Shifting into interstellar overdrive with Gojira
By Austin Powell,
11:33AM, Thu. Feb. 15, 2007
Lamb of God’s Sacrament tour, which blesses Stubb’s on Sunday, features one of the best four-band lineups in recent memory. One by one, they will march Into the Void. Opening act and France’s next big thing, Gojira, spews galactic death metal with Prosthetic Records debut From Mars to Sirius. Singer and guitarist Joe Duplantier is the first to take the plunge.
Into the Void: Gojira as a whole seems to be very socially and economically conscious. Was it a bit of a culture shock the first time you experienced the American lifestyle?
Joe Duplantier: Actually, my first experience in the States wasn’t with the band. I came when I was 13 years old to visit one of my uncles, so I feel good in the States. I’m used to it. France is such a different culture, so I think we were actually just very, very excited to come to America as a band. The first tour was a great experience.
ITV: The band has been tearing it up for quite some time now. What took so long for Gojira to reach to the States?
JD: When you want to become a doctor or a lawyer, it takes about 10 years to learn your practice. It’s the same thing with a rock band. If you want to be strong, you have to give it 10 years. We’ve toured a lot in France, Belgium, Europe, but honestly we were never ready, not just as musicians, but as human beings. We had to learn how to deal with the tensions in the band to be the best that we can be.
ITV: I can only imagine the familial tension between yourself and your brother, Mario. When did the two of you first start playing music together?
JD: When Mario was 8 years old, he was banging on buckets and plates. I decided to pick up the guitar when I was 15 years old and he was 10. We started to play rock and metal when he was 13 years old. It was pretty early. We’ve always had music in common since we were very small children.
ITV: What first introduced you to metal when you were growing up in France?
JD: Metallica. I don’t know what you call it there, but for us it was in college, the years before high school. What is the name when you’re about 13 years old?
ITV: It’s usually middle school that separates high school and elementary.
JD: Well, until then we listened to rock music and pop music, but no metal at all. When we discovered Metallica it was just pure shock. At first I didn’t understand – What’s the matter with this guy? Why’s he screaming so loud? Then one day it just clicked. I tried to play the intro to “Fade the Black” from the Ride the Lightning, and since that day, I’ve been addicted.
ITV: Your beginnings remind me of a video on YouTube of these two young kids, who also appear to be brothers, just ripping through Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist.” Have you seen it?
JD: Yes! I saw that! That was totally me and my brother.
ITV: When did Gojira really come to form, and what was the scene like in France when you were first starting?
JD: We lived in a small town called Bayonne that’s near the southern border of France, and there was a little scene there that was half-French, half-Spanish. When I was in high school, we all went to a lot of gigs and concerts in this area. Once I started playing with my brother, it’s been a continuance. When Christian Andreu came in as the second guitarist, things really came together. Now he seems like a third brother.
ITV: I read that you lived for two years without electricity or running water in a cabin. What can you tell me about that experience and how it came about?
JD: When I was a child, I lived in an old house in the forest with my parents. I was always in the forest building little cabins and dealing with animals. When I was 24 – that was six years ago – I don’t know how to say it, but I felt like I wanted to get back to the forest again. I wanted to experience what I did as a child again. I love nature. It’s not a concept; it’s not a part of my intellect. It’s something very physical that I feel. So I finally decided to build myself a cabin. There was no water or electricity, of course. I spent two years there with my girlfriend. It was a great experience. It wasn’t something spontaneous or something separated from the rest of my life. Being close to nature is a part of my life.
ITV: In terms of your lyricism, there seems to be a repeating theme regarding other worlds or realities and this lightness throughout. It seems like you're talking about something that’s a little bit more spiritual.
JD: I don’t really like to talk about God. It’s a very strange word to me. I like to talk about light. We can call it energy or whatever, but I believe there is something else other than what you and I can see. If you just watch the stars, your imagination can work very quickly. It’s simple questions: Who am I really? Why am I here? Where am I going? There’s nothing very extraordinary about those thoughts, but I like to talk about them, instead of just pain and suffering, blood and monsters. I just try to be honest with my lyrics.
ITV: One particular lyric stuck out to me in “Global Warming”: “Four hundred thousand years ago, they came from outer space and gave us life here. We are taking everything for granted.” Who is the "they"?
JD: I don’t remember exactly. I was just reading a book about aliens. It’s just a song; it’s not politics or whatever. I wrote it to a certain image. I believe aliens came onto this Earth and gave us life. I know it’s a bit strange, but I like to imagine things. There’s nothing that proves aliens exist, but there’s nothing that disproves it, either. I felt that was something worth exploring.
ITV: What does it mean for Gojira to play with a band like Lamb of God, who banks off portraying religion in a more negative context?
JD: To me, there’s no problem. I respect them. Look at a band like Cannibal Corpse. There’s no message in their music, just energy. They talk about getting fucked with a knife or mutilated with barbed wire, but it’s okay for me. I just want to talk about what matters to me. I believe in freedom and respect. I don’t want to be a preacher; I just want to express myself.
ITV: What was your first encounter with Randy Blythe?
JD: We met in Paris. He was on tour with Slayer for the Unholy Alliance last year. I met him in the dressing room. We were in touch previously through e-mail saying, "Hey Joe. I love your band. You’re fucking awesome." I was honored because he’s a big rock star. When we met in Paris, I knew that he was very close to nature, also. He goes to the jungle and survival training camps and stuff, and he learned how to light a fire with his hands. So we started to light a fire in the dressing room in Paris. We share the same kinds of feelings on that kind of stuff. People of the place were pretty mad at us, though.
ITV: That’s wild.
JD: Then we met in the States in November, and he came onstage with us and sang a song.
ITV: I hear a lot of American metal influences in Gojira’s music. Is that why you choose to sing in English, or is that something you have to do in order to gain worldwide exposure?
JD: I don’t feel especially French. I was born and raised in France, but my mother was born in the States and my dad’s French. She would speak to me in English, and after that, I discovered American rock music. All of the best metal bands are from the States, except for a few really great bands that are from England. Pantera, Metallica, Fear Factory, all of those bands from the Eighties, those are the ones that influenced us, so that’s why I sing in English. Then, once we had the ability to release an album with extended distribution, the English is what allowed it to get picked up.
ITV: From Mars to Sirius was released in late 2005 overseas. Are you guys working on any follow-up material?
JD: The next thing is to hit the States. We’ve got 40 gigs there and 30 in England, which doesn’t really leave us a whole lot time to write or record. We have ideas. We have riffs. That’s all.