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The Genesis of a Track: Daft Punk - Robot Rock

00:00 Nov/30/1999

Well, the posters about Daft Punk making their return at this year's SXWS are obviously a hoax, possibly for nothing else then marketing reasons. In wait for official news about the misterioso French duo, we are going to take one of their songs apart to see what was before, and what came after. It's hard not to use superlative adjectives when talking about Daft Punk. The epitome of sampled electro, they've turned so many old funk, soul and R&B into new music, there is a compilation album called 'A Collection of Daft Funk Samples'.





As introduced in ’The Evolution of Music: To Sample or not to Sample?’, many of your favorite tracks have been composed using a sample from songs of the past. Now, we’re going to be looking into the DNA of the most famous electronic music act to sample other works time and time again. Let’s see which song inspired ’Robot Rock’, and what has been, in turn, created after Daft Punk.


It’s no secret that Daft Punk has built its dance-floor anthems using some of the more memorable parts of disco funk, soul and R&B tracks. After hearing this simple truth some get disappointed, some get inspired. I belong in the latter group. Thomas and Guy have never made it a secret that they've used other people's works. In addition to paying proper royalties, they also give credit to the original creators in the album sleeves. Besides, without their hit-producing abilities, many of these tracks would probably still be hidden in the vinyl crates of a record shop.


The tracks will be presented from the earliest version to the most recent. If you think I should add more tracks, just drop a line in the comment box below.


So, the original moment of genius took place some time before Breakwater used their studio time in 1980 to record their second and final studio album - 'Splashdown'. Produced by Rick Chertoff and Kae Williams Jr., 'Release the Beast' was the most popular track from the LP. The band consisted of Gene Robinson, James Gee Jones, Linc 'Love' Gilmore, Steve Green, Vince Garnell, Greg Scott and John 'Dutch' Braddock.



Some readers might say that Daft Punk wasn't the first group to sample Breakwater's superb disco funk track. They would be right. Murs used the main  riff in the 'Intro' of the 2004 album '3:16: The 9th Edition'. This is an example of a bad way to use a sample. The other tracks of the record feature proper music, but this one's below the standard. Take a listen here.


On the other hand, Guy-Manuel and Thomas Bangalter knew exactly what to do with the brilliant sample. 'Robot Rock' uses the synthesizer riff with an oscillator sync timbre. Additionally, percussion and power chords were also taken from 'Release The Beast'. Add the talk box vocal phrase and you've got yourself a new dance track. Virgin released the track in 2005, on 'Human After All'.


Varia: "Robot Rock" was used in the film Iron Man 2, in the scene where James Rhodes fights Tony Stark while both wearing versions of the Iron Man suit.



'Robot Rock' was the first single of Human After All. It reached moderate chart positions but the critics found it overly repetative, saying that the track "does nothing, means nothing and goes nowhere for an unconscionably long time."Rolling Stone critic wrote that 'nothing builds to achieve the prior glories of 'Da Funk' or 'One More Time'. While it is true that 'Robot Rock' doesn't come close to the nr.1 Greatest Dance Track of All Time, in the recent Mixmag readers poll, I woul still say it is a great piece of work. I am especially grateful for the next duo to mess around with the single.


So, what happened next? Obviously, there's no escape from musical evolution. After an original track is born, remixes will be made as well. The brothers David and Stephen Dewaele of Soulwax are responsible for some of the best remixes of the best artists. They've done it all - from Rolling Stones to David Bowie, DJ Shadow to Dizzee Rascal, LCD Soundsystem to Gorillaz and so on.


Obviously the best choice for the remix Human After All remix album, Soulwax brought their A-game. Critics talking about repetitiveness? Well, take a listen to the intro of the remix, and call the whambulance!


'Robot Rock' remix was put out the same year as the original album, in 2005. You can listen it, here. I tought best to show you a live remix of the track that is even more special in my opinion.



It was only a matter of time that Daft Punk got sampled themselves. They used their own track themselves in the 2007 Alive track Touch it/Technologic, here.


However, another 'original' track was born when Sub Focus did a drum and bass track in 2009 called 'Rock It'. It is the Englishman's most successful solo single to date, peaking at number 38 on the UK Singles Chart.


Sample From 0:30 of 'Robot Rock' appears at 0:02 (and throughout).



As we've come through the years, from 1980 to 2009, you have seen a part of the Breakwater's catchy riff give ground to a variety of new music. If there is anyone reading that still dislikes the fact that Daft Punk sampled the larger part of another song, listen to the following performance. To cap off this little overview - a live show by Soulwax. The live remix will start at 3:00. Hard not to see the wonders of sampling after you hear this mind-boggling live perfomance with drums, modular synths and a voice box.







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