BUT SECRETIVE DUO ARE KEEPING MUM ON WHAT WAS DISCUSSED
About a year ago, Paul Williams revealed that he was then working on a top-secret project with Daft Punk. Now we have a new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories, featuring several collaborators, including Paul Williams and Giorgio Moroder, which seems to be the top secret project Williams was talking about (the album officially releases May 21, but is currently streaming on iTunes).
Well, yesterday, quite a buzz was created from a small piece of news that appeared in a Pitchfork cover story on Daft Punk. The helmeted duo, made up of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, were interviewed by Ryan Dombal, who writes, "At one point during our interview, Bangalter let it slip that he and de Homem-Christo recently had a meeting with [Brian] De Palma to 'discuss some things,' though he declined to divulge any specifics."
Of course, this bit of news takes on a certain significance when combined with the knowledge that Daft Punk are huge fans of De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. Back in 2007, they told The Guardian's Alex Rayner that they saw De Palma's film together in the theater more than 20 times. They also noted that their own film, Electroma, and Phantom Of The Paradise both feature "a hero with a black leather outfit and a helmet."
The Playlist's Drew Taylor, Criterion Cast's Joshua Brunsting, and JoBlo's Niki Stephens all posted enthusuastic articles about the juicy tidbit, speculating whether they might be talking about a film project, a music video, or even having De Palma direct some sort of live show. "Maybe they discussed a love for llamas or something," wrote Stephens. Guess we'll just have to wait and see what, if anything, ever comes of it.
One of the songs Paul Williams collaborates on, "Touch", is the centerpiece of Random Access Memories. Regarding that track, here is the last part of Dombal's Pitchfork article:
But of all the moving parts that make up Random Access Memories, the most head-scratching section to put together was the album's eight-minute centerpiece, "Touch". The kaleidoscopic track stars 72-year-old Paul Williams, who wrote immense hits for the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, and more in his 70s heyday, before descending into drug and alcohol abuse in the 80s, and then recovering in the 90s. Daft Punk were obsessed with Williams from an early age, largely due to his role in director Brian De Palma's schlocky 1974 pop opus Phantom of the Paradise, in which he plays a Faustian ghoul who trades his soul in order to become rock'n'roll's preeminent impresario. The movie is ridiculous, funny, entertaining, and endlessly referential-- just like Daft Punk...
...For inspiration, Bangalter gave Williams a book of stories about people who had died, came back to life, and remembered parts of past lives. And Williams' lyrics are about an awakening: "I remember touch," he croons, longingly. "As somebody who has been pronounced dead and came back, I could connect to this idea in the song," says Williams, who's now 23 years sober and the subject of the quietly triumphant recent documentary Still Alive. Meanwhile, the song warps and bends, floating through genres, epochs, and emotions with a sense of hallucinatory wonder, recalling nothing less than the Beatles' "A Day in the Life". "It's like the core of the record," says de Homem-Christo, "and the memories of the other tracks are revolving around it."
As Bangalter and de Homem-Christo talk about "Touch", there's still a sense of astonishment in their voices. "It was the most complicated thing we've ever done," says Bangalter. "And it became so exciting because it didn't feel like we took the easy route. With this record, we had the luxury to do things that so many people cannot do, but it doesn't mean that with luxury comes comfort." It's this high-stakes, high-wire mindset that keeps these guys in an enviable position within the collective imagination, no matter how long they take between magic tricks. Because if Daft Punk are still able to amaze themselves, there's still some hope for the rest of us.