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Interview conducted April 22 2016
Interview published May 30 2016

Gojira's Joe and Mario Duplantier visited Stockholm, Sweden, on their promotion trip for the new album Magma [Street date June 17th] and Metal Covenant therefore took the opportunity to find out more about the album, the band's opinion on social media and a few things more.

"For artists it would be better for their integrity and for their peace of mind and their capacity to make great songs to not hear what everybody's thinking about them."

Tobbe: What do you believe that this release will be able to do for the future of Gojira?

Joe: You know, we did the album that we wanted to do, so we are really in peace with this thing. It makes a big difference when you release a record that you believe in, that means something to you and that's strong. There's no concern and we don't really think that much about the future. Of course we hope that people are gonna love it and that it's gonna bring us higher in our career and so. But we've been doing this for 20 years now and we take small steps, one by one, and that's the way we like it, so we don't go too crazy, you know.

Tobbe: When you're starting to compose for a record, do you look back at your older work to kind of get into the groove?

Mario: Not really, but we always think about our previous album in a way that we try to not repeat the same "mistakes" hopefully. I remember talking to Joe and sometimes I was mentioning L'Enfant Sauvage and I would say "You know, instead of doing it like we did on L'Enfant Sauvage, let's do something shorter on this part maybe or with less atmosphere.".

(Joe:) When Mario says mistakes, we mean that, for example, we're aware of that the record is a little too long for us. We listened to the record and we said "Oh my God! It never ends.", you know. (Mario:) All these previous records bring experience and I assume that we're getting better at composing and better at playing and we're getting better as musicians and artists.

Tobbe: When I compare it to L'Enfant Sauvage, I think that this new record is not as aggressive, but I can see a clear development in your music. So what were your thoughts about the development when you started to compose for the record?

Joe: You have to understand that we didn't enter a certain process. It was already there and that's all we do in our lives. We come up with new songs, and we write, and we think about it, and we jam, and, you know, we have visions, and we talk. So it's always growing and it's always there and we're always creating. So there's not a moment when we're like "Okay. Now, let's make a record!" and we get into a room and decide what we're gonna do.

Tobbe: Some people do that.

Joe: Some people do that, it's true. And a band gets together and they didn't think about anything and they start to jam and "Boom!" - they make a record. I really envy them, because firstly, we work like maniacs all the time and after the release of L'Enfant Sauvage, Mario had an impression that the record wasn't really finished. I was in peace with that record and I really loved it when it came out and I was really excited.

But something was missing, but not in a way that we didn't work hard enough and my feeling now, with Magma, was more like "I need to sing.". And I tried to sing on L'Enfant Sauvage, and on some days most of the singing just didn't work. So now it was telling me this thing that "I wanna sing songs. I wanna use my vocal cords in a different way than screaming.", because also I'm not 18 years old anymore. I'm almost 40. It was completely natural that these songs were already inside us, you know. We just had to get together and a lot of times we would gather in New York and in France and then on the road, on the bus, and we were recording little demos and then just jam for hours.

So these things came little by little through the years. Some bands are able to release an album every 2 years, but we kind of need the time for these things to come up, very slowly, organically, you know. It's different, when you think about it this way. These things are growing in us and we let them come, like "Take your time." and then one day "Boom!" and then we'll release a record. So we're still in the process of releasing records, going on the road, releasing another record, going on the road. You know, this routine, that to us is never the same. It's always a big adventure.

Tobbe: Your mother sadly passed away last year and naturally you were affected in one way or another, but how much different do you think that the album would have been if she was still alive?

Joe: It's hard to tell. It's really hard to answer this, because our reality was much different for the whole year and we were thrown into this. So I don't know. It's almost impossible to answer this. (Mario:) Maybe subconsciously. I don't know at which level it touched the music. It's hard to say, but for sure, maybe the lyrics of some songs would be different, for example. (Joe:) It would be a different album for sure, but how would it be different is a mystery. We'll never know.

Tobbe: Your lyrics are apparently important to you guys, but do you believe that your fans can really see the lyrics the way you want them to and really understand the words?

Joe: I don't want them to soak them in, in a certain way. It's out there, and it's their own experience, you know, and I like that. (Mario:) Even for me. I sometimes read Joe's lyrics and I have my own interpretation. I ask him "Did you want to say 'that'?" and he says "Why not? Yeah." and I'm like "In a way I understand the lyrics.". I love the fact that it's poetry and it's abstract and if you are too clear it kind of kills the imagination sometimes. Joe has a talent to create poetry and you do your own interpretations through metaphors and images and I love the fact that it's a bit cryptic too.

(Joe:) You know, even crazier than that. It's crazy that Mario sometimes is not sure what I mean, but even crazier is that sometimes I'm not sure what they mean, because, you know, I don't remember. So I put these words together, because it matches my feelings at the moment and if I read them on the following day, then yes, I reconnect instantly with the feeling and things make sense, but sometimes as time passes, I track the song, and sometimes it's like 4 months later, and it's like "I'm not sure what I meant when I said that.", but if it works and if the combination of words still kind of means something, then it's good and it means that it's good poetry.

But most of the lyrics, especially on this album, I kind of know precisely why and who I'm talking to and the kind of state of mind I was in when I wrote them. But I like though that some people think I'm totally talking about something else. It's cool, you know.

Tobbe: Your music style is quite unique, I think, and is it important to you to come out different than other bands?

Mario: Yeah, it's important. I think we try our best to sound like no one else sounds. The first demo kind of sounds like Death, the band from Florida, and Morbid Angel, but I think it's a natural evolution to try to do something unique. So yes, it's important to us, I think.

Tobbe: Your music doesn't always comply with the traditional approaches and quite frequently your rhythms are a little bit different from what people might expect coming out from a metal band, so do you believe that sometimes people can look at your music and see it as too perplex or maybe too complicated?

Joe: If it's too complicated for them, they're always free to listen to something else [Laughs], but, you know, it's funny, it's too simple to some people, and some people will find it too dark. So we're kind of in the middle of an infinity of possibilities, so therefore we're nowhere in particular on the music meter. But of course, for human perception it's kind of pop music happy and uplifting and then it's like the world's most extreme black metal, so we would be somewhere in between. But we just try to connect ourselves to the source, to our hearts, and just let the music flow.

Tobbe: So why did you decide to name the album Magma?

Mario: Technically Joe and I started jamming on an idea like a year ago and we really enjoyed what we did together and Joe came up with the first riff of the song Magma and we were just jamming for 10-15 minutes and then we looked at each other and we thought "That's so cool. We should do a song out of it.".

We have a list of ideas we have in mind, so we took a pen and gave it some working title. It can be anything. Let's say that I'm playing right here and I see that bottle and we're playing a riff, I would say "Hey! Let's play the bottle riff!", you know. So this time I wrote Magma, because I felt it was like really volcanic. So we had a list of songs, like Devila, Magma, Bottle, Glasses and… (Joe:) For some reason it's easier for us to remember when we give it a name, because it always has a meaning and it's not totally random. For example, we did a riff, that didn't end up on the record, but that was a little vampire-ish and devil-ish, so we called it Devila, and even 3 days later we were like "Oh yeah. Of course. It's that thing.". So Magma, yeah, Mario came up with this thing.

(Mario:) …and after that, because the last 2 years were so creative and there were so many events in our lives, we felt a bit on fire, with all kinds of emotions, like a lot of joy, a lot of sadness, a lot of everything, and when we had to choose a name for the album, even if times were tough, I said "Joe. What will we call the album?" and he was like "Magma!". Just by saying the word Magma made me feel good and almost relaxed. (Joe:) It was kind of putting a name on this magma of emotions, you know. Of joy and sadness and a lot of things. It such a difficult year that we just had, that it's almost difficult now to do all these interviews, because it always comes back, but it is what it is, so.

(Mario:) And also because our music has kind of the same nature as a volcano. We would love to reproduce the sound of a volcano, with the guitar and the drums. Something powerful, coming from the ground. I love the nature of the volcanoes. It's explosive and you cannot control it and it's dangerous and you have to be humble when you face a volcano. And us human beings, we are so small and the volcano can destroy us so easily and we love this idea that we're so small in the universe and it's also just a reflection of our existence. So Magma is totally an image and a symbol fit with the band in our worst period, the way I'm thinking.

Tobbe: You will visit like 15 festivals this summer and will you play something off the new album on those festivals or do the fans have to wait until fall to hear the new songs live?

Joe: Poor fans. They'll have to wait and wait… [Laughs] (Mario:) June 17th, so as soon as the album is released we will feel free to play all the new songs we want, I think. But it's a bit challenging, because usually we love to practice a lot before performing new songs. But we will see. Maybe 3, 4 or 5 new songs? We also really want to change the setlist a little bit and arriving with fresh material.

Tobbe: When you have more and more records put out, how do you choose which songs to ditch in the setlist?

Mario: We will see, but finally we have a real choice of good songs, instead of always having an issue with 3 or 4 songs. Now we have enough albums to have an amount of good songs and it's a good feeling. (Joe:) Lately we got tired of playing certain songs. Not one in particular, but sometimes it's like "Let's put Flying Whales on the side for tonight. Let's play something else.". Or Backbone. "Do we have to play Backbone, again?" and Mario's like "Yes! It's perfect on the setlist. If we don't, the balance is broken.". He's good at putting setlists together. This time we have more options, so it's gonna open doors, for us at least, and for the fans, more surprises too.

Tobbe: It's always a question if you want to play for your core fans, who know every song, or if you wanna play for the everyday fan who knows a couple of songs. Like on a festival you wanna play your most popular songs obviously.

Mario: At first, we are thinking about the songs we love to play, because some songs are very challenging to play and maybe the mood of the song doesn't fit live in general. But yeah, we respect the fans a lot and we know they want to hear Vacuity and a couple of more. Our biggest songs. (Joe:) The hard core fans, they would want to hear Esoteric Surgery and… (Mario:) Too challenging. [Joe laughs]

Tobbe: Hire a new drummer. [Not to be taken seriously.]

Mario: No, we play The Art Of Dying and a lot of tough ones. Backbone is so tough. (Joe:) Yeah, The Art Of Dying is super technical and some songs are challenging for me too and sometimes, for example, we'll do 5 shows in a row in the beginning of a tour and then one day off and my voice is a little bit tired. So in that case, that one song where I know I'm gonna struggle and I can not hit a note, we'll, you know, eject that song just because my voice is tired. So it's true that we think about ourselves first.

Tobbe: With the huge amount of social media exposure nowadays, do you think that it would have been easier to be a band like 30 years ago where you could put more focus on the actual music? Because the internet is spreading everything today and you're always exposed to people's opinion and stuff.

Mario: Yeah, we miss those days. [Laughs] (Joe:) I want to be completely honest. I fucking hate that shit, but at the same time… (Mario:) Also there's a good aspect of internet and we know everybody knows, but the fact is that for now there's a lot of information and for myself personally my capacity is limited so I have too much information.

(Joe:) It's disruptive. It's on the way of simplicity and being centered. I'm very old-school. You know, going to the store and grabbing a vinyl, looking at it and smelling it, you sit down in your chair and put your thing on, you listen to it and you're present to the thing. (Mario:) But there is a way to use social media and we try to use it the best we can and have a real content, instead up putting up only goofy pictures. Sometimes we love to do that, but we prefer to give it a real content.

Tobbe: Fans nowadays kind of crave more, like, to meet the artist. I remember the times when it was almost impossible to meet the artist, but nowadays the artists like "have to" meet their fans.

Joe: Yes, otherwise they're insulting. You know, what's happening is something weird. For artists it would be better for their integrity and for their peace of mind and their capacity to make great songs to not hear what everybody's thinking about them. Now a 9 year old kid can send a comment from his bedroom and I don't know who he is and I don't know how old he is or where he lives. He doesn't know me and he has no idea of who I am and yet on my phone "Dzzz" there's a message from this 9 year old kid. I don't wanna know that. I wanna be protected from that.

(Mario:) One guy sent me a message this morning on my Instagram to almost complain about the new song [Stranded]. (Joe:) He said "You cannot do that!". Anyway, it's a little disturbing, but it's the new world, and we're part of it, and we wanna be a part of the world, so we have to deal with it.

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