Ahead of their sold out headline show in London, we got the chance to catch up with Gojira drummer Mario Duplantier. With the success of their latest album Magma there was plenty to discuss. Between the challenges of writing and recording the album and their experiences at the Grammys, we even found some time to discuss art…
So to start, how has the headlining tour through Europe and the UK been going so far?
Mario: Amazing. it’s so great to finally have a headline tour in Europe. After opening for so many bands for so many years. It’s great to be back in Scandinavia and of course the UK, we’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. Just to headline the UK, so here it is. We are in London tonight and I can’t wait.
These are the biggest venues you’ve headlined as well
Mario: In terms of headlining yes. We did the arenas with Alter Bridge. For now this is our biggest headliner.
Your breakthrough as a band feels like it has been a long time coming. Do you think Magma really helped push you through and when you started Gojira did you ever think you’d reach this point?
Mario: Erm not really actually. It’s true that with Magma is a new step for us. We can feel the audience getting bigger and the attention is getting bigger. The music is also easier to understand. It’s part of the success of course, when it’s too fast on the drums or you scream too loud people get scared. So with songs like Silvera, Stranded and The Shooting Star we feel that this album is really honest. Cos we wanted to do this but at the same time it’s good because people can really understand the melody and get into the riffs. It’s more simple for them so it’s great.
I guess then they could go back and discover your older albums and get what you were about with them. This is sort of like the best entry point for newcomers I guess?
Mario: Yeah exactly. We have respect for all our albums and have no regrets. We’ve really enjoyed our evolution until now and I think it’s a natural one. Still We love L’Enfant Sauvage even it it’s a bit slower and dark. We love The Way of All Flesh, each album is a photograph of the band at that moment in our life.
Do you pay attention to the landscape within heavy music when you are writing and let that have any effect on you?
Mario: No we try to do exactly what we want to do. Of course everything is an influence. Everything you read or listen to. The momentum in politics and in the music industry, everything can have an effect even if it’s on an unconscious side. For Magma we were very isolated, me and my brother spent a lot of time in a room just playing every day. Our life was very complicated with our mother getting sick. So we were really connected to her but not really to the rest of the world. It was like we were in a bubble and we felt free to do exactly what we want. So when we wrote The Shooting Star we thought our fans might find this strange but we don’t care, cos it was a very interesting moment we were in when composing that song.
The themes behind Magma are clearly a lot more personal for you compared to what you’ve done before. Was this difficult for you and your brother to write about?
Mario: Erm it’s true that we put a lot attention on every detail of the album. We were not 100% sure when we started composing, we were very picky this time. Instead in the past we would just write 11 songs and that would be the album. But now we start working on 20 songs and then we just kept 9 of them. S0 it’s a new process, more picky. We go deeper into details so Magma was the result of a lot of work and we selected things very precisely.
With what you said about your mother, was this album a good way to release emotions over that whole situation?
Mario: Yes, oh yeah completely. It was like therapy, it was very good and now I’m so proud of this album. Even if there are songs which are painful to hear I’m still very happy that we managed to do it and it’s great, it’s really positive.
Being able to create this art from such a hard situation
You said before the music is more simple and accessible, but I still think it isn’t too simplified. Was it hard to get a balance right of making it more accessible without losing your core sound which has always been more challenging and progressive metal
Mario: Yeah it was a real challenge actually. Because it was very subtle. You have to think about it a lot. The challenge was to simplify it for us but keeps the roots of our music because we are addicted to it, it’s part of us. We worked very hard on every detail and everything was in its place.
So moving on, Magma got you nominated for two Grammys…
Mario: Yes best rock album and best metal performance
Regardless of the outcome this was seen as such a huge deal. For a band like yours get recognised by something as big as the Grammys. How was that whole experience?
Mario: Amazing, so amazing. We went to Los Angeles and the french TV were with us for one day, they followed us for a full day. We got a huge amount of feedback in France. We did all these radio and TV appearance, there was a TV show about it. It really put the spotlight on us in France particularly because it’s not a metal country. From a cultural point of view they noticed that this metal band was nominated at the Grammys. It was like this “oh my god what is this french band wow” moment. So yeah we were very proud, in France we are very proud of our country. So the feedback in France was huge, in fact all over the world it was pretty big for us. It’s very precious for a band for be nominated.
And when you compare some the nominees this year like you and Periphery it’s far more complex and interesting than what has been nominated in the past. It’s just good to see them acknowledge some of the different stuff going on in metal
Mario: Yeah exactly, it’s very cool.
So on a slightly different note I did want to ask about the artwork you do. Is your inspiration for your art very similar to the inspiration for your music?
Mario: I do exactly what I want to do but of course there is a link. I am one of the composers of Gojira so it is linked to my art. But of course Joe writes all the lyrics and while he does this he sketches as well. He is such a talented artist as well.
So it runs in the family
Mario: *laughs* Yeah it does. But it’s cool because we share a vision and I really enjoy my art because it is very primitive, simple and raw. And I love the way Joe draws and writes the lyrics so yeah I think Gojira is full of this kind of thing.
Does it help having this as a separate artistic outlet from Gojira?
Mario: Oh yes it’s always nice to not just be doing music all the time. For me it’s very simple and natural, I don’t think about it too much I just create. And also on the road it can be very boring because you just wait for the moments when you are on stage and I don’t want to play video games or anything. I just need to do something interesting. So drawing is just a very good use of my time.
Have you ever used your art to enhance the visual aspect of Gojira before?
Mario: Yeah, you will see tonight some animation I worked on and do the teasers for the band. I’ve done some shirts as well so yeah it’s all about us doing everything ourselves.
So do you think on a wider scale metal is ready for more challenging music to come into the spotlight?
Mario: I really hope so. This tour is so great because we’ve brought with us a package of real honest bands. Nothing cheesy, it’s all very interesting and experimental. For example Car Bomb, you can hardly believe because it’s so experimental and so weird. But we love it, it’s a package full of creativity and honesty. So yeah I think there is definitely room for bands like this.
Code Orange as well are a band who come from hardcore and are now doing something totally new and different
Mario: Yeah exactly, Code Orange are amazing. We are very proud to have them on before us. It’s an amazing package.
Finally what else have Gojira got planned for 2017?
Mario: So we go back to the US for a co-headline tour with Opeth. We’re doing some festivals over there between shows and after that we come back to Europe to play many festivals. We’re then going back to the US for shows with Metallica but then we need to figure out what our plan is from there.
Awesome, well thank you for your time it’s been great
Mario: Thank you
Gojira’s newest album Magma is out now.