Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: Mario Duplantier ( GOJIRA)
“In a world where most festivals are centred around big industries I like that Hellfest evolved from Fury Fest to become the beast that it is today” – Mario Duplantier – Warner Music, Paris – 04/20/2016
On a promo day like today is it a privileged moment to embrace the first impressions of writers about the new album or just one of the hardest parts of the trade?
I find this sort of thing to be great. Today we are adults and we are aware that days like today matter. So today is very positive. We have had some great feedback on the record. For us, it’s gratifying because we would rather that people like the album. I have the impression even that the album is unanimously loved. So we are very happy. The promo step is very important because it allows us to talk about the album and put some words around it, something that we can’t really do in other contexts. You can’t neglect the image and promotion of the band – after all we are « selling ». Or so they say! (laughter) So it’s a very important step, and we now know the majority of journalists here today, because for the most part we have already crossed paths. It’s almost promotion within the family for the French side.
The album has been ready for a while now and is coming out the 17th of June. In this waiting period what moods are dominating? Anxiety? Impatience? Serenity? Worry?
First of all I think you need to ask « Am I personally satisfied with this album? » That’s the number one rule. I had a few frustrations with preceding albums, a sense that I didn’t fully achieve at certain points. For th first time I’m truly relaxed. The link between myself and the music is very intimate. To make this album was a struggle, but today when I listen to the songs I am very happy. Now, the wait will be harder to deal with. Who will like it? Who won’t? It’s an album that marks a change. We are ready for anything but I think that people who love the band for its ability to change are going to follow us down this path. So we will see. But me, I am happy.
Before diving into the conception of this album, what was the goal of this album? (Beyond the desire to put out better music, of course)
The goal, as usual, remained the same: to put out music that reflects our reality. It has to be in touch with us. We don’t want to caricaturise ourselves. We didn’t want to just end the wait. We don’t do Gojira for people who want Gojira: we want to make music that we are completely in touch with. The most complicated part was, once we were all in the same place, to define what we wanted to play. It represents a lot of work, but in the end I will repeat it, we are in touch with this album.
For me magma is a material of fusion, a destructive force that remains unstable, that can choke you. But upon listening to the album I sense a sentiment of maturity, of gentle force. For you – what is magma ?
What you’re saying is interesting and I completely follow you. It’s a material of fusion, a destructive material bu also the sun, and the heart of the earth. The earth is kind of like my mother. It’s also a symbol that scares and reassures me at the same time. Magma is also the fire that was inside of us during the writing process. We were symbolically in a state of fusion within. Magma is plenty of things. What we have done up to this point is pure magma, not to many words, not intellectual, it’s just music. Magma is a good way to define our music I think. It reflects especially well the period in which we live.
So the album title came up on its own ?
It came up on its own yes. Technically I put this idea on the table after we wrote a riff, and today is the riff on « Magma ». It came from a jam with Joe (Duplantier – vocals and guitar), and I adore it. I said to myself « I am certain that this riff is going to make a great song! » Consequently, we gave the name of the song to the album – we often proceed like this, and list a bunch of titles. I decided to call it « Magma » because the riff made me think of magma. It remained the name of the song for a year. We worked on it and burnished it until it shined making it more and more progressive and epic. When it came time to decide the title of the album it seemed obvious.
So it’s the key song of the album after a fashion?
Probably. In addition we put it in the middle. At the beginning we thought of putting it at the end but we preferred to put it in the middle, so it served almost as the heart of the album, the heart of everything.
Since its beginnings, Gojira has seen a mounting success and has seen no sudden downfall. Do you worry about facing a period of stagnation? What if this album came out as a flop?
Yes! (Laughter) I think that we have put so much passion into this album that it couldn’t be a flop for us, as individual. If I had a bad impression of the album I would be a little worried. Of course, I’m not the master of future events and so I have no idea what the future will hold. In regards to my personal view it will only be a success. Of course we all know « Success » is not a synonym with « commercial success » When I see certain bands strip down their sound and make it cheesy but who still rule I wonder if commercial success is not necessarily the death of the spirit. If you have to make music that sounds like shit to deliver though that just won’t work for me. Of course – we have to wonder, « What if one day our fans let go ? » but we would rather focus on the discipline itself and create the best music we can.
Magma will come out with live accompaniment. Is the reflection complete as to which songs will be added to the setlist? It seems clear for you?
It’s no super-super clear since the setlist comes together piece by piece in conjunction with the stage show and can evolve throughout a tour. What is clear is that the album has the potential to be played entirely live. Maybe not in its integrity, but almost, things were a bit more ambitious with L’Enfant Sauvage because there were songs that were long and dark. Here I have the impression that it’s a little more fun and dynamic. Maybe a bit more adapted to live interpretation. We are discussing this all right now.
To play an album, new or old in its integrity, does this interest you? More and more bands are doing it. It’s a phenomenon that seems to garner a certain demand. Do you have plans to do this?
If I was asked to do it then why not but… It’s not something that I personally really want to do. If we felt like playing Magma in its entirety then we would. But it’s far too early to project that kind of thing at this stage. I like to diversify and give a little bit of everything to people. Most fans want a few songs from every albums, it’s good to give them that. I saw Korn on their last tour. They played their 1st album all the way through and I felt that it created something a little weird. I felt like they weren’t fully in touch with it and that they were compromising. I have a lot of respect for that band, but it didn’t seem like something I wanted to do.
Other fashions that are developing include paid meet and greets. Do you think you will confront this in the future ? What’s your point of view on the subject?
What I believe is that artists on the road are trying to make their living with music in the face of a bleak financial reality that keeps getting more complex. Record labels want 360 deals and take money from tours too now. We find ourselves in a economic whirlpool. In the end we make less and less money as artists. I have the impression that paid meet and greats are a smart way to help continue to survive off of music. The concept is bizarre it’s true. I don’t really know what to think. We did it once and it felt like half of the money went to the record label. In the end we didn’t win anything, or very little! But I still think « Why not? » People aren’t obligated to do it, and it won’t stop me from shaking hands with fans after the concert next to the tour bus. So if someone wants something a little more exclusive then why not?
Moving to a slightly heavier subject. Since the events of November 2015 in Paris do you feel live performance is different?
Well of course. We all think that. If I’m going to see a concert as a spectator I think about it even more. The people who were at our last show at Bataclan may have also been at the Eagles Of Death Metal show and probably were planning on coming to our future Paris shows. All of these people must have been immensely traumatised. We were all traumatised, near or far. Me, I was traumatised from a distance. It was totally unreasonable, incalculable. So we had a choice, to remain traumatised, or to try and move forward. I am no longer talking about the unfortunate people who were in the room that night. I can’t even imagine what they felt. I’m talking about musicians and frequent concert goers – we have to go no matter what.
Between the release of l’Enfant Sauvage and that of Magma, you faced a birth, and a disappearance, which made you a different man obviously. Do you feel like you have become a different musician though?
Yes I am a different musician. I am a little less satisfied with the need to prove my technical skill. Extreme metal drummers always need to prove their technical skill and their speed. Me, I let go of these things, I let go of the competition, I don’t want to prove if I can do this or that. I simply want to serve the music. It’s a more adult manner of approaching it, to say « I am how I am » I want to be a bit simpler. With some songs I really felt like playing so I did, and it made me happy. I’m a huge fan of Igor Cavalera, and he’s not doing triplets at 100 bpm, but rather focusing on the groove. We could say I’m more Igor Cavalera-esque on this album!
Gojira is today the top French metal band. Do you fee like you have a responsibility for the French scene?
Yes, a little bit. I don’t want to be pretentious in saying this. We are aware of the impact of Gojira and we are proud that it gets people talking about France. The association of France with metal is made via Gojira and thus puts France under the spotlight. We don’t hesitate to talk about our friends in French bands. The other day I talked about Trepalium with a radio station based in the US, Sirius Radio. I talked about them for 10 minutes! (laughter) It’s little moments of satisfaction like that that I try to get. As per « responsibility » I don’t know. I think that every band is responsible for themselves. If that can advance things and get them moving in the right direction then that might make it easier for them to go abroad.
Hellfest now. It will be your fourth time. Do you have any particular memories? What does this festival evoke ?
Every Hellfest, and every memory of Hellfest remains intact. I remember Fury Fest in 2003 with Nostromo. I’ts something that stays inside me, something that is very powerful. I loved the program, with Candiria especially, they are one of my favorite bands… Nostromo was intense and it was the first time we played in front of crowds that size. I also have great memories of 2013’s edition. Every Hellfest was a great memory. It’s a super festival.
And the program for 2016? What bands in particular do you want to see?
I would like to see Black Sabbath, I saw them when I was 20 and now it’s been 15 years since I’ve seen them. I would also like to see Rammstein, I have never seen them live. But seeing as they play Friday and we play Sunday that won’t be possible. Megadeth and the others, we’ve already toured with them. Overall it’s a quality festival with a strong set of bands. There’s something for everyone and it’s become a major international event. It goes far beyond the metal scene too, major publications talk about them. The impact of the festival has become very important. The quality of the services, the aesthetic, the management of the backstage are and the sculptures: there is a real spirit, a real heart. In a world where most festivals are centred around big industries I like that Hellfest evolved from Fury Fest to become the beast that it is today.
The 19th of June, outside of a little « Happy Birthday » sung by the crowd, what can we expect from Gojira?
Yes, It’s my birthday the day of the show! It also is happening two days after the album release, so there will be new songs. We are not playing at night so there won’t be a huge production but it will be a Gojira show like we love to do – that is to say, after some stage fright we will destroy the stage!
@Warner Music, Paris – 04/20/2016
Many thanks to Manon (Warner/Roadrunner)