Interviews

GOJIRA’S JOE DUPLANTIER: THE OFFICIAL METALSUCKS BONER-FEST INTERVIEW

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gojira joe duplantierMeeting Gojira’s Joe Duplantier in person did little to quell my already raging man-crush boner for the guy and his band. Gojira’s The Way Of All Flesh — which ended up as both mine and Axl’s #1 pick for 2008 — is everything I look for in a metal album, or any piece of music for that matter. It’s smart, progressive, brutal, heady, artful, melodic, crushing, socially/environmentally conscious… I could keep going (and I have, on many occasions). It was no surprise then that Duplantier was just the kind of person you’d imagine would be responsible for such an album; smart, articulate, deliberate in his choice of words, and giving exactly the kind of answers an interviewer could hope for. That is, everything except the brutality; Duplantier was pretty much one of the most mild-mannered, soft-spoken metal musicians we’ve ever met. Which actually isn’t that surprising, considering he adamantly  opposes the slaughtering of baby seals and stands up for a number of other sociopolitcal and environmental causes (and always the right ones).

Axl and I caught up with Joe a couple of hours before Gojira’s set supporting In Flames in NYC this past December. We asked Joe about Gojira’s seemingly sudden success in the U.S., fan and press reactions to The Way of All Flesh, how he views his choice to write lyrics about social issues, his stance on combining politics with music, and the band’s plans for 2009. Our interview follows, after the jump.

You’re here in New York, and you are doing this tour with In Flames.  How long has it been going?  How has the reaction from the audience been?

It’s been 2.5 months now.  One month was in Europe and a month and half in the States.  It’s almost the end of the tour.  I think we have 2 gigs left.  We are all exhausted.  It’s good.  Everyday someone is falling on the ground.  We had a blast.  Everyone was really nice on the tour.  We all get along together.  The reaction of the crowd was really good every night, especially in Canada.  It was amazing.  We had 6 or 7 shows there, and it was just mind blowing.  Surprisingly, Los Angeles was good too.

What about New York?

New York is always good.

I know a lot of people who are very excited about this show.

Cool.  This is our 4th time in New York now, and each time it’s like “wow”.  This is not a spoiled city.  People are not spoiled here.  You see true people coming to the show.  Like people coming from the streets.  In L.A., for example, people are more spoiled.  They are more Hollywood.  I don’t know.  There is a special vibe here in New York.  Personally I love New York.

joe duplantierSince you guys are from France, and you’ve toured around Europe probably more than you have the States, do you think that the people in Europe are probably a little more familiar with you guys?  Is there a difference in the way European audiences greet you than the U.S.?

Actually it is almost impossible to compare Europe with the States because Europe is a bunch of different countries with different languages and cultures.  It is really different than here when you go from Ohio to New York.  Here it is the same country, and you have the same shows on TV.  It’s the same culture. Not everything, of course.  But in Europe, when you go to Sweden to Norway, it’s a whole different story.  They have different languages and crowds.  It’s really amazing to tour Europe for that.  For example, in Italy we did our first show on that tour, and it was amazing.  The reaction of the crowd was mind blowing.  We went to Germany, which is like going from one state to another for you guys, but the people were staring at us and wondering “who are those guys?  We need to know more about them and to take notes and think about it.”  Then one day we’ll go to Germany and they’ll be head banging.  So it’s really weird.  We got to work on Germany a lot.  We got to play there for three years again to get a good response.  We mainly played in France, Belgium, and Switzerland.  The French speaking countries in Europe.  The U.K. is also great for us.

How has the reaction been for the new material?

Pretty good.  We started the tour before the album was out.  So some people had it from the internet.  Now, especially in the States, it’s been really good with the reaction to the new songs.  We have a very long set that is close to 45 minutes.  We play 3 new songs, and the reaction is really awesome.

I don’t know if you follow any press on you guys, but it seems, at least here in the States, people love the new album.  Ourselves included.  Do you feel that or do you try to keep a distance from that?

We follow the press and the internet of course, but at the same time we keep a sort of distance.  We read the papers and when it’s good it’s good.  When it’s bad it hurts sometimes with the “it’s not original” and “these people are doing what Morbid Angel did”.  I hear that sometimes, but most of the time it is very positive.  We always keep a certain distance in order to stay honest and do what we do and be simple in our intentions.

gojiracoverIt seems like a lot of people, not just in the metal community, but in other music communities are talking about how this is one of the best records of the year.

Perfect. (laughs) That’s good to hear that.  I am excited.  It’s great to just be yourself and do your music and have people think that it is the best record of the year.  We are aware that people understand and appreciate what we’re doing, so it’s great.  It’s a great feeling.

A lot of the lyrical topics are environmental, political, and spiritual.  Does it bother you if some fans don’t pay attention to that and just want to mosh and bang into each other?

No it doesn’t bother me at all.  We are a music band.  We play music.  So people just enjoy themselves and head bang or have a circle pit in the show, that’s great.  That’s what we do for a living.  At the same time, that is our thing.  We have that in our bodies and minds.  It’s just amazing that we are able to put on a tour with the music that we really love.  So it’s already great.  On top of that, we have a message and if people pay attention to that, it’s even better.

Do you feel a responsibility to get that message out?

I think we all have a responsibility.  Every single human being has a responsibility.  I think that is a very important point to me.  I feel concerned about what is happening to the planet Earth, human beings, animals, plants, mountains and water.  I feel truly and deeply concerned.  I am a part of this whole universe, so I consider that when I have a chance to talk to a lot of people.  You have a bigger responsibility.  Every single person has a huge responsibility for what is happening right now.  We’re building this world.  To me, everything is really important.  We take the show not too seriously on purpose.  We’re like “bang your fucking heads.”  I’m not telling people not to waste energy and to do this and that.  I don’t want to be boring.  So we stay in this mindset in a rock show, but at the same time when we compose the songs and get off the stage, we know what we’re doing and what we believe in.  We try to put that in the music without telling people what they should do.

Are there other bands with a political message that you are inspired by?

To me when you have an opinion on something, it’s already political.  If you think that someone in the street shouldn’t beat someone else, you have an opinion on that and you are doing politics.  As long as you think, you are doing politics.  There is not one band in particular who influenced me in that way, but it is several things put together.  I love Morbid Angel, and they are not really political.  I love the band Death.  They have some mysterious lyrics that influenced me somehow.  One thing that comes to my mind is Rage Against the Machine, for example.  They like to say things and have commentaries.  So it is a bit of all that.

Aside from what you said about not wanting to preach onstage, when you’re off stage what are some things that you do or recommend for fans who want to get involved or be environmentally conscientious?

gojira joe duplantierI would recommend for people to get informed, especially on the internet.  It is really interesting for that.  It is interesting to know that there is a genocide in Tibet right now.  It is the most peaceful nation in this planet, and it is getting killed right now by Chinese people.  So when you buy something from China, you are somehow helping China destroy Tibet.  That’s a political thing that you can use to be aware of what you’re buying.  That is something people do everyday.  That is the real power; if you change your ways, and if you are aware.  Like if you go into a restaurant and you get soup with shark oil or something like that, you are supporting shark killing.  That is just a few examples of things you can do.  You can also save water when you wash your hands.  If you put your hands under the tap and then take the soap, the water is still running.  Then if you talk to someone, “la la la,” the water is going away.  Some people are like “so what, I pay my bills.  I can waste water.”  It’s another level.  Saving energy is in our hands and we can do that.  We can pay attention to all these little things.  If everybody was paying attention to this, it would change the whole world.  So it’s really powerful.  That’s what I’m trying to do in my own life, and it’s hard to pay attention to everything.  If you pay too much attention to everything, you just don’t move anymore.  You can have priorities and things that are really obvious.  I would say to be aware [is the most important thing].

What’s next after this tour?

After this tour we are going to take a 3 week break.  Then we’re going to rehearse for the headlining tour in France and Europe.  So it’s going to be a different story.  It’s going to be for an hour and a half.  We’re going to play a lot of the new album and have projections on our back and a big sound.  So we’re pretty excited.  It’s really different than being an opener for another band.

Do you enjoy getting personally involved in the production aspect of the show?

Oh yeah totally.  That’s what we do.  For me, for my part, I consider myself more of a producer than a singer or guitar player or composer.  Producing is really what we do with Gojira even when we compose a song.  When we get into the studio, everything is ready.  We know we’re going to play this riff five times and the chorus is coming.  Then we have a breakdown, and the outro is going to go like this for like 15.5 seconds.  We know everything about the songs before going into the studio.  So that is producing really.  Some bands will say “oh cool riffs” and then will go into the studio.  Then they’ll say “okay we have 600 riffs” and talk to a producer asking “what can we do with that?”  What we do is producing all the time.  We are producing ourselves with the artwork, the shows, the light shows, the videos, everything.  We are producers.

Are all 4 of you involved in that process?

I would say it’s mainly my brother and I.  We are really composing everything and producing.  The other guys are involved too, and the door is not closed to them.  We work together.  It’s weird to say this, but they’re fans of our work.  They bring a lot of energy and advice sometimes.  We share things, but it mostly comes from my brother and I.  That’s how it is.

Any plans to come back and do a U.S. headline tour?

Yes definitely.  We are really looking forward to doing that.  The next step for us is to be headlining a show in the U.S.  It’s a bit complicated because there are so many people involved in that like a booking agency and the record company.  Then with the schedule that we have: we got to go to Japan, Europe, and Australia.  So it’s really complicated to set the schedule, but we might be back around the summer or fall of 2009 for a headline tour.  Maybe it will be a co-headline tour.

Thanks a lot for doing this.

Thank you very much.

– VN & AR

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