I ask if, like Clark Kent, who aspired to a normal life he could never really have, they ever feel trapped by the decision to put on superhero costumes all those years ago—that they have to be these robots now, whether they want to or not. Actually what I ask is:
Is there ever a moment where you’re like, “I have to put on the fucking cape again”?
De Homem-Christo, confused, turns to his bandmate. His English is very good but prone to occasional breakdowns in response to stupid questions. “Fucking what?”
Bangalter switches to French—C’est comme, “Ah, merde, encore on met la cape de super-héros.” C’est comme les mecs qui sont—then turns back to me: “No.”
“No, we don’t,” de Homem-Christo says.
Even for robots, eight years between albums is a long time, and now everything on the radio sounds like Daft Punk did nearly a decade ago. How are the gods of digital planning to get ahead of the global EDM wave they helped create? By going analog—new album, new sound, new collaborators. But have no fear: The helmets remain the same.
They are rusty at being Daft Punk. They’ve been gone for a long time. Since their last proper studio release, 2005’s Human After All, they’ve done just a handful of interviews—three, maybe four, tops—and they’re badly out of practice. They’re still answering questions like Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, instead of like Daft Punk, which is a problem, because they’d prefer that you not think of them as people at all.
That’s partly what the robot helmets are for. It’s why you’ve never seen their faces.
“I remember when I was a kid, I would watch Superman, and I was super into the feeling of knowing that Clark Kent is Superman and no one knows,” Bangalter says. “We always thought as we were shaping this thing that the fantasy was actually so much more exciting than the idea of being the most famous person in the world.”
It’s a Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and the two men are seated, sans disguises, outside at a café on La Brea. They’re talking about their kids (two each), the vagaries of the California wildlife that haunt Bangalter’s house up in the hills (deer and coyotes, mostly, though recently he lost a night of sleep to the hooting of what he’s pretty sure was an owl), and a bunch of other things they’d really rather not discuss—a bunch of things they will later try to take back—because finally, after eight years, there is a new Daft Punk record.
Confessions of a cheap-ass nigga