Hours before Gojira melted faces and grooved the living fuck out of the crowd as the unsung hero headliners of the closing day of Heavy Montreal (sorry Limp Bizkit), Metal Injection had the pleasure to sit down with frontman Joe Duplantier, reflecting on what has been a crazy skyrocketing trajectory for the French four-piece.
"You feel everything, every little step," Duplantier says of the bands' obvious momentum that has seen them headline tours and festivals across the globe. "We’ve worked hard to come up with good songs, to rehearse, to be tight live, come up with good production. It’s not just a bunch of people that we hired to take care of everything and we’re on autopilot. It’s not that. It’s making a lot of decisions, a lot of phone-calls and talking a lot amongst each other. It’s a lot of work, it’s a life, a big dedication, a lot of sacrifice. We have to be away from our families for half the year basically on the road. Each time we go up on the bill or we get better live or feel we have the right people working for us, it’s always a victory. There’s small victories and then there’s milestones, you know. Definitely being headlining some festivals this year – we’re headlining Bloodstock this year and Tuska, Finland – it’s huge. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means for me and the rest of the band."
It would seem obvious that the rise in profile that has seen the band come from relative unknown upstarts to celebrated force in heavy metal would come with it baggage like, lets say, added stress.
"Yes and no," Duplantier explains. "Yes there’s more people looking at us, but every person in the audience is one person. You may play in front of 10 people or 10,000 people. The difference is just what it looks like. Really, individually, whether you stand in a small crowd or a huge club, you’re just you watching a show. The impression is just individual. It’s one individual going through the experience in front of the band. And another one and another one and 100 more or 10,000 more, but really when you think about it it shouldn’t be more pressure to play in front of more people. Somehow I feel that and I thought of that and I feel that I’m not too impressed by the massive crowd. Mostly we put pressure on ourselves to do a good job. I remember shitting my pants when we were playing small clubs in the beginning and now I shit less, my pants. Go figure. It’s more pressure, but I’m less terrified to get on stage. With experience also I know that if something is going wrong it’s not the end of the world."
Few psyche themselves up for a performance quite like Duplantier. Laughing off his admitted tiredness during our interview, Duplantier and co. hit the stage in the twilight of sultry Montreal as if shot out of a cannon, aggressive and energetic as pyro and torrents of stream carried fan favourites "Backbone" and "L'Enfant Sauvage" across the masses. There's an art and process that come with overcoming fatigue, the frontman admits.
"I have a lot of thoughts the day of the show, a lot of mental preparation to put myself in the right mood and the right head perception. Sometimes I think of humanity as really pathetic, sort of a parasite destroying everything. Sometimes I’m in a really dark mood and have my own weird thoughts. Sometimes it’s really depressing, but at the same time it helps to get on stage and get in the mood where it doesn’t matter, nothing matters. We’re just here and I don’t know why. Be humble about it and get on stage. Just fucking relax, get on stage. Life put you here and just breathe, one step after the other."
Considering that the bands' opus, the widely acclaimed Magma, came out over two years ago to this point, and it would only be right and just to pry Duplantier's brain as to how and when we can expect a followup to one of the greatest metal records of the decade.
"We started to write new stuff maybe about a year ago," he shares. "Seven months ago we started to jam, especially my brother and I and maybe the other guys too thinking that we’re starting really, really early. By the time we think we’re ready to record we’ll be ready. Turns out we’re going a little deeper in the writing and maybe we’re thinking too much sometimes. We did 20 kind of demos, songs, ideas. I can’t say we have something yet. We’re doing some research and more than before. Usually we write 12 songs and record 12 songs and release 12 songs. Now it looks like we’re going to write 100 songs. It’s a different approach and it’s fun. We have new desires and a new way of doing things. I like to think it’s going to be awesome. I feel it’s going to be really exciting, for us at least. I don’t know what people are going to think.
"I want to go back to some of the older influences that we have. We were always not a death metal band. Before that I was a Dire Straits fan, Michael Jackson. We have that in us and some progressive stuff too. We have all these things and we need to express that somehow, mixed with our own special sauce. We’re working with stuff that sometimes is a bit surprising, even to us. Sometimes it’s like what is this? I don’t know, let it sleep a little bit and go back to it. After this we’re going to go back into the studio and see what’s going on."
As for the songwriting process, we know the book on Gojira. They're spacey and far out – fit for a dystopian magna or a sci-fi neo noir epic. There's fragments of real mixed with the mad genius imagination the guys possess, Duplantier shares.
"It’s 100 per cent both, real experience and whatever is the other side of it," he says. "Maybe imagination or aspirations. It’s a mix of what I’m going through and what I feel when I write lyrics and what I would like to feel and what I would like to see, other dimensions, other planets, other realities. I’m kind of a curious guy, a bit of a geek. I like to think of the dimension of things and the notion of infinity and I get lost a little bit in that. I’m not a scientist, I’m not a poet, but somewhere in between."