“I kind of enjoy the fact that we’re not the same band, we’ve always surprised people.”
Today, we sit in the bowels of the o2 ABC with Gojira’s own Mario Duplantier. Despite the vast critical acclaim that has been placed upon the band since the release of the band’s latest album ‘Magma’, if it’s affecting his mindset, he’s not letting it show. Surprising, considering the announcement of a US tour with Metallica and a recent Grammy nomination.
Representing a distillation of the band’s primordial elements, ‘Magma’ has seen Gojira’s popularity grow exponentially over the last year, something many artists have struggled with. Today though, any adverse effects from the buzz that surrounds Mario and the rest of the band do not show. Greeting us calmly and courteously, we sit down with the sticksman to discuss this highly significant year in the band’s career.
“We don’t calculate anything, we just try to be ourselves,” he says. “When we stopped playing death metal it was very logical for us at that moment, usually bands have an existence of five to ten years. We’ve been a band for 21 [years], so there is no other way [other] than evolving. I kind of enjoy the fact that we’re not the same band, we’ve always surprised people.”
Sonically, Gojira have always stood out from the pack. Even during their ‘death metal’ years, one only needs to listen a song like debut album ‘Terra Incognita’’s ‘Satan Is A Lawyer’ to get an idea of how differently Gojira have approached metal music from the start.
“We have new desires,” continues Mario. “We tour so much we want to play easier songs because 90% of our life is on stage, so when you have a song like ‘Stranded’ or ‘Silvera’ it feels good.”
Indeed, when Gojira released borderline hard rock stomper ‘Stranded’ just over a year ago, it was met (almost unanimously) with good will. Never allowing themselves to be cowed into playing to just one scene, their tendency to avoid classification has helped them swerve the worst of the internet’s wrath, and its burning desire to pigeonhole artists. While it’s true that ‘Stranded’ is Gojira’s most catchy and straightforward track to date, one only needs to take a look at their back catalogue (specifically ‘World To Come’, ‘Born In Winter’) to rubbish any claims of selling or mellowing out; in truth, ‘Magma’ couldn’t be further from a sell-out album. As well as documenting the Duplantier brothers’ loss of their mother, the record looks outward too. Much like their music, the band’s socially-conscious message is leaner and more potent than ever – best summed up in second single Silvera’s empowering “when you change yourself, you change the world” refrain.
“Joe [Duplantier, vocals/guitar] writes all the lyrics, and it’s a thought we’ve had from the beginning – it’s the spirit of the band,” explains Mario “I mean, when you change yourself to change the world it’s something we’ve thought since the beginning, it’s one of the main ideas behind this project: it’s our beliefs, it’s our faith.”
Moving back to the matter at hand, the band will tonight headline the 1,300 capacity O2 ABC – a venue almost double the capacity of the Glasgow Garage, the room in which the band last headlined in this city, and along with the rest of this tour will mark a new milestone for the group. Having sold out London’s Forum just two nights prior, Mario reflects on the tour’s success thus far.
“It’s amazing. It’s the biggest tour we’ve ever done as a headliner in Europe. I remember playing this venue in 2008, we were supporting In Flames and we were very impressed by the size of the venue, so today headlining this venue and headlining so many sold out shows on this run is a great feeling… we are very focused.”
And so they should be. Fresh from the arena circuit with Alter Bridge (both Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti are vocal fans of band’s work), the band appear more comfortable than ever playing in front of big crowds.
As their fanbase has grown, so too has their recognition from the industry’s elites. While it would be an understatement to say that heavy music has had a troubled relationship with the Grammy’s in recent years, this year, it felt like a little more care and considerate than usually taken, as new names like Periphery, Baroness and Gojira were included in the Best Metal Performance category for the first time. In the end, the award went to Dave Mustaine and co. (Megadeth very much being the Leonardo DiCaprio of the Grammys at this point). Despite ultimately losing out, Gojira’s documentation of the experience is heart-warming viewing.
“It was a very interesting thing… we didn’t expect anything. We were nominated and that was enough… if we won a Grammy it would have been amazing, but Megadeth deserved it because they were nominated 11 times in the past, so finally they got the Grammy and I was really happy for them, and we just had a great day in LA. We know it’s kind of fake and not real life, but we just enjoyed it.”
While this attitude could be mistaken for blitheness, Gojira’s awareness and understanding of their surroundings is one of the band’s strongest attributes. Even at what could be their commercial zenith, Mario and the rest of the band seem at ease with their surroundings, refusing to be swept up by the hype. Artists in the truest sense of the word, Gojira have climbed this high by being nothing other than who they want and need to be, and that alone is worth investing in.
‘Magma’ by Gojira is available now on Roadrunner Records.
Words by Josh Graham (@jollyboyjosh_)