“I think he and I were both going to end up playing music, no matter what,” he says. “I started to play music without him when I was in high school – there’s a five-year age difference between us, so he was ten when I started playing music. What can you do with a ten-year-old? The drumsticks were bigger than he was! By the time he was 12, he started to pick up drums a bit and he started to get really good at it – we couldn’t believe how quickly he was picking things up. Soon enough, he’d proven himself and I thought he was ready to start playing music with me. That was 20 years ago, and we’ve been in bands together ever since. It’s become our lives – it’s all that we know. I feel like it has become the engine room as far as Gojira is concerned. Music is very important to our family.”
2016 sees the release of Magma, the sixth studio album from Gojira and one that marks a noticeable and significant change in the band’s sound. Though still borrowing heavily from the band’s more progressive and groove-oriented influences, the album also forges further into a more melodic approach to alternative metal. It’s not something that is going to sit well with die-hards – but, then again, Duplantier doesn’t have any time for people like them.
“The more that people hate this record, the better,” he says. It’s with a laugh, but it’s a little ambiguous – it’s clearly meant to indicate that he is joking, but the laugh also comes across as nerves from dropping such a seismic, defiant statement.”
“We’ve always released records that were more death-metal inclined, and we built up an audience that was primarily people that exclusively listen to death-metal,” continues Duplantier. “As we have gradually moved away from that specific sound, we have had those kind of fans turn on us. We’re more interested in mixing heavy metal with rock music now, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s opened up new avenues for us artistically. We’re experimenting a lot more. We’re evolving as a band. It’s always going to hurt to see those negative comments from the death-metal lovers, but we’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s impossible to move forward and still be able to please everyone.”
Magma was recorded in the band’s second home of New York City, where the band relocated in order to focus more on that continental market. Several delays pushed the album’s process back further, including the death of Joe and Mario’s mother. The end result, however, is more than worth the wait. This is particularly apparent when one notes just how much the band – completed by lead guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie – have made the effort to push forward in an inventive and engaging way. For Duplantier, this came in the form of focusing on his singing – and that’s meant literally, as being the lead singer in a metal band doesn’t always necessitate doing what’s typically defined as singing.
“When we made our previous album [2014’s Les Enfants Sauvages], I wanted to try singing more and blending that with the screaming and harsh vocals,” he says. “During the pre-production, I was constantly trying to figure out which arrangements would suit which kind of vocals. At first, I tried to compromise by doing dual tracking – one of me singing and one screaming – and having them run at the same time. That’s not exactly what we ended up going with for the finished product, but I think that’s what sparked the idea that it was a possibility as far as being a vocalist was concerned. That was a few years ago, and my interest in singing has only grown stronger.”
With this article comes an interesting piece of context around perspective and hindsight. Magma is out in the universe at the time of you reading this, but at the time of the interview the album is still spoken of in future tense. Duplantier has no idea what it is to come for his band as they put out their all-or-nothing leap into the great unknown. He is endearingly positive about the entire process, however. “We’re very excited about this record,” he says. “We feel in tune with it – we feel as though it’s really us coming through in the music that made it onto the album. We’re very interested to see people’s reactions to it. This is an album we’re very ready to share with people, both in terms of them listening to it and people coming to see it played live.”
Magma is out now via Roadrunner Records/ Warner Music. For more details, head to gojira-music.com.