Published May 16, 2013French Touch trailblazers Daft Punk are set to release their hugely anticipated fourth album, Random Access Memories, this Tuesday (May 21), and as we recently stated in our glowing review, it's pretty incredible, though a definite change of pace for the long-running robotic duo. It's always been Daft Punk's modus operandi to innovate, but Thomas Bangalter doesn't think that means they have to "dumb down" for a mainstream audience.
"We like the idea of creative risk and pushing the envelope and trying to do things that are outside of our comfort zone," he explains to Exclaim! "[But] the other thing is we really respect the audience. There's definitely something that exists that can feel nuanced and sophisticated and mainstream at the same time. We live in a society where sometimes the people with a certain amount of control feel that the mainstream needs... simplified ways to speak."
However, he continues, "If you look at the last 100, 200, 300 years, there's always been extremely sophisticated art that was very widely spread."
Such a cynical view of mainstream music and culture, Bangalter posits, can create a catch-22: "If you take the '60s, or the '70s, or any era, there was a great deal of respect from the system for the mainstream audience. It considered the audience with a lot of respect. The more the system shows disrespect to an audience, it becomes a vicious circle where there's nothing interesting in the mainstream and everything [interesting] becomes on the margin."
So, the duo decided, once again, to aim for something a little more elevated. "If the system is bringing you dumbed-down and simpler versions of things, we felt like it was interesting to clash and do something nuanced, and elegant, and entertaining."
"The main thing," he concludes, "is to break the boundaries and the barriers between the little boxes that are set up: there's a hip audience, and there's a mainstream audience; or there are different genres of music where you have to make your choice."
There's no need, Bangalter says, for "All this classification."
The boundary-busting Random Access Memories is set to drop May 21 via Columbia Records imprint Daft Life Limited. You can currently stream the album here on iTunes.