Vocalist/Guitarist, Joe Duplantier took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with us about the bands rising success, the possible release of the infamous Sea Shepard EP, the prospect of the band becoming an international headlining entity, and much more…
OD – Gojira finally get to tour ‘Fortitude’ after so many disruptions. Is it a kind of bitter sweet feeling as it must be hard to be apart form the family, especially since you [and everybody else] was grounded for the guts of two years due to the pandemic?
JOE – I have nothing to add to what you just said [Laughing]. It really is so bitter sweet, as you said, because I love being at home. However, I was longing to get back on stage in front of audiences, especially to play some new songs from ‘Fortitude‘. As you know, I am a husband, and Father, so it’s hard sometimes to leave my family behind, and be away from them for so long.
During the pandemic, it was the first time that my kids had their Dad at home for the Summer, and we had a great time. We could actually plan normal family events, and just hang out, like other people.
However, we never like to turn down a gig, and with this being our livelihood, it was necessary for us to get back out there, and do what we do best. But yeah, it was nice to be forced to stay home. I feel so lucky and privileged that we are successful, and get to play the music that we love. Sometimes, it can be difficult but overall, I feel so blessed that I get to do this for a living.
OD – Just looking back on the ‘Fortitude’, this must be the first time that the band has had to sit out a new album with no way of touring. Did these circumstances have any kind of effect on the relationship with the music itself, as I’m sure with time gone by, your creative minds are now looking to other things?
JOE – I’m kind of used to things being held back. For example, when we finish recording, and we’re in the mixing stage, I feel like we’re done with the music, and by the time we get to the mastering stage, we’ve exhausted our time with the songs. Do you know what I mean? We carefully magnify each second of each song, making sure that it’s up to the standard that we’re looking for, and by the time the album is ready, I feel drained, and need to take a break from the new stuff.
But overall, we are very excited to release new music to the world. Sometimes an old song that we’ve played to death on tour, will get bumped off the setlist, and then… say, ten years later, we bring back the song, and we’ve a new-found interest in it, or perhaps that the lyrics may reflect on a particular situation that is happening in the world. Music is so wonderful like that. I have a constant evolving relationship with music, especially the songs that I’m involved in writing. Sometimes I need space from them, and other times, it’s like welcoming back an old friend.
OD – Having recently seen you live in Dublin [Ireland], I was delighted to see so many classic songs included in the setlist. Tracks such as, ‘The Art of Dying’, ‘The Way of All Flesh’, and of course, the debut live performance of ‘Our Time is Now’. When deciding what to play for this tour, was there any particular reason that you choose these tracks and are there any more that you are planning to perform on this run of dates?
JOE – We always try to think if there are any songs that we’ve not played in a long while, to possibly bring back into the set list. There’s a reason for not playing some songs, and that could be that Mario does not feel comfortable in playing some of the more technical drum-based tracks without sufficient rehearsals. Also, some of the songs are very challenging for me, and not so much for the guys, so it goes both ways. We have a lot of respect to the recorded songs in our back catalogue, and we try to honour them as best we can.
We regularly find ourselves in long conversations about bringing old songs back into the set and most of the time, the general feeling is: “Let’s just look at this for the next tour” [Laughing]. We tour so much that after a long run of dates, we can’t wait to see our families, and we tend to spend as much of that time off as we can at home, before we have to leave and go back out there again. To bring some of the older songs back into the set, we would need about 3/4 days to rehearse, figure out the setlist, and with our busy schedules, we choose to be with our families instead.
So, there’s a lot of things that are going on that people don’t realise. It’s not easy to perform some songs that we’ve not played live in a long time, as it takes time to unearth them again, and bring them up to the level that we expect, and our fans expect, when performing live. We also, keep en eye on what the fans are talking about, and what songs they would like to see us perform once again live.
We hope to include more old-school Gojira tracks in our live show, as we move forward.
OD – Now that Gojira’s success and popularity are increasing, do you find that you get recognised a lot more, and also, does it feel strange that the level of success that you’ve probably dreamt about in your younger years, is finally happening?
JOE – It does feel very strange. It’s almost a challenge to comprehend what’s happened to us over the last few album cycles. Thankfully, I’m not that famous [Laughing]. I talking about Rhianna famous, or Jay Z famous, we’re just a Metal band. I get to go the grocery store in New York, and nobody recognises me, but in saying that, we get to make a living from what we love doing the most, and that alone, it hard for me to comprehend at times.
It’s unreal, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind me that this is real, and it’s really happening. But then, I go right back to the same place of where I have to build my own confidence about the music that I write, and the music that we write together, hoping that people like it. I know that not everybody is going to like what we do, or perhaps they don’t like the direction that we’ve taken over the last few albums, so it’s a challenge to ignore peoples expectations. I just try to focus on what’s best for me, and the band.
OD – With you now residing for most of your time in New York, has the city had any kind of a creative impact on how you write?
JOE – Yeah, I meet a lot of people in New York, but what I like most about the city is there are so many people that don’t compromise their passion, and are dedicated to putting on the best version of their show in backstreet, or underground venues, and I find that so exciting, and invigorating. It’s a very grounding feeling to experience, and that really does have an impact on my emotions about my own music.
There are lots of famous people that live in that city, but in true New York style, the people of NY are not really interested in how “famous” people are, they are most interested in the essence of the art form. I find that outlook so refreshing.
OD – I’m assuming Silverchord studio has been a huge part for the bands creativity. How important has the studio been for the band, in terms of security, and freedom to create without clock-watching?
JOE – Building the studio was one of the best decisions I have every made. For me, it’s mandatory to have a place where I can work, and not be interrupted. I can just be there feeling miserable, and trying to come up with ideas, and it’s okay if they don’t come at once. ‘Silverchord‘ is a place where ideas are born, nurtured, and grow into bigger things, or perhaps not at all [Laughing]. Either way, it doesn’t matter because I can just leave and come back tomorrow.
Before Silverchord, we had a studio in France [we recorded three albums there], and when I moved to New York in 2009/2010, I was between creative places, and away from the rest of the band… which was a really weird time. But that’s when I started thinking about building a studio, and Mario moved over for a few years, and helped me build ‘Silverchord‘.
I am notoriously slow when I work, because I like to go through everything with a fine tooth comb, and then after a while, there might be a creative explosion where lots of music or lyrics are written in short period of time, so just being able to have this special place to do all of that, is absolutely vital for me personally.
I’m not very organised… I know people who prepare all their demos, go the studio, record, and then that’s that. For me, I’m kind of all over the place [Laughing]. Sometimes, I may start the writing process by mixing before I even have one song! For example, I have recorded an entire demo in the past, just to research how it sounds, and how we are gonna do things going forward.
OD – Metallica have really set the bar with their innovate decisions, such as their own studio, movie, and taking back their own masters for Blackened Records. Looking to the future, would you be interested in doing the same, starting your own label?
JOE – Yes, Mario and I are from that kind of mindset. We used to have our own label [Gabriel Editions] but it was a lot of work, and remember, that included merchandise management also.
So, now we have a really nice collaboration with Roadrunner Records, and it’s working really well. They have a really good understanding of who we are, and the way that we work, and for me, that’s so important.
Of course, the idea of the DIY approach is something that really appeals to me. and I’m sure one day we’ll go back to that way of working, but I’m sure it will be a very different experience to the way we used to do it all those years ago.
To have the level of success that Metallica have…well that’s another story. That band have set the bar for so many things in the industry over the decades, and I absolutely get inspired by that. They have defied the odds on so many occasions, and are great ambassadors for Heavy Music.
OD – I understand that Sea Shepard is still something that you are interested in putting out in the future. In light of the tracks being unable to be put back together, would you consider re-recording those songs again with the same musicians?
JOE – I was able to salvage most of the recordings, so the only thing that I really need now is time…time and money. We are constantly touring and writing, and then touring again, so really, the big issue is time management. Working on an album or EP of any size is a long and detailed process, so every now and again, I can set aside some time, and work a little bit more on the possibility of releasing the songs that were recorded all those years ago.
I love the fact that one song has been released from that session, and it’s probably the best one. ‘Of Blood and Salt‘ featuring Devin Townsend, and Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) can be heard below:
The next step is to release all the songs properly. Once I have the time to continue working on the rest of the songs, there will be a better clear idea when they will be released to the public, but for right now, I just need a lot more time.
OD – In light of the time-frame between ‘Magma’ and ‘Fortitude’, has there been any work been done on new music, or does it feel that you have to get ‘Fortitude’ out of your system first?
JOE – Actually, Mario was very busy recording drum patterns, and song structures over the pandemic period, and I have a few new things also, but we’re not really in a ‘writing the next album‘ situation right now. We’re just sending a few ideas to each other, here and there. Right now, I feel like I squeezed myself like a lemon for ‘Fortitude‘, and I have nothing left in the tank.
I believe that the slow process is best for us. Some bands just pump out new music with lightning speed, and from what I’ve seen with a few bands, it’s not a good vibe. In fact, it’s very stressful, and can cause bands’ to implode. I don’t want that to happen to Gojira. I want to take it slow, and do the very best that we can do when it comes to writing music and lyrics.
OD – Always a band that has helped and championed up-and-coming artists, such as Dead Label, and URNE, which you’ve recently announced as support for some of your shows later this year, are there any other bands that have caught your eye in the last few years that you’d like to mention?
JOE – Well, URNE is definitely a band that Jean-Michel [Labadie, Bass] told me about and he said: “Joe, I think you’re gonna really like this.” And he was correct. URNE are a great band. Honestly, there are just so many great bands out there just waiting to be discovered.
When I get home, I’m all about my kids, so I don’t spend all day, everyday, deep-diving for new music, but every now and again, something will catch my attention, just like Dead Label, URNE, as well as Alien Weaponry, and Employed to Serve, who were just with us on our recent run of dates. I’m sure I’ll think of so many more bands after we finish talking. [Laughing]
OD – With regards to Gojira’s schedule for the rest of the year and into next year, are there more plans for after your joint tour with Mastodon this Summer?
JOE – Yes, that’s the plan. We’re really excited about going out with Mastodon again. We’re a great touring package as we all get along so well. I’m also a huge fan of their music and very excited to get back out there with them. The last time we toured with them [Mastodon] we were opening for them, but this time, it’s a co-headline tour, so guess, we got a promotion. [Laughing]
OD – With regards to headlining festivals, I’m sure this is becoming a more attainable situation now that the band is performing in bigger venues across the UK and EU. Do you have aspirations for to headline Bloodstock again, or perhaps Download, and of course, Hellfest etc?
JOE – Well, it looks like it’s possible. We’re starting to headline some festivals, like Bloodstock and Hellfest, but I feel like we’re almost there with regards to becoming an international headlining band, if you know what I mean.
We are looking at this industry and honestly and there are so many variables as to how to determine who is the bigger band for headlining certain festivals. The fact that social media plays a big part in it now just makes it more complicated. Some bands have younger audiences, and that demographic are so much more vocal on social media, so, does that mean they are a bigger band?
Regardless, if we could have the experience of headlining festivals around the world, that would be awesome, and if it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen. All we have to do is just keep doing what we do, and keep going. Either way, the industry needs good live bands’ that put on a huge show, and carry on the tradition of bringing heavy music to the masses to the best of their ability.
Gojira’s new album ‘Fortitude‘ is out now. Pick up a copy via this link.