Remembering when Daft Punk played the Renfrew Ferry and The Arches

Daft Punk, responsible for some of the most influential dance music of all time, announced their retirement this week after 28 years.

When robot duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo released their first vinyl record, it had a Paris phone number on the sleeve. Alongside was the Glasgow number for Soma Records.

I spoke to label boss Dave Clarke about the local part of Daft Punk’s origin story.

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“When we met them, they weren’t DJs, just fans of American influenced techno and house. Slam were playing a festival at Euro Disney in 1993 that Nick Holloway had organised. We tagged on a couple of days at the end of the weekend to make it a bit of a trip away.

“A journalist, Serge Nicolas, said there was a couple of guys that wanted to meet us, they loved the Positive Education record that Slam had released and wanted to play us some tracks.

“A bit dishevelled after a couple of nights in Paris, we trotted round to Thomas’ flat in the basement of his mum and dad’s house. They played what became the first single. We were blown away and got them to send a tape over.

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“I dug out the cassette the other day and it’s exactly the four tracks that came out as Soma Number 14: The New Wave EP by Daft Punk in 1994. There was Alive that made it onto the Homework album. The other tracks were pounding, tightly-produced techno cuts.”

In 1995, Dave met up with the label’s new discovery again for an eight-hour drive from Paris to Cannes, on the way to a music industry event.

“After that they sent us Rollin’ & Scratchin’ and a track called Daft Drive. I had to call them up and say to them “what happened to that funk one you were working on? Would you hurry up and finish that!”

Everyone at Soma knew the song that became Da Funk was special and that’s what became the breakthrough track.  

Daft Punk would visit Glasgow in the mid-90s when the city was gaining a lot of attention. Dave says “It was one of the centres of the scene at the time without ever getting over-exposed.”

The pair famously played the Renfrew Ferry and The Arches but Thomas and Guy would also visit just to spend some time going to gigs or hanging out. “One weekend, Felix da Housecat was in town at the same time so they got to meet up.

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“The pair of them were staying in our flat off Hyndland Road and I remember one night the Brand New Heavies were in one room trying to have an afterparty and the Daft Punk boys were in the other room just trying to chill out. I think they thought it was a bit wild for them but that wouldn’t be the first time that has happened in Glasgow.”

This year is Soma’s 30th anniversary and Dave says they are still listening out for new music. “That’s our role, our quest. We’ve a new electro label called Avoidance. We are putting out a livestream from SWG3 on Saturday night with Slam. There’s new Glasgow artists working with us. With a rich tapestry of history behind us, we are firmly focused on the future.”

Part of that future will be on display this weekend with Soma Skool music conference with masterclasses and panels for anyone who is interested in a career in the electronic music industry. This year it will take place online. Search for tickets on Resident Advisor or contact somarecords.com for more information.

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