We’re now up to episode six in Daft Punk’s Memory Tapes video series - released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the duo’s Random Access Memories album - and this one’s a biggie. Why? Because it features Pharrell Williams discussing the making of Get Lucky, the record’s all-conquering lead single.
Williams explains that he met “The Robots”, as he calls them, through Busy P, the founder of Ed Banger records and Daft Punk’s former manager. Williams and Chad Hugo - the other member of The Neptunes - were then given the chance to remix Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, the fourth single to be lifted from Daft Punk’s second album Discovery, which was released in 2001.
Describing Daft Punk as “spirit animals”, Williams reveals that, when he was brought in to work on what would turn out to be Random Access Memories, he believed he was writing a vocal that someone else would end up singing.
Of the origins of Get Lucky, he says: “I thought I was just writing for someone else so in my mind I’m ‘oh, OK’ I think ‘this is kind of Michael [Jackson]-esque, let me go down this lane.’”
Pharrell also discusses Daft Punk’s intensive recording process, describing how Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo made him record his vocal again and again until they were happy. This was in stark contrast to his own working method at the time: “I’ve always been like, OK, I’m gonna go in there and once it feels good to me that’s it,” he reflects.
After working with Daft Punk, though, Williams would come to the conclusion that their search for perfection represents “the right way to do it… you get all the knots out. Now I understand the value of it, the value of just taking the time to iron it out.”
Williams left the studio not really knowing what would become of his contributions. “I didn’t hear it for like a year, so I forgot what the song sounded like,” he admits.
When Pharrell finally did get his ears around Get Lucky, though - complete with guitar parts from Nile Rodgers - he was blown away. Archive footage shows him looking slightly in awe as he realises what he’s helped to create: “Wow, that’s my only word. Wow,” he says at the end of the playback.
The clip shows that Williams was particularly impressed by the way his vocals had been mixed, comparing the sound to that of songs written and arranged by frequent Michael Jackson collaborator Rod Temperton.
Reflecting now on what he thought when he first heard Get Lucky, Williams says, “I was like ‘Oh, shit. This is fire.” He wasn’t wrong.