Monday, November 18, 2013

Interview - Mario Duplantier of Gojira - Wednesday, November 20 - Stage AE, with Slayer.

Image source: TAMA Drums

Mario Duplantier is one of the best drummers on the planet.  He and brother Joe make up one half of Gojira, who will be at Stage AE Wednesday, November 20, along with metal legends Slayer.
Gojira hail from Bayonne, France, in the Southwest of the country, near the Spanish border.  They formed in the late 90s, with international acclaim coming in the mid-2000s, after the release of From Mars to Sirius and subsequent toursTheir most recent album, 2012's L'enfant Sauvage, earned near-unanimous praise.  The Guardian (UK) gave it a perfect 5/5 stars, while the BBC, in their review, called Gojira "one of the finest bands of our generation."  Stateside, The Onion's AV Club gave the album an A-.  Pitchfork graded 8.1, calling it both "awesome" and "excellent."  Here's the lead track from L'enfant Sauvage, "Explosia:"

The men of Gojira are as outstanding as the songs they create.  They care deeply for the environment, something self-evident in their lyrics.  They are unabashed supporters of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, of Whale Wars fame.  If that doesn't fit your conception of what's metal, consider that Mario paints while he is on tour (and he's quite good at it, too).  They are the resident gentlemen of death metal.

We were quite fortunate to spend some time talking with Mario Duplantier, prior to Gojira's second appearance in Pittsburgh this year.  Last year Mario was chosen as #2 best drummer in modern metal by the editors at  A few weeks later, when it came time for the fans to vote, he came in at #1.  It's easy to see why:

Here's the entire text of our interview with Mario:

PMR: You've been on the road for about a month now, tell us, how has the tour been so far, and what's it been like touring with Slayer?

MD: Yes, the tour is doing very, very well.  You know, we had a blast on this tour.  We feel very comfortable.  The conditions are great.  All the Slayer crew is amazing, very nice with us.  All the members, also: Slayer have a lot of respect for us.  So, as the main support band, it's going very well, and, the response of the crowd is also very good, you know. We were surprised because we know how the Slayer fans can be tough sometimes.  But on this run it was very well.  And, we have this anger playing before Slayer.  We have to, uh, you know, to find a certain energy, you know, playing before Slayer.  You have to be more, uh, playing with more anger, you know (laughs).  So it's a big challenge for us, but the tour is going well.

PMR:  You know, it's funny you mention the word anger, because, I was reading a lot of the reviews for your latest album, L'enfant Sauvage, and one of the words that kept coming up was "beauty." And usually, you know, when you think of death metal, "beauty" is not a term that comes up.  But, I kept seeing it in the reviews.  Do you think the word "beauty" is an appropriate term to use when talking about Gojira's music?

MD: I don't want to sound pretentious, but I love this term, "beauty." It's something that works, definitely, for us.  We feel very concerned about beauty in general, and we try to do something very poetic, but we also have this anger, you know, inside of us.  We don't know why we play metal, actually.  We didn't decide to play this music, we just play it, you know.  But we have a part of us with a lot of anger, and another part with a lot of hope, and a lot of... we love life at the same time.  And beauty of life is very important for us, so yeah, it works.

PMR: Speaking of L'enfant Sauvage, it came out last summer, and it was widely hailed as your best album yet.  Do you think this is true? Do you think Gojira is better than ever right now?

MD: I think Gojira is very mature today, you know.  We've never been so mature as today. And, so, we feel very strong right now, on the musical point of view, but also all the decisions we have to take, you know.  But I'm sure we didn't give yet our best album, so, probably the next one, I don't know (laughs). But we are very perfectionist and always looking in the future. 

PMR: Now, you have a very distinct style of drumming.  When the band goes about creating new songs, do you come up with your part first, and then the rest of the parts are fit around it?

MD: We don't have any rules, you know, but it's true that a lot of time I bring drum patterns, and, for example, I play my drum patterns and I ask my brother, other guitarists, to play on the drum patterns. So, it's true that a lot of songs in Gojira were born with this.  We have a song in the second album called "The Remembrance," and at the end you have this whole very percussive part, and it came from the drums.  We have a song called "The Art of Dying," also, the drums were first.  And on the last album, L'enfant Sauvage, for example, "Liquid Fire," I start with a drum pattern also. "Explosia," also.  So yeah, you're right, most of the time, the drums first are coming.  But it's not like our rule, you know, we change our rule all the time, so the next album probably it will be the guitar first.  So it depends.

PMR: You had mentioned your brother Joe, who plays guitar and is the lead singer.  Describe what it means to you to be in a band with your brother, to be able to create music with him night in and night out. 

MD: It's funny because, we started 11, or, 13... 18 years ago now! (laughs).  And, so, I grew up with my brother, all the time, and now I'm doing business, I'm doing music, I do everything with him.  So, it's not easy every day, for sure, because we are from the same family, and I'm five years younger than him.  But, I can tell right now it's a force.  He is one of my best friends in life, he is a person who understands me so well.  Perfectly, you know.  So we have this kind of connection, both [of us].  And I think it's so precious and so good.  And playing music with him is incredible because I don't have to talk - we don't have to say any words, we just play, and it comes naturally.  And we have this very close way to think, him and I, and so we are exactly on the same page.  It's a real force for me. 

PMR: Most of your fans already know that you paint while you're on tour, and you even have your own art gallery.  What's the connection between your music and your art - is there even a connection between the two?

MD: I don't know, you know, I don't have any reflection on it.  But since I was a child, I'm always creating something, even if my drawings look like, a child's drawings, you know? I don't have any technique (laughs).  But just as the way I express things, it comes very naturally.  And sometimes, when I'm behind drums, I can feel this same spontaneity.  I play spontaneously and I paint spontaneously, so there is my... here is the.... sorry for my English man! (laughs)

PMR: Oh, no! (laughs).  You, uh, Gojira, are well known supporters of the environmental activist group Sea Shepherd.  There was some talk that Gojira and some other metal bands would contribute to an EP whose proceeds would go to benefit Sea Shepherd.  Is this still happening?

MD: Uh, you know what, we have the song but we would like to work on it, to be perfect. So we have to remix, we have to ask a couple of [singers]... So we know it took a long time, and it's actually in our hard drives.  Even on the road, on this tour, we listen to it, we analyze it, and I think it's... maybe we did too much talk about this, and we should probably finish the song before talking about it.  But it was a long process, and not so easy because everybody was working for free. And when people are working for free it's always slower, you know.  But the songs are here and we have to, uh, work on it to make sure it's perfect before [we] release it (laughs). But I know it's been a long time.

PMR: Now, Gojira just played Pittsburgh in February.  It was a sold out show, with Atlas Moth and Devin Townsend Project. And you've been here before that, too. In 2007 when you were here with Behemoth, and you were here again in 2009.  Are there any memories that stick out in your mind from your brief time in Pittsburgh?  Or is that asking too much for a band that tours all over the world?

MD: No, no, I have a great memory of this show, it was in an old church, like, very specific venue, very weird... is this that show? In a church?

PMR: Yes, in an old church, Mr. Small's Funhouse.

MD: Yeah, i love this venue, you know.  Each time we play over there, and I love the neighborhood.  Coming from France, and arriving in this kind of city, it's very, very interesting, you know, because we... France is so different, you know?  The architecture, people, the color, the sky, everything is different.  So when we come in it's kind of new, this kind of a street and city.  I keep a very precise memory of this kind of atmosphere, you know.  So, and I love the crowd over there, there's something very intelligent and smart from the people over there.  So yeah, I have a very, very good memory. 

PMR: OK, I have one last question for you.  Your current tour finishes up the end of this month.  Has there been any talk about, um, trying again to tour with Lamb of God and Dethklok?

MD: You know what, we feel very close with Lamb of God. We did a lot of show with them in August, in Europe.  So we are like a friend, and one day I am sure we will go back on tour with them, but not... there is no plan principally to play with Dethklok and Lamb of God for the moment, you know?  And I know every band has such a busy schedule, you know, so it's not easy.  But, we are going to try to focus on a new album, early this year, in 2014.  We'll tour again maybe in the US, a small tour. We will tour in Europe again, but maybe by our home.  

PMR: Wonderful.  Well that's too bad about Dethklok; I was hoping to see you in an episode of Metalocalypse. (laughs)

MD: (laughs) I love this. Yeah, I love this cartoon, it's amazing. 

PMR: Well, again, Mario, thank you so much for your time, and I can't wait for the show on Wednesday.

MD: Thank you very much.  See you on Wednesday.

Tickets for the show cost $48.35, fees included.  Also performing are 4ARM, an Australian thrash metal band.  


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