionally helped revive popular interest in disco and other retro influences. Discovery later became the basis of Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, an animated film set to the album in its entirety. Bangalter remained active with other projects outside of Daft Punk: he played synthesizer on Phoenix's debut album, worked with French hip-hop group 113, and composed music for Gaspar Noé's 2002 psychological thriller Irréversible. However, he stopped DJing due to tinnitus. The Irréversible track "Outrage" was released as a single on Roulé in 2003. Daft Punk released Human After All, their darker, more challenging third LP, in 2005. Unlike their other albums, it was recorded and mixed quickly (within six weeks), and it was met with a mixed reception from fans and critics. The duo described the album as being closely related to what Bangalter was going through in his personal life at the time. Bangalter co-wrote and provided cinematography for Daft Punk's Electroma, a 2006 arthouse science fiction film featuring the Daft Punk robot characters, which weren't played by the duo themselves; the film also didn't feature any of their music. Throughout 2006 and 2007, Daft Punk went on a worldwide tour, performing a continuous mix of their music (including Stardust and Together tracks) from a giant LED pyramid. The tour was a resounding success, and a recording of a show in Paris was released as Alive 2007, later winning a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Bangalter was the sound effects director for Noé's 2009 film Enter the Void; he was asked to compose the soundtrack, but he was busy working on Daft Punk's score for Tron: Legacy. Mixing electronic music with orchestral elements, the score was released in late 2010, and the duo made a cameo in the film. Random Access Memories, the fourth Daft Punk studio album, was released in 2013. Featuring a long lists of guests, including Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas, Giorgio Moroder, and Nile Rodgers, the album nearly avoided the usage of samples, instead focusing on capturing the sound of '70s and '80s disco, pop, and funk. The record topped charts worldwide and remained a consistent seller for years, and it swept the 2014 Grammy Awards, most notably winning Album of the Year. During the decade, Daft Punk produced songs with Kanye West and the Weeknd, and Bangalter additionally co-produced several tracks on Arcade Fire's 2017 album Everything Now. Two Bangalter songs were included in Noé's 2018 film Climax, including the previously unreleased "Sangria." Stardust remastered "Music Sounds Better with You" for its 20th anniversary, and it appeared on Because Music in 2019, after Roulé had been liquidated at the end of the previous year. Bangalter co-wrote, co-produced, and mastered Lettre infinie by -M- (Matthieu Chedid), released in 2019. In 2021, Daft Punk announced their breakup with a video containing a scene from Electroma. This led to a major surge in sales of the duo's albums. Bangalter then contributed a song to Cédric Klapisch's 2022 film En Corps. He also composed music for Mythologies, a ballet choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj, which premiered in 2022. The fully orchestral score was released as an album in 2023 by Erato Records. Bangalter appeared without costume in press materials and interviews, stating that "the last thing I would want to be, in the world we live in, in 2023, is a robot."
© Paul Simpson /TiVo


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