Interview with Joseph (Joe) Duplantier by Thor
Archive photo: Zoran www.sonic-shot.com[html] Gojira is on the rise. 2008 saw the release of the French ensemble’s critically acclaimed fourth album, The Way of All Flesh, and 2009 seems to be theirs for the taking. Gojira recently embarked on an extensive headlining tour, and on the 27th of April, they dropped by Copenhagen, Denmark. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Joseph Duplantier–an opportunity I wouldn’t miss for the world.
After being welcomed into his office, Joe and I immediately started discussing the intricacies of my voice recorder.
Metal Revolution: It’s not very high tech, but it gets the job done.
Joe: It works? Okay.
MR: First of all, welcome to Denmark. Are you enjoying your stay in Copenhagen so far?
Joe: Yes, very much. We arrived here yesterday because it was a day off. I had good food here! People are very nice and everything is going great. I was even thinking yesterday that I’d like to come for a weekend–maybe next year or something–when I have more time to relax. It’s a very nice city.
MR: You have a very rigorous schedule right now.
Joe: Oh yes–I’m very, very busy.
MR: Gojira’s been a force majeure in the French scene for a while now, but this is your first significant headlining tour, internationally. Is it everything you had expected it would be?
Joe: When we started as a band… [points at my primitive voice recorder] Is it working?
MR: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.
Joe: Well, we thought it would be a little bit easier because our parents were like “oh, this is good music [claps with approval]”, so we were ready for stadiums, arenas, stuff like that. [laughs] We found out that we needed to be very patient; that it takes a lot of time to make a name for yourself as a band. This tour right now is very, very important for the band. It’s a big step that we’re taking–we know it, and we think about it every night when we get on stage: “This is our first time headlining in this country!” It’s really, really important to us; it means a lot.
MR: Has the crowd response been what you wanted?
Joe: It’s been fantastic. Really, really good. We get small crowds sometimes–in the German part of Switzerland, for example. 100 people or so. Same thing in Germany in Bielefeld. The rest of the clubs were not too bad in Germany: 300, 400.
MR: You played 6 places in Germany, right?
Joe: Yes, yes.
MR: Did you see a lot of familiar faces?
Joe: I didn’t notice that… Oh, yes! One guy. But, oh, he was the promoter for the shows. [laughs] But for example in the UK, where we played like 15 gigs, it was really good. A sold-out show in London. We were a little bit scared because we used to tour, opening for bigger bands, so it’s our first time headlining; it feels great. I love it because we’re able to show what we are, with the proper set, ambience, the stage.
MR: People don’t really get the full Gojira experience when you have to condense the concert.
Joe: Yeah. When we opened for In Flames, for example, we had to play like 35 minutes to 40 minutes.
So, yeah, it really means a lot for us to be doing this tour. The people who come to all the shows, they want to see us play. Even if it’s small, it’s always an intense crowd.
MR: Now that you’re the top dog, you also have to bark the loudest–and the longest. Has it been hard work?
Joe: Yeah, it’s more tiring. For example, usually I never take naps; I never sleep during the day. But on this tour, I always have to go to bed for an hour or twenty minutes, because it’s very tiring. We do more press, also.
Joe: [laughs] No, don’t be sorry–we need it! We need to promote our band, so it’s really great you guys are here. Also, we have to give more on stage, and we play twice as long, so it’s more exhausting.
MR: Yeah, you just played 14 consecutive shows before you had that 24-hour vacation yesterday.
Joe: It was really, really intense. Before that, it was a UK tour. Before that, it was a French tour. Before that, it was a tour with In Flames in Europe and the US. So it’s six months of touring all the time… I’m not a human being anymore; I’m just a… thing. [laughs]
MR: [laughs] And next month, you’re playing in the US.
Joe: Yes, and we fly directly to the US. Tomorrow is the last show of the European show. We fly to the US and the day after is the beginning of the US tour. It’ll be 23 shows or something.
MR: Aside from there being a lot of land mass over there, is there a sort of marked difference when playing in the United States? Crowds, the general attitude towards your music, etc.?
Joe: Yeah. Playing in the States is really unique, really special, because the country is so big. It’s like a continent, basically. But it’s the same market, it’s the same language, it’s the same rules. Well, sometimes it changes a little bit from one state to another, but it’s really amazing to tour such a big country. We do the same in Europe, but we take a boat and everything changes: The language, the money… So it feels different. Market-wise, it’s really good for us in the States–it’s doing better than in France now, and we’ve played 12 years in France, and only 4 years in the States, so it’s good for us to be there.
MR: Did you ever foresee Gojira blowing up the way it has since the release of From Mars To Sirius?
Joe: I kind of felt that we would go somewhere. Since the very beginning, we liked to think that we could make it. Make what, I don’t know, but… “make it”, you know what I’m saying? Live off of our music. Play enough to be known by people on the other side of the planet and share this music with everybody. That anyone can access our sound… this is really rich, this is really… it feels great; I’m really happy to be able to tell someone “go on the web and check and you’ll find the music”. It feels great.
MR: Now that you’re establishing yourself, have you ever thought of taking Bayonne-based bands under your wing and giving them the exposure that you’ve had?
Joe: Of course. Not Bayonne, specifically, because there are not a lot of bands there. But not far from there, there’s an excellent band called Manimal–they’re from Toulouse–they’re very, very good. They’re composing their third album right now. They’re not really known outside of France; we’d like to bring them to the States. Another band called Dagoba–they toured with In Flames and Sepultura, also–we’d like to bring them to the States. And there’s another band, a death metal band called Trepalium, we toured with them in France but we’d like to bring them outside of France, too. But we have to be strong enough in the market to be able to do that, because if we’re not strong enough, we need other bands already famous to tour with so that they’ll bring more people in.
MR: Have you met the guys from Vira and The Burning? (the opening acts for Gojira’s gig in Copenhagen)
Joe: We just shook hands. We didn’t talk–they just arrived like an hour ago or something.
MR: Is that generally how it is with the opening bands? Just a handshake?
Joe: Sometimes, yes–unfortunately! Usually we tour with two bands and it takes a week to know all the names, but at the end of the tour, it’s just a big family where everybody knows everybody. There’s a good [bond of] friendship going on, it’s really cool. But when we change every day, it’s really weird: “Who are these guys? They’re the opening band? Oh! Hi!” and you have to warm up and do this interview and do this and that, and then you leave: “Bye bye, guys!” You don’t know them, really. Sometimes, there’s no contact at all. Sometimes, it’s direct, good friendship. It depends.
MR: You’ve said The Way of All Flesh is about death and mortality. Was this concept a collective thing for the whole band, something you’ve always pondered about, or was there a specific incident that made you think “I’ve got to write The Way of All Flesh“?
Joe: Yeah, the specific thing is that I turned 30. [laughs] On my birthday, I was like “Man, I’m 30 years old. This is bad… Your life is -over-.” [laughs] Â
MR: I felt the same when I turned 20!
Joe: Just imagine when you turn 30! How old are you?
MR: Well, err, 20–but I still feel like I’m dying!
Joe: [laughs] 30 is like… c’mon, fuck that! I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m not in my twenties anymore… I’m like, “what am I? I’m an adult? This sucks!” So, now I have to have a life, you know? Get a job, do something… But I’m a musician, it’s fine; I have my job.
MR: Hey, you can be young at heart always.
Joe: Exactly! I’m just kidding… but not completely. I had dreams of me dying, losing my teeth; my body would fall apart. I dreamt of that and just woke up in the middle of the night–two-three times–sweating, and I’m like “I. Am. Going. To. Die.” You know what I’m saying? And my body is already falling apart. If I want to pick up something on the floor, my back hurts sometimes. Like, fuck, you know? I’m 32. It sucks. So, I’m about to become an old person. I’ll be 40 in just 8 years. And then, what, 50? And then I’m dead, right? So it definitely sucks, but I have to accept that; everyone has to accept that. If you think about it, time is not still. It’s moving on all the time. The body and the world is changing constantly. You have to accept that you cannot count on anything, because everything is vanishing, basically. It’s something, you know, it’s a reflection of life in general… and that’s the way of all flesh. The way of the flesh is to return to dust, so it’s really inspiring, because if you accept that, you become calm. You don’t need to look younger, you don’t have to fix your face or anything…
MR: No… [smooths face out so as to beautify oneself] Joe: [laughs] –Plus, if you accept that you’re going to die, you face your own death, and you accept that the moments you spend in your life, you just have to appreciate. You can share with people what you have–you don’t have to keep everything for yourself, because you’re not going to bring it to the other side. I also believe in the immortality of the soul, because I believe in the soul. If you believe that you have a soul, you can wonder what’s going to happen to your soul; the memory of what you live now will remain somehow. That’s what I believe… I mean, it’s not that I think, it’s that I believe–it’s different. So it’s a lot of reflection about all this.
MR: I actually have the dreams about my teeth falling out, also, so I can totally follow that.
Joe: Really? It’s fucking scary!
MR: Yeah, that’s the worst…
The opener off of The Way of All Flesh, “Ouroborus”, about the whole cyclical thing–is that what you believe humanity is?
Joe: Basically. It’s the cycle of lives. You’re born, you die, you’re born, you die–
Joe: –while the souls are evolving like this [emulates a hurricane gradually moving upwards via hand movements]
MR: Do you believe your destiny is predetermined or that you have a hand in creating your own destiny?
Joe: I think there are forces or influences from the planets… something is written somehow, but we have our own will, and we can change things, so… I don’t know how to answer that, really, but I like to think I’m creating my own life, and every moment can be a big decision to take hold of your life.
MR: You seem to have a–no pun intended–set setlist at the time being. Have you found the right setlist for this tour?
Joe: Yeah, we’ve found the right setlist for the whole year.
MR: For the whole year?!
Joe: [laughs] Not exactly, but almost. It’s really, really hard to find the right opening song, especially when you have four albums. We’re not the kind of band that can say “”oh, tonight we should play this one” “okay, let’s go!”” because we have to rehearse. Because we go from Switzerland to Denmark, it doesn’t matter, because they will still have the surpri–well, they can see on Youtube. Fuck Youtube, man! Shit.
MR: [laughs] With four albums worth of materials, do you think there are some songs you’re never going to revisit live?
Joe: Yes, because they’re not appropriate for the live show. Too technical–not technical in the way that we cannot play it, but more like I’m not sure it’s going to work. But maybe we’re going to play all of them eventually.
MR: Yeah, you can do a Maiden tour in 30 years.
Joe: [laughs] Yeah.
* The tour manager steps in; it looks like we’re going to have to wrap it up.
MR: I understand; that’s fine.
Joe: Oh, you’re done? You’re okay? You want a last question, or?
MR: Yeah. Lemme see… If you’re Godzilla, who is Mechagodzilla?
Joe: [laughs] Mastodon.