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Interview: Gojira


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2016 has been the year of Gojira. Not only have the past twelve months heralded the progressive quartet’s brand new album, the enigmatic Magma (2016), but they have also borne witness to the beloved juggernaut touring relentlessly.


After laying waste to a plethora of European festivals (including Bloodstock and both the British and French editions of Download), the French connection of brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier alongside Jean-Michel Labadie and Christian Andreu headlined a trek across the entire USA in autumn. But their highest profile shows of the year arguably came under the wing of American rockers Alter Bridge, who tore through the UK on an immense arena-level crusade in November and December.

It was a tour that saw Gojira adapt to a new crowd, as their experimental death metal stylings threatened to go over the heads of the melodic rock-loving masses that Alter Bridge attracts.

“We played some more extreme songs. Not too many, but we could tell people were kind of shocked,” drummer Mario recalls of the first show of the Alter Bridge/Gojira jaunt, speaking mere hours before his band’s set at London’s legendary O2 Arena.

“So we will adapt today; maybe change every day’s set list and just try different things, but it will still be catchy and metal, of course. But also the room is bigger, so it’s very challenging to make it sound clear when you go fast. We are doing our best to maybe focus on more groovy stuff that will fit the room better.”

Even though the new Magma album is an experience filled with songs that are cleaner than anything else the band has ever done, bringing out this more sombre side for the Alter Bridge fans has proven to be a challenge as, in Mario’s own words, “we can’t do a soundcheck”.

He explains: “We had a line check for five minutes yesterday so we just put the stuff on-stage and had to start the show. The mixing on-stage was a mess. That’s the bad point about opening for bands: we don’t have time for proper soundchecks. For [clean songs like] ‘Shooting Star’, not for me but for the voice, we need to have good frequency on the guitar. We cannot play it when things are too messy. Unlike the heavy stuff, where we can just scream and it’s alright.”

Magma’s cleaner, less abrasive and more melancholic tone when compared to the rest of Gojira’s back-catalogue is something that was born out of great personal adversity for Mario and vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier. During the album’s pre-production stages, the brothers would tragically lose their mother, Patricia Rosa, to illness.

“The impact is bigger than you think,” Mario says. “This album is good because we feel that we started mourning. I felt good when I listened to the album because I expressed so many emotions, so I feel better now.

“Maybe the next one will be entirely different,” he proceeds, “but I say that for us, specifically with Joe, it’s very important to try new things with his voice. He’s 40 years old and you don’t want to scream forever. He needed to express this and he told me ‘I want to sing,’ and I said ‘Yeah, but you have to scream.’ He said ‘No, I need to sing.’ So I said ‘Then let’s sing. Try it. Work on your voice and try it.’

“He was very shy at the beginning, but he came out with ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Low Lands’. Then even he was like ‘Oh, I don’t know really,’ because it was not in his comfort zone. But it was essential for him.”

Upon its release in June 2016 – a full four years after Gojira’s previous record, L’Enfant Sauvage (2012) – Magma was met with acclaim from fans and critics alike. Which proves fortunate for the band, as it appears that this album’s more diverse and emotional style is here to say, although a return to Gojira’s death metal terrain does not seem totally off the cards either.

“The death metal roots, we feel far away from them,” states Mario. “We feel that we’ve changed.

“Even me, I’m not listening to a lot of extreme music anymore. But I’m still passionate and I love to work my double-bass very fast, it’s like an art for me. It’s more than just ‘I’m a metalhead’: we feel different today. So, probably, the new sound of Gojira will follow in this way. More diverse but still catchy, and we’ll still explore. I worked my drums hard this week and I found so many new, interesting drum patterns, so I can imagine with a guitar that it will sound very death metal-ey. They’re some crazy patterns. And I’m already thinking about playing these parts to my brother so he can find a riff for them.”

He goes on: “It’s just being original, because we know so many things have been done. So I just try to always find a new trick or a new thing. It’s for myself, the other guys are like ‘Whoa, this is too technical!’ I’m the one that loves technical stuff as a drummer. For me, it’s more like ‘Yeah, kill the routine and kill the easy stuff.’ Instead of being lazy, just try to push yourself to do something original.”

But it isn’t just with their music that Gojira will continue to experiment: the same can also be said for the band’s lyrics, which over the years have ranged from environmentally conscious science-fiction on From Mars to Sirius (2005) to exploring the notion of death on The Way of All Flesh (2008) to themes of regret, self-exploration and loss on Magma.

“For Joe it’s always a good moment when we start writing,” Mario explains, “because he will push himself to write words. And words are good for the Earth. The more you talk, the better you feel, so for him it is a good opportunity to make a statement about himself.

“Sometimes I cannot wait to read what he has written for a new album, because I will also have a view on his state of mind. He takes it very seriously, like a ritual. It’s important for him.”

So, overall, what can fans expect from Gojira in the near-future?

Well, while the specifics remain a mystery, it looks as though the rule-breaking mavens’ continued desire to take the rules of metal and crack them in half across their knees will remain. And as long as that want to progress continues within this band, Gojira fans can be assured that no matter what they get on album release days of the future, it will be honest, visceral, powerful and, above all else, genuine.

Gojira’s latest album, Magma, is available physically and digitally now via Roadrunner Records. Read our review of the album here.

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