Daft Punk have been teasingly doling out tidbits of info about Random Access Memories for months now, from the blink-and-you-missed-it SNL promo to the series of collaborator videos. When the platter itself finally arrives (as early as May 17 in Australia; May 21 in the U.S.) we'll get to hear if the music lives up to both the hype and the genius first single, "Get Lucky."
Count Dr. Luke among the luckiest. The pop super-producer heard the album nine months ago. "I went to England in September and [Columbia Records Chairman] Rob Stringer did a presentation to all Sony's labels," explains Luke, who founded the Sony co-owned Kemosabe Records in 2011. "They were playing [Random Access Memories] for everyone out there." The verdict? "It sounded amazing, but the truth is that I was nerding out with the Daft Punk guys half the time I was in the room. I was just asking 'How'd you get that sound?' What gear were you using?'"
Luke and the Robots go back. In 2012, the Baby E. track "One More Time," which Dr. Luke co-produced, sampled Daft Punk's song of the same name. "[Daft Punk] never clear anything, but they ended up clearing that for us," says Luke. "It shows risk-taking on their part, just like the whole album does. They're not afraid to explore. You see too many people making safe bets in music these days — not Daft Punk."
Daft Punk duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo's affection for experimentation is perhaps the lasting memory for some of the luminaries who worked on RAM. "When Thomas called me asked me to come into the studio and record me talking about my life, I didn't have any idea what they were going to do with it," recalls genius producer Giorgio Moroder, whose namesake DP track, "Giorgio, By Moroder" recently leaked. "What they came up with is something I never would've thought to do. I haven't even listened to the whole recording they made of me!"
Ever the producer, Moroder, who knows a thing or a thousand about disco-inflected hit singles, has his own perspective on "Get Lucky." "It's a great song," he says deferentially, "but the part where it gets high — [sings] 'To the stars', I think I would've changed that a bit. Still, it's a fantastic groove."
For house and garage producer Todd Edwards, who sings on the upcoming album's "Fragments of Time" and previously co-produced and lent vocals to the band's 2001 single "Face to Face," working with Daft Punk caused him to re-evaluate his own talents. "They really brought out the magic in my voice," says Edwards. "Thomas gave me this encouraging talk about making my next album centered on the vocal. Before, I only used my voice as a tool. Now I'm going to try to focus more on songwriting and singing. God willing, my next album will be out in September, and Thomas offered to oversee it. [Bangalter and Homem-Christo] have plenty of things they could be working on and they're taking an interest in me. I feel like Cinderella."
The synergy between Daft Punk and their guests flowed both ways. As Chic guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers, who performs on three Random Access Memories tracks, explains, "The reason we got along so well is that when I started to show them the way I recorded and played, they went, 'Holy shit! That's how you sound like you do?' They got engrossed in it. When I showed them how insane I was about achieving a groove, they started to let me go crazy. We'd talk about things in really abstract terms, and then go do them."
And in just two weeks, those abstractions will become realities.