His chipper mood is a result of the bands’ highly anticipated new album ‘Fortitude‘, which will finally be unleashed upon the world [April 30th] some five years after their Grammy-nominated 2016, ‘Magma‘ LP.
There is no question that Gojira’s ability to pen jaw-dropping compositions has been improving with each passing album, however, ‘Fortitude‘ takes a big leap forward with reference to a more experienced and structured approach, all-the-while, keeping that unique sound that separates them from the rest of their peers, even influencing a whole host of new up-and-coming artists.
As we get the polite catch-up banter out of the way, Mario begins to talk excitedly about the new album and how they approached the overall writing process in a way they had never attempted before…
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OD – Joe [Duplantier, guitars/vox] recently commented in previous interviews, there was a decision to make things less dark and melancholic and offer a more energetic and ‘punchy’ aural atmosphere, was there any subliminal reason for that?
MARIO – I think the ultimate goal was to get rid of our darker side and it’s been a very tough process, as we try to be uplifting when we can… but in some ways that can come across a little dark. What Joe meant there was we had nothing special to complain about when compared to ‘Magma‘. On that album, we had lost our Mother which was a huge blow for us.
When we were writing ‘Fortitude‘ it was like the stars lined up for us. The success of the band was at an all-time high, the tours were going great, so we just had to write songs. It wasn’t like we were in a difficult position of emotional pain; like we were on ‘Magma‘.
However, there are some melancholic moments on ‘Fortitude‘, like ‘ The Trails‘ for example and that’s just in our DNA to write like that. But with songs like, ‘New Found‘, ‘Into the Storm‘ and ‘Hold On‘, you’ll find a lot of light in those songs. In fact, it’s the first time I really felt that we had created songs that were not so dark as our previous stuff. It’s a great feeling, as it’s almost like achieving a goal that we wanted. We wanted to find balance in our life; as well as our music.
OD – I understand that some of the riffs and ideas on the album are from the ‘Magma’ era, in saying that, was there a considerable amount of ideas that were put aside from the ‘Fortitude’ sessions?
MARIO – Absolutely! It took us so long to write this album, so we had a lot of extra material and I’m already talking about ideas for a new album already, but we have so much pre-promotion to do prior to ‘Fortitude‘ coming out, I’ll just have to wait. [Laughing]
We almost have three or four songs really cool songs that were supposed to be on ‘Fortitude‘, but Joe couldn’t really decide on what he wanted to do with the vocals on these tracks. He [Joe] spent a great deal of time on the vocals for this album. More than we have ever done with anything in the past.
There is one particular song that is not on the album and the reason is that Joe just couldn’t find the right tone for the way he wanted to sing on it, but it’s there in waiting and it will eventually be released. We are going to work on all of these songs for sure.
OD – I found the new album to move into a way more progressive territory and a definite transition of sorts, much the same way was Opeth did with ‘Heritage’. Is that a good assumption?
MARIO – Yes, you’re right. From a personal point of view, I spent two months analysing how we write and arrange our music prior starting the ‘Fortitude‘ sessions.
OD – Exactly what aspect of songwriting were you analysing?
MARIO – Before ‘Fortitude‘, we never even considered the formula of writing songs and by that I mean, we just kind of put things together with no real structure.
For example, a good song needs at least three choruses and the way we treated music in the past was from a very experimental approach, which is part of who we are, as we always wanted to avoid the obvious clechés and strived to create music that was outside the rules.
Take ‘Toxic Garbage Island‘ for example, there is no structure to that song. No chorus…nothing! We have so many songs like this which are successful, but with no structure, so, when it came to ‘Fortitude‘, I had this desire to make everything a little more balanced and I told Joe: “I really want to look at choruses and verses on this album” and he said: “Sure, why not.”
This album has a very dynamic structure of choruses and verses, which, in my opinion, gives tremendous strength to the overall body of work.
OD – The last time I spoke with Joe, he commented about the decision to change the vocals to a more ‘clean’ delivery rather than the ‘guttural’ register of the bands’ early discography. Another huge jump can be heard on ‘Fortitude’ with ‘The Trails’ for example.
This is the most melodic I’ve ever heard him sing. Was there ever a point that he felt out of his comfort zone, or was it just a natural progression for him?
MARIO – I think it started with ‘Magma‘ with tracks like ‘Shooting Star‘ and ‘Lowlands‘ and over the last ten years, Joe has really been looking at improving his vocals. We grew up listening to loads of different types of music. From loads of Metal to stuff like The Beatles, Massive Attack, Portishead etc.. we’re true music lovers.
When we jam sometimes we could end up just playing some kind of Funk Rock stuff. None of us have any other side projects like so many other bands have these days.
For the four of us, Gojira is our only musical outlet and we need to express all aspects of our personalities, and that means that although we are all, “Metal Heads“, we are also music lovers and for Joe, he had no choice but to evolve to what he naturally wanted, and needed, to do. Right now, he’s more confident as a singer than he ever was.
OD – Speaking of progression, do you feel that bands popularity growing now, as there is a real presence online and in the media about each album?
MARIO – [Laughing] Yes, we can see how our popularity has really begun to grow, especially in the last five years. But also, people have to remember, we’ve been a band for the last twenty-five years. It’s not like some bands who get huge exposure from their first album in some other genres. We are all forty years old now and we understand the world a lot more than we did when we started out back all those years ago.
We know we’re not at the level of say, Michael Jackson or Metallica. You’re talking about millions of albums sales there… and Metallica, they sell out stadiums. We know it was a very different industry back then but we have learned a lot on our journey and we’re still learning. We have played so many little clubs over the last twenty years and then slightly bigger venues etc. It’s taken a lot of hard work and we’re still not done.
Our success to date is not a huge surprise, and we’ve learned to take distance from it, but also, it’s justifiable as we’ve been working so hard playing all over the world in venues small, medium and then slightly bigger. We just keep our heads down and keep working.
OD – Would you ever consider releasing something to document the bands’ history, such as a book or film documentary, or do you think it’s too premature at this stage?
MARIO – We are too busy thinking about the present for now. The reality is that we really focus on the present and tend to not really look back.
For example, none of us actually remembered the anniversary of ‘Terra Incognita‘! [Laughing] We are just too focused on what is happening now. That’s so typical of us. When I saw that we had missed the anniversary, I said to the guys: “Oh my God, we totally forgot! We didn’t prepare anything!” [Laughing]
We are just so focused on what we are currently doing and plans ahead of us, so, working on a book or documentary is just something that we’ve not really had any time to consider. I’m a very ambitious person and want to release another new album after ‘Fortitude‘, instead of putting our efforts into any kind of documentary-like project.
OD – When you think of the last 20-years and all that you’ve accomplished to date, is there anything on your bucket list that you now have the real opportunity to make a reality?
MARIO – Hmm…I would love to perform in Bercy Arena in Paris, it’s a huge mythical venue and that would be a dream for me as a French citizen. Also, I’d love to perform in a 10k capacity venue in London. I would love to sell out Arenas everywhere, but it’s okay if we don’t, as we are all aware of the work that we need to do to get to this level and we’re ready for that. I really love playing intimate venues, but I also really love the idea of huge stage production and a big spectacle.
Also, the bigger the venue, the louder I can hit my drums! [Laughing].
OD – From your rise over the last 25-years, what do you see as being the biggest issue for up-and-coming new bands that you would like to see change?
MARIO – I can see how it’s very tough these days. If you have a talent it’s easy to be lost in the massive amount of noise that is on social media these days.
It’s all very unbalanced these days. There is a lot of injustice with loads of amazing bands that never get their music heard and then, on the other hand, there are bands’ with not-so-much great talent, or they just sound like so many other bands and for some reason, they have a big following on their social media.
We started out when there was no social media and we did things the old-school way. We were judged on the quality of our shows and our records etc. Today, it’s all so different. People are judging other bands’ within seconds of a video or an album is being released and it’s just not right.
OD – In light of the turmoil that been happening around the world when things finally come back to the way it was, regarding live events and touring, I’ve no doubt that there are huge plans for the promotion of this album…
MARIO – Absolutely! We will be hopefully playing everywhere we can. We are still waiting to hear what is happening with the existing Deftones shows also, so, it all really depends on how the vaccine works and how soon the live entertainment industry can come back in a strong and safe way.
But yeah, we’re all itching to get out and do some shows again, especially since we have this new album and all of these great songs to perform live.
OD – Looking back on the bands’ legacy to date, what has been one of your biggest highlights for you personally?
MARIO – Yeah, the highlight for me was when Metallica called us. We were a small band and pretty much unknown at the time. We were considered an underground band and then one day we get this call from Metallica’s management asking us to join them on some live dates and it was just incredible.
That has been the highlight of my career so far. Oh… also when I got to jam with the guys in the band [Metallica] when we were in Russia! That was mind-blowing! It was the best moment in my life.
Gojira ‘Fortitude‘ will be released via Roadrunner Records on April 30th.
Order your copy here or ask your local records store. Check out our review of the album here.
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