According to Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier, the world is a beautiful place. "It's round and it goes in a circle around a star—that's just magical!" the singer-guitarist exclaims with the audible wonder of someone half his age. Duplantier is on the phone, calling from Gojira's headquarters in a refurbished old farmhouse in southwestern France, near the border with Spain. "But at the same time, humanity is crazy," he continues, his tone growing serious. "I think we just behave like children, killing each other and destroying everything. It's ugly."
Duplantier and his bandmates—guitarist Christian Andreu, bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, and Duplantier's brother Mario on drums—make music that reflects their sense of dichotomy: brutal yet highly organized, forbidding but strangely hopeful. After a profile-raising 2007 in which they toured with Lamb of God and Behemoth—not to mention a profile-raising 2008 in which Duplantier played bass on Inflikted by the Cavalera Conspiracy—Gojira this month release their fourth and most impressive full-length, The Way of All Flesh (Prosthetic), where blistering tracks such as "Toxic Garbage Island" and "Wolf Down the Earth" lay out the band's urgent campaign to get mankind to try a little tenderness.
Flesh "is less naive and less utopian" than 2005's From Mars to Sirius, says Mario Duplantier. "We toured a lot for the last album, and we saw the world—we saw pollution and we saw bad people," the drummer adds. "So I have the feeling that the new one is harder and darker and more violent. We're very positive people, but we were in a bubble before, and now we have a more realistic point of view."
"We do our best to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem," Joe says. "We feel that we can reach people through our music, and that's a power. The music has a certain vibration, so if we put more consciousness into the music, it can be a better vibration for the world."
REVOLVER You guys recorded most of The Way of All Flesh at your own studio in France. Can you describe the building?
JOE DUPLANTIER It used to be for pigs and chickens in the old days. Half of the house was almost a ruin when we got it, but we totally rebuilt the roof and the walls with our hands. It took us two years to finish. Now it's really our place.
It's in the countryside?
Yes, it's in the middle of a forest with ancient oaks and chestnuts. I actually spent my childhood in this area, and there's a lot of good vibes. We have the ocean five minutes from where we are—we could even walk there. And there are the mountains not too far. We definitely feel close to nature here.
Does working in such a peaceful area make it easier to concentrate on your music than if you were writing and recording in a busy city?
It's hard to say if it's easier because we didn't really experience being in a big city. We are countryside guys, you know? We come from this place. I was born in Paris, but I moved here when I was just a baby. But I would say that, yes, it helps, because we're on our own, and it's pretty quiet—we don't have a lot of people or a lot of places to go at night. But I kind of miss the action. I love going to New York, for example. New York is like a jungle—it's really different. I need both vibes, I think.
You and Mario traveled to Los Angeles to record drums for the new CD with Logan Mader, whom you met while recording with Cavalera Conspiracy. How was that?
It was very sunny, with a lot of big cars. We took a weekend and went to Santa Monica beach and surfed—well, we tried to surf. I love being in the States in general, because there's another vibe that we don't have in Europe, really. To American people it's still a new world; you feel that everything is possible and everything is opened. It's really refreshing.
Why'd you decide to hire Mader?
I was amazed by how calm he is and how professional; he's very attentive and he knows how to listen. He asked me, "Where are you guys going for the next Gojira album?" And I thought, Hey, this is the guy we need to reach a new level in our sound. Usually we do everything ourselves in our own studio, but this time we'd done so much touring that I think we needed help. It takes a lot of energy going in the studio.
You felt you were in a place to move your music forward?
To finally reach what we always wanted. The sound on this album is the sound we've been looking for since the beginning. People sometimes say, "I love the sound of the second album—it's so creepy and weird." But that wasn't our goal, to be weird; we wanted to sound as big as possible. So we were like, "OK, fuck it—let's go with a producer." Logan brought the power.
Did you know what you wanted to sing about when you started writing songs?
I had a feeling of what I wanted to say, and it wasn't very different from what I always say. From the beginning, since the first demo, there's been a lot of soul-searching, you know? We ask questions, we try to understand ourselves better. In the lyrics, I talk about my fears, life experiences, and the will to be a better person. I don't mean being more polite or more beautiful—it's more about feeling better.
The album is coming out right before the United States elects its next president. Is that important to people in France?
The world's attention is on this election. I really pray for McCain, of course.
That's a joke. I really hope that Obama is gonna make it. I hope that the next president of the United States will be wiser than the last one. That's all we can hope, because the United States has a lot of weight in the world, in the world's economy, and the decisions of the United States can create certain movements within Europe. Hopefully we can work together instead of building tensions.
There's been no shortage of tension between France and the U.S. lately, particularly over the war in Iraq.
A lot of French people are pretty critical toward America because there is a lot of passion. The American dream is really in the French culture. Ask anyone in the street to name their favorite actor, for example, and you have maybe nine chances out of 10 that it'll be an American actor; same thing for musicians and scientists. America is a very wealthy country culturally. There's a lot of great things happening, and it's very modern; it's facing the future instead of being in the past. In Europe we have history and all this wealth from the past—the castles and kings. But America is only 200 years old! French people have this fascination with United States. When we toured in the States the first time, all our friends kept asking us, "How was it? The States, oh my God! Where have you been? New York? Los Angeles? Yeah!" Even the ones that were critical of the U.S.A. were excited.
Americans have been critical toward the French, as well.
It goes both ways. When we were in the States, some people were calling us "freedom fries" and stuff like that. I was like, "So what? Because we said no to war? I'm fucking proud of it!" And they were like, "Yeah, OK, you're right."
Talk about splitting your time between Gojira and Cavalera Conspiracy.
It actually didn't take me too much time to do it; I was only there for the recording and practicing a little bit on the songs. It was a very spontaneous album. Roadrunner sent us an email saying that Max and Iggor were back in a new band. I was like, Wow, that's great news! Then when I read that they wanted to work with our bassist, that was mind-blowing—I thought it was a joke or something. But our bass player couldn't make it; he had a very important family gathering. So I was like, "Hey, I can do it. If they want to collaborate with Gojira, I'm ready." So I was there for 15 or 20 days jamming and recording. Working with Max and Iggor was a crazy experience, because they're part of my main influences.
You didn't tour with Cavalera Conspiracy this year. What's your involvement with the group now?
I don't know what's gonna happen—if there's gonna be a second record or what. Basically, it's Max's band. He's doing his stuff, and if he calls me for another recording session, I'll be there. Touring is another story. I really couldn't do it because we had our album, and Gojira is my No. 1 priority, for sure. I put everything in Gojira, my whole life.
What was it like not being the leader in a band?
Very interesting. I didn't know that feeling before; I'm used to being the chief. I do a lot of things, and it makes me sick sometimes because I'm a perfectionist. I'm doing too much: the album-cover artwork, the lyrics, recording a lot of guitars. So it was very refreshing to be just the bass player; it was like a vacation. But I couldn't help myself being a fucking perfectionist even when I was recording the bass. "OK, we have to do this again." Logan would be like, "No, it's fine, we got it." "No, let's try it another way!"
Randy Blythe from Lamb of God appears on a song on The Way of All Flesh.
He's an incredible character. We don't have that type of guy in France. He's probably our No. 1 supporter in the States, and he's always talking about Gojira. Sometimes we're like, "Hey, take it easy, man—they're gonna hate us because you talk about us so much!"
How did you guys meet?
[Lamb of God drummer] Chris Adler actually discovered Gojira on the Web. He told me exactly how it happened: He burned four CDs and put one CD on each of his bandmates' amps before practice, and he was like, "Guys, you have to check out this band. They're from France." And the other guys were like, "Come on, from France? Are you kidding? There's nothing happening in France! We don't give a shit about your CD." Then he played the CD a month later to Randy in his car; they were going fishing or something. And Randy said, "Hey, what is this?" Chris was like, "I told you, it's the fucking French band!" Then Randy became crazy about Gojira. We toured with Lamb of God in the States and we had a blast.
And then you invited him to sing on the Gojira album?
He said, "When are you guys recording? I wanna scream on your record."
You can't say no to that.
Yeah, that was all it took.