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Interviews   

Gojira’s Subconscious


There are countless symbols, interpretations and new influences on Gojira’s new album. One of which is the album’s title, L’Enfant Sauvage, which could be seen as an homage to the band’s origins: both France and Mother Nature. These references, however, don’t seem to be conscious efforts from the band members who, admittedly, write from inside their own bubble and realize only afterwards – sometimes from journalists’ comments – the multiple levels to be found in their own music.

We talked about the album with Mario Duplantier and analyzed their musical evolution as well as the themes they tackle. According to him, Gojira has – from one album to another – talked about life in their lyrics and in its artwork, in a progressive or even cyclic way. In this sense, L’Enfant Sauvage is a new beginning, following their previous album The Way Of All Flesh, which was focused on death. We also tried to understand where this melodic turn came from and what it meant for the band.

Towards the end of the interview, Franky Costanza – drummer in Dagoba and a regular on our radio – joined in to talk with Mario. A touching dialogue between two drummers who have enormous respect for one another and who used the occasion to thank each other for a few memories which they shared with the audience.

Listen to the interview (in French only):

[audio:interviews/Interview Mario Duplantier.mp3|titles=Interview Mario Duplantier (Gojira)]

« We put a lot less technique, or at least I’d say that the technique is more hidden in the music. […] What we’re doing now is simpler but not easier. »

Radio Metal : First of all, how are you Mario?

Mario Duplantier (drums) : I’m doing great. We’re currently in Paris promoting our album, so we’re talking about it all day. Everything’s good, things are cool.

Are you defending the album well?

I don’t really know. I try my best to speak as well as I can. It’s not always easy to put words on what you do but at least it’s a great exercise.

Have things changed when it comes to promotion now that you’re with Roadrunner Records? Do you need to take more steps on your own, work more yourselves?

One great advantage in being with Roadrunner Records is that everything is really well organized. Also, it covers all kinds of media: there’s television, webzines, magazines, fanzines… And when it comes to the planning, it’s a well-oiled machine. For example, right now we’ve been in Europe for ten days, we’ve started with Sweden, then we did the UK, we went through Belgium, yesterday we were in Germany… It’s a great way to cover all the European media. It’s really effective.

Your new album, l’Enfant Sauvage, will be out on June the 25th. We can see a double homage to your origins, to Mother Nature and to France. It’s very symbolic, for your first album on a major international label, that you’d give it a French name…

It’s hard to explain what we do. Sometimes there are even things that we do unconsciously. One thing that’s sure is that we had a song with a French title on the album, which was “L’Enfant Sauvage”. And it so happens that we hadn’t decided what we were going to do about the album title yet. One day, in the studio, we were looking at the track-list and I told my brother “We really should make up our minds about the title, shouldn’t we?” we looked at “L’Enfant Sauvage”, we looked at each other and said “There it is!” it just happened spontaneously. So yeah, you can see it in both ways, multiple interpretations, but it’s true that we’re a French band and that now we have an international reputation. So maybe we wanted to show our roots, I don’t know. The title sounds good, it’s fluid, and it’s poetic. I think it sounds good, which isn’t easy to find in French, but here, it does. And yes, we can talk about us going back to the source. There’s that idea of evolution in nature, that wild thing. There are recurrent themes in our music. You should talk to Joe, he writes the lyrics! But yeah, we did go back to the source, I could even say that there’s a cycle in our albums. If you take a step back and look at our discography, there’s an evolution on each album. At first we had a person all curled-up on himself, looking inside himself, which symbolized introspection. On the second album, “The Link”, we had a tree going literally from the earth towards the sky. On our third album we actually went into space with whales, planets, a kind of psychedelic concept. And for our fourth album we went back down to earth with “The Way Of All Flesh”, towards death, in a way. It was kind of the end of a cycle, a kind of mourning. Now there’s a rebirth idea with this “wild child”. It’s surely the beginning of a new cycle.

Why is did you sing the title track in English, though?

Yeah, it’s sung in English, but why not? Let’s say that Joe is comfortable writing in English, he’s really comfortable with that language. We didn’t theorize it, we don’t over-think everything that we do! Why not have a track with a French title and English lyrics? There are no rules. If you translate “L’Enfant Sauvage” into English, you get “The Wild Child” which sounds kind of cheap, I think! “L’Enfant Sauvage” is more subtle.

In English it sounds more glam-rock!

Yeah, that’s it! (laughs)

What’s really noticeable when listening to the album is the work that’s been done on the sound textures, especially with the vocals. You seem to have worked a lot on Joe’s voice. There’s this massive side to it, with several layers, saturation in the voice, a lot of clear vocals as well. And in the end, they’re all very melodic. Was this a conscious effort?

Yes, of course. But it also reflects the evolution of his voice. Joe has a lot more technique now. Overall, we’re more mature as a band so we work more intricately, whether it’s on the guitars or on the drums. For the vocals I think Joe did something more melodic, he’s been wanting to go in that direction for a while, to dare to sing with his own voice. In metal, harsh vocals are a really effective weapon. But in the normal voice, there’s something nervous and charming that might be interesting to explore in the future. When talking about clear vocals, I’m not talking about cheesy pop vocals, or whatever. But you can be really experimental and express a lot of things with clear vocals as well. That aspect came out in our album.

There’s his clear vocal line in the beginning of “Born in Winter” where he has this light voice, almost whispered…

Yeah, “Born in Winter” is kind of the song where he let himself go when it comes to the vocals. At first I was like “Uh-oh! What the hell are you doing?” but in the end the emotion catches up with you, it’s really powerful. I think we have things to express in that area. We’re musicians, we play metal, but we’re music lovers first and foremost. We have a project called Gojira, with a formula, a way to do things. We play within those boundaries. We’re not going to do a bossa nova album, that wouldn’t make sense, or at least, we’d change the name of the band if we did. But there are plenty of things to explore in Gojira without losing the whole sense of it.

In this album we can hear kind of a Devin Townsend aesthetic. Joe having worked with Townsend, maybe he was influenced in a way. What do you think?

I’m going to be a bit more specific. There was really a turning point in the band when Joe discovered Mike Oldfield and Devin Townsend. I see this from the outside as the drummer. I remember when he heard the album “City” by Strapping Young Lad. There was a part in a song; I can’t remember which one it was, which really turned us upside down. I remember feeling that something clicked in Joe’s head that day. Devin Townsend is undeniably a big influence on him. When talking about Mike Oldfield, it’s the audacity of his melodies that you can find in the album “Crisis” for example. Joe remained connected to the strangeness of those melodies. So there are big influences there, indeed.

Do you think the fact that Joe took part in Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction album and that Devin Townsend sang on the Sea Shepherd EP had an influence?

Yeah, of course. But once again, I’m sorry for repeating myself, but we’re so close to what we do that we don’t realize everything. Now that you mention it, the fact that Devin Townsend took part in one of our songs must have had an influence, one way or another. And we were amazed by the quality of his takes. When he sent us his tracks separately we couldn’t believe how clean and precise they were. I know that Joe, as a vocalist, was speechless. We didn’t talk about it during the writing process, he never told me “I want to do something like Devin” but he was surely influenced.

Something else which is noticeable on this album is that you’ve used simpler song structures than usual, more repetition and hypnosis. Where do you think that came from? Is it simply because you’re more mature or is it something more thought out?

Yeah, it’s the maturity. We try to serve the music, create a musical entity which is simple rather than get lost in every direction, doing complex and technical stuff. We put a lot less technique, or at least I’d say that the technique is more hidden in the music. I’ll speak for myself: as a drummer, I used to like really technical patterns. Now I’m leaving that aside to focus more on the groove, but I still use some technique here and there, add some subtlety to the ride cymbal or the snare. That’s something that we hear less at first. And I think that for the guitars or the vocals, we’re all in the same state of mind, less demonstrative and using technique in a more subtle way to leave way for a simpler, more massive and more understandable music. But that doesn’t mean it’s easier, though.

« We were surprised to see how close Roadrunner was to our art. First of all, they’re Gojira fans, so they want us to stay the way we are, we’re not a baby band anymore. We offered a French title which is completely anti-commercial. […]Especially since the Americans can’t pronounce “L’Enfant Sauvage” they say “Elephant Sausage”! [laughs] »

That leads to my next question. Since you’ve signed with Roadrunner Records, there was a lot of concern from some people about a possible selling-out of Gojira. The simpler structures and the fact that it’s your most melodic album yet, even if it’s in the continuity of your musical evolution, don’t you think that might work against you because of the intellectual dishonesty that some people may have?

I’m gonna come back to what I just said, don’t confuse simple and easy. What we’re doing now is simpler but not easier. What you’re alluring to, we’re not into that at all. I think this album is a lot more experimental than the last one, so I don’t feel what you described. And working with Roadrunner was a big surprise because we didn’t know what we were getting into. We were also kind of anxious, even if we knew exactly what we were doing. We were surprised to see how close Roadrunner was to our art. First of all, they’re Gojira fans, so they want us to stay the way we are, we’re not a baby band anymore. We offered a French title which is completely anti-commercial. It’s not easy for them to sell an album with a French title. We can debate about that, but I don’t think it’s the easiest thing for them. Especially since the Americans can’t pronounce “L’Enfant Sauvage” they say “Elephant Sausage”! [laughs] it’s really complicated! So a French title and an album cover in yellow tones… In metal, yellow isn’t the trend either. And the songs are experimental in the end, even with all the melody. When we’re talking about melodies, we’re actually talking about atmospheres, actually. And when we’re talking about easiness, I’d rather call it simplicity. There’s a nuance there.

« It’s not the trend that we’re interested in, nor the accessories, having long hair or Hypocrisy T-shirts. […]What we are interested in is the intensity, the depth of the music. And even within the velocity and the technique, there’s something. […]I also feel a form of serenity when listening to my music.”

Your music, in theory, is classified as death metal, there’s plenty of double pedal on the drums, massive guitars, screamed vocals… Yet, when listening to this album, there’s nothing horrific about it, nothing morbid or negative. In fact it’s quite the opposite; we feel a form of serenity. Is that something that you feel as well? Do you feel that serenity and try to express it in your music?

First of all, thanks a lot for what you just said, I take it as a compliment. We are big fans of death metal but we’re also fans of classical music, electronic music and everything in-between. It’s true that we want to open the breach towards the outside. We’re not stuck in the genre, we never were. It’s not the trend that we’re interested in, nor the accessories, having long hair or Hypocrisy T-shirts. We’re not into all of that, what we are interested in is the intensity, the depth of the music. And even within the velocity and the technique, there’s something. I think we managed to grasp the essence of what we liked in death metal and were able to transform it into an art that’s our own, in a way. I also feel a form of serenity when listening to my music. I don’t feel oppressed. Well, if I listen to it at 9 in the morning, maybe that’ll be a bit aggressive. Sometimes I’ll wait until 10:30 to listen to it! [laughs] I guess what I’m saying is no, we don’t do morbid music, we couldn’t live with it, we couldn’t defend it on the road. We’re not that kind of people, anyway. That doesn’t mean that we can’t put dark stuff into it, but that not all there is.

Some harmonies kind of remind us of Scandinavian bands. Gojira is really close to the themes of nature in its lyrics, and Scandinavian bands are also close to nature, landscapes etc. Do you feel in the same state of mind as the bands in that scene? I’m thinking specifically about the central part of “Explosia” or the first riff of the title-track, which have a Norwegian post-black vibe.

There is an environmental aspect. We’re from the south-west of France, far from big cities; it’s a small town, close to Bayonn and Biarritz. The elements there are really, really strong. The country is huge, the sea is wild. It’s not the Mediterranean Sea; it’s a wild and dangerous sea. I think there’s something in common with the Norwegians, they also have spectacular landscapes: humongous lakes, the country is fabulous. They have that connection with nature which is really strong; they’re kind of victims of its harshness. It’s funny because in Norway, things are working out great for us. Every time, people understand our lyrics, our aesthetics, our music. There’s a connection there, with Scandinavia, that’s for sure. And, personally, I really enjoy listening to some bands. I don’t know the names but when I listen to black metal melodies from Scandinavia, there’s something that moves me, that’s for sure. It’s not when the vocals become all diabolical, but it’s the atmosphere that comes out of it, the melodic aspect, atmospheric, weird… I’m a fan. And in this album, for the first time, I brought some guitar melodies, and that inspired me a bit, I think. Maybe that’s what you feel.

A listener’s question: since Gojira got its international recognition, is that a symbol of your success or is it an open door to bigger ambitions? In other words, is your success an end or a stepping stone?

First of all, we’re really happy with what we’ve got here. Every day, we try to savor what’s happening to us but we’re still down to earth. We still have some ambition but we’re already in a really nice place right now, as in touring around the world and having our albums available world-wide and on the web. I don’t really know what to say. We’re already fully into what we do, very concentrated on each album, each tour, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. We’ll see what happens for the next album.

Franky Costanza (Dagoba’s drummer) about Gojira : « L’Enfant Sauvage becomes the ultimate proof that they are the new Metallica. I think they’re really close to that. »

Dialogue between Franky Constanza (Dagoba) and Mario:

Franky : : I’ve been carefully listening to the interview, I read the track-by-track column and it really got me anxious to hear the album. I wanted to talk with Mario and with the audience sincerely. Before asking a question there are a few things I’d like to say. Like everyone else, I’m really anxious to listen to “L’Enfant Sauvage”. By reading the track-by-track, I think there are plenty of things I’m gonna like. I’m a huge Gojira fan ever since “Terra Incognita”, we’ve share the stage over the years more than twenty times. It’s been an honor for me, every time there’s a lot of joy in playing before Mario, and talking about drums with him. I’d like to say that I love the band both musically and personally, really. The band deserves the evolution and the success that it’s had. I’d also like to say that thanks to their success and their accomplishments, they give a lot of dreams, courage and hope to thousands of French bands by showing that even though we’re French, which hasn’t always been appreciated by big international metal labels in general – Gojira being the exception that proves the rule – it’s still possible to make it. They’ve made it clear that a band who really wants it, puts all its heart and energy and all its talent, a lot of humanity, can manage to go beyond the borders and can plant a huge French flag on planet Earth. And that’s something that moves me a lot; I’m almost emotional about it. I especially wanted to pay my respect to Gojira and their accomplishments up until today, and I wish the best for them, an even bigger success, and especially that this album, “L’Enfant Sauvage” becomes the ultimate proof that they are the new Metallica. I think they’re really close to that.

That being said, now I’ll ask my question, so I’ll put my drum-journalist cap on: over the years, I’ve seen your playing style become more and more powerful, the way you hit the drums, the wideness of your movements. As a drummer, I understand that it’s a different deal to play at the Hellfest, the Elysée Montmartre or in a small club. So I wanted to know if, first of all, you concur with what I’ve noticed in the evolution of your playing style over the years. That ever more powerful way to hit the drums, American-style, so to speak, has that been conditioned by the fact that you’ve been opening for Metallica in huge venues or stadiums? And also, do you prepare differently a show opening for Metallica at the Stade de France, compared to a two-thousand-people venue when it comes to the adrenaline, the communication with the audience, the energy? Those little drummer things, in the moments before hitting the stage, do you experience them differently whether you have a stadium to fill or a small venue?

Mario : I’m going to try to assemble all the elements, but first I’d like to thank you for everything you just said, that deeply moved me. It went straight to the heart; I really heard everything you said. I’d like to pay my respects to you as well. This is all kind of cheesy! [laughs] Franky, I have an enormous amount of respect for you since the first time I saw you play. It was at Colmar and I’ll remember it all my life. I’ve been really blown away by your energy, your enthusiasm, the way you hit the drums… I respect that a lot, I often reference you when there are French drummers we want to talk about. I spontaneously talk about you. I think you’re a fucking machine! [laughs] Now, I’m gonna try to put the pieces back together. Yes, indeed, I don’t play the same way as I used to… Let’s say it’s the fact that we’ve toured in huge venues with American and European bands. When I say American, I’m talking about bands who are used to playing in big venues, I’ve been amazed by their wide movements. That’s something that I like, I’ve always been really visual. For example, I’m gonna talk about Coal Chamber though it’s not really my kind of music. I remember seeing them in Spain and I remember how the drummer moved. I was fascinated. Even though it’s not my type, I’m not into neo metal, I’m not an emo. But there’s something that really resonated with me, the visual aspect, I like that. It’s almost like dancing, it’s really powerful. I always wanted to do that kind of drumming, and it’s true that having opened for giants was kind of a… How can I say this? You owe it to yourself to do a show that can measure-up, kind of a way to push your own limits. That lead me to have wider movements. It comes from a rage, your inner voice saying “we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna impose our music, we’re gonna do a big show”, and that goes through a chaotic relationship with your body. That being said, my motto among my mates is that, may it be a bar or a stadium, the intention and the energy is the same. The only problem with playing in bars (that still happens in the US, in small venues) is to find a solution so that the cymbals don’t deafen everyone! But apart from that, it’s the same dynamic: at each show I give all I’ve got. From start to end I try to stay at the top of my ability, at 100%. The goal is to feel empty when I leave the stage. I love that amplitude because I love visual drummers. By the way, you also have a very visual style, which I love. There are a few like that. There’s Pierre Belleville (ED: ex-Lofofora, The Do), as well, who’s also an incredible drummer with a very visual playing style and to whom I pay tribute to. And there are drummers like Dave McClain, from Machine Head, I don’t know if you remember seeing them live. The memory of Dave McClain raising his arms like that… And drummers like that of Candiria. There are plenty of corporal drummers. I love that, I’ve always loved that, I’ll do everything I can to keep that.

Franky Costanza (Dagoba): “I think you put the aim so high that it makes us want to hit the drums the next day. After seeing a Gojira show, we say to ourselves: ‘Tomorrow, I’m gonna get on the drums, I’ve got some catching up to do!’ ”

Franky : Thank you for that really specific and fascinating answer! I remember that show at Colmar. That was a while ago, you’re making me feel old, that was from the beginning of both of our careers. I was already blown away by your drum solo, it was really impressive. And you’re always adding more and more things in your drumming to make it even more impressive. For me, having seen your latest shows, you hit harder and harder, with more and more groove, ever more precise. The double pedal is really a delight for hundreds of French drummers. I think you put the aim so high that it makes us want to hit the drums the next day. After seeing a Gojira show, we say to ourselves: “Tomorrow, I’m gonna get on the drums, I’ve got some catching up to do!”

Mario : Thanks a lot Franky, that’s really touching. And I also have to say – even if this is a chat between us two and we don’t really realize that there’s an audience – that I play with Serial Drummer shorts. I’ve played about 200 shows with the same shorts. I’m kind of ashamed to say that! Your shorts have even opened for Metallica!

Franky : Amazing, thanks for your support of Serial Drummer! What I’ll do, if you played 200 shows with it, is that I’ll give you a new one, because it probably doesn’t smell that good!

Mario : Definitely, that would be great! [laughs]

Franky : I’ll be at your show in Marseille on May the 15th; it’ll be an opportunity to be blown away by your drumming. I’ll bring a bunch of new clothes with me. We’ve got plenty of new designs which are nice. I often see videos or photos of you with Serial Drummer T shirts, that’s always really pleasing.

Mario : It’s the least I can do. You deserve it, you work your ass off for that. We’ve been jerking ourselves off for quite some time now, with the audience listening.

Radio Metal : You can at least kiss!

Mario : Yeah, big kisses Franky!

Franky : Thanks a lot! I wish you the best and a whole lot of success for the whole band and the new album. Give the others my best. Have a nice promo tour and a nice tour. And in the name of all French metal bands who are starting, or even all French metal fans, we’re all supporting Gojira and for showing that in this style of music, France has got some balls.

Radio Metal : Thanks to the both of you, it was a real pleasure to listen to you. Really moving!

Mario : I’m also really moved, I’m sweating here!

Radio Metal : We would’ve preferred if there was a tension between you, as rivals, and that you’d fight on the air. That would’ve been great, that would’ve gotten us a bigger audience! But it didn’t work!

Mario : I think we’re profoundly nice people, Franky and I. That’s our flaw, we’re too nice. We have plenty of respect for one another, and what he said really moved me. I wasn’t able to reciprocate, but he’s really someone who put the aim really high and impresses me a lot. His movements are insane, I can only do a tenth of what he does, spinning the sticks and all, it’s amazing. He’s really visual and sure of himself… I have a lot of respect for Franky, really. I’ve always said it and I always will.

Radio Metal : I have a feeling this is going to end in a shorts and sticks evening! Really fast, do you have any final words before we finish this? You’re opening for Metallica at the Stade de France. A French metal band playing at the Stade de France, that’s really something. Anything to say about that?

Mario : Where I’m really proud, is that my father, for the first time in his life, can talk to his friends about it: “My boy is playing at the Stade de France” and all of a sudden it’s “Aaaaaah…” It’s really a landmark. The Stade de France is such a symbol. It’s also Zidane! [laughs] It’s great to play at the Stade de France with Metallica, especially for the 20th anniversary of the Black Album. It’s huge and we’re far from being jaded about playing with Metallica once again. To be honest, I’m trying not to think about it too much. I’d rather give all I’ve got when it happens.

Interview conducted on april, 24th, 2012 on air by Spaceman & Metal’o Phil
Translation : Stan

Gojira’s website : www.gojira-music.com
Album : L’Enfant Sauvage, out on june, 25th, 2012 via Roadrunner Records



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