Gojira's Joe Duplantier on Moving Beyond Death Metal, Finding Serenity in Singing and Peace in the Concrete Jungle

Gojira's Joe Duplantier on Moving Beyond Death Metal, Finding Serenity in Singing and Peace in the Concrete Jungle
When Gojira's sixth album, Magma, came flowing out, it was met with cautious curiosity due to the inclusion of more progressive elements and clean singing. Before long, though, the acclaim hit hard — with the album even making Exclaim!'s Top 10 Metal & Hardcore Albums of 2016 list.

Speaking on the band's growth, why it was necessary and how they still love the death metal music upon which they built their career, vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier met up with Exclaim! TV's Aggressive Tendencies when the band were in Toronto on tour supporting that album.

Somewhat paradoxically, Gojira's stylistic evolution was actually a return to their roots of sorts, recording on their own. The end result of this insular process was good for the band.

"We're more friends with our music now, today, than we were in the past. We're having more fun playing it," Duplantier explains. "It's, in a way, more challenging — it's way more challenging. There's more dynamic in our set now, and even technically it's really difficult. Vocally and musically, it's more difficult than before, and I know it seems the total opposite, but now everything is more subtle."

The aforementioned vocal evolution was less subtle but necessary — Duplantier notes he likely would have quit if he hadn't pushed himself vocally — and not exactly out of the blue, something he explained by talking about his experimentation on previous albums L'Enfant Sauvage and The Way of All Flesh.

Still, it's a far cry from where he saw himself when the band first began.

"Back in the day, when we're a death metal band, you would tell me I would sing like [imitates singing], like this, I would be like 'ughhhh'. But today you tell me to put out an album where it's just [imitates death growling], I would be like 'no, I don't feel like doing this anymore.'"

That change of heart doesn't mean Duplantier and the rest of Gojira hate the brutal music they built their career on. As he explains it, their relationship with death metal is similar to one with a human.

"It's exactly like a friendship," Duplantier says. "You have a friend when you're a kid, and it's a friend that matters for life. You will always remember that friend, you still love that friend, but you move to another city with your parents, so you don't see that friend anymore, but he's still part of your story, your structure, and without that friend you wouldn't be the same person. We still love death metal; it's part of us, and we don't feel like we turned our back on what we were."

Duplantier notes elements are still there and he still likes screaming, but the goal is less fitting in a genre or scene and more crafting songs that have weight, not just brutality.

"We want to create songs that are heavy, that are violent in a certain way — without being really violent but more powerful. Somehow, we are obsessed by recreating the storm or the heaviness of a mountain or a wave crashing with sound."

Although Duplantier's family home and Silver Cord Studio in New York don't rest atop a mountain, the musician says Manhattan does sit upon a gigantic stone, which engenders creativity and fed into Magma, beyond the structural benefits of allowing buildings to stand tall. Despite moving from small-town France to the concrete jungle, he insists you can still be connected to nature in New York. After all, they do call it the Big Apple, and there's soil just inches beneath the pavement.

Watch the full interview in the players below.