Latest release: L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
At the time this interview is taking place, Gojira is in the middle of a European tour with Metallica, a band whom they can probably thank to some degree for the level of success they have now attained. Long-time promoters of exciting talent, Metallica invited the Frenchmen to tour America with them in 2010, and their fortunes have only lifted since. Touring with them again now is a huge deal.
“Can you imagine?” drummer Mario Duplantier says with a laugh. “We play in this stadium in France four days ago, the biggest stadium in France and it was 60,000 people. So it’s incredible playing in front of so many people just in front of Metallica. It’s just amazing. We also play in Serbia, we play in Czech Republic and we are going to play in Norway, Spain. So it’s amazing. But we did a tour with them two years ago in the USA. We did 23 shows, they bring us on tour. They hand-picked us to tour. We know them personally now, but each time it’s amazing.”
Metallica’s opening acts often get a raw deal from the crowds. But being hometown heroes was definitely an advantage for Gojira as they went through France together.
“In France many people were there to see Gojira too,” Duplantier says. “Not all, but the reaction from the crowd watching Metallica was very enthusiastic.”
For a country that takes up so much of Europe, France’s metal scene is virtually an unknown quantity, despite being the home of influential labels like Season of Mist, Listenable and Osmose. While neighbouring countries host a string of well known metal big names, Gojira is the first French band to attain any real level of international repute.
“In France, you don’t have this rock and roll culture,” Duplantier explains. “It’s very traditional culture and there are not so many ways to break out. But we did it, finally, slowly. Now we feel that it’s so great to have this international stature. We love to play outside France. It’s always refreshing and we learn a lot about travelling. It’s a dream come true. We have many steps to cross. In the future we have many things to do.”
For now, the band has a new album about to surface as they head into a European summer filled with festival appearances at Sonisphere, Rock am Ring and others. L’Enfant Sauvage explores themes of human nature and perceptions of reality, with the story of a “wild child” as the focus.
“My brother is the best person to talk about it,” the drummer admits, “but L’Enfant Sauvage is kind of a symbol of a child who grew up in the forest without society, without education, without a name. Just grew up with wolves, and it’s a reflection based around this concept. Like we all have inside this wild child somewhere. So it’s a reflection on freedom and how can we stay a little bit wild in this society?”
Those familiar with Gojira certainly won’t be disappointed by the forthcoming set. The band hasn’t compromised on their expansive and experimental style, nor have they lost their passion for massive riffs and enormous drumming.
“We cannot do compromise because [it’s] music we love,” Duplantier says proudly. “It’s a bit complex, emotional and we love playing a riff that is sometimes ten minutes. It’s very hard for us to compromise. And we won’t make compromise! Even the fact we are on Roadrunner now, we make no compromise and Roadrunner just let us be exactly who we are. It’s great.”
The major difference with L’Enfant Sauvage was in the writing and pre-prodcution process. Duplantier suggests they were too clinical last time, and for this recording they wanted to go back to a more natural way of creating their music. The result is “more a band album, more rock and roll, more organic” according to Duplantier.
“Because in the previous album Way of All of Flesh it was a little bit cold,” the drummer says. “I remember when I was talking to my brother before the recording process and I said that before the album we had to jam in the practice room all the band together. Just to bring some ideas and take the time to do it and just feel the vibes of the band.”
Typically, Mario and his brother Joe wrote the bulk of the material, and Joe all the lyrics as well as the concept for the album. The decision to title the album in their native tongue was a very deliberate move, Duplantier explains, to both give the music even more of its own identity and distance it from any other connotations that the English translation of the phrase may imply.
“He decided to write a song about a wild child and he wanted to name the song in French, because the meaning in French is a little bit different,” Mario explains. “For this album my brother wanted to take a French name, and it’s because of the title. Because “wild child” is sort of a cliché, you know? L’Enfant Sauvage is more original, and we’re also a French band, so it’s cool to put a French name on it.”
Gojira’s touring workload will take them through the European summer and well into the northern winter as they head across the US with Lamb of God and Dethklok before shipping out on the Mayhem Festival cruise in December. The band loved their time in Australia, where they appeared at Soundwave and got to play club shows with Mastodon – “We love Mastodon. We love the guys and we love the music.” – but Mario Duplantier regrets not being able to see much of the country when he was here. In 2013, he hopes that will change.
“I wanted so much to see many things like the mountains and the ocean and the animals. It’s so sad because it’s so far away. 21 hours flying to your country and we didn’t have enough time to see it. I’m sure we will come back for headliner show, and when we headline we will be on a bus. And sometimes in a bus you can park somewhere, so I can’t wait to come back and see more of your country.”