The Power of Metal Webzineís Thomas meets the extremely sympathetic GOJIRA singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier before the bandís gig in Aarhus, Denmark. The talk circles quite naturally around Gojiraís fantastic ĎThe Way of All Fleshí release from last year as well as the general state of our troubled planet.
Thomas: First of all congrats on the release of ĎThe Way of All Fleshí. I take it reactions have been positive all around?
Joe: Thank you! Yeah, we usually have pretty good reviews and everybody seem to understand what weíre doing. Everyone understand it their own way and not always quite in ways we expect, but people seem to appreciate it which is great.
Thomas: Which track off the album is your favourite? For me itís a tie between Oroborus and Vacuity.
Joe: Oh, cool! Mine would be Esoteric Surgery and Adoration for None. No, wait, The Art of Dying. These two are more ambitious on the technical side and perhaps more epic. These two are my favourites to listen to and to play.
Thomas: The artworkÖwhat is that all about? You painted it, right?
Joe: To me it just represents what we are. I mean, itís a symbol of a human being, or by extension of a living thing. It could be a plant or an animal, but itís a human being, because thatís what we are, thatís what we have to deal with every day (laughs). Emotions and the physical body is a really tough thing to deal with and fix all the time. So the heart would represent the emotional part, and the bones and flesh and guts would be the body and the crown is like the aura and the spirituality of human beings, so itís a kind of representation of all the levels that represent the human being.
Thomas: Youíve said in other interviews that the underlying concept of the album is death and that itís been a soul searching for yourself and your fears of death as well. Iíve noticed that the word Ďregeneratedí appears a couple of times on the album. Is that the way you see life? Cycles, everything comes back?
Joe: Yeah, because I donít think of myself as a body or a piece of material. When I say ĎIí I think more of a memory and a presence and a consciousness and soul finally. So that is what I see in a person first.
Thomas: Is that the religious Ďsoulí or the Christian soul?
Joe: No, itís the scientific soul. I mean itís just a fact. Itís not that I believe or trust, itís just that I feel it. To me itís a biological fact. And to probably 95 % of the planet itís a fact that we have a soul and that we go through life and death with this consciousness and it doesnít disappear. And anyway we can think more than that Ė and also think that time and space are just notions and there is really no past and future. These are notions and there is a reality beyond that. I think itís pretty interesting to think that we maybe donít know everything. There are tons of things we donít know.
Thomas: It took you an awful long time to finish this album. Thereís a big time span between your albums? How come we have to wait that long for your albums?
Well, two years is not that long. It was three years between the two albums. We where a French band between 1996 to 2005 and then we became an international band and started to tour outside France. So this [From Mars to Sirius] was our first album to be released in the States and outside France. It took us one year to get the right contract with a label in the States. We toured a lot in France, Switzerland and Belgium and then the album was released one year after. And then it was two years of promoting the album outside Europe.
Thomas: So it was not just because of a long creative process, it was just as much business process.
Oh, yes, it was a lot of touring. So itís business of course, but itís also just sharing the music with people. But business is a big part of our life. And thatís a shame, but we have to deal with it. We have to have a manager and label. We have to play to the game a minimum if we want to stay a professional band and it takes a lot of time and energy. So we finally took like five months to compose this album.
Thomas: Oh, thatís not too bad. But you can live from your music?
Yes, yes, but itís pretty hard. We tour constantly. We tour, we compose, we record, we promote, we shoot videos.
Thomas: I read in the paper the other day that bands make their money on the tours today, not the CD sales as they did back in the day.
Joe: No, now itís the contrary. Albums promote the tour, we tour, thatís what we do Ė we put out albums to promote this live act. Itís a shame, because I really like the creative process of being in the rehearsal room and compose songs. Thatís what I really prefer. But we have to hurry, because we loose money. We should be on tour.
Thomas: Back to the more philosophical side of things: ĎYou have the power to heal yourselfí. Do you think we have reached a point where we canít heal ourselves, the planet, us as a race.
Joe: Weíre going through a critical point, there are so many thingsÖin French this would be easierÖit is a critical time. On the one hand thereís a saturation, on the other hand thereís an awakening of spirituality in humanity I think. I like to pay attention to that part. You donít see that on TV, but if you read books and are in touch with people who are into healing or other sorts of communication. I believe that we have amazing possibilities as human being and I believe that we e.g. through meditation can be in contact with even our own cells of our body and grow more conscious. Iím pretty sure we can reach amazing things and we donít need medicine or whatever for that. We can really heal ourselves, I believe that.
Thomas: I noticed on your Myspace site that Greenpeace is your number one friend. Do you think Greenpeace is relevant today? They were the big thing when we were kids, they were like the rebels, but now we donít hear about Greenpeace anymoreÖ?
Joe: Yeah, thatís why Iím more into Sea Sheppard now. Because theyíre still young and free. Paul Watson was one of the founders of Greenpeace, but he took another path and more into action. But Greenpeace represents something really powerful and thatís why we keep them as top friend. Itís a big organisation, and they have a powerful name and a lot of power without being political, and thereís a lot of money. Thereís a lot of contradictions and perhaps people do not agree with them anymore, but I still prefer to have them as a friend than other bands or politicians.
Thomas: Do you believe in alien life forms? [refers to the track Global Warming on ĎFrom Mars to Sirius]
Joe: Yes (laughs), yes I do. I think I am one. Sometimes I think I donít belong to this planet. There are so many crazy things that most of the time I donít understand whatís going on here. Since I was a little kid I was convinced that we were not the only living form in the universe. It would crazy to think that. Itís terribly naÔve to think that.
Thomas: Hmm, Iím not quite decided on that one.
Joe: I donít know, I might be wrong, but I donít care, itís just what I feel.
Thomas: When I look you, your lyrics, your imagery and everything, and I look at the rest of the metal market I find it hard to make the two match. I mean, the whole death and destructions, motorbikes and big trucks and all of what we see in metal. What is your take on this Ė why play metal?
Joe: What we want to express is quite different from the rest of the metal scene, but we want to use the same vector. Metal is a very exciting genre and itís like a playground with a lot of possibilities. The first time I heard metal I didnít understand it, like, this is just noise and makes no sense. Finally a cousin of mine introduced me to metal and said Ďlisten, listen hard, thereís melody and rhythm patterns in thereí. And I found out trying to play a Metallica intro and I sort of fell into the song and thought it was amazing. Itís powerful music where you can express things in a powerful way. The fact that we talk about respect and consciousness is one thing and itís pretty peaceful, but at the same time thereís an emergency on Earth because we have to fix a lot of things and we have to move on, we have to be on a different state of mind if we want to survive. The way we want to express this is metal. But we didnít really think about it. I started playing music with my brother and it was metal. I didnít really choose Ė it just came to us.
Thomas: Youíve existed for more than a decade, but you still have the same line up. Thatís amazing! How can you do that?
Joe: The fact that weíre brothers helps. We can communication through music very easily. We go through difficult times also, we have tensions, of course. If you really want to make it, you can communicate and talk and fix problems and it makes you stronger.
Thomas: Speaking of brothers: the Cavalera thing. What was that like and will it happen again? [Joe played bass on the Cavalera Conspiracyís ĎInfliktedí album]
Joe: Probably Ė probably, yeah. Max wanted to collaborate with Gojira. We played the same festivals some times, and he first noticed the t-shirts and thought Ďwhat is this tree?í and Ďthis band is pretty interestingí, and then he heard the music and thought we were amazing, and we were from France, so he thought it would be an interesting influence for his band. He first called our bass player, but he wasnít available at the time, so I said Iíd do it. He though it was a great idea that it wasnít a famous bass player. I know that the label told him that he could have someone like Steve Harris or Jason Newsted play the bass, but they [Max and Iggor] werenít into this. They wanted to keep the brothers as the main thing of the band and have like interesting collaborations on the side. For me it is amazing because Iím a big fan of Sepultura.
Thomas: You played with In Flames last year. Do you see yourselves as directly compatible with their more mainstream Gothenburg death metal style? How did the package work out?
Joe: Pretty well, actually. It worked pretty well. Expect perhaps in a couple of countries. Germany didnít work very well. It was really different from for example the UK where people were into both band, and the States were amazing. And Italy was fine. Spain, France. But Germany was really, really different. I donít know, they are really popular there and gathering 4000-5000 people in for example Cologne Ė and we had to deal with a really silent crowd staring at us [laughs]. But other than that it was really good. Also on the human side Ė especially with Anders [Fridťn, In Flames vocalist]. We talk for hours and hours. They are big fans of Gojira, and thatís why we were on the tour.
Thomas: Youíll be playing the Roskilde Festival this summer. What are your expectations?
Joe: My expectations areÖhaving a good time [laughs]. I hope that people will enjoy the show. We had a great, great feeling with the crowd when we were here for the first time two years ago. Iím looking forward to see if itís grown since then, maybe more people will come this time. When we come to a new country for the first time, we are always very attentive. Maybe the second time we come, more people will be there. Festivals are probably the best way to be introduced to a country.
Thomas: If you could put together the tour of your dreams, whoíd be on the bill?
Joe: Well, one would be Metallica, because they were the influence, thatís the heart, you know. But artistically, it would be Meshuggah, Mastodon, Tool, Gojira, because weíre fans of those bands.
Thomas: Are those the bands that are happening today? Where is it moving today?
Joe: Yeah, to me, Meshuggah for example are going in a very specific and so personal direction. I think itís interesting how they dig into this direction. They have a lot of passion and patience too. I think itís amazing how they put out so great music. When I listen to Meshuggah I cannot understand what they are doing, but I donít try to understand because what I like is that they take you and you have no choice if you want to go through the record Ė you have to trust them and they take you to a place that doesnít exist. Itís really amazing. Itís powerful, violent and emotional at the same time. I respect them so much. Tool are a bit the same way but more in a classic rock way. I like them for that too Ė they also take you to another world.
Thomas: How do you kill time on tours?
Joe: Iíd like to have time to kill [laughs]!
Thomas: Is it just the bus, sound check, eat, play, bus again?
Joe: Yes, but there are other parts that are more about how to deal with business. When we go on tour we have a lot of things to set up. For example, we have problems when someone leaves the crew we have to find another guy. Tomorrow we are going to the States, and we have to deal with the budget for that. We cannot bring our own crew because the fees are not that high. We bring two sound guys and someone for the promotion. But we have to find a light guy there, and that takes two weeks to find the right guy. We have to have band meetings and make decisions about the small amount of money we make; do we rent a mixer, do we keep the money for ourselves just to be paid a little bit, what do we do about the merch Ė we almost constantly deal with problems that people donít imagine or donít know happen behind the scenes. Thereís tonnes of things.
Thomas: So thereís no sightseeing?
No, definitely no. And Iím pissed off about it, because we travel the world and what we see is dark places [laughs]. Itís a bit frustrating. Right now I think we need a break, because we had like three years from ĎMars to Siriusí and we went straight to compose the next album, and we had to promote and go on tour. Thatís six months and more than one hundred gigs, now. We didnít take time for ourselves. We are far from families and friends and stuff, so our new family is the band and crew. We really need a break.
Thomas: Also, Iíd think itís a hard environment to be creative in because creativity often comes when youíre alone?
Joe: Exactly, and we have to be all together all the time, and therefore have to behave in a certain way Ė be polite and tolerant and forget a little bit of yourself because youíre in a bus and on a stage all the time. Itís hard to be in contact with your, I donít know, everything, sadness, brutality or spirituality you have to sometimes be alone. It never ever happens on tour.
Thomas: Do you have anything youíd like to say to our readers, a piece of advice perhaps?
Joe: Hold on tight to your dreams, because itís possible. When we started, everybody was telling us come on, youíll never make it Ė youíre just a bunch of French guys, itís not possible Ė and here we are in Denmark, and tomorrow we fly to the States. We travel the world, and really, it is an exciting life. I think itís important to realise that you can achieve what you want to achieve if you think positive! And lastly I want to say that weíre very happy to be here in Denmark!