When the Deciblog caught up with GOJIRA frontman/guitarist Joe Duplantier last week, he was clocking up the road miles across Canada on in a tour that’ll see the French progressive/death-ish metal quartet take in the west coast of America before snaking along the south and terminating in New York.
Supporting their fifth album, L’Enfant Sauvage, in the company of The Devin Townsend Project, this tour is especially a big deal for Duplantier; not only should it cement his band’s rep as titans of rhythmically complex, cerebral metal, but it winds up in his home town. Having relocated from Bayonne, France, Duplantier is now a bona-fide New Yorker, and the change of scenery has done him the world of good.
How important was it that you carried on with your U.S. tour after the Lamb of God tour was cancelled when Randy Blythe was detained in the Czech Republic? Did it give you a greater sense of independence?
Joe Duplantier: It was very important for us to tour the States at that moment; we had a couple of options, even before this, to tour. We needed to do a headline tour in the US when the album was out. It was really important; the UK, the USA, and France are really our markets, Scandinavia too, so we really felt we needed to do this tour. Then Lamb of God came along with this offer and we really couldn’t turn it down—it would be suicide to go on tour on our own while they were touring. So, yeah, we decided “Yes, let’s do it” and when it got cancelled, just a couple of days before the tour was supposed to kick off, we were like, “Let’s go—let’s do it!” There was no promotion. There were no venues booked. We needed something and we were able to do it pretty easily because now we have a name, people were expecting us to tour anyway so it turned out pretty good. We had to tour in a shitty van with a small crew, because they were just club shows. But we did it and we were glad we did it. It was just the east coast, bits of Canada, Chicago, so the tour we are doing now is the first real headlining tour in the US and it’s a big deal.
And, as I understand it, the tour finishes in Brooklyn, your home town?
Joe Duplantier: Yes, exactly! I am pretty excited about that. I have about a million guests on that show!
How does that feel to be a guy whose home town is Brooklyn? does it feel like home?
Joe Duplantier: It does, actually. Y’know, since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by the city, by New York in general. It’s like an explosion of energy, culture and entertainment—there is a lot going on in New York, and so many different people. I live in a building in Brooklyn and it’s full of people from all over the world. I think there are just one or two real Americans; there are people there from all over the world, Puerto Rico, Europe, Asia . . . And I feel really really good because most of these people are away from their families and we stick together; the whole neighbourhood is really friendly, and there is something wild and chaotic that I can’t explain. For me it’s really good. I feel pretty intense inside and I needed some place like that. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it but since I moved there, in like a year and a half ago, I really call New York home now. I feel at home, definitely. There is a lot going on, which is really good for me, for my spirit. I call Brooklyn home.
Where would you recommend do go eat in New York?
Joe Duplantier: Well I live in Bed-Stuy and that neighbourhood has a reputation for being a little bit shady but I try to dig that neighbourhood because the people are incredible. There are lots of cafes and bars. This neighbourhood is called Fort Greene, and every Saturday morning there is a very nice market where you can get all sorts of things from the farms around New York. There is this place that is right across from my street called Colador Café—I love to hang out at this place
Growing up, I always looked at New York as being this cinematic place—Woody Allen movies and so on—was that the same for you?
Joe Duplantier: Absolutely—of course! The first time I went to New York I was 12, and since then, at least once a year, I have spent about a month a year in New York, and I realized that it was not just in movies; New York is a huge scene for a lot of things to happen. There is the Woody Allen aspect, definitely, in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but there are a lot of other aspects that I was not expecting at all—humans, people! The people are really warm and friendly, and get together all the time; there’s a life, a real life, and it’s a little scary when you first get to New York. It’s a little hard, a little cold, and you wonder how you’re gonna make friends, how you’re going to fit, and when it comes it’s really amazing. I grew up in the countryside, and of course I am really close to my home town, to nature, but I kind of needed this. I needed something else, and I am glad I moved on. It was not an easy move but it worked out pretty good.
Does it pose any logistical problems for the band?
Joe Duplantier: For the band it’s not a big problem. We get together to compose. I go back to France; they come to New York. We go on tour in the States and we go on tour in Europe: We feel as if we have a base in North America now.
Have you noticed much difference in the lifestyles between Parisians and New Yorkers?
Joe Duplantier: The wine is better in Paris, I can say that. And it’s cheaper, too! [laughs] I love Paris. I was born in Paris, and I call Paris home also, but there’s a difference. Things are more relaxed in New York. There are fewer rules. Paris is a little more stiff, in my opinion, while New York is a little more rock ‘n’ roll, a little more relaxed. It’s really easy to accomplish things. If you want to have a business, you can have it in the blink of an eye in New York. It’s a place where you can make arrangements with landlords, that kind of stuff is more flexible. France has a pretty unique situation for social security, and all that kinda stuff. In France, the taxes are kinda high but then the government has your back on a lot of stuff—the roads, the houses, and all that—but in America and New York it’s a little more brutal. I don’t know, for me it’s nice to have a little bit of both.
Do you think this will have an effect on Gojira’s sound or do you think that any influence New York has on your ideas will be diluted by the fact you are always traveling?
Joe Duplantier: You’re right, the fact that we are traveling so much affects us much more than me living in New York. By the way, we composed the whole album [L’Enfant Sauvage] in France; I did pre-production in our small practice space in the south of France, away from everything. It’s really remote. The fact that we produced the album in New York, of course, had an influence; the guys were taking the subway every morning, like it had an impact and I am glad we chose New York for that. It added that [energy]. It’s very energetic, and it also influences you, the things you see in the streets. I mean, you see homeless people, high buildings, concrete everywhere, it’s kinda oppressive and hard, like our music; our music needs to be oppressive and hard, so it fits pretty good. But the fact that we travel is the main thing. Our music started to change and get less naïve when we started to tour all over the world, and confront ourselves. That had a huge impact.
Is that when you get most of your ideas, when you are on the road? And not maybe just in the literal sense of hearing the riff in your head, but in terms of knowing what feelings or thoughts you want to express musically? Joe Duplantier: Yes, sometimes, it’s funny. From a certain point of view, yes, from the other, no. It depends how you see it. At least for me, as a singer and a writer, it is crucial, essential; it is the core of everything that is being expressed. You could have the exact same riff in a different context and it’ll sound different. Of course depending on your state of mind and what you want to express generally in your life. For example, me moving to the States was something that I could not avoid. For a long time I wanted to do that, and the fact that I could was just to be close to myself, to my heart. I don’t know why it is New York—it could be Bangkok, India—but it’s me just trying to be me as much as possible. Just like the other guys, like my brother Mario likes to surf with his friends when he has free time, and if he can do that as much as possible it’ll be more powerful and people will get that.
Is that your greatest creative strength, that trust between each other? It’s weird because I can’t think of too many other bands whose principal songwriter could move to the other side of the world and it not really affecting the band.
Joe Duplantier: Yes, I think you’re right; it’s very precious. And we have our hard moments, of course, but I’m really glad that our brotherhood is not affected by this crazy life that we have now. There are a lot of tensions; we are on top of each other in a bus, sometimes it’s a van. It’s a hard life but we just get stronger with this because we know how to form the tensions into something positive. We talk a lot. We try to be as respectful as possible—because we’re different. We are part of the same band and stuff but we are still four very different people . . . And I think we love each other, and this is important.
It seems that to survive in this lifestyle it’s important to retain that childlike enthusiasm for touring, for playing music and traveling. Is this the case for you?
Joe Duplantier: It’s an interesting question. Sometimes we are tired of touring and sometimes, when it goes well and we have the proper crew and the bus, the enthusiasm comes back really strong, in just one second. But we always have something to hang on to. There is always something that we are very excited about . . . It could even be something like the merch doing well! [laughs] . . . Just one little thing, and it’s like, “Yeah, man! We made a thousand bucks!” It could be anything, but we always always remember our first days when we were nothing to the audience and we didn’t exist; then we were like, “One day we will play with Metallica!” And now we’ve played with Metallica. We’ve always remembered that we are living the dream and, of course, when the dream comes true it is not a dream anymore; it becomes reality and you have to deal with that, and you have to have new dreams. Right now, our new dream is to have a good backline in America. [laughs] Everything is going pretty well. It’s slow. We’ve never had a big explosion and the band is doing well with one song on the radio. We’ve never had that. But it’s going very well, slowly but steadily. It’s a steady progression. This is really, really good for the spirit.
It’s always better to go slow rather than rushing things out—especially rushing material and hurrying an album. That break after The Way of All Flesh, when you were sorting out management, etc. must have done you good.
Joe Duplantier: We think a lot when we do something, more than we have in the past. I think that we have a lucky star because we did a lot of things without thinking at all, like, for example, on the first album we didn’t have any record company, management, nothing, and we could have easily have said, “Let’s just give up. We’re playing death metal in the 21st century let’s just give up.” Some people were saying, “Come on, man, you’re singing in English? You’ll never make it in France—give up!” And we never give up. We just worked. But now we have to put more thought into every step we take; the choice of management, the record company . . . Like before signing this deal with Roadrunner, we had the option to go completely independent, to record all our music ourselves and put in on the Internet. We seriously thought about this. We thought a lot. We had about one thousand band meetings and talked on Skype with people. I think we made the right decision. We really need a push from professionals, and even though the music industry is in the shit right now—it’s in the toilet—at least people in the record company and the management know how to promote a band and improve their situation, so we can use that help, definitely. I am glad we made that decision.
What can we expect from you in the near future? Have you been writing?
Joe Duplantier:You know, these last couple of months I have been really tense; we have been touring constantly, so, we had two weeks break before this tour and we were trying out best just not to think too much. What we are trying to do right now is to reinforce the crew we have right now and the gear, and the organisation around the band. Even the communication between us and our partners, our management, record company: We are still trying to figure out the best way to communicate and to be more efficient. Right now we are more focused on being a stronger team, well-organised. This is very, very precious to us. But, of course, we have tons of projects. We’ve put them on the side because this album is doing pretty well. We have a lot of shows sold out whereas a couple of years ago we were struggling to fill a small venue. We feel there is something happening for us right now so we just try to stay strong and get stronger; then we will think about all the crazy projects, like having a metal ballad! [laughs] And all that stuff. I cannot even talk about all the projects we have because there are too many of them.
**GOJIRA official web
**L’Enfant Sauvage is out now, order it HERE
**GOJIRA US DATES w/The Devin Townsend Project
Jan. 23 – The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
Jan. 24 – Ace of Spades – Sacramento, CA
Jan. 25 – Henry Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Jan. 28 – Marquee Theatre – Tempe, AZ
Jan. 29 – Sunshine Theatre – Albuquerque, NM
Jan. 31 – Granada Theatre – Dallas, TX
Feb. 01 – White Rabbit – San Antonio, TX
Feb. 02 – Warehouse Live – Houston, TX
Feb. 04 – State Theater – St. Petersburg, FL
Feb. 05 – The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
Feb. 07 – Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD
Feb. 08 – Irving Plaza – New York, NY
Feb. 09 – Mr. Smalls – Millvale, PA
Feb. 12 – House of Blues – Chicago, IL
Feb. 13 – Phoenix Concert Theatre – Toronto, ON
Feb. 14 – Le National – Montreal, QC
Feb. 15 – The Palladium – Worcester, MA
Feb. 16 – Theater of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA