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GOJIRA: INTERVIEW WITH JEAN MICHEL LABADIE AND CHRISTIAN ANDREU


Radio Metal : How did you live the recent storm in the south-west of France?

Christian (guitar): It was a hallucinating disaster! I couldn’t take my car because tens of trees were crashed on the road…

Jean-Michel (bass): It was impressive. You don’t see that kind of things happening every day. We were supposed to go in Reims to prepare for the tour and had to wait for the storm to calm down. We hit the road mid-morning and in between Bayonne and Bordeaux we were all alone! On the other side the trees were blocking the road and on our side no one! You could have thought it was the end of the world!

Let’s talk about more cheerful subjects. You just started a tour headlining it. This is your third concert tonight, what are your first impressions? I imagine that you missed being the headliner!

Jean-Michel: It’s been a year and a half that we didn’t headline a tour. This tour has asked us for a lot of preparations. We wanted to manage everything ourselves (stage setting, lightings, etc.). Insomuch that the day we went on stage, we remembered that we were a music band! It was huge to see the public reaction, especially yesterday in Strasbourg. It was a spontaneous reaction, a consideration that went beyond what we saw in the past. It’s only the beginning, but the first concerts have quickly taken us « inside » and have granted us a lot of emotions. It is REALLY a good start!

Christian: As for me, it is recognition of ten years’ work! We had our ups and downs in the past from the audience. We had our moments of doubt on « From Mars To Sirius ». And yet, as soon as we come back to France, all the halls are full. At last the public is here; at last the public is following us. I was watching the crowd yesterday and I was touched by the love, the connection that was created between them and the band.


(Christian) : « As for me, it is a recognition of ten years’ work! We had our ups and downs in the past from the audience. We had our moments of doubt on « From Mars To Sirius ». And yet, as soon as we come back to France, all the halls are full. At last the public is here; at last the public is following us. »

Now that some months have passed and that the exhilaration from the launch of the album has fallen back, what do you think in retrospect of The Way Of All Flesh?

Jean-Michel: The album was launched when we were on the road doing the first part for In Flames. We didn’t have that much time so we played little of The Way Of All Flesh. Now the album has taken a life of its own: we can enforce it, play it on a longer show. This is an album that suits us.

Christian: This album is the peak of the band. All the albums before were “home-made”. With The Way, we have a big chunk, done by professionals (NDLR: Logan Mader is the album producer). It is the first time that we are happy with an album, even after a few months. For me, it really is the first album of Gojira. Of course it’s been often said every time a new album comes out, every time a new step has been taken. But this time it is a worldwide launching. It is more Mario and Joe that were involved in the composition so I have an external insight. And I’m the biggest fan! (laugh)

Jean-Michel: It’s true that we both took a big hit. Christian and me, we listened to the first tapes at the time where we had to play our instrument on what Joe and Mario had written. At that time, we asked them “but where did it all come from, men?” It’s a very special album for us both, because we were more performers than composers. Hence we had the chance to feel what the audience does, as listeners.

So to speak you listened to the first tapes and you said to yourself « but who are these guys?”

Jean-Michel: (laugh) exactly! I said to myself « but who are these guys I’m playing with? ». I was only gone two weeks to take a break and they had already composed everything. The main part of the job was done…

Let’s talk about the video clip « All The Tears ». How did you get in contact Jossie Malis, did you contact him?

Jean-Michel: We had already thought a bit about doing video clips. One day, Mario got into our rehearsal studio. He said he found “something great on YouTube », it was an animated cartoon, totally mad, done by Jossie Malis. We all liked it and Mario forced the hand of destiny and done everything he could to get in contact. He was totally in love with the style of Malis. We finally managed to locate him. He had never worked with musicians, it was not his kind of music, but he was real open and enthusiastic about it.

Was it him that suggested a video or was it you?

Christian: Joe wrote the synopsis, suggested a framework, done some rough drawings and mailed everything to Jossie. He then sent us a minute of video and we were literally wiped out! We were sorry we didn’t get to see the rest of it but we knew it was going to be huge. In the end, Jossie fully embraced our world and thus has totally showed what we wanted.

Precisely, it seems that on this video you’ve just found the gem you were looking for with a Jossie Malis who shares your views and expresses them in the same way. When you watch the whole of his work, the videos that he published on his site, it all seems to be some Gojira. Especially in this outwardly naive way to convey a strong environmental and humanitarian message, precisely like the artwork from The Way Of All Flesh. Have you also felt this, finding yourself in his work, and do you plan to work again with him?

Christian: His world stays in the vein of ours! And what a coincidence that Mario found that on YouTube, that goes to show we can all thank the internet! We’re still in contact with him and met him in Barcelona. There’s a very good feeling so yes, we hope to work again with him. In fact he already prepared some visual effects for our show, but you’ll see all that tonight!

The themes that are approached by Gojira are somewhat adventurous for the metal world, with you in the lyrics, no zoophagous zombies or big-breasted blonds! So, according to you, was your popularity enforced by these lyrics that mean something, that go deeper than the usual?

Christian: Yes, for sure, it’s a huge part of it. But once more I’d like to say that this is Joe who pitches the whole concept of this “muck up”! (laugh) It’s him who writes the lyrics, it’s also him that manages a bit the visuals… After that, there’s Gaby (NDLR: Gabrielle Duplantier, Joe and Mario’s sister) who also does a lot of pictures. So it stays within the clan, they’re all in the same state of mind.

Jean-Michel: It’s also a family of artists: the dad is a draftsman, the mom is a yoga teacher… people that are really caring and artists. In between sisters and brothers, it’s all the same. To speak up for Joe, it’s him that mentions the themes he wants to approach, and here, he wanted to talk about death. But not the death « you’re gonna die ! » etc. It’s really taking death at its largest meaning, and somewhat it’s opening our minds too. He goes on about things like ecology, or human ecology, respect and things like that, all the while framing it with planets. You really need to dig in between the lines to understand what he means while he’s really talking about what the humans live through. I think that it could have first called out to the metal audience since our music is still metal, it stays really straightforward, and then it opens up to another kind of audience. We are rather surprised to realize sometimes, when meeting people on autograph sessions, the diversity in the people listening to our music. People that do not come from the metal audience and that listen only to Gojira in the metal genre. The rest of the time it would be electro or French songs… We united all these people; it might be our open-minds that did it.

When we see you out of concerts, for example here in interviews, we see simple composed even serene guys, whereas your music is pretty brutal. It’s almost the same with directors like David Lynch or David Cronenberg, their films are really violent but themselves, they are just so quiet. What is your connection to violence and brutality? Is it just your steam-venting solution?

Christian: There’s a difference between the violence you’re talking about and what we’re doing with the band. We mainly speak of power, we radiate power, and we release what is in us. And thus there’s violence, the things we’ve lived through, the harshness of life… It’s easy to say but we all had hard lives anyways. We use violence to express who we are.

Jean-Michel: It’s not easy to say. In fact, we could join with a lot of bands that are doing metal, hardcore, all these extreme music. I think we merge on a sensitivity level, even if our message is not the same. Also musically, the bodily feeling of what we play is closely linked to the tribal and percussion music. It’s built on drums that will pound, that will make breaks. The guitars come on that with some riffs that are not really melodic. Our music is really closely linked to the rhythmic…

It’s even drum’n bass… (wink to Jean-Michel, bass player of the band)

Jean-Michel: …I think we need all that, to feel deep in our guts this violent music. It’s not really a good word: I would talk more about power… But it’s still difficult to analyze.

Christian: We’re in symbiosis with this style. Myself at thirteen years old, I was listening to Slayer, it suits us. Then it is difficult to say why. For example, a reggae band can have ultra violent lyrics, whereas they’re doing ultra cool music, and then they’ll start screaming about what’s going on in Africa. It will be way more violent than our lyrics that are more global. This is also why it touches everyone. Joe talks about his throes, of what’s going on in the world. It reaches out to everyone.

In fact you were just talking about Slayer as a band that rocked your teenager’s years, and Joe often says that for him, it was Metallica that got him into Metal. Has Metallica also been a part of your opening to the metal world? Can you tell us more about this Metallica influence?

Christian: Yep for me it is Metallica!

Jean-Michel: Yes I totally agree, it had the same effect. I remember that I listened to Metallica, I was eleven and I was in high school. We had a walkman at the time. There was this guy who always had his walkman on and wore a Metallica tee-shirt, the one from Ride the Lightning; you know the one with the toilet seat and a knife coming out of it. Me, I was staring at him, he was the bad guy. He was really an impressive guy. And he was listening to this thing. I told him « hey what are you listening to » with my tiny reedy voice. He just answered “it’s not for you, you faggot». You see, that kind of shit. I said « no, but let me hear a bit! ». He gave me the earplugs and there… from the first few notes I was electrified (he listened to Ride The Lightning by the way). « Woaaa it’s great… Can you lend me the tape? ». I took a slap in my face, and bit by bit I got into metal music. I had a thing, unexplainable.

So for you, it’s Ride The Lightning. And for you Christian ?

Christian : It’s …And Justice For All !

The singer of Karelia explained to us during the interview that to be considered one of the biggest bands in France, you needed to give the image of a well-established band, to be able to back it up, to release albums, to have people talk about you. And that, to make a long story short, to be successful didn’t mean that you could earn a living with it, nor having big means. For Gojira, is it also the case, a band that has a media success, but has also a hard time, as much as the other, and that has little more means than the other?

Jean-Michel: Yes totally, I think that we all have the same career. Well, also, bit by bit, the more you’re successful the more you get money. But it’s not our livelihood. You really need to get into heights, like Metallica or these kinds of bands that make a living with it. It’s always a rush job, you always have to rack your brain over it, it’s a full-time job. It’s our case, even if you have the whole media circus, the covers of magazines, and the five pages report. People think we’re going around driving nice cars, but actually we still have our rotten ten years old rides, we would love to change them, have something environment-friendly, but we can’t afford it. There’s a huge gap between what the media show, the ads, and the reality. It’s really distorted. And it’s nice to have the opportunity to say it out loud in an interview: it’s a very tough environment; you have to be almost raving mad to do it. But we do love it.

So here’s for the end, we leave an open-question opportunity for one of your fans. So here’s a question from Marc-Olivier F., 39 years old, ex -anchorman: « Gojira, you are handsome, you have talent, you are heterosexuals, don’t you feel you’re a little has been ?!

Christian et Jean-Michel: (laugh)….Hem…no!

Interview conducted February 1st, 2009 in Villeurbanne
MySpace Gojira : myspace.com/gojira



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