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Strength in Numbers


Whose idea was it to get you guys together?
KANYE WEST: It was their idea to come up with [“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”] and my idea to sample it. Just the way the song was put together, especially at the end — I’ve never accomplished that level of musicality. I think I’ve fallen short every time I’ve attempted to do something like it. But falling short of that is still way better than everything else in hip-hop.
THOMAS BANGALTER: The challenge when you’re taking a sample is to make it fi t your own universe. The interesting thing here is how he took our music and really made it his own in terms of his personality. That’s what we’re trying to do as artists — make universal the things we want to express. That’s what Kanye does. He distorts the initial meaning of the song, and that’s what’s interesting.

It seems like such an apt collaboration, given that you both play with the notion of celebrity and identity.
WEST: Like how I’m not on my album covers and stuff? These guys really stick with the whole not-showing-their-faces thing. Just amazing discipline — that’s straight martial-arts status.

Do you think the song has made hip-hop fans more interested in electronic music, or electronic fans more interested in hip-hop?
BANGALTER: I think we’re at a time when there’s less genre separation than before. There’s an open-mindedness on the part of both the musicians and the audiences. Things aren’t so segregated.
WEST: I faced some backlash when the single first came out. I think the electronic community was saying, “How dare you sample this holy grail?” And the hip-hop people were saying, “You have to always do what we’re used to you doing.” But I think hip-hop is about always being new and cutting-edge and coming up with a combination you haven’t heard. It’s bittersweet, because on one hand, you want to be influential, but on the other, you want other people to be original, too. We were really breaking new ground, and I can only imagine how long it took to make the original. [Turns to Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo] How long did it take to make the original?
BANGALTER: A long time. We’d work on a track and let it rest for a few months, then go back to it. And I completely agree with what you’re saying about being influential — what you want is for the next generation to destroy what you’ve done and start from scratch. It’s good to take risks when you’re nobody, but it’s more exciting and important to do it once you’re exposed.

Kanye, what did you think of the Daft Punk live show?
WEST: Ah, man, it sucked. [Laughs] It was very breathtaking and aweinspiring. I still don’t quite understand how they were able to do it.

Do you see yourselves collaborating in the future?
BANGALTER: We won’t speak about it.