GOJIRA’s MARIO DUPLANTIER: “Enough Words, Enough Music, Let’s Do Something Concrete”
April 26, 2021, a week ago
They are the heir apparent to the arena headliners of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the lord and saviors of the chugging riff and arguably the greatest brother duo in all of metaldom since Dimebag and Vinnie, Max and Igor and Anders and Jonas shook the foundations of their respective metal sub-genres.
Gojira requires little introduction in the year of our lord Dio 2021. Appealing to both true-diehard metalheads and curious fringe fans alike, the French foursome have been strapped to the proverbial rocket in recent years.
Fortitude – coming five years removed from their game-changing sixth studio album Magma – sees the collective of brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier, rhythm guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie at the height of their powers, doubling down on impactful songwriting and aggressive ear-worm hooks and breakdowns that rocket Gojira’s seventh album to all-time great status.
For Mario Duplantier, he knows no other world outside of the universe of Gojira.
“It’s my entire life,” he shared calmly in a one-on-one with BraveWords.
“I started the band when I was 14 years old and I was just a teenager. But it’s mind-blowing because I can tell that the fire inside is still there. Maybe we have a different approach. We don’t want to prove anything anymore. We change a little bit, our perception of things. We grew up. I’m 39 years old now today. So I’m not the same person, but I still have a love of music. I still have the love of interesting stuff, technicity, and powerful music. It’s still here, and it’s crazy because I thought at some point it would become different, but we still feel like kids.”
Founded originally in 1996 as Godzilla, the core of the Duplantier brothers, Andreu and Labadie have – in a remarkable feat for the industry – remained intact since 1998.
The bands’ now cult favourite debut album Terra Incognita was released 20 years ago this year, marking the formal introduction to what would be one of the more important and influential heavy bands of the 21st century.
Yet there is so much more to Gojira than fire and relentless rage. Purpose to the passion, if you will.
“I would say the subject in our lyrics ... on Terra Incognita, The Link and From Mars to Sirius was more poetic and symbolic with a lot of images, a lot of metaphors. But then when we started to travel the world and meet so many people, we would get out of our bubble a little bit,” explains Mario.
“I travelled for the first time in North America, for example, during the cycle of From Mars to Sirius, so the world was new for us. And I would say we had a lot of disillusion. We were not in our cocoon, our bubble anymore, you know? I think we took another path a little bit and we became a bit more concrete, maybe a bit more angry as well, but the lyrics took this dimension and started to act a little bit more. It was less poetic. It’s still poetry, but it’s less symbolic and more concrete as songs like “Toxic Garbage Island” on The Way of All Flesh or “Silvera” on Magma and “Stranded” as well.”
In an industry known for, oftentimes, provocative lyrics promoting sex, blood and guts and mythical worlds and far-flung creatures, Gojira’s themes and lyrical content teeter towards the natural world, of man-made pollutants, cultural genocide and the gradual decay of the planet.
“On this album we have songs like “Amazonia” with a concrete theme. We are not into talking about images or sensation anymore. We’re really talking about facts. The Amazon is burning to the ground. In 2021 we’ve experienced (catastrophes like the) fire in California, the fire in Australia, the fire in the Amazon and the temperatures changing. It’s real. It’s concrete. We were talking about it before, but now the world can see it with its eyes. So it’s time for us as well to act a little bit more. It’s why we decided to have this auction and the Amazon operation around the release of “Amazonia”, because we really feel it’s really the time to do something concrete. Enough words, enough music. Let’s do something concrete.”
The irony in a progressive metal outfit that combines the best of death metal and melodic sensibilities, that nature of calm meeting chaos, chugging out impossibly addictive riffs and guttural cries from the earth, at the same time raging against the man-made murder machine, is not lost on Mario Duplantier.
(Photo - Gabrielle Duplantier)
In fact, metal with meaning and heart seems to be the only way forward for the Gojira mother-ship, a unit that has firmly found its mission and endgame. If there happens to be head-banging and mosh pits along the way, well, that’s all (vegan) gravy.
“Talking about death and the demons, and our suffering and pain is not something negative at all, because there are so many taboos in our society,” shares Mario. “Talking about death is taboo. Talking about pain is taboo and when you say to someone, I feel very bad, it’s taboo. I understand that metalheads and people who enjoy heavy music and death metal and all the extreme music are actually pretty sensitive people. And I know it’s a fact because we met so many of them and it’s a community. And there is also a very intelligent way of seeing the world with no hypocrisy. So talking about death is also a reaction to our governments and the way maybe religion and states put pressure on people just to think differently, or think the way they want.
“You know, it sounds a bit cliché what I’m saying right now, but my feeling is heavy metal fans and people who enjoy this music are very, very sensitive. So talking about the planet is not something they will reject or be against. It’s also something a bit taboo, to talk about strength. It’s also a reaction at some point.”
Creeping ever-closer to a return to normalcy, with co-headlining dates with nu-metal stalwarts Deftones and festival appearances dotted across the globe on deck, Gojira are truly at the heights of their immense powers.
Mario Duplantier, and the other three pieces of this furious faction, realize the magnitude of the moment, in the way forward and the roads that led them there and of Fortitude in all its forms.
“We all are truly sensitive people,” says Mario. “We have this huge feminine path in our personality as well. And the four of us, it’s not like one is like this, Joe or me. It’s really Christian, Jean-Michel, Joe and I. The common point is we are very sensitive and we express our anger. We have this heaviness, anger. We have this rage, but we also have this sensitive perception of the world. So it’s very important for us to find this balance in the songs. It’s also because we don’t have so many side projects. I don’t have a jazz project on the side or black metal. Our entire life is dedicated to Gojira. It’s one entity, one band. So it has to complete all of our sides. The quiet one, the calm one, the angry one. For us it’s very important.”