The untold story of Daft Punk's first Australian tour

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As Daft Punk’s long-standing label EMI presents its Electrospective catalogue, inthemix goes into the vault to capture a fascinating chapter of Australian dance music history.

“For us, it’s not about being faceless. It’s more about emphasising the music.” That’s Thomas Bangalter, an erudite 22-year-old explaining to Sweater Magazine why he and his buddy Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo prefer to do photo shoots in masks. The year is 1997. The journalist Jim Greer is sitting in a Parisian basement surrounded by stacks of records, listening to Bangalter’s account of how Daft Punk came to be. Guy-Manuel is there too, but he’s staying silent. Upstairs their manager Pedro Winter is going about his business. It’s a few months after the release of the duo’s first studio album, Homework, and the world is waking up to Daft Punk. “So far the album’s starting to be quite successful in Europe,” Bangalter deadpans. “Nevertheless we are very interested by the record being released in the States.” After all, world domination can’t be rushed.

Listen again to Da Funk now, the track that made Daft Punk, and the exhilaration hasn’t dimmed. The twisting, hypnotic bassline, the kick-drum, that guitar riff cleaving right through it. It was one of the singles that sparked a record label bidding war for Homework (won by Virgin Records), but stalwart techno imprint Soma was clued into the genius of Bangalter and de Homem-Christo years earlier. In 2011, Soma unearthed a vintage Daft Punk production from 1994, Drive, in their vaults. “Imagine our surprise when we discovered a tape simply titled ‘Daft Drive’,” Soma rep Chris Lamb wrote. “In amongst the hiss and crackle, a monstrous 909 kick drum began to thud – Daft Punk’s Drive track had been rediscovered. Playing through was live Daft Punk: the freaky vocals, pounding Roland drums and synths and that distinctive DP compression.” As it turns out, this slab of unvarnished techno was put aside so Da Funk could be completed. There’d be much more where that came from.

If Daft Punk’s mission came down to “emphasising the music”, 1997 was a good year. Homework ignited, and the album’s second single Around The World staked its claim as the house anthem you’d never forget the words to. “As a DJ, I would play everything from the album, and I was not the only one,” David Guetta has said. “It was the first time we were proud to be French, really.” As personalities, though, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo preferred to stay in the shadows. “Daft Punk have a reputation for being difficult that would shame Dave Clarke,” Mixmag’s Alexis Petridis wrote when he met them in ’97. While the robot reincarnation was a way off, the mystique was already there. Onstage on the Alive 1997 tour, they worked their drum machines, synths and sequencers in inky darkness as strobes pummelled the dancefloor. There was no podium to showboat from, and it was heads-down and blank-faced the whole way. “We enjoy it inside,” Bangalter told Petridis. “We might not smile, but we’re enjoying it. Maybe we’re not enjoying it like dancing or singing, but…we like the concept of doing it.”

In late 1997, 10,000-odd miles from Paris, a new plan was coming together for Daft Punk in a Melbourne office. A consortium of promoters had secured the rising stars to DJ at the first-ever Apollo Festival, which was pitched as ‘Australia’s biggest-ever 100-percent electronic/dance music festival’. Apollo would come to Sydney on 7 February 1998, then do Melbourne the following Saturday. As the festival booklet later put it: “Daft Punk will be spinning their sound of young France for three hours exclusively at both festivals in their only Australian appearances. They’re not daft. They’re not punks. Just two French funkateers putting France on the house map with one of the most hyped debut albums for a long, long time.”

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katiecunningham said on the 28th Sep, 2012

Great article JT! I also loved the recommendation to pack condoms lolololol


dirtyepic said on the 28th Sep, 2012

Christ, I was seven in '98. Forever will I regret missing out on the nineties dance music scene, and this article ain't helping.

(Also, man, who else remembers Fluke? Haven't listened to them in SO LONG.)


discotheque said on the 28th Sep, 2012

This is amazing, feature of the year by far.


discotheque said on the 28th Sep, 2012

dirtyepic, I got into Fluke thanks to Wipeout XL for the original Playstation LOL I was 14 in '98, damn I'm getting old.


kane2188 said on the 28th Sep, 2012

nevereverland was so good!! will be remembered for the rest of my life.. can anyone confirm if sydney was their last pyramid show?


DaBro said on the 28th Sep, 2012

Awesome article. What a great history lesson.
3pm-10am? Now THATS a festival!


textile1 said on the 28th Sep, 2012

such a good artilce even if it did make me feel old that was the first rave i went to as a bright eyed 15 year old


Junior said on the 28th Sep, 2012

Arguably the best content I've read on ITM. Loved it! Caveat being I am old and remember this time with fond, slightly blurry memories....


home_spun said on the 28th Sep, 2012

Excellent article. Just excellent.


masedawg said on the 28th Sep, 2012

I was there!!

I remember his first song started and it was the intro to "I Will Survive", then it was all house and disco. Great festival.


djtoki said on the 29th Sep, 2012

Showing my age, was there at Sydney Apollo. Goodness didn't the rain hammer down! Remember being front and centre on the main stage for Fluke in the rain, then ankle deep in mud in the tent for Daft Punk. The rain didn't dampen our spirits. Then remember the sun coming out in the morning and watching Marmion going off on one of the outdoor stages and all these munted people with their heads down going for it, was an eye opener for me at the time :-)

special ed

special ed said on the 29th Sep, 2012

i played at that! lol All i remember was a lot of rain, jeff mills' assault, and fluke live were brilliant


DHindahouse said on the 1st Oct, 2012

i love this insight. its sometimes strange being on the other side of the divide as a punter for the last 20 years, but it does make me reflect on how things were back then. and only in a good way. it was all about the music then and still is.


Essi said on the 1st Oct, 2012

i remember rave music


mikeblades said on the 1st Oct, 2012

JT....always a great read. thx for the history lesson, was insighful


kone said on the 1st Oct, 2012

would love same lineup, minus daft punk as they'd make it too expensive...having sub bass snarl back would be treat enough :) ps. great article


Mickstah said on the 2nd Oct, 2012

Excellent article, back when dance parties went for a decent amount of time!!! None of this shitty 1pm - 10pm crap.


kris-ko said on the 3rd Oct, 2012

Interesting history lesson. There was also supposed to be the Starbait festival featuring The Prodigy and co a few weeks before Apollo, but it didn't quite happen - hard to imagine why with such stellar promo as this behind it...

I've also got vague memories of a two-day Homelands event at Happy Valley starring Leftfield and Orbital somewhere around the turn of the century that never did come to fruition either. Would've been epic.


JackT said on the 3rd Oct, 2012

Cheers for the feedback everyone - good to see people enjoyed reading this as much as I did putting it together. And kris-ko - I have plans afoot to look into Starbait festival for the next feature!


interpol_ said on the 3rd Oct, 2012

The Homelands thing was talked about for a while - believe it was Agent MAD that wanted to do that but it never happened. Gatecrasher did, through the same people, which probably changed the dance music environment more than anything else.

Starbait was an extension of the BDO Boiler Room - same group behind it. Was going to happen in the year the BDO took off.

Apollo was crazy at the time mainly because it mixed so many scenes. Before then most parties didn't really mix 'scenes' ... you had techno events and house events (mainly in clubs) ... trance/rave stuff etc ... but generally each stage was one thing one thing only. Apollo put everything on the main stage and I think at the time that was a big step for many.


kris-ko said on the 3rd Oct, 2012

Good stuff man, I'll have the popcorn ready! If it's half as good as the story behind Alternative Nation then it should be a belter.

Wasn't there a flyer for it? I can vaguely visualise some sort of idyllic valley motif on the front of it.

ravey davey

ravey davey said on the 3rd Oct, 2012

Great article Jack T - brought back some awesome memories.

And thanks for the link to DP playing Rollin' & Scratchin' live in '97 - that blew my mind!


loop said on the 4th Oct, 2012

I was at the Sydney event - have no idea how I managed to drive home after that many hours of dancing! I remember thinking the same thing about Jeff Mills' set, it was intense but sounded the same from start to finish (I guess I didn't "get" techno then, being into the happy hardcore thing). Fluke was huge, as was Basement Jaxx. I simply can't recall seeing Thomas Bangalter play at all .... more's the pity.


masedawg said on the 4th Oct, 2012

You know, Apollo didn't put everything on the one stage. They had a lot of stages running throughout the day and night


ryanhegarty said on the 4th Oct, 2012

Great article mate. Very good read.


cmontyc said on the 4th Oct, 2012

i went to the melb one lol great party and agree with richie ...people were not ready for festivals then


reubot said on the 6th Oct, 2012

Didn't the breakup of Black Grape have something to do with it?


matt3032 said on the 6th Oct, 2012

What do you think? Post your comment...


matt3032 said on the 6th Oct, 2012

concerning melb show.It wasn't a daft punk band tour as the promoters had us believe.just a wanker and hes mate,sometimes,playing records.while so many other acts played live.even worse the decks were surrounded by cardboard for whatever reason.loved daft punk but it was all downhill from homework and apollo.I would say they destroyed the concept along with the promoters that sold us daft punk.why do you think the name change McNeill renowned for it,talking of wankers. got to say though the rest of djs,acts very good.amazing lineup for the day.saturn shed headed by jeff mills smashed it