As Daft Punk announce new album ‘Random Access Memories’, we take a peek at the gear the duo uses…
It is fair to say that a new Daft Punk album is a major event. The French duo recently posted a link to their website via Facebook. It had been updated with a new image (that’s it), and within minutes, the post had tens of thousands of likes and shares, with speculation that a new album was imminent.
The new album has now been officially announced. ‘Random Access Memories’ , produced by legendary producer and CHIC guitarist, Nile Rodgers, is set to appear on May 21st.
Daft Punk is undoubtedly one of the most influential acts of the last 20 years. Here we take a look at some of the gear they use to produce their work.
Like just about every other performer of electronic music, Daft Punk powers its live show with Ableton Live. Let’s face it, it’s the obvious choice- offering the user the ability to trigger audio and MIDI clips in real-time, all locked in sync, and with the ability to jam and manipulate the whole shebang, Live is a powerhouse.
Plus, it has a level of live performance stability that most other software packages could only dream of.
Alesis 3630 Compressor
The Alesis 3630 compressor is one of the most popular outboard compressor units ever made. Since its launch over 2 decades ago, the 3630 became a staple of both home and professional studios everywhere.
This stereo unit has a very distinctive sound, and as a result it divides people a little. It can be rather ‘aggressive’, and the built-in gates are not to anyone’s taste. As a result ‘modding’ is commonplace.
Daft Punk has said that the 3630 was an important part of the sound on ‘Discovery’, and it certainly has a heavily compressed, ‘pumping’ production. It is also believed that these are modified.
The 3630 has now been superseded by the new and improved Alesis 3632, however.
Roland TR-909 Drum Machine
The Roland TR-909 is quite possibly as iconic as Daft Punk. The bedrock of early house and techno tracks, The 909 was unusual in that it combined samples (for the hi-hat and cymbal sounds) with more typically analogue circuitry for other sounds. Although the original TR-909 is no longer in production, Roland have re-created this iconic instrument and released the new Roland TR-09 Rhythm Composer Drum Machine – a faithful recreation with added features for the modern musician.
In other ways, the 909 was similar to its predecessor, the TR-808 (also a Daft Punk favourite). It was based around a 16-step sequencer, with the ability to string these together into songs.
‘Homework’ is littered with uses of the vintage drum machine, not least on ‘Revolution 909’, but ‘Discovery’ also employs it heavily (check ‘Superheroes’).
If you prefer to use software, there innumerable plug-ins offering 909 style sounds. One of the most versatile is the Kong drum machine within Propellerhead Reason.
The Minimoog needs little introduction. Among the synths that Daft Punk uses in the studio and live, it is perhaps the most renowned. But, in a list that includes the likes of the Roland Juno 106, and the TB-303, it’s a close run thing…
The Moog’s warm, thick tone, and simple but powerful controls make it both versatile and distinctive. Those who are looking for a similar (albeit slightly more aggressive sound), at a price that’s bit more affordable should take a look at the forthcoming, analogue, org MS20 Mini…
Samples are clearly an important part of the Daft Punk sound. Unlike many producers who like to make the sample seamless, and transparent, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo prefer to make a feature out of the sonic character of vintage samplers.
So, its arsenal includes the Roland S-760 (previously a favourite of Roni Size, too), EMU-SP1200, old Akai MPCs (both of which are favourites in hip-hop circles) and more.
There are numerous ways in which you can achieve similar lo-fi sounds with software. Two of the most authentic methods are via Native Instruments Maschine software and Akai MPC Renaissance and MPC Studio. Both of these provide the means to emulate the sound of vintage samplers.
There are many other bits of gear the guys in Daft Punk use (including a Fender Stratocaster, for example), but they do tend to be quite tight-lipped about their methods. No doubt, when the album drops, their gear will be put under the microscope once more. I can’t wait… 😀
Get the latest news and announcements via our free newsletter (see above).
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.