By: Metalist NY Magazine
With: Joe Duplantier
Gojira are a band that perhaps had one of the worst chances in European Metal history, and still made the most of it. How? First, they came from a country with a very small Metal scene (with a few cult bands like Trust, Sorteliege and the whole Black scene, I know) not to speak of a Death Metal scene in the time of its inception. Second, they went into one of the most overcrowded genres in Metal, and tried to make something unique without it being pretentious. . Third but not least, they have managed to maintain a band that has been growing naturally for over 17 years. From the small town of Bayonne, which has around half the residents of Tel Aviv, the band has grown to become an international phenomenon opening for giants like Metallica and selling out venues all across the world. Now, they bring their sophisticated brand of Groove infused Death Metal to Israel, and I took great joy in interviewing non other than singer and mastermind of Gojira- Joe Duplantier
Benek- Hey Joe! What’s up man?
Joe- Um, not much! I’m good man, I’m at a good place in my mind, really comfortable. I’m in France, we just played a show here in France in Hellfest, and this year was really good for us because we were in a really nice slot on the bill. We played with Jason Newsted and Stone Sour and Volbeat, and it was really good.
Benek- Did you catch any other bands? anyone you were looking out for?
Joe- I wanted to see Swans, very, very experimental with this one guy who’s been doing this for thirty years and he’s a crazy mother fucker kind of alcoholic strange poet with a guitar and it’s all based on feedbacks and weird sounds and chords, it’s very hard and it’s very loud but it’s very interesting, it was a really experience and I was glad to see them onstage for the first time. Other than that we were doing some interviews and signing sessions so I didn’t really have time to see other bands. I saw Napalm Death really quick onstage and they were amazing but that’s it. Last time we play Hellfest almost every 3 years, because if we go to often it’ll spoil the French fans so it’s important to be rare.
Benek- So, it’s been almost exactly a year since L’Enfant Sauvage, how do you feel about it, and about the reception it got?
Joe- I feel very good, the way people received it was really good, everyone was very enthusiastic about it and it’s been great man. From day one, people seemed to be happy and the hardcore fans even were a little scared before the release of the album because we signed on Roadrunner and stuff but they understood we kept what makes Gojira intact you know? we didn’t put water in our wine, like we say in France.
Benek- What was the idea behind the album, are there any underlying themes? I know there was the whole thing about the impact of death in The Way of All Flesh, is there some consistency?
Joe- The Way of All Flesh was mostly about death in general, there’s a lot to say about it and nothing to say because we know nothing about it. But at least we know our fears, you know, about the unknown when there is something we don’t know we become petrified and useless so it’s a big challenge for humans in general, or at least for me. I’ll speak for myself; it’s a big challenge to overcome the fears in general. That’s the most important thing in the lyrics, the main theme I want to say, before the environmental concepts, is mostly dealing with the fears and the difficulty of being at peace in general. For me, when we did L’Enfant Sauvage, there was not a real idea behind it but more of a state, a state of mind and a feeling, an intuition, I would say these words instead of an idea. There’s never an idea, a precise idea, sometimes at the end of the recording or the pre production I realize there’s a theme to give a title or a direction to the artwork but usually it’s being spontaneous and being in a present moment.
Benek-How is L’Enfant Sauvage different from the rest of your records, except for the phenomenal amount of response it has gotten, what do you think sets it apart?
The exposure is a big thing, the perception you have on an album is also based on how the promotion is made. For the first time we had a real international release, that was a huge difference, and everyone is influenced by this. Even when they listen to the records, exposure is becoming a part of the landscape on the Metal scene internationally and The Way of All Flesh, for example, was released in Europe , and then we found a deal in the US and was released it there later, then we found a deal in Asia so we were more independent at the time working with small labels, small record companies struggling to find deals and negotiating as we go. For L’Enfant Sauvage there was a big preparation for the release and that makes the perception different, the press was writing about it and they tried to be original in their critiques and stuff so the surrounding was very different, a different context. The music is pretty similar to what we’ve always done, we started 17 years ago and it’s been just growing very naturally, organically and there’s no real big difference in composition or the state of mind, the intention is pretty much the same. It’s another page that we turn but it’s the same book, it’s like we’re telling the story of our lives as we go. It’s good to have your own sound, but it’s hard to reinvent yourself, sometimes we decide, like consciously lets make a song that is super different, like this or like that but we fail because we always come back to the same energy that is guiding us. There’s an energy guiding us, we make ourselves available for this music, we get together in the practice room and we start to play and then the music is coming, we don’t really decide from where it’s coming.
Benek- What was the working process like for L’Enfant Sauvage? Who writes most of the riffs?
Joe- We work together you know, it’s like Mario and me find most of the ideas but we need to be the four of us somewhere to form this entity that is Gojira. We form a certain entity together and I’ll be the eyes, Mario will be the mouth, Jean Michel (Labadie) will be the legs, and Christian (Andreu) will be the arms and without the legs we can’t go very far. People from the outside will say “oh Joe and Mario are doing everything” but in fact we’re like a body together. Mario and me are very active when we compose, we talk and we play a lot we throw ideas all the time, and the two other guys are more quiet and patient but their listening and participating in a way. It’s very important for them as well.
Benek-In their own way, such as sleeping (we both laugh)
Joe- yeah, obviously, taking a nap, sometimes I think about it, about how would it be if it was two different guys? Staying quiet, in the same room instead of them ,the music would be different so somehow they influence but Mario and I do most of the writing . That’s the short answer (laughs)
So by now…do you have a favorite track off of it?
Pfft, yeah I like the song Pain is a Master for the lyrics and the music, I would love to play this track live. This song is special to me, and a little more personal than the other songs. I talk about pain, and how you can learn from experience, pain is a very very intense experience when you suffer, and you’re alone for example , the notion of time seems to change and everything becomes harder and longer, you don’t knokw if you’re going to survive when you have very difficult moments in your life. I think when you have to go through these moments in your life it’s because there’s something you don’t understand about yourself and life will make you understand, painw ill make you understand and teach you something if you stay awake and listen, and feel then you will learn something and get stronger. I’m not inventing anything you know, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
How do you feel the artwork conveys the theme of the music?
It’s the same thing, you know? the same effort, the same movement, it’s one creation. The visual, the music, the sound and even the production and mixing its all in one and done in the same time. Usually when I write lyrics I do drawings at the same time and sometimes I’m inspired by the drawings I make and sometimes I don’t know what to say, I have an idea I want to express but it just doesn’t come out and it feeds the lyrics you know, it’s really you know it comes together as one. We do it ourselves, I do the covers and Mario helps me with some of the stuff, he does some of the stuff. He sent me the sketch of a head with a tree inside of it I thought it was cliché but I thought it was simple and strong so I repainted it somehow but it comes with the music, sometimes I don’t understand what we’re doing but I know it’s one energy expressing itself and one same effort.
How did Gojira start?
When we started we didn’t have big plans we just wanted to play music. That’s the old school approach, of things, now with bands that find the logo and the haircut then they think “maybe we should compose songs.” Where I come from is more, “lets play!” lets do music, so one day we wanted to record so we took a shitty ghetto blaster and we pressed record, we did a bunch of demoes on cassettes and then we did a proper demo in a studio, then a second one and three and four demoes before even thinking “Maybe we should release an album?” so we started very naturally. Like a plant growing, the plant doesn’t think , “I’m going to become a tree” it’s just growing. So it was very organic, I like how we started. My brother and I were jamming in our family house, he was like 10 and I was 15 basically, and we started with a shitty acoustic guitar and he was drumming on pans and pots, and that’s how it started. A brotherhood thing, then we started to hang out with these two other guys and we formed a band. Just like that, so it just happened, it was never a decision, never “lets be a band! Lets get some chicks!!! And go on tour and make money, lets be famous!” was never in our mind.
Benek- Silly Joe, Death Metal bands don’t get chicks, they get fat sweaty guys running at the stage
Joe- I know! ugh! (laughs)
Benek- How do you feel you’ve grown as a musician since the early days of Terra Incognita?
Joe- I would say, there’s so much to say each time you ask a question I’d have like a thousand answers but we have a limited time so I’m gonna say one thing. From a kid in high school trying to be Metallica or Sepultura I became a producer more than a great musician or a great singer or a rock star, I see myself as a producer. I have ideas, intuitions and inspirations and I like to produce albums, I see them like objects almost we create this objects so for this I need to play guitar, I need to put these ideas together or damn now I need to scream into this microphone but I’m always driven by this intuition and this inspiration but I’m not really into guitar, I don’t care really. For me to play guitar is more of a way to go a certain place , I’m not a guitar player or a guitarist, I have friends that are so into guitar all the time and they love playing guitar, for me it’s just a way to get somewhere. I would like to make a movie, to create something with dance, Ballet or anything, something that will be bigger than me and more powerful than me. I like this , you know? with a lot of work and a lot of time you can create something that is so powerful that it can take care of you somehow.
Are there any plans to make a movie or anything in motion?
Nothing at all, there’s something in my mind I feel attracted by , I Feel attracted to creative things. Even building a house, creating something bigger than me is how I’d describe it. We give life to an album just like you give life to a child. But you didn’t do anything, you just had sex and then your stomach grows and someone grows out and it’s perfect. But you didn’t do anything you just dedicated energy, time and patience . Then something happens, beautiful.
Benek- What was the French scene like when you started, how has it changed?
Joe- I don’t know man, shitty? It was pretty shitty. We had some good bands in the 80s but then no one was able to cross the borders and it died for ten years, when we started there was no one around. There were a very few doing a good job like Loudblast and now it’s starting again, there’s a scene, some very very good bands, respected Black Metal bands here in France but they’re so underground that even I don’t know these bands personally. All sorts of bands emerging . We were one of the first French Metal bands to travel abroad and start to play in the U.S and I think it inspired other bands like “damn it’s possible!” If those guys can do it, we can do it too. We’re part of the moment it started to change.
Benek- Speaking of the U.S, you recorded L’Enfant Sauvage in the U.S, in New York, how did that come about, and why?
Joe-We wanted to be in a different environment, something exciting with a lot of people and producers, engineers our record company is in NY so its’ very exciting to do it this way. Usually we record our albums here in France, in the countryside in our family house in kind of a small studio there with you know, it’s an old house, a lot of spiders and bees everywhere. It’s where we grew up and stuff, but for this album we wanted something different, we still composed the songs here in this house and that’s where I am right now , um but for the recording process we need gear, engineers , knowledge and when we do it here it’s a big challenge we need to rent gear , fly people here and it’s very difficult. So doing it in NY, at this time when we’re signing a contract with Roadrunner was it just made sense because they were around.
Benek -what is it like working with a brother in the band?
Joe- I had a very short experience before that of being in a band with different guys, so I can compare just with that but for me it became so natural, for me it’s normal to be in a band with my brother. But I can say it’s very powerful, it’s very intense and sometimes it’s hard, but sometimes it’s awesome but it’s always intense.
Benek- Do you feel a musical connection?
Joe- Yes, we don’t need to use words, I don’t even know how to start talking about it it’s so big man. What started this band you know? my relationship with my brother, we would disagree on a lot of stuff and he was much younger than me , at the itme it was important because I was 17 and he was 12, when we were recording our first demoes, and I was hanging out with my friends drinking wine and smoking pot , but he was just a kid so he was always around and annoying and stuff , he wanted to hang out with bigger guys. But when we start to play there’s nothing else, just a pure powerful connection between us, we could play for an hour and a half straight, not jamming really because in Metal the patterns are always different and a lot of tempo changes. We would follow each other in a heart beat, I’ll be like “ok he’s going there” , damn that’s interesting and when something started being solid and great we’d be like “yep! This is good.” Instant connection all the time, and we stopped together. Like (makes sound of palm muted guitar coming to a halt) and we just stop.
Benek- Gojira is one of those bands that can’t go wrong you know, like Mayhem or Meshuggah, that don’t h have a single bad release. How do you stay so creative and full of ideas? What inspires you?
Joe- Like I told you, really this is important to me, they’re not ideas. It’s energy and this energy is always there, it’ll never end because on a certain dimension, time and space don’t exist. If you’re connected to this dimension, I know it sounds a little pretentious and I’m not pretending to be a higher spirit or a master or anything, but through music I can pass to this dimension when there is no time and space. If you stay healthy, and don’t do drugs basically , because a lot of people do drugs to open doors and compose , and it’s amazing oh my god, but if you avoid that then the connection stays good. The connection can be forever, you don’t lose connection if you stay centered, healthy, grounded, and focused. Happiness is also very important to me, it’s not just like we’re going on tours all the time, doing drugs and being lost when we go back home, a lot of bands fail after a couple of albums because they get lost. For us having a healthy happy lives with our own families with projects that are not related to music are very important so when we get back together we feel like kids happy to play together. We keep this port open to certain energy. I feel confident, I don’t think we’re going to lose this it’ll change, it’ll be slower and faster or darker and lighter but this energy we have accessed .
Benek- What does Gojira mean to you in your life ? How would you define your music and message? How central is it?
Joe- It’s very important, I could say it’s saving me from despair and chaos, misery I’m a very sensitive person. When I was in school, I suffered a lot, I thought the world was shit. People were so cruel and I had a hard time to have a real friend, one day this guy would be my friends and the next day he’d go with a bigger guy, a cooler guy and spit on me. So at a very early age, I had this hate for people, I really thought the world was not a good place, and music was a very important thing to me. I didn’t have a difficult childhoods, I didn’t grow up in a poor country and my parents were very cool and loving people so I cannot really complain but I’m telling you it was really hard for me to confront the world. For me the music was almost a reason to be alive. At some points it was my best friend and a platform for me to stand on, my home, my country and my planet.
Benek- Planet Joe heheehe… Anyway, you’re very outspoken in your lyrics about environmental damages, why is that?
Joe- You’re asking me? Well I’m sure you have the answer…
Benek- ….What do you mean?
Joe- I understand the question but it’s obvious, we have one planet. Not planet Joe, planet earth is our spaceship and there’s nothing else than that right now unless someone has a great idea to go live on the moon or something we need to take care of this place, it just makes sense. For me it’s the number one thing in politics. I always thought we weren’t doing politics, just music and poetry, but if you have one idea it can become politically involved. Expressing this was just natural, I grew up in the countryside in the old house I’ve described earlier, I grew up with a proper education, my parents taught me how to put my trash in a trash can rather than throwing it in the ground, Very simple education, the big polluters didn’t receive education it seemed. I have a lot of anger and fire in me and I need to express it, when I start to scream in the microphone that’s what comes sometimes this subjects.
Benek- On the other hand , it’s probably something that will not effect our planet for as long as we live, is this important for you because of your children? Or the love of the planet?
Joe- It’s important because everything is important. Every single word, every single movement and day or action has a repercussions. You do something and everything has an impact on a deep level, and it’s spiritual what I say now. If you throw your chewing gum in the grass it’s not going to effect a lot of people but when you throw your chewing gum in the grass there’s something that is happening in a spiritual and energetic level. There’s a lot of this happening on the planet and it sucks.
Benek- Do you believe the world still has a potential for saving? Is it not too late to change the force of habit?
Joe-Yes, I have hope in people, even if I hate them, I still think there’s good in people you know?
Benek- Why do you work with the sea shepherds in particular?
JoeBecause they’re cool man, they have a great logo laughs (laughs) but I like how their pretty unique, they’re great inspiration for me and for us in the band , the way they do things they don’t ask for permission or anything. They just do what they have to do according to what they think and feel, a lot of people are going “ ahhh the world is going down and it’s bad” you know but they do something about it. They’re not scared.
Benek- Is Paul Watson a fan?
Joe- He doesn’t have time to think about this, he’s very busy and dedicated , his dedication is very interesting. I see myself in him in some ways, he’s not available to people because he’s giving himself to his ideals and to his ideas and dreams. He’s completely dedicated, it’s a sacrifice, but these kind of people don’t have a choice, they to do this.
Benek- What happened with the Sea Shepherds EP?
Joe- I feel very uncomfortable when someone asks me about it because it’s so pathetic, I feel almost ashamed to talk about it because we we’re on fire with this EP. We did all the hard work, we composed four songs, we called a bunch of well known singers, we went to LA , my brother and me to record this and to mix it, just a few things missing to release it. But then something happened with the computer, we had a computer crash and we lost a lot of files, and it was really hard on us because we we’re signing a deal with Roadrunner, taking care of the new album, so it was a lot of work especially while on tour. So the EP was on the side because I had to recover all these files, and re record all those files but it would just be one week here, two weeks there, few days in a hotel, and on tour, I’m like I should work on this EP but I didn’t find the time and the energy to work on this. It’s there, it’s gonna come out some day.
Benek- Many many years in the future hehehe
Joe- Yeah maybe in 25 years , the plan was to put the spotlights on sea shepherds more than making money, the point was to sell it and make money for Sea Shepherds and give them all the money. We released one song called Blood and Salt on Roadrunner Magazine with Devin Townsend and Fredrik Thordendal , that’s already something. The name comes from the blood of the whales and dolphins in the salty water. It’s really inspired by why Sea Shepherds are doing what they’re doing, and Devn Townsend is singing and Fredrik is playing guitar, these people coming together is already a statement so of course we didn’t raise any money so far but a lot of Metalheads know Sea Shepherds through us so some of the goal has been achieved.
Benek- Do you also support Veganism?
Joe- ummm, I’m not a Vegan, but I’m Vegan friendly, some Vegans are so annoying though…but myself I was vegetarian for a few years but I gave up because I was on tour and I’m a mess, also I love meat that’s another thing, meat is so good you know what I mean? But it’s a little crazy when I start to think about it that we’re eating animals when we could just eat plants and seeds and beans you know? We could live healthier and happier without doing this traffic animals, the treatment of them is completely insane I would like to go back to this and I have Vegan friends who try to convince me and I’m like, “yeah I’m convinced already but I’m just too lazy…”
Benek- how do you feel about coming to Israel??
Joe- I feel so happy man! It’s a little impressive because of the history, and the conflicts and all that you know, when you’ve never been to a country you have this fantasy about it, each time I hear about Israel or Tel Aviv you hear about a bomb that exploded or of war, so our vision as Europeans is of a warzone. But I heard a lot of great things about it too, so I’m always very happy and excited to discover a new country and place . How is it now?
Benek- It’s just very hot…but no bombs hehehe. Do you feel your live show has changed over the years?
Joe- It changed a lot, now we’re more confident on stage, more mature and we accept what we are more. I feel like we got rid of a lot of layers we used to have, we thought we needed to look or sound like these guys , or I’m too fat or thin, you get onstage and full of complex as a teenager. As you grow older you accept , that’s how I am, and that makes you a better performer when you accept yourself.
Benek- What’s in the near future except for the Israeli gig ?
Joe- We have other shows in August, we’re going to tour all over Europe and then more touring. We’re basically in the middle of the album cycle, we have another year of touring easily on this album. We have a lot of new territories to go to, there’s life for this album still, people want to see and hear us. So touring and touring, and worrying about this damn EP!
Benek- Any sort of signing session planned?
Joe-There is something planned but not finalized yet, also, I think even the date of the show will probably change a day forward or after because of Anthrax
Benek- Any last words to the Israeli fans?
Joe- We cannot wait to be there, we cannot wait to meet you guys , we’re very, very excited and feel blessed to be able to travel like that and to discover Israel. I’m sure it’s a very beautiful place and I’m looking forward to visiting.