I remember the first time I got to pick out a pair of sneakers. Mom and Dad piled us into the teal Nissan and we made the trip into the city. Our destination was what seemed to be a mecca of pop culture for a country kid – Athlete’s World. At the time my heros were Michael Jordan and Raptors guard Damon Stoudamire. I was pushing for hi-tops with purple patent leather but we ended up settling on a reasonable pair of cross trainers in a Chicagoan color scheme. In the midst of this transaction, a song came on over the PA. The televisions trussed from the bare girder in the ceiling were playing first run music videos, a broadcast medium seldom offered to a hayseed like me. A choreographed video of people in Halloween costumes was playing out. Its refrain looped for what seemed like forever. It was funky. It was minimal. I had no idea how these mysterious producers managed to capture a vocal that sounded so synthetic but so subtle at the same time. It was Daft Punk, though I didn’t know it.
In those days I had been taking my piano lessons pretty casually and would continue to until it dawned on me that I could one day play music in a similar vein to what I heard on the radio. Like Thomas (silver helmet) and Guy-Manuel (gold helmet) I began to raid my parents record collection and purchased every album I could. Music became more of a mystery to me the more I studied it. It became my chosen field of study and my life’s work.
By the time I was in music school, my love for Daft Punk was full blown. I had heard Discovery front to back and saw the 2006 Coachella set on Google video. My head was spinning. The artistry and execution displayed by these two producers was nothing short of virtuosic. I joined up with a band in order to play their tunes in a live format. I got so inside Daft Punk’s work that it started to border on obsession. I read every article and rumour online. I checked out every sample. I researched every piece of equipment they used. I learned how to reverse-engineer synthesizer sounds and how to sample the stuff that was impossible to chain up. In essence I tried to become Daft Punk.
That band I joined started to get some attention. We began touring and playing bigger venues. We were all-out evangelists for the secretive French duo. Along the way, that obsession, started turning into dollars and cents. It started turning into emails and paperwork. Daft Punk took a gig for writing for Disney. It all started to seem a little insincere. By this point, my degree hung on the wall and I was making a living playing music. The mystery that compelled me to focus on this craft had become something of a business, even though I hadn’t come close to solving it. In so many ways I felt like an imposter.
“I’ve been getting into this band called Daft Punk. Have you heard of them?”
I shut my young student’s dictation book.
“You know the new record leaked today right?” I replied. His eyes widened. I wheeled around and pulled up a link to the streaming site. As “Giorgio by Moroder” climaxed with an outrageous synced synth/drum solo I felt something I hadn’t felt since I first saw that video as an 11-year old. I managed to pass on some of that mystery.
In their beautifully formatted interview with Pitchfork, Thomas Bangalter speaks about how the proliferation of technology has eliminated the magic of music creation. This syndrome however is compounded 10-fold for creators. When I got together with some of my bandmates to listen to the leak, we were still moved and excited by the music but our critique came from a place of expertise. Our considerations were practical. When I played those same tunes for my student all he heard was the magic.
Behind the mask, be it the literal masks of Daft Punk or the figurative masks of any musician there are no secrets. There is only practise and hard work. It is however our duty as performers and as artists to try and create the illusion that there are still some secrets, and that there is some magic. That is the biggest lesson Daft Punk has ever taught me, and I’m glad they helped me spark something in a student. Maybe he’ll pass that some of that mystery along to another, or maybe he’ll figure it all out.
Daft Punk tribute plays Random Access Memories on May 30′th at the Drake Underground in Toronto and July 3′rd at the Highline Ballroom in New York City.
If you’ve ever encountered Andrew Kesler online, chances are it has been through his youtube channel. I was perplexed by this in the beginning. It didn’t fit the traditional profile of a professional musician or for anyone that talented to be producing boatloads of content only to be freely given away.
The longer I’ve known him, the more I’ve come to realize Andrew is just a naturally generous person. I bet he sees his channel as no different than jumping on the piano at a party to play a tune, except instead of bringing joy to the handful of people in the room, he’s bringing a smile to thousands across the world. That’s pretty cool.
What’s amazing now is that you can cue up Kesler’s channel back-to-front and watch him continuously get better. He’s picked up more instruments, camera techniques and a style all his own. I think he’s found a real voice artistically. Nowhere is that more obvious than this latest offering.
He’s joined here by Joanna Mohammed - (she deserves a post of her own) on a rather mature reading of Ed Sheeran’s “The A-Team”. Watch it, and for Google’s sake please subscribe. He’s only getting better.
Yet another cut from our Parkdale Concert Series. If you really dig it, you should come to our March Madness show at the Wreckroom this Friday.
Alex St. Kitts. This is a dangerous man. He perfectly stepped in to the group while retaining all that thump he’s known for. Watch out for him with his group, the Astrodroids.
In the run-up to our upcoming album, we in the Live Revolution wanted to turn the spotlight on the neighborhood that gave us the inspiration to record in the first place.
Despite remarkable urban development in Toronto, the Parkdale community has remained relatively untouched by gentrification. In large part this is due to the many independent businesses along the Queen Street strip.
Over the next few months we’ll be taking into these shops and showing you how we do it down here…
Enjoy our take on Sly’s “Take you Higher” performed in Amico’s Pizza.
This came together really well and really quickly. I watched the string parts get copied over coffee. I watched Jeremy (owner of Canterbury) get great sounds in a matter of minutes. I watched Ron Lopata produce the session in about three sentences. It’s kind of cool to see what gets done when you are in the company of experts.
Ever since we had an impromptu recording session in college, I’ve been lucky to play keys for Cat Lewis. This dude is the real deal, and I’ve said it before.
Here is some video of him crushing it (and me backing him up) from the Humber stage.
My girl Heather just tearing it up here..