Gojira’s Joe Duplantier on Opening New Doors With ‘Magma,’ Touring With Metallica + More
Gojira‘s Joe Duplantier was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show. After a discussion of the band’s Grammy-nominated status, Duplantier settled in for a chat about the band’s new studio, what attracts him to metal, the response to their Magma album and getting a chance to tour with Metallica. Check out the chat below:
Grammy-nominated Gojira, we have to say here, congratulations!
Oh yeah, I forgot.
Did you really forget?
I forgot [laughs]. It’s impossible to forget. People remind me that all the time and even my friends now, they’re not regular friends. They’re Grammy-nominated friends. Everybody is Grammy-nominated around me all of a sudden. Yeah – pretty excited about that.
You don’t have time for us regular people anymore, is that what you’re saying?
Yeah, I have to think about it. Part of me doesn’t really care, so yeah, no it’s great. It’s been a great trip, this whole Grammy thing. We play metal. We can’t just be chasing a Grammy, we have to go back to our serious matters here.
Well, you’re modest and it’s well-deserved. You guys have been working for a long, long time and I’m really proud of you guys. Let’s talk about your studio. You built Silver Core studio [in Brooklyn] and recorded Magma there. And now it’s available for other bands to use, yes?
That’s correct yes, it’s a great place it’s a place we built around that album, that Magma album. We knew the kind of vibe that we wanted, the kind of room for drums, ’cause like all musicians in metal know, that’s the key really to a good album is the proper room to record drums. So we kind of built the whole scene around that so it’s definitely a rock metal studio. It has like this ’70s vibe. I knew from the start if I was going to do this I would have to have to work with other bands sometimes and try to find clients for the studio to be able to pay the rent and stuff. So I am doing it, but it’s a bit of a pain. It’s difficult because between tours I have to take care of the studio a lot but I am getting to a point where it’s really really cool now and we have a lounge area and we have two different control rooms, a live room and I have a few people helping me. It’s really cool.
Why is it important for you to open your doors to other musicians?
I’m not in it for the money and I knew that too from the start like, “OK, this is going to be my business but it’s not going to make me rich really.” It’s just a place, a cool place to create because it’s so important. When I was living in France I had a place, it was my parents’ house. It was a big, big house and we always had our headquarters there and rehearsed and recorded all our stuff there. When I moved to the States I didn’t have that place anymore and I really wanted to create like a new headquarters for my activities and it’s also a great feeling when other bands come in and bring their own vibe. Working with other people is super exciting. I like to stay in touch with all the bands too, and have the opportunity to become a producer, too, by doing all that.
Magma opened the door for Gojira to incorporate different musical ideas and try different techniques. Why was this album the time to change the definition of what your band does?
It’s something that is a bit hard to define or explain … We never sat down around a table and decided okay it’s time to do new stuff or to change or to come down on the music. It was just like a natural completely organic thing, and we still argue a lot in the band. For like when we’re trying we bring up ideas and sometimes the rest of the band doesn’t like them and stuff so there is always this common ground that we have to find between all of us, and Magma is the common ground between the four of us at that particular time so that’s what it is. It’s like being spontaneous and being natural and trying to find the common ground in the band and we are lucky enough to have that same desire to be more mellow, I guess — more melodic too and more emotional. We have always been very emotional you know but this time more than ever.
Joe, you took chances with Magma, which paid off of course. The album was very well received. How has that reaction made playing so much of it on tour even more rewarding?
It’s so incredible what company we keep right now — the two last headline tours the one in the States with … when was that November / October I guess … we were in the States and the one we just did in Europe were both incredible. We played venues that we played before opening for bigger bands and all of a sudden we headlining and more people are into the band. That’s probably thanks to a few of the songs off of Magma like “Stranded” and “Silvera” and “Low Lands,” even the “Shooting Star,” they were kind of challenging but more easier to understand — more than the death metal we were playing before that and I am really glad it worked out.
At first there was a part of me was a bit concerned, “What if our fans were going to be disappointed, you know, because they want that crazy technical energy in your face kind of thing?” The thing is if they are disappointed it doesn’t matter. The only thing we have to do is be true to ourselves. We were a little tense when it came out and a few comments were like, “Ugh, oh my God,” but then how something is really taking shape you know we are feeling more and more comfortable with the new songs enough to care to sing onstage and I go for it and it’s great it’s really great it’s a journey.
Gojira lyrics have always reflected spirituality, which isn’t the typical message of most metal bands. What makes metal a good vehicle for transcendent ideas?
Hmm, I don’t know. For me, it just makes sense. There is something super free about metal. You know, there is like the whole gore satanic imagery you see in metal a lot of times is in a way like science fiction. There is science fiction aspects to metal. The music is really like Back to the Future, you know. We are like metalheads or like the tribe who thinks or is like an alien to more traditional genres and I think for me it means also imagination, spirituality and an end to the world through music and I like all of that. I like the freedom that I feel when I listen to metal. It’s something you can say, anything you can swear, you can talk about the thing or the most horrible thing and you have no limits when you listen to metal and to me that is what it does. It like makes me want to talk about whatever I want to talk and spirituality is … I guess you could do that with any kind of vehicle, you know? It could be through cinema, it could be through different genres of music but for me it’s metal and there are no rules really. I love metal. I love talking about spiritual stuff.
Gojira is going to be touring with Metallica this summer and that tour is going to introduce Gojira to lots of people who don’t know the band. What’s the biggest thing you hope people take away from seeing you for the first time?
I hope they will see an original band. I hope they will see something they have never seen before. It could be subtle, the energy and our sound, and I hope they will take away something cool and original and refreshing cause I know Metallica have a huge crowd. They have the old school metalheads, they have the new fans and then there’s like, almost random people that don’t know anything about metal but they know Metallica, they know a few hit songs. I hope that these people will be like, “Oh wow, what is this?” I hope these people will experience something original. We’re not able to bring the full production, so we’re a bit limited. It really comes down to the songs. We’re just going to try to play really well.
Some metal bands change the way people think about metal just by nature of challenging established norms. How do you think Gojira has made people rethink what metal can be?
Maybe for some of them, we just talked about the lyrics — the spiritual aspect. For example, on the Terra Incognita record, this song called “Love.” So I was really young and I was having this epiphany about life. Like, Oh my God, it’s so important to love the people around us. I had my big key moment there, but I was still a metalhead. I was trying to combine that and I think that could be one of the aspects of people rethinking all the cliches about metal when they listen to our bands because that song was called “Love,” and we still play that song. It’s a little weird for a metal band. Usually with metal, we call for bleeding to death or that kind of stuff. That song was really a reflection of the power of love — not in a cheesy way but in a romantic way, but in a universal, biological, spiritual way.
Looks like you have a lot of touring for most of the year.
Yes, it’s going to be intense. My wife isn’t too happy about it. She understands. We’re so excited. It’s starting off in the most awesome way, this whole album cycle. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the tour. It’s going to be great.
Thanks to Gojira’s Joe Duplantier for the interview. You can pick up the band’s ‘Magma’ album via Amazon and iTunes and look for them on tour at these stops. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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