A Guide to Daft Punk

Chicago House's New Wave

When hip-hop finally really hit Chicago in the late 1980s and early 1990s, house was still dominant, but the audience became divided. Then came house’s second wave of DJs and producers—many of whom would be mentioned on Daft Punk’s “Teachers” as major influences on the group's sound. ("Teachers" was a track on the group's first album that listed many of the group's influences, everyone from Dr. Dre to Detroit techno artists like Jeff Mills and Chicago pioneers like Green Velvet.)

The sound of Chicago's new school was hard-edged, but cut through with disco samples and influences. The songs were released on labels like Radikal Fear and Cajual. And they were picked up by a burgeoning rave culture in Europe.

Before they heard Chicago’s 2nd wave, Daft Punk were in a rock band in France called Darlin’ (“Six months, four songs, two gigs, and that was it,” Bangalter once told Mixmag). After the group broke up—one member of Darlin’ went on to form the pop-rock group Pheonix—Bangalter and Homem-Christo began experimenting with synthesizers.

The group’s first real track was an aggressive, uptempo house track called “The New Wave” (eventually retitled and rerecorded as “Alive”) for their debut album, Homework. When Homework came out in 1997, it was full of house music—long, extended four-on-the-floor tracks ideal for DJing, and very close in style to what was going on in Chicago

This transition from rock to house music didn’t come out of nowhere; at this point, Daft Punk were more working with a formula established in Chicago than they were pioneering—even if they did happen to create some of house music’s very best songs along the way. They did it with outside ears.

The idea of “filtering” old disco tracks and wedding them to a four-on-the-floor house beat was already pervasive in Chicago at this time; just listen to this mix by Chicago DJ CZR, which came out the same year as Homework and is similarly packed with disco-filtering house jams, alongside aggressive, uptempo "jacking" house music. You’ll see a few familiar names on the tracklist: Paul Johnson and DJ Funk, for example, are both mentioned at the very beginning of “Teachers.”

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