Interview: The story behind the iconic album cover for Daft Punk’s ‘Homework’…
On this day (20 January) in 1997, French duo Daft Punk released Homework, their devastating, disco-funk infused debut, which would go on to be one of the most influential albums in electronic music history.
The recording of Homework was a straightforward process, as the group’s Thomas Bangalter told CMJ New Music Monthly in 1997 – “we made the record at home, very cheaply, very quickly, and spontaneously, trying to do cool stuff”.
But when it came time to package the collection of tracks into an album, the group were a bit more methodical, as Nicolas Hidiroglou, who photographed both the album’s sleek black cover and inner sleeve, tells 909originals.
Over to you, Nicolas.
“I had been working with a number of artists, and I was working with The Face and other magazines at the time,” he explains. “A friend said to me there’s a new band called Daft Punk that is putting together an album, you should check them out.
“I had already done some work with Virgin Records, and Daft Punk had already done a few things with Virgin; compilations with other, more established artists. The public didn’t know them at this stage, but there was a buzz about them. They were just teenagers at the time.”
Hidiroglou was thus invited to meet the duo in and listen to the demo Homework for the first time.
“It sounded so different, and completely new,” he says. “I had never heard anything like it – that mix of disco and funk. They played the vinyl for me in this little room; I had no idea I was listening to history.
“I remember Thomas was very sure about what was going to happen – Daft Punk were going to tour in the UK, and tour America. They were very sure of themselves, and how everything was going to work out.”
Both Bangalter and compatriot Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (who had previously designed the now-famous Daft Punk logo) had an idea of what they wanted for the album’s cover and inner sleeve.
“We spent about a week putting it together,” Hidiroglou recalls. “They wanted to try out a number of different fabrics before they found exactly what they wanted – the black satin. We spent a lot of time making everything perfect.
“With the inside cover, that had been all arranged by Thomas at his home. I went to his house and met his father – who had been a big producer in the past – and we went up to Thomas’ room. He had prepared everything on the desk just as it appears on the album.
“It was the first time for me to meet an artist who had so much visibility of what they wanted and where they wanted to be. They knew they would be big, but perhaps not as quickly as it worked out. It took just a few months.”
Following on from the release of Homework (as well as some side work for Bangalter’s side labels Roulé and Scratché), Hidiroglou was again called upon to take some promotional shots of the group.
“I had a little shop close to the Sacré-Cœur, and we shot lots of press pictures in the basement. Thomas did some ‘Daft Punk’ graffiti tags on the wall, so I shot that, and I also took some photos of the two of them.
“Back then, they already had the idea of covering their faces – this was a few years before the ‘robots’ – as they didn’t want to be well-known like other artists. We tried different solutions, putting things on their faces, wearing masks, things like that.
“For me, this was not a big thing – I had worked with lots of famous people, and was used to requests like this. But I remember when Daft Punk became famous, people spoke badly about it – people thought they were ‘too proud’ to show their faces. But really, it was them trying something new.”
While fame came quickly for Daft Punk outside of France, in their home country the duo remained “pretty underground for the first year”, Hidiroglou explains. “People didn’t really see the significance of what they were doing, even music people.
“I didn’t think the cover of Homework was a big project for me at the time, but now, it has appeared in a lot of books and magazines. Today it’s seen as a ‘reference point’, but when I did it, I did’t see the significance of it.
“I still meet Thomas sometimes, he lives close to my house. I saw Guy-Man a month ago. It’s more a friendly relationship now, as opposed to a business relationship.”
[Thanks to Nicolas for the interview. You can view his portfolio of work, which includes photography for a series of international artists, actors and musicians, at hidiro.com]