Gojira’s Joe Duplantier: ‘We’re Not Selling Out’ by Evolving
Gojira's Joe Duplantier was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. The singer-guitarist is spending the summer with his bandmates on Slipknot's Knotfest Roadshow, and he spoke with Jackie about one of the summer's hottest tours.
They also touch on the band's longevity and camaraderie, their evolution as musicians and the inspirations that went into their Magma album. Joe also dispels a little bit of the notion that Jackie has about his life growing up in the French countryside. Check out the chat below.
Gojira are touring with Slipknot, Volbeat and Behemoth on the Knotfest Roadshow. I can't say enough about this bill. When it was announced, I was like, oh my god! It's very rare that you like every single band on the bill and it was just so exciting and I know I'm not the only person to think so. Tell me what you like about this lineup.
What I like about this bill is that even the opener could be the headliner. There's something about this bill, there's a little bit of everything, there's a little bit of the Polish darkness and the flames and the Satanic thing. We show up with all our French-ness, and stuff. Then Volbeat are definitely bringing another vibe that apparently the crowd [love] and Slipknot, of course, their big comeback.
I watched the show yesterday and it was incredible. Really tight, and super heavy. I am not like a huge Slipknot fan. I'm too old for that. [laughs] I listen to calm stuff. But I had the impression that Slipknot went more commercial than that but their show is super intense and technical and fast and heavy. So it's a fun bill and a fun tour. it's summer in the U.S.A. It's great.
Let's talk about the last Gojira record, Magma. It earned a Grammy nomination in 2017, actually two. First, how did it feel to be in the same category as Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, Blink-182 and Cage the Elephant. Obviously it's the heaviest record...
It's a bit weird but it's good. We like where we're going, you know, slowly, organically, our music is evolving with our taste and what we are is not just a metal band. We are a band and we're experimenting and growing and being comfortable with ourselves more and more. Just allowing ourselves to be ourselves. So it feels good.
It was great to be in that category. It means that the jury or whoever is deciding what's going to happen sees in us a rock band than a metal band. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing but for me, it feels right because that's how I feel these days.
So you don't like to be just be put into the metal category?
No, I don't have a problem with that either, you know. Whatever people ...
But it's nice to be considered broad in that way when you can be metal and rock?
Yeah. Ultimately, I like to think we're playing music, you know. Music. We're playing music.
Gojira is a musical band. [laughs]
Yeah, a musical band.
Let's talk about your records. They've reflected what's going on in your life at that time. Magma saw you and your brother becoming fathers, but also you lost your mother. I know there was much more to what became Magma but obviously I know there was a sadness there. I imagine that's cathartic for you guys but it must be hard to relive that when you perform those songs onstage night after night.
It isn't. It's cathartic like you said and it's therapeutic, and it's never going to go away. The fact that I don't have a mom anymore and what we've been through and cancer is a horrible thing, you see in movies people dying from cancer, but it's not like that in real life. It's way harder and it's kind of gore. It's super brutal. I've seen several people dying from cancer and we all know someone who died of cancer and we all know how horrible it is. When it's a parent, it's definitely a page in your life that you're turning, it's a huge thing. But now, we're playing these songs that are related to that event. The songs are evolving. The meaning of the songs can change as well.
So, they're companions to our journey through life and sometimes they take different meanings depending on what we go through and it doesn't bring the same emotion every show. It's a different emotion every show. We're so into our songs when we play them. Even the old songs from the first album, back when we were 17-years-old and now we're 40-something, we find a new meaning every time and that's what keeps them alive and fresh.
I can't imagine when Metallica are going through when they play "Seek and Destroy," you know what I mean? But they still own their songs and I'm sure they also put new meaning. "Seek and Destroy" could be "Destroy bank" or it could be "Destroy your demons," but you know what I mean. You could give a new meaning every time you play a song.
Gojira are made up of the same four band members for 25 years now. That is a long time to not have any member changes. What do you attribute that to?
I don’t know. I think our personalities, we're pretty tempered.
You get along.
We get along. Nobody's exploding every five minutes.
Is it a democracy?
Um, I don’t know what it is. We all come from the same area, so there's somehow an understanding of where we come from and the more it goes, the more it becomes precious. It's hard to be like, "Ah I'm gonna try something else now." No, it's a life. We take it. It's almost our mission because we're so blessed to be able to perform and play our music, we all feel the same. We have moments, ups and downs, some of us thought at some point, "OK that's it, I can't do this anymore. It's too hard, I want to be with my family and what not," but we always come back to, "Ah man, it's such a chance that we have." We communicate a lot. We're emotional people, so we have to communicate and somehow I think it saves us from keeping stuff [bottled].
Right, then you blow up. When you guys go over stuff, is it in text messages or in person?
A little bit of both.
I feel like in texting, that's where it all goes bad, right?
Exactly. [laughs] But since we live away from each other, sometimes we have to communicate through Skype, email and text. But there's nothing like a group meeting. We tour so much that we see each other all the time. Sometimes when we have something to say, the others wait for the tour.
I want to talk to you about what it's like to live in New York because you're from the French countryside. I always like to imagine that because you always told me where you were from, and I just imagine it's like it is in the movies. You're out in the beautiful wilderness, neighbors far from you ... I know it's different than in New York.
Whatever you're imagining, it's not that romantic. [laughs] I don't want to burst the bubble, but yes, it's incredible.
It couldn't be more polar opposite than what it's like living in New York. What has it been like adjusting to that lifestyle?
How can I say this? I had a pretty golden childhood living near the ocean and the mountains and there was a lot of nature. But there was also a lack of culture, concerts and exhibitions. There was a cinema where you can see some foreign movies, not translated in French. I had access to stuff but there was something in me, I was a bit frustrated for a lot of reasons. Also, with my mom being American I had this thing in my upbringing, I had that American influence from my mom and I was always intrigued. I loved her personality, she was always very outgoing and she was like fireworks.
So I always had that in me. I was, I was very attracted and intrigued by the United States and for me I went to New York several times. I have family in Pennsylvania and California and I always loved being in the States, so it was like a part of me belonged there. So for me, it was a natural thing. I didn't need to adapt at all. It was part of me was feeling at home finally, when the other part, of course, was leaving friends. It was kind of hard, especially being away from my dad and my sister and my friends. But I go back every year for at least a couple of days, so I don't lose this connection either. But I feel very comfortable in New York. It's hard. It's intense, it's expensive. So it's very hard to save any kind of money cause everything goes right up into the rent.
I'm glad I did that move. I'm really glad I did. My soul is fulfilled now. No, no. Maybe there's going to be another chapter. Maybe I'm going to move from New York to another place. I don't know.
When you say French countryside that it's like this beautiful romantic place and everyone is so friendly and nice to each other and you see people in the street and you're like, "Hey, good day." And they're like, "Hey, good day Joe." And then when you walk the streets of Brooklyn, New York, then you say, "Good day" to someone. They're like, "Hey, F U, what do you want?"
So listen, and I know it's going to be hard to believe this, but I lived 30 years in the same area and I never had that connection with small shops or groceries when I go buy the bread. You imagine, of course, the little railroad, the French bakery and the ... Oh, no, it wasn't like that. Why? What do you want sir? It was pretty, pretty cold. And now that I'm in New York, I discovered the community thing. I belong to a community. I'm in the neighborhood and because it's tough, people are helping each other out and the school where my kids go, I know all the parents and also becoming a parent is also a thing. So I discovered that thing where you go to a business and you know the person and they know you and it's amazing, it's in New York City and I discovered this human connection way more than when I was in the countryside in France, which is weird.
Just know that I'm from New York so I'm not putting down New York at all. I just imagine it must've been a big culture shock when you move from what I imagined the French countryside is.
I was destined to go there. My friends from friends, sometimes they go to New York. Well, how can you do this? It's crazy. But for me, it took five minutes to adapt.
You were like, all right. This is for me.
Maybe just from a past life for something. Maybe you are in New York or I think I was in New York and past life I'm, I'm coming back to my old self.
Last time we spoke about how Magma opened the door for Gojira to incorporate different musical ideas and try different techniques. Do you guys as a band make a decision like that when you're working on music together? Or does it happen organically? Do you have a conversation before you go in?
We do have a lot of conversations, but usually it goes the other way. Like we decided something and we do the opposite. So, it's, it's really organically that all of this happens. And I myself was working on a lot of demos on my own just for fun. I love recording, I love surprising myself with sounds. And Mario is doing the same. He's experimented with a little keyboard for a few years and did a lot of songs that just stayed in the computer.
We never released any of that. And I love to experiment. I love singing. I love the cold wave thing, and naturally, when you know how it is when you were a band, you start to be successful and you're, you're scared to disappoint the fans that your life depends on, you know? Completely the audience is our boss. If they don't show up at a show, we're fired, that's it. So there's that, that fear that bands have to disappoint their fans.
That is always there, and I think I somehow we got rid of that a little bit, which is good cause we stay real. And when some people think, "Oh, you guys are selling out because now you're singing," it's actually quite the opposite. It's we're not selling out where we're being ourselves and evolving.
And there's nothing wrong with evolving. You need to, you grow up, you change, you evolve as a human being. Why not evolve as a band, as a musician, as an artist?
Yes. And I also think there's nothing wrong with singing and with simplicity.
There's nothing wrong with you singing. You have a lovely voice, Joe. [laughs]
Thank you. Thank you very much. I'm going to keep doing that.
Thanks to Gojira's Joe Duplantier for the interview. You can catch the band on tour at the dates listed on their website and pick up the 'Magma' album here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s radio show here.
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