Amidst their flurry of European festival dates, vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier sat down with Overdrive to discuss the current happenings within the band’s increasing rise to fame, the imminent tour with Metallica, their Grammy nomination and a mind-blowing jamming session involving members of Opeth, Devin Townsend, Mastodon, Russian Circles.
OD – Congratulations on MAGMA which is simply a breathtaking album. There was a slight worry amongst critics when it was released because of the slightly different direction that you took on the album. There is no doubt that MAGMA was a very important step for Gojira, did you have any concerns as to how people would react to it?
JOE – Well, we just knew that we had to move forward and evolve. We’ve always felt that way about what we do. Of course, a small part of me was a little concerned as to what people would think about it, but overall I was just really excited about the album because we just put so much hard work into it and went through so much personal stuff during the writing.
This time around I really felt that we had much more time to live with the music and approached them from very different angles. From the beginning of the writing process to the point of when we started recording, was approximately a year or so and a lot of things happened during that time. We had a lot of new ideas and the creativity was really flowing. Out of all the ideas and material, we just kept the best of the best and felt so comfortable with it all, that we had made our minds up that if people were not comfortable with the material, then that was going to be just fine with us. That’s what being in a band is to us. Especially a “rock/metal” band. I believe in being honest with the music we are making and being honest to our gut as to what we should go forward with and be proud by it.
We knew also that the song structure and delivery is a little easier to digest for people who would not be directly into metal. The album has a different feel to it. It’s still very heavy; but in a different way, if you know what I mean. I knew that some of the death metal purists would be a little upset by some of our decisions on this album (laughing) but it’s impossible to please everyone, so we just followed our hearts and created something that made us happy and proud of.
OD – Now in hindsight, do you feel more confident in taking steps outside the conventional box and open to more experimentation?
JOE – Yes indeed. But again, people have said to us “you have taken such a risk with MAGMA” and to me, I really feel like we didn’t take a risk, we just stuck to the formula that we had always followed since we started the band, which is to just play and see what comes out. No restrictions, no boundaries, just follow our hearts with what we do.
I really feel that with ‘L’Enfant Sauvage‘ and ‘MAGMA‘, we have opened up a new dimension to GOJIRA. It really began on ‘L’Enfant Sauvage‘, especially with the vocals because for me as the vocalist I needed to sing more rather than scream. I need a more subtle approach to the vocal side of things. I’m in my thirties and not twelve anymore and I don’t just want to go fast and loud all the time, I want to create something interesting. I’m a huge music fan and really love all kinds of music, for instance, I really like Radiohead as well as many other kinds of bands. I don’t just listen to death metal 24/7 (laughing)!
When you get older and get a more confidence in who you are as a person, you don’t’ tend to care what people are going to think about your choices in life be it music, fashion or whatever else you may have a particular interest in. I see what you mean when you say gamble when it comes to the die-hard fans, but for us to keep going as a band, we have to follow our hearts and desires for what we do.
We are not married to our fans and I totally understand if one day they wake up and don’t like what we are doing, and I totally respect their decision to move on and listen to Cannibal Corpse or something like that (laughing). In the end, we gain more fans than we are losing, so I guess we are doing something right.
OD – When you look back on the recording of the album in Silver Chord studio, do you find that it was way more liberating and a definite influence on the feeling/concept of the overall album than recording in a hired studio?
JOE – It’s totally awesome. We built a studio in 2003 in France and recorded all of our albums there up until L’Enfant Sauvage, which we recorded in New York with Josh Wilbur and that experience was very much “time is money” and a little stressful and that got me thinking to get Silver Chord up and running and go back to the DIY style of recording. And just like you said, it’s liberating and very comfortable for us to create in this style of environment.
OD – When I last spoke to you things were very busy and you had expressed your love for living in New York. Do you think that the city acts as kind of a muse for you now?
JOE – I would totally agree with that for sure. New York just really makes me happy. I go down the street and all of a sudden it’s like I could come upon a Jamaican street party with all the food and the music and then you turn a corner and there is something else totally different happening. The city is a melting pot of culture and fascinating experiences that are all over the place, which I find to be a great inspiration to me in my personal life, as well as my creative side.
Everybody loves New York! It’s expensive and can be a hard place to live at times, but totally worth it. It’s kind of like an investment. I don’t get to save money, but I really get to experience life and many different and exciting cultures all the while raising my kids in this amazing environment.
OD – You have some dates coming up with Metallica in August, can you tell me how that came about, did you get a call from Lars (Ulrich) or James (Hetfield)?
JOE – Well, this time around it was organised through our management and Metallica’s people. The last time we were together was a few years ago when we played in Quebec with them and Robert (Trujillo, Bass) kind of winked at us and said “we’ll see you guys very soon” with a big smile on his face. So I guess they already knew that we would be doing something together in the future.
OD – Will these shows with Metallica be the biggest tour, production wise, that Gojira will have been a part of to date?
JOE – Absolutely! There is a paradox here because there really is no other band as big other than Iron Maiden or AC/DC and when you are doing support slots like this you have to just get in there, play your show and get the fuck out! You can’t bring any production with us, so it’s kind of like an old-school rock show. Just like we do when we play small intimate clubs. It’s just a different thing in terms of the logistics but at the end of the day, it’s always going to be about the music.
Metallica’s production is fucking insane man! You have to see it to believe it. They have like 30 trucks and a team of 150 people working to put that show on. The size of the production for their full stage is mind-blowing!
OD – They are the last of a dying breed of touring bands when you consider the size of venues they are playing.
JOE – I totally agree. It’s so great to still have them around, as they are keeping the interest there and generating a lot of interest in heavy music on a global level. It show’s that people are buying music and investing in physical copies rather than digital files. They are keeping the old method of music consumption alive and that alone is a very difficult thing to achieve in this day and age.
OD – With your American tour dates coming up in July, I understand that you will be taking our two great bands – Pallbearer and Oni with you. Was this a decision from within the band, or is that left up to the labels to decide or a combination of both?
JOE – So usually we get to pick and choose the bands that we want to get out on the road and in the past, we have taken out Kvelertak, Code Orange and Car Bomb and have been really excited about being on the road with them. I’m really looking forward to this tour in American with Pallbearer and Oni.
OD – The recent dates you did with Devin Townsend and Opeth saw you play at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. The place is known for its beautiful surroundings. Was that your first time playing there and can you tell me about the experience?
JOE – It’s a really unbelievable place to play and we had talked about playing there so many times before in the past. We kept hearing about this place and how amazing it is to perform in, so much so that we were a little nervous about playing the show in case it wasn’t as good as people had been telling us.
It was a really amazing experience and if I had not been told anything about it, I think it would have really blown us all away, but we naturally had great expectations because of what everybody was telling us. Don’t get me wrong, I was really blown away, but we had a little bit of added pressure because we were filming the show.
We didn’t really announce it and just wanted to do it you know? The whole experience was a little overwhelming, to say the least. The crowd was huge for that show. It was a co-headline show and on that particular night, Opeth closed the show. We gladly took second to the closing slot and just enjoyed the rest of the gig.
OD – Will you be releasing that footage of Red Rock in the near future?
JOE – Well, nothing is scheduled at the moment. We invested in a film crew that night and to be honest, musically it wasn’t our best performance so we need to really sit down and go through all the footage and see what we can do with it.
I think we kind of put ourselves under too much pressure and it affected us. Also, the crowd at the venue, goes upwards, if you know what I mean. It’s a kind of hill or natural amphitheatre. Even if you didn’t have a PA and clapped your hands, you would hear it echo all over the space in front of the stage. The rocks surrounding the arena are just incredible. They kind of look like two ships parked at either side. I also remember that night there was a really unusual moon. It was kind of like a blood moon.
The view from the stage was just so surreal. These huge rocks at either side and the crowd that go all the way up to the sky where there was this huge blood red moon just hanging there. A really amazing venue which I can’t wait to play again. To be honest, I would love to go and be part of the crowd for a show at Red Rock. Just to really enjoy the natural setting and just take it all in with less stress (laughs).
OD – Of course, this year also saw Gojira nominated for a Grammy Award. Do you find such awards as something to be proud of or does it not really bother you either way?
JOE – We were so surprised! Actually kind of speechless to be honest. We always have said about things like that “fuck that shit, we don’t need it, it’s all business and not about the music” and then when we heard that we were nominated, we were just like “Really? Wow! We can’t believe it!” (laughing). I have to admit, I kind of felt really lame that day because I just go so excited and people were asking us “how do you feel about the Grammys?” and I was like “yeah, whatever it’s no big deal.” but inside I was really excited about it (laughing).
OD – I can only imagine playing/touring with some of the biggest and most influential heavy genre bands is a great milestone for you all collectively, such as Metallica. Would you ever consider a guest from any of these bands appearing on any future recordings?
JOE – Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to write with Brann (Dailor) from Mastodon. It would be great to do something like that with Metallica, but they don’t’ really do things outside of their own entity.
I love collaborating and just jamming with other musicians, and while we were on tour with Opeth and Devin we just hung out and kicked out the jams. In fact, when we were in Philidelphia, the Mastodon guys came to check out the show and we combined forces (laughing), so it was a Mastodon, Devin Townsend, Opeth, Gojira and Russian Circles jam session and it was incredible fun.
So that showed me that I had a real interest in the idea of collaborating more going into the future in some capacity. I guess it’s kind of a situation that will have to come about in a really natural way and if it ever happens it’s got to be something that feels right.
We are just so hungry for new music ourselves, that at times it seems kind of impossible to get something happening in a collaborative situation. But hey, who knows what’s going to happen.
Gojira recently played in Dublin’s Academy. Get the full review via this link.
Catch Gojira on tour with Metallica at the end of the month for select dates leading into August. Please check Gojira official website for details.
Photos – Down The Barrel Photography © 2017 | Gojira Official © 2017 | Charvel Guitars © 2017