Gojira’s Joe Duplantier Talks ‘Magma’ Album, New York City, Changing Style + More
Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show. The vocalist / guitarist discussed their new record, Magma, relocating from France to New York, evolving the band's sound and their plans to tour in support of the record. Check out the chat below:
How are you?
Hello Jackie, I'm good. Thank you very much.
Calling in from France this evening, so thank you. [laughs]
Yes. I'm in France right now preparing for European summer festivals and some club shows for the whole summer.
It looks like you guys have a very busy summer. Obviously we've got this new record, Magma, and there's going to be a North American tour. Really looking forward to that here in the States, that kicks off in late September. Let's talk about Magma. Joe, what was the most difficult thing about incorporating sadness into Magma?
It was a rough time for me and my family. Mario and I were in the middle of recording the first few tracks. The drums were in the box and when I was doing guitars my mom was in the hospital and that was a really rough time. So, as usual when we compose songs and we try to be honest with ourselves and our emotions and deliver whatever is in us in the songs. So it was not an effort to put any kind of emotion in the songs, it's just what we do naturally. There is sadness, yes, but there's also other things. It was a learning experience, the passing of our mom. She taught us a lot and the way she faced her own departure was really a big lesson for us because she was very brave and loving.
This album is really about that experience in the end, even though it didn't start like that, but it became that. I'm really glad that I was able to express myself and to write and to come up with atmospheres and melodies and direction to this album while I was in that process. It was really helpful. Every album is a page we turn in our life and very therapeutic. Real therapy for us, this music. It all makes sense in the end, it's like steps in life and that's one more step.
You've been living in New York, tell us, how has New York culture changed the way you express yourself through music.
New York is incredible. The entire world meets in New York and that's what I like about the city. I've been living in New York for almost 6 years now and raising a family there. It's a bit crazy, and it's a bit expensive. It's an urban jungle, but it is a big influence on the music, of course. Every single thing that we go through during the day when we go in the studio and you're surrounded by a different atmosphere or landscape, different vibes, it influences the music for sure.
I couldn't really say how, exactly, but for sure my life changed and it's more of a hassle, every day to make it and pay the rent and to get all these parking tickets [laughs]. So, in a way music is more electrified and connected to the international community somehow. My neighbors — I live in a building in Brooklyn where I think there's almost no Americans. There are just people from all over the world. It is in America, but at the same time, the whole word is right there. It's a good influence, I like it. It's very stimulating.
There's no city like it in the world.
I know you're from New York, right?
So you know what I'm talking about.
Oh, absolutely. When I go back and visit now it's rough because I've been sensitized or sissified by the West Coast [laughs]. But there's definitely no city like it in the world.
It's pretty special, that's true.
Joe, half the band lives in the States and the other half still lives in France. What's the best and worst things about that distance?
The worst thing is that we can't see each other all the time but the best thing is that we don't see each other all the time. [laughs] At the end of the day we still spend half of the year together on a tour bus or onstage. Sometimes yes, we'd like to have a band meeting or hang out and talk about something but for that there's Skype and there's other ways. Really, I don't think we suffer from that.
The reason why I moved, also, to the [United] States six years ago is because I wanted to. A part of me needed a change and I was really attracted by New York City and I've been in love with New York for years. So for me being there, it makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I belong there and I needed that in my life. I needed a change, so in the end, it's better overall.
Every member of the band is exactly where he's supposed to be. The first years, I remember we were rehearsing every Wednesday or every weekend and we'd play a show together and build the foundations of the work together, our music. After a while we started to go on tour so much that wouldn't really hang out between tours because we needed to experience other things outside of touring. So, it's good. It's really good. And now, when we tour, we get together for 10 years and practice, hire some crew for our shows and then we go on tour. That didn't change, we would — for example right now in France, with my bandmates. My family came with me and we've had this moment where all is dedicated to that, and then we'll go on tour. It's working really well. A lot of bands are in this situation anyway.
What was hardest about spending so much time working on Magma and how did that make it better?
We started to compose the first things, to write the first riffs and write the first lyrics and ideas when we were on tour back in 2013, a year after releasing L'Enfant Sauvage. Since then it's been small steps and little by little, coming up with ideas that really make sense for us and taking a very organic direction.
I wanted to sing for a long time and I started to sing on this record, finally. I've been trying to sing on the other records, but I just wouldn't work because the music wouldn't really fit with what I wanted to do and this time it all came together really nicely. I'm happy with the way it turned out, because it's really what we are today. It took us a long time, yes, but we toured a lot and there was a lot going on and we built a studio in New York City. So all of that kind of fed the whole process of writing and fed the music with experience and taking time.
I think it takes time to release a good album. If we would rush things, we would release albums faster but it wouldn't be the same quality, I guess .
I know sometimes bands have to rush records to meet timelines, but I've always been a fan of just — it's done when it's done and you guys obviously took the time you needed and that's what worked.
We really ignored a lot of deadlines, [laughs] and we feel the stress. We feel the pressure and we want to please everybody. Some of the fans, they're like, 'Guys! Put out some new music! How difficult can it be? Just record a song in one hour and put it out online.'
Obviously would like to put out more records, but even us, we would like to put out a record every year, that would be awesome. But that's the way it is for us, it just takes time. We're not lazy or anything, we work pretty hard. It's just — yeah, [laughs]. It's done when it's done, exactly. I like that.
What's the biggest risk that you're taking with Magma?
Maybe to have some of our true fans a bit disappointed because it changed. That's the only thing I can see. The fact that it's changing, the fact that there's less demonstration in the music. It's not as death metal-ey, it's a little groovier and atmospheric. I guess, the biggest risk that we take is being ourselves fully and completely.
Even catching up with what we are because with previous albums, for example, I had things in me that I didn't really express and I was a bit frustrated. I was still happy with the record L'Enfant Sauvage, but a bit frustrated. I really wanted to explore other things and I guess it is a risk when you have a band, you have a fan base and people expect things from you and you kind of belong to your fan base to some degree. They buy the records and they pay for the tickets to see you play live. So it's difficult to ignore that and to keep this pure attitude, this joy of playing music and just being a band.
Being a band is just getting together and jam. That's what we tried to do. So, in a way it is a risk because some people will be like, 'Eh, f--k that.' We ignored that, so in a way it's a risk I guess.
You've got TesseracT for the Magma North American tour. Looks like you'll have a very busy 2016.
Yeah, absolutely. We're already looking at 2017 to book shows and decided what we're going to do. Since 2016 is pretty much booked. I know there will be more stuff coming probably before Christmas after this U.S. tour, but we want to make sure to take a nice break for the holidays [laughs].
It's a blast. I'm really thrilled, I'm excited. I love the record, I cannot wait to play the whole album live and to share with the fans. It's a different experience, the record, and the live experience. They'll always be very different. It's challenging for us too, to come up with new songs and a new sound and a new vibe and to try and translate that live. We're completely focused on that now, trying to translate that new thing, that new era live. And we incorporate all the old songs, of course. It's going to be a busy year and intense for us for sure.
Thanks to Joe Duplantier for the interview. The latest Gojira album, ‘Magma,’ is available at iTunes and Amazon. Keep up with Gojira on tour at their Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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