A gradual career build-up and relentless touring are at the core of Gojira’s current success. Marcus J. West caught up with Joe Duplantier (guitars/vocals) to discuss the band’s touring rigours, the importance of gradual career building, his fondness of nature and opening for Ghost.
Gojira’s touring schedule has been gruelling just to say the least. How are you coping with it?
It’s hard… how do we cope with it… It’s a good question; it’s a question we have to ask ourselves every morning, you know? We are far away from our families, which is obviously the hardest part. But look, we have a table full of good food and wine, we’ll survive. It’s true though that as we perform every night, we need to reconnect with the reason why we are doing all this, why we wrote a particular song we just played. We try to stay in touch with the reasons and every song has to be performed as if it was the first time that we were performing it on that particular night.
The band’s rise in popularity is a very gradual affair. How do you think this approach differs from entering the music business with one hit versus building up your career?
It’s very, very different to have a hit and then been thrown onto huge stages all over the world and you are lucky if your band doesn’t break up because of so much pressure all of the sudden. We never had such a huge exposure when we started; it took us seventeen years to get there, day after day, month after month. We saw things coming, slowly, so by the time they got to us, we were more than ready for all that, like embracing a crowd of two thousand people and then one of ten thousand. Sometimes I wish we had one song that would make a difference and we would make our living more easily but you know what? I like it this way too, we are always on the edge, we struggle a little bit with money but I think this is healthy for a band.
Gojira has a very stable line-up. What is your secret?
I think It’s related to your previous question: because our popularity has been growing very organically, we have always had a view on what was coming and it has always been very bright, our future has always been promising. Also the fact that we are not doing drugs helps not being pulled down and being affected by lack of communication. The fact that we communicate a lot within the band and the fact that we always cannot wait to see our next steps, makes the band very strong. It may also have to do with luck, we are the right people together, we all have different personalities, some of us are quieter, some are louder and somehow it all works.
Gojira’s music is often labelled as “progressive”. What does the term mean to you?
I never use lots of technical word to describe music in general: it took me a long time to understand the term progressive to be honest even if I would hear it all the time. In the end I made my own definition: the song structure revolves not just around the verse-chorus-verse-chorus base, it reveals a story, something that is “progressing” which is definitely what we are doing. That’s how we perceive our music: we start a song and it is always as if we started a quest, a journey. So I agree with this term to identify Gojira: I would like to develop this gender even more, by creating songs where you never know what is going to happen, songs that keep you on your toes when you listen to them.
Despite the very hectic music schedule, have you started working on new material?
Actually we just started now while we are on tour. Usually we like to have our space, our gear and our strong coffee and a long time off. But we cannot afford this anymore you know? Our lives changed, we have started having families so we cannot really afford to spend eight months, broke and just composing, hoping to go on tour. Now our approach is more on…. let’s compose now that we are together, so on the tour bus we have a small computer and a small amp to record, sometimes we find a good riff or two. We are just starting to see and feel what the next record is going to be about.
Nature is one of the recurring themes in your music. Why?
I understand that we are nature. More than ever before I am having another perception of nature now, nature is not a political issue, it’s what we are. When we pollute nature we pollute ourselves, when we plant a tree, you are taking care of yourself somehow as we are completely one with nature. There is nothing in the Universe that was not already there in the Big Bang. I am kind of in-between the political fights to preserve nature and the spiritual approach that makes me become at peace with everything, even with wars and with pollution you know? I know that what I am saying is very strong but I am not so angry anymore. I am more into… ok why is this happening, why are we destroying blindly? I know that there’s got to be a reason but I am more at peace with the world right now, maybe age does that. Sometimes I feel that maybe I have lost the will to change the world. But it’s nothing like that. I think that what I am going to talk about in the next album is going to be more honest…we’ll see.
Last time you played here in London, Klone and Trepalium opened for you. Both are some very fine examples of French progressive metal. Which other bands can you recommend?
Yes, right after this show we start another leg of the tour with a band called Hypno5e, they are from the South of France. They are a fantastic band, they are all excellent musicians and have a very interesting concept. I am glad that there are so many bands finally rising from France. There has always been an underground scene since the seventies and the eighties but there were so many bands that for some reasons were never able to cross the border. It’s changing, the world is shrinking, and French people start speaking English a little more, slowly. I have good hopes that the French scene would rise and bring a contribution to the metal scene. There is this false belief in the underground scene that if you make it, you lose our soul and you sell out. So musicians always seem to get scared to get through this mis-conception so that they can see the light of the day. You know underground means under-ground, you cannot be scared to come out in the light and make it. People are afraid of success, they are afraid of love, because if they failed it would be terrible. You got to be a little crazy to make it big times, it’s a huge part of why bands do not succeed, that they need to overcome.
Finally, what are your thoughts about opening for Ghost? Both bands couldn’t be more different..
At first we were very surprised, now we really understand why this band has such a huge buzz right now, they have a very intelligent concept. People want to see them as they wonder who they are. I think also the fact that the ticket is so cheap allows big venues like the Brixton Academy here in London to be filled. There must be a lot of pressure on them right now, they cannot fuck up, and they have to deliver a great show which I am sure they will.
Marcus J. West