Interview: Gojira’s Joe Duplantier
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I caught up with Joe Duplantier of Gojira after a set in Pontiac, Michigan. His band filled the room past-capacity. That’s to be expected: Gojira had an eventful summer. Not only did they release their long-delayed fifth album, L’enfant Sauvage, but they trekked across America with little-to-no preparation after the much-publicized arrest of Randy Blythe sidelined what would have been a much more massive affair. Dethklok and Lamb of God are just now getting back on the road, but Duplantier is not one to waste time—we covered more in 15 minutes than I have with other bands in an hour.
Duplantier and I didn’t get to speak with one another till past one in the morning. The set drained him, but even a tired Duplantier is an energetic man. He speaks with hand gestures, and wears his emotions on his sleeve.
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You have a lot of literature for the Sea Shepherd up on your merch table.
We are big supporters of what they do. Just because they do the right thing. It’s a contribution from the human species to help other, endangered species. We’re fucking everything up, you know? We’re killing everything and on top of that we’re killing each other. It’s fucking tiring—it’s getting old. Let’s upgrade the whole of humanity. And these guys are part of making things better, even if they use some unofficial methods or . . . whatever. They aren’t terrorists to me. Paul Watson, the boss on the Sea Shepherd, said that if you saw someone about to shoot a dog in the street, your instinct would be to push the gun. [he dramatizes the act] “Don’t do that!” That’s what they’re basically about—they push the harpoons away from the whales. And you know, 90% of the sharks on this planet have disappeared in the last 30 years.
Yeah, that’s part of the problem. That’s not a good promotion for these poor creatures.
Yeah, but you can use art to promote good as well—that seems like what you do with Gojira.
Absolutely. I remember growing up in the countryside. I was born in Paris, but I really grew up in the countryside. I remember my feelings—what I could get from the outside world was a lot of violence and a lot of nonsense. I was thinking to myself, ‘when I am a grown-up I want to do something that makes sense, I want to help others somehow.’ Those things, I think I’m doing it. It’s very underground, not on the TV or radio or in newspapers. It’s more word of mouth. It’s cleaner, I think, than big media. Finally, I like it this way. I’m really happy in my life. When my inner kid looks at me today he’s like ‘Ok. That’s alright’. He’s not like ‘WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT HAVE I BECOME!?’ So that’s pretty cool.
You’re really worried about that—about what your inner child would think.
Because I think children are very wise. They’re loud and smell strange, too . . . [laughs] but they come to the world very pure and they look at things with pure eyes. They know what’s up—they know what is wrong and what is right. So if that part of me is ok with me today, then it’s cool. Maybe I’m wrong but that’s how I feel.
Well who cares if you’re wrong?
Exactly. Maybe a couple of fans.
It’s more than a couple fans—you packed the room!
Ah, it’s a couple people . . . [smiles]
Yeah, it’s good man. It’s a good time, I had a blast.
Well, it’s awful that putting this tour together for you, after what happened with Randy Blythe, was so hair-raising. Really, how is it going?
It’s cool, it’s just 10 shows, very small. I don’t know how I feel about this. Because you ask me I’m going to try and come up with an answer, but really I don’t think about this, I’m just going, ‘Uh, fuck the tour’s cancelled! Well let’s go anyway!’ and we called a bunch of clubs and booked our plane tickets, we booked a place to rehearse a little. Instead of starting in Vancouver we started in New York so it was all very complicated and expensive. But I do what I gotta do—we want this contact that we had tonight. That was a real contact with the fans and that’s what we need right now, so that’s why we did it.
It was a long time coming—L’enfant Sauvage. From the outside looking in, it seemed difficult to make.
It’s not difficult to make an album, really, if you have the time. Maybe if you’re not inspired, but we are inspired. We want years, still to play and not put out shitty albums. At least we hope, you know. It could happen that one day it’s just ‘[fart noise] nothing to give! Sorry! We’re making an album anyway because that’s all we know how to do!’ [laughs] We’re not there yet. The only problem was the time. The whole industry was in the toilet so we had to figure it out ourselves. We didn’t have management so we found new management. We found a new record company and that took a long time. Plus there was the DVD—I don’t know if you saw it.
I haven’t seen it.
You should watch it. It’s really good!
Do you watch your own DVD? Are you your own fan?
[excited] Of course! Are you crazy? A musician dedicating his entire life to his own music and then says he’s not a fan? He’s full of shit, man.
So you’re doing what you do—exercising, writing, I don’t know—and you’re on your iPod. Do you listen to your own records?
Um, yeah? Yes. Why would I not?
Well they say you’re your own worst critic and . . . Ok for example there’s that movie star, Johnnie Depp, who says he can’t watch his own movies.
Yeah right. Sure.
So you don’t believe him.
No. Of course not. It just sounds cooler to say that. If you say you like your own stuff people will say ‘oh you’re a douche,’ so you don’t.
But I don’t care. I say it because it’s true. I like what I do, and I like my own albums. Well, the last one. Some of them are kind of . . . [blegh.]
Which one is like eh . . .
The Link because of the production, and the first one because we were immature. It’s full of mistakes and made in ten days. If you take five months on the recording and working hard, it can’t sound like shit. I never never listen to From Mars to Sirius. Ever. But I like to listen to The Way of All Flesh. As a producer I think it works. And sometimes I do get carried away and [headbangs] but not all the time. [laughs]
That’s great! So, you don’t like the first two, but you played a lot of material from them tonight.
Yeah, because I’m mostly a producer, finally. The more it goes I understand that I’m more of a producer than a singer or guitar player. I like to create songs in that way.
But how does that tie into you playing songs from those albums?
Oh I don’t know—they are fucked up. They are very complicated and strange. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, I just don’t like to listen to it. The two last albums are better-sounding. So I can enjoy them sometimes—I don’t listen to my own stuff all the time, by the way.
What about, say, Darkthrone, where the bad production is something people like. Do you listen to anything with bad production?
Well I listen to the Beatles, and some of their production was super cheap. I don’t know, for us it’s different. I’m working on it.
OK, so I’ve wanted to ask you this forever. The pick-squeal sound, that you do.
What was the story of the first time you did the pick slide?
We were on tour behind the second album, The Link. It was a short tour, we were completely unknown, playing Switzerland and Belgium in these really small clubs. Only a few people would show up—but we were so into it. In some parts we would do the ‘woo’ slide, but just with the left hand. So I just added this moment—a physical movement, with my hand. [he mimes the Gojira pick slide] It was almost an accident, one time I hit the string, with my thumb and I heard it go ‘cheww.’ So I did it again. I’m pretty sure other people did it before . . . There’s no way I invented it. But we used it to create an interesting sound. Our goal was not to create a signature. But people just talked about it and it became our signature. But it was an accident at first.
When you think about the future, what do you feel, hope or anxiety?
I feel hope, you know, at least a little bit. Of course anxiety, of course fear. Because people are so fucked up. But there is good in people. I mean—you like to be with your friends, right? Why do you like that?
I feel contented.
Ok, why. Him [Duplantier points to my best friend, who has been watching the interview this entire time] why?
He’s like a brother to me.
Ok, but why?
Because I love him.
It’s not just because he’s a good person. I think people are evil and good. There has to be something more.
But you could hate him for his dark side, the small things that make him an asshole. But you don’t. You love him. So the good side is stronger, in the end. It’s enough that there is good in people to have hope. Even if everything is fucked up, if there’s just a little bit of good, that’s enough to think we can make it.
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