Joe Duplantier (of Gojira) Interview
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music.
Gojira will be playing the Myth in Maplewood this Wednesday, taking the stage with All That Remains, 36 Crazyfists and In Flames. Recognized as one of the greatest French Death Metal bands of all time, Gojira recently released its fourth studio album to a wave of critical acclaim. Prior to taking its world tour to North America, guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier caught up with Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine to hash over some of the band’s history and tour highlights in addition to determining once and for all who the best band in the world is.
I’d like to start with something that I find absolutely interesting. In 1999 the band changed its name from Godzilla to Gojira. Did this have anything to do with that god awful Matthew Broderick movie that came out in 1998?
Joe Duplantier: Yes. When this movie came out it really destroyed the image we had of Godzilla. We liked the fact that this character was not too famous and it had this mystical flavor from eastern culture, almost mythology. We were pissed off and wanted to change our band name and call it Gojira (the original Japanese pronouncement) when we received a letter from an American lawyer asking us to forget about that name. It took us five minutes to decide to adopt Gojira.
There’s also a UK Drum and bass group that goes by Gojira. Have you guys ever confronted them about it?
Joe Duplantier: No we don’t know them and never talked to them but I think it’s not a real problem since we don’t play the same music at all.
The idea of having a French metal scene is something that just seems odd to me. I’m originally from Canada, and I still have a hard time identifying heavy bands with the country. Is there any sort of metal scene in France? How about something even heavier like a black or death metal scene?
Joe Duplantier: In France we have a tradition of underground Black Metal bands and some pretty good “French singing social political concerned bands” like Trust from the 1980s or Lofofora from the 1990s. These bands still play and draw pretty important crowds. There is also what we could call a new scene with bands like Eths, Psykup, Black Bomb A, Manimal, Klone, Ultra Vomit, Hacryde and a lot of good solid bands that represent a “new wave” of french metal…
How important is it to you that the original lineup is intact after roughly 12 years?
Joe Duplantier: I don’t know, I guess it’s a sign that our intention as a band is very strong since the beginning and also I could say that we work a lot on a human level, our goal is to have a good life, we want to be a good band and feel well-adjusted in this project. We have band meetings when we’re on tour so each one of us can express himself, and we try to communicate anyway as much as possible.
Had the band had any relationship with either Igor or Max Cavalera before you were recruited for the Cavalera Conspiracy?
Joe Duplantier: Not really but we were all big fans of Sepultura and it’s been a big influence for our music. We played with Soulfly at European festivals several times and Max told me that he liked Gojira live a lot and that was the reason he got in touch with us.
Another band associated with Gojira is Empalot. There is very little information available online about that band though, what’s one thing we should know about Empalot?
Joe Duplantier: Empalot is the best band of the world. It’s a crazy project we had, my brother and I, with close friends from my high school thrash band. We played pretty intensively between 1999 and 2004. Imagine nine people on stage, two basses, one guitar, percussion, drums, keyboard, saxophone, strange voices, and a mix between Frank Zappa, Nirvana, Tom Waits and Cannibal Corpse with a little bit of weird cheesy melodies. Every show was totally different, we would create a different atmosphere with different invented characters, fake names and crazy outfits like robots, clouds or dinosaurs. It’s been a fantastic experience, and we had so much fun. We could draw 1000 people in our home town. We’ll maybe release something when we’ll have time.
Gojira has played with an amazing array of bands ranging from Cannibal Corpse to Amon Amarth to Immortal. That being said, one thing that distances Gojira from the rest are the themes used in the band’s songs. Could you tell me a bit about the environmental focus on The Way of All Flesh?
Joe Duplantier: I would say that we feel concerned by the situation on earth and we try to bring some hope on a certain level instead of just saying that things go wrong. We try to put some positive intention in the music and lyrics to make a difference somehow. We consider that being part of a band and release records is a great chance to give a constructive point of view to our fans. But this album is not only about the environment but more about the soul and the notions of mortality and immortality.
The new album seems to be universally respected amongst critics, Kerrang giving the album 4/5, Metal Hammer 9/10 and About.com 4.5/5. Do you guys care about critical accolades at all?
Joe Duplantier: Yes of course, it’s a great feeling. It would be a lie to pretend we don’t care… even if it’s probably “cooler.”
On the current tour the group is playing with 36 Crazyfists, All That Remains and In Flames. What have been the highlights of the tour so far and what can we expect to see at the Twin Cities show on November 12?
Joe Duplantier: The shows in Europe were amazing… It was interesting to be confronted by about 15 different countries in just one month. The atmosphere between the bands was also pretty mellow… I would say the highlight for Gojira was the show in Lyon (France)… For In Flames, I would say all the shows in Germany. We’re about to come to America for the second chapter… It’s going to be brutal!