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(Credit: Fabio Venni)

Music

The artists who inspired Daft Punk to wear helmets

@TomTaylorFO

In some ways, Daft Punk are a bit of a pop culture oddity. They were such a mainstream commercial success that many of the avant-garde elements that they brought to the fore were lost in the welter of ‘sound of the summer’ hits. And yet the very same elements allowed them to produce an anti-prolific four studio albums in 28 years and still have a mammoth influence on the industry in every way. 

Part of that influence was down to their forward-thinking ways, however, despite how futuristic they might have seemed, they were a duo who always had one foot in the past and plucked the best of the art that went before into their act. While this is evident in their sound and various collaborations with disco forebearers like Giorgio Moroder, it is also in their iconic look too. 

While the helmets brought anonymity to the duo, which was a blessing in itself, it also brought something unique to their act. This conceptual move gave them a greater identity and presence in the often-faceless world of dance music. That may well sound like a paradox, but those helmets became a notorious look for the band and created an unmistakable oeuvre. 

The helmets provided a narrative point for the audience within a musical genre that often lacks a real storyline. “We’re interested in the line between fiction and reality, creating these fictional personas that exist in real life,” they once said. While some people saw the adornments as gimmicks, they actually provided a reflection of their main influences: “Kraftwerk and Ziggy Stardust and Kiss; people thought the helmets were marketing or something, but for us it was sci-fi glam.”

This notion of physically embodying your own sound was a superb move that made them larger than their sound alone. David Bowie heralded it with Ziggy Stardust and projected a new almost multi-media look forward, and Kraftwerk took it a step further from there.

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Interestingly, the whole thing is tied together by David Buckley, who wrote in Kraftwerk: Publikation: “One of the songs which certainly impacted greatly in the summer of 1977 was a song which sounded as if Kraftwerk had gone potty and recruited a bona fide American soul singer. In fact, it wasn’t Kraftwerk, but Italian musician and producer Giorgio Moroder. ‘One day in Berlin,’ says Bowie, “Eno came running in and said, ‘I have heard the sound of the future.’ … He puts on ‘I Feel Love’, by Donna Summer … He said, ‘This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years’. Which was more or less right.”

As it happens, ‘I Feel Love’ could easily be a Daft Punk song two decades before the event. Thus, the French duo might’ve seemed like wild futurists, but there was always a great deal of historic method to their robotic madness.