Gojira Talk Production Challenges, Sonic Experimentation With Code Orange | Revolver

Gojira Talk Production Challenges, Sonic Experimentation With Code Orange

Jami Morgan interviews Joe Duplantier in cover story outtake
gojira_credia_gabrielleduplantier.jpg, Gabrielle Duplantier
Gojira, 2021
photograph by Gabrielle Duplantier

For Gojira diehards, Revolver has two limited-edition Spring Issue bundles featuring a numbered slipcase, alternate cover and either an exclusive Mario Duplantier art print or the band's new album, Fortitude, on CD and vinyl. Get yours before they're gone!

For the Gojira cover story of our new Spring Issue, we knew we had to do something special. So, we enlisted Code Orange ringleader Jami Morgan to do the honors interviewing Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier. The two are label mates on Roadrunner Records and have also toured together, so they have a strong rapport — despite the fact that Morgan's brash, rough-edged demeanor and Duplantier's chill, reserved vibe couldn't be more different. In fact, their conversation was so free-flowing that a lot of compelling material ended up on the cutting-room floor. Thanks to the internet, it's not completely lost, however, and in the lead-up to the April 30th release of Gojira's new album, Fortitude, we're posting "outtakes" that didn't make print. (Read the first outtake here.) Up today, Morgan and Duplantier get nerdy, discussing music production, the "shitty" sound of most modern metal, what it means to "tune a room" and more.

JAMI MORGAN Correct me if I'm wrong: You guys pretty much did all the production on this record, pretty much, or you recorded everything. For me, that factors in so much because the way you made it sound is hard. Even the hard parts on this record, they sound a lot harder than hard parts on previous records because of the way the drums and the guitar sound. They cut through in a way that I feel a lot of metal producers — a lot — so many of them, they just neuter that sound because they just have ... I don't know how to even explain it, but there's this sound that ... This fricking satellite radio kind of sound that metal has now where it's, like, the highest high and the lowest lows are almost cut off and everything's kind of here. [Uses hands to show in between] And it just sounds like fucking shit ...

JOE DUPLANTIER It's shit. No, we've got to fight that. We've got to fight that.

MORGAN I agree, man.

DUPLANTIER We've got to add some punch. And it was a conscious thing when we recorded. Actually, this album, the production of this album was an incredible adventure for a whole year in the studio, from the demos to the final takes with vocals. There was a million things happening every day. We would change guitars and amps or microphones depending on what parts we were dealing with. The drums were the drums. We did a lot of work on the drums, too. Tuning the room. Never tuned a room before, but ...

MORGAN Yeah. What the fuck's that?

DUPLANTIER The drums and the room. Everything needs to resonate in the room, and then you have this magic moment where the stars are aligned, and everything starts to sound incredible. It's not enough just to throw some mics and some plugins. And we really, really concentrated on the physicality of the recording. And I read a bunch of stuff. And with our sound guy, a Johann Mayer, that you know.

MORGAN Oh yeah. He's a fucking beast.

DUPLANTIER Yeah, but all sound guys are not necessarily good in the studio and vice versa because they are different environments. Being a producer is looking to align these stars and to capture the perfect thing. To be honest, this one was not ... And this is not a secret. I'm pretty much bragging about this. This is not mixed by us. It's mixed by Andy Wallace!

MORGAN There you go. Fuck yeah. Yeah, that's awesome.

DUPLANTIER So we had him in mind from the start. And I didn't even know if he was going to be available. We were just hoping that he would accept to come out of retirement to do that project because he retired. And he did, which is incredible. But the production of the album happened during ... recording, engineering. ... When we were done with that, I could press play with no plugins, no EQs, nothing, and it was already sounding good, where I wanted it to be. And then Andy just worked his magic and made everything more alive and powerful. But we kept the dynamic.

I know exactly what you're talking about when you talk about the new metal sounds — that is getting compressed on Spotify and radio and stuff. It's a disaster what's happening to the sound quality these days, I find.

MORGAN Oh, 100 percent. And you know what? Actually, something you just said that I think is ... I don't know if you'll see the connection here. But the way that you just described doing the record, which is almost like ... And this is the way we've really tried to do especially our last record, which we actually ran into some problems with it. ... You're not mixing as you go per se, but you're leveling as you go. ... A lot of rock and metal bands, what they do is record a bunch of stuff and then they give it to a mixer and then the mixer is supposed to figure it all out. And that doesn't work at all for band like us and for band like you guys.

Actually, hip-hop, that is more the way that it's done, as well, the way that you're describing, because lot of it could be more bedroom, a lot of it's more individual. So, people are doing things as they go and it's happening as it goes. And that honestly is a more modern way to do it, in a cool way. And then this modern metal sound is the opposite of that. Like you said, it sounds like everything is done afterwards or something ...

DUPLANTIER Yeah, exactly! Often, recording a metal album, if you already recorded a metal album with other people, or if you did that once with your band, or you hear stories, it's like going to school. "We're going to get the tone, the guitar tone. That's it. Don't move. Put some fences around that amp. We can't get close. We have the tone."

And then you record all these songs with that, and then you re-amp, but by the time you get to mixing, you're not spontaneous with your sound anymore. And then you're also tired by the end of the process. It's not necessarily the best time to be creative with sound.


DUPLANTIER I find that at the beginning of the process, you can commit with a certain sound and use a crazy weird amp or something that's cracking. For this intro, you use this shitty amp, and you put a shitty mic on purpose, and you get that shitty sound versus your plugin to make it sound like a fake radio, which makes it sound fake. But how about using a real radio instead? And plug your guitar in a radio to get that? So, I'm fascinated by this process. And I'm absolutely in awe in front of the big producers that do that for a living.

And this is my ambition, personally, is to be a good producer, and I take it very seriously. I'm not just a dude from the band who recorded himself, you know?

I'm trying to be very attentive to all these things and learn from every experience. I've built two studios with my friends. The first one was a little crooked. The second one was way better, that Silver Cord Studio. And all the people that come in say that the drums sound great in the room, which has me really happy, because ...

MORGAN Oh, yeah.

DUPLANTIER But it sounds good. The room sounds good. And then we placed the drums very carefully and took off some shit from the ceilings to have more resonance and did some measurements. And we even auditioned freaking drum techs to come and tune the drums to find the perfect place to move the drums.

MORGAN Great. Well, I'll tell you this. You've fucking screwed me over because now I got Reba [Meyers, Code Orange guitarist-vocalist] who is obsessed with the way that these drums and guitars sound and shit, and she's like, "Our drums sound like shit." I'm like, "God fucking dammit." So, then she tells me that, and I'm like, "Fuck that. Their shit don't sound that good." Then I put it on. I'm like, "Oh, shit, this does sound really fucking good," because the drums sound real.

DUPLANTIER [Laughing hysterically]

MORGAN It's like they sound really real, but they also sound big enough and thick enough that it also accomplishes that thing we both want to accomplish, of course, of it sounding really big and loud comparative to other genres and comparative to other kinds of music. Because sometimes if you get too real, it just sounds like shit, so it's this very difficult line.

DUPLANTIER Exactly. It's true.

MORGAN And obviously, you got a god-level player, as well, which helps a lot, with Mario [Duplantier, Gojira's drummer and Joe's brother] being one of the best drummers there is. But I mean, it straight-up sounds incredible.

When we worked with Chris Vrenna, who was the drummer of Nine Inch Nails for The Downward Spiral and Pretty Hate Machine, and he did a lot of the programming stuff, we learned a lot from that about what we're talking about. They used to throw drums down the stairs and record it. They used to record drums in all kinds of different rooms, and if you listen to that record, if you listen to The Downward Spiral, you'll hear that it sounds more like it's in the future than anything that comes out now. And it was made in, fucking, the mid-Nineties or whatever, the early Nineties. So, it's like, dude, doing things in a real way and blending that with our tools that we have now, that seems to be the key. And I feel like you totally nailed it with the guitar and drum sound.

DUPLANTIER Thank you so much. It means so much coming from you.