Metal Special: Gojira
Guitarist and vocalist Joe Duplantier on how France’s biggest metal export clawed their way to the topFeatures July 13, 2012
Let’s play word association: France. Baguettes. Wine. Fashion. Metal? “Unlikely, I know. France has no tradition of metal bands at all,” says Joe Duplantier, the soft-spoken frontman and guitarist of French metal band Gojira, in a phone interview from Paris where his band was performing, “It’s definitely not among the first things you’ll think of when you think of the French.” But that’s changing and it’s entirely because of this band from a sleepy little village near Bayonnein the south west of the country.
Despite having formed in 1996 and releasing two albums – Terra Incognita in 2001 and The Link in 2003 – it wasn’t until the release of their 2005 album From Mars to Sirius that the band began to make ripples on the international metal scene. But Gojira truly exploded into public consciousness after the release of The Way of All Flesh in 2008, helped also by the fact that Metallica handpicked the band to open for them on their North American dates in 2009.
But despite the hype surrounding the Metallica tour, Gojira members already had a history of high profile collaborations. Joe Duplantier was part of the first lineup of the Brazilian heavy metal band Cavalera Conspiracy, featuring brothers Max and Igor Cavalera whose former band Sepultura had been a huge influence on Gojira’s sound. “It was an incredible experience, something I would not have dreamed of,” says Duplantier. “I was like a little kid and these were my heroes.” That Duplantier quit Cavalera Conspiracy to focus on Gojira seems to have worked out tremendously in the band’s favor – in 15 years Gojira hasn’t seen a single lineup change.
The band are also known for their passionate eco activism. Though it’s not new to metal bands – Napalm Death, Carcass and Heaven Shall Burn, among others, have all championed socio-eco-political causes – few have embraced it as fervently as Gojira have. The band have spoken out publicly against activities like whaling and are also huge supporters of Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation outfit, known as much for their controversial tactics as for their collaborations with celebrities like Brigitte Bardot and Sean Penn. The band have even recorded an EP Sea Shepherd – the proceeds of which will go to the eponymous organisation – which will hopefully see release later this year.
Gojira also released their fifth studio album L’Enfant Sauvage in June, 2012. They will kick off a North American tour in August, 2012 with Lamb of God and Dethklok. Duplantier spoke to ROLLING STONE India about Gojira’s new album, his passion for the environment and growing up in a metal band in non-metal France.
The Way of All Flesh came out in 2008 and it’s been a very busy four years for you till L’Enfant Sauvage. Quite a lot changed for the band. Did the changes impact the band and this album?
It was a very busy time, yeah. On Way of All Flesh we toured a lot and we had the opportunity to tour with Metallica, so that was a big challenge for us, a big deal, because it’s not easy to do but then we did it, once. And then we were like, “This is the time for us to really do the new album” and then they called us back again so we pushed the new album for later, we went on tour again with Metallica. So this is one of the reasons why it took so long and all this experience made the music more mature, we evolved through these experiences, being on tour and I think you can feel that in the new album.
Where did the idea for L’Enfant Sauvage come from?
Well, I think it’s a good way to describe ourselves, what we are, and this is the first time we’re doing this in an album. I mean we usually write and think about the human soul and the future of humanity in general and the mysteries of life and the stars and the universe and all these things [laughs] and for the first time, on this album, I felt the need to talk about what we are as individuals in society and how we view ourselves. L’Enfant Sauvage – the translation would mean “the wild child”. It’s a child who grew up in the forest like Mowgli, you know. Tthat’s how we feel pretty much. It’s also interesting because behind our names, our first names and last names and the social security numbers and our appearance and all that, what are we? Deep inside, in the centre. And that’s what L’Enfant Sauvage is – the core, the essence of the human soul –and we like to express that as much as possible.
(Pick up the July, 2012 issue of ROLLING STONE India to read full story)