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Gojira - Joseph Duplantier for president
God, thank In Flames for taking Gojira with them on tour! Their absence on Dutch soil for more than two years began to hurt, so I’m glad I could finally see them again. I also found it a good idea to have a conversation with Gojira’s frontman Joseph Duplantier (Joe for short), since their new masterpiece The Way Of All Flesh finally has been released. After their show we talked about touring, the States and its politics and of course about the new album.

First about today's show. Two years ago you played in this venue’s small café for approximately 100 people, and now you performed in the big hall for over 2000. How did the show go?
“Good. It was good to be here again. We have a very good feeling with Holland. Each time we come here, we’re glad to see people riding bikes! (laughs) But the people are also well educated. They’re nice and intelligent. At least that’s what it seems like. I like this country a lot.”

Yesterday you played in your own capital city, Paris.
”Usually there’s a lot of stress and pressure, because of the press and people that we know from the music business. But this time it was actually pretty good and that cheered us up, because we’re visiting countries in Europe where people clearly don’t know us. Like Germany for example; it was our third time ever after two festival appearances in 2005. Now we played in front of 4000 people and they were just staring at us. It was almost scary. They wanted to see In Flames and somebody was in the way and it was Gojira, you know. They were nice, but not very loud.”

Is it hard to play for an audience like that?
”It is if you’re not prepared. In Germany we had two shows and the first one was like a nightmare but the second one was great, because we knew what to expect. We were like 'okay, these people are silent, they don’t know us and they’re staring at us, so we have to behave in a certain way so we can help them get into the music'. It was a great show actually. Still tough though, ‘cause we had to play at 200%.”

What did you expect tonight?
“We knew that some people liked our music, because we like Holland and we’ve played here before. But we were ready to stand before a tough crowd because people wanted to see In Flames, that’s why they’re here. We’re getting used to be openers.”

In 2004 you’ve released a live DVD, which was shot in your home country. The whole crowd is going nuts - but at that time, no one knows your band outside of France. You must’ve been very motivated to go on tour in Europe.
“It’s very challenging. There is no tradition of international bands in France, so the music business is challenging. We became famous in France, but then we had to invent that prototype of an international band. That was pretty new to us, but it’s what we’re becoming right now. It was actually easier in the States and in the UK, I don’t know why. People see us and after two songs they’re into the music.”

So there is a difference between the US/UK crowd and the audiences of Europe?
“Yes. I’m not saying that it’s better in t
he US, but it’s very different. They’re like, more spontaneous, they don’t think too much. They go straight for the pit.”

Does that have to do that European citizens might be smarter, because you said Dutch people are intelligent?
“I think that for example people from Norway and Sweden are more analytical about what we do. Bu
t they enjoy it in a different way. In the US, people want to groove and they want to get down, you know. Impressive moshpits and circlepits and such. So yes, it’s different. It’s tougher in Europe for a band. But on the other hand; if people in Europe like you, they will probably stay with you forever. In the States they like you, but the next day they don’t like you anymore. They can quit faster it seems, so Europe’s fan base might be stronger.”

You’ve been touring the States for a long time.
“Well, for about one year and a half. We did three tours with big bands like Lamb Of God, Machine Head, Trivium, Children Of Bodom and Behemoth. All the tours were interesting because there was a mixed crowd. Trivium, for example, is very mainstream and is featured on the radio a lot. Job For A Cowboy is like the new wave of crazy technical death metal and attracted a lot of 12-year old kids with their parents, while Behemoth’s fans are like 30, 40 years old.”

Do you have any interest in the upcoming US presidential elections, since you’ve almost been living in the US lately?
“Yes. Go McCain, go McCain! (laughs) No, of course Obama would be at least... you know we need a good guy in the US and Obama is way, way better. I don’t know if it’ll change a lot of things, but it will be a better image of the country and it’ll be a great victory to have a black guy as the president. Even if he turns out to be an asshole in the end, I don’t care. Seeing a black guy as a president is a very strong message of hope.”

Do you think Obama is completely out of conflicts of interest?
“I’m sure to be a president of the US nowadays, you’ve got to be aware of all that and you have to be playing with fire. It’s a dangerous game, ‘cause you can get killed. So you have to deal with the maffia and even with the terrorists, I don’t know. It’s a really hard task and a dangerous game and you’re like, stuck between a lot of things that are there for ages. To me, the perfect president would be a philosopher, someone that meditates and that knows what is right. But that’s not the world we’re living in. Take Tibet for example. There’s a genocide going on there right now, but we can’t say anything to China because we want to sell planes and trains. This world is hard and tough, but at the same time, what can you do? If you want to be the president of France, Holland, Germany or the United States you have to play the game and know in what kind of world you’re living in. There are like several realities and I think politics is one reality that I prefer to stay away from. We’re doing politics through music to share ideas and to express ourselves, but in a different way. A safer way (laughs).”

About the new record then. Was it a big step from From Mars To Sirius to the new one? Have you grown a lot?
“Yes, we experienced a lot of things that we didn’t know before. Like touring in the States for example. We went all over the country, went through different temperatures, landscapes and met different people. It’s also pretty tough. We had to be organized on a personal way, because it’s a big adventure. We were
with 20 people in a small bus. You don’t know the people that you’re going to meet, what exactly is going to happen and how you’ll be treated by the headliners. We’ve been through that for 2 years basically and then we came back in France, in our homes and apartments and in the rehearsal space - and all those experiences were inside of us. So in essence the album is tougher, more straight to the point and also darker. It’s not like a trauma or that we were in a shock, but these experiences made us more mature.”

Is it hard to keep your feet on the ground after all these experiences? Gojira recently supported Metallica and Slayer, while you personally were part of the Cavalera Conspiracy as well.
“No, because we’re a band
for 12 years now. This dream became our reality, but we have new problems every day. We have to deal with tension and stress, but we also have problems with money, techniques, gear, backline etcetera. We have to take decisions together all the time. But we have a strong faith since the beginning of the band, since the first the demo. I don’t know where it comes from, but I’d like to say that it comes from the sky. Like it’s in the air. We all quit our jobs when we started the band and we always worked very hard for it. We are all very motivated and there’s a very strong bond between us. It’s a big challenge, like jumping into a big empty space. You have to be confident. So when we finally played with Metallica or Slayer we knew were it came from.

We never had, for example, a big label supporting us. When we were on the cover of a magazine it’s because people came to us and were interested. So we know where it comes from and that
keeps our feet on the ground."

Another question about the album then. Some songs feature ambient intros and outros. How were they composed, they sound kind of improvised?
“Yes, they’re improvised. I like to record a lot of things. Sometimes I record when it’s very early, because it’s full moon. At 6 or even 4 o’clock I start up my computer and grab my guitar and start recording. At that moment I’ve got a certain mood in my head, like I’m hypnotized or something. I play and record and it’s like I’m building something. I don’t know were I’m
going, but at the same time I know exactly what I want to hear or want to feel. It’s something very precious and when I feel that I know I’m in the heart of what I love in life. Like listening to yourself and let things flow.”

For example the ghost track at the end of the record.
“I recorded this outro two years ago and it wasn’t supposed to be on the album. I had something in my mind related to death, or to the soul. But because we wanted an outro that represented the life after death, Mario (Joe’s brother and drummer of Gojira) asked me if I still had it on my computer, and I did. It’s the original recording so the quality is low, but I couldn’t play it again. So we put it on the album and it really means something because of that mood I had.”

At this point, Joe and I were talking about our feelings about The Way Of All Flesh and music in general. We came to the conclusion that music is a feeling, or “magic” as Joe calls it himself, and that it sometimes is hard to talk about. I ended this short conversation with the question, “what will the next album sound like?”
“It’ll be fucked up actually! (laughs) We are talking about it right now. My brother and I have crazy ideas. We haven’t even composed one riff yet, but we have ideas of what we want to hear and it’ll be probably be creepy and weird, dark and suddenly powerful. I hope you’ll be surprised.”

Sounds like you’re going back to the earlier albums?!
“Yes, maybe. It depends on the mood. As things are now, it will be creepy and weird but maybe it won’t be. Maybe we’ll put out a mainstream album. (laughs) No, just kidding!”

To who are you the most grateful?
“Ehm, that’s a hard one man, no one ever asked me that. But the answer would be 'me'. (laughs) I kill myself on this project man! Of course, I do a lot and I’m totally dedicated to this project so yes, that would be me.”

We’re having a long chat already, but is there anything you'd like to add?
“Well yes, I’d like to thank you for this interview and all the people in Holland that are supporting Gojira.”

I know there are a lot of people who want to see Gojira, but who couldn’t be here tonight for various reasons. One reason is that they want to see you on a headline tour.
“Cool, that’s interesting information. We are working on that right now, we’re thinking about the European tour very seriously and our label really wants us to do that, too. We have to do this here and in the US because we’re promoting our band all the time and we’re opening for bigger bands, but now we feel that it’s time to have a proper tour.”