A few days ago, I had the chance to have a chat with the frontman from Grammy nominated metallers Gojira. After a warm welcome from both Joe and Mario, who was sat just opposite me, we got down to the business of discussing, amongst other things, the new album and the studio which the band built.
Very good. It’s been going really well. We’ve been on a roll since we released Magma and we started on a headliner in the States and now we are opening. It’s kinda refreshing to get on stage for 30 minutes and to try and catch people’s attention.
Magma came out in the June of this year. I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been voting it as album of the year, but how do you feel the response has been?
It got voted ‘album of the year’ again!?!?! It’s happened quite a few times now!
We weren’t quite sure how people were going to react to the album to be honest. We felt good and relaxed about it as we felt it was the right album for us at this time. We’ve been a band for 20 years and I guess after a while you have the ’20 year crisis’ and you wonder “What is it we’re doing here?!?”
Metal is a lot of fun and we’ve played metal for a lot of years. However we felt the desire to push the boundaries of our music a little further this time round. We expressed some of the earlier influences that we had such as: Queen, Mike Oldfield and The Beatles. They were the kind of bands that made us what we are today and you can hear that influence on the album.
We still listen to a lot of metal though. We’ll play like an old Morbid Angel or Death or Pantera album and be like “YEAH!! This is the shit!” We’re always that close to coming back to more aggressive music but I guess with age we’ve discovered different things to express. I guess some of our ‘true-fans’ are older now and a lot of them are still following us to this day.
How do you feel the year has been for the band?
It’s been incredibly successful. We do still have real lives outside of the band though and it’s always challenging to try and balance that. Sometimes it’s hard to combine the pressure that comes with this lifestyle and also the pure happiness of creating music.
I can’t imagine what it would be like if we weren’t getting any response from anybody though! So far so good though and we’re very thankful.
Magma was recorded at the band’s own studio in New York. What made you guys decide to create your own studio?
Growing up and playing music for me personally was always about experimenting and recording stuff. I loved spending hours messing around with guitars and trying new things. I love working in an environment that we created ourselves as well so that was one of things.
I didn’t build it myself though. Mario my brother and our sound guy helped me out and I hired some people in as well. Obviously it’s almost technically impossible to build it yourself as it would take too long and cost far too much money. While we were building it and struggling to get money from the label as our advance, it was sometimes difficult to keep the faith and to actually imagine that we were going to do the record there.
In the end it worked out really well and I was very impressed with how the room sounded for the drums and everything. It was also very comfortable to get there every morning and feel the atmosphere we created there.
We’re planning to record our future albums there, as it would be a good way to save money as well. I mean the band is not tied to the studio, but we will still be using it.
Sometimes an album is not done all in one place. We’ve done that before and a lot of other bands do that as well. You may do the guitars in one place, drums in another and vocals in another different location.
In the past, you and Mario have switched places on stage for a bit. Are you planning on doing that tonight?
I’m always up for it and Mario likes it too.
I don’t think we’ll be doing it tonight though as we have a short set.
Mario: Ah the jam?
Mario: Non, not tonight sadly.
Joe: We love doing it! I get to experience what Mario is going through behind the drums and it really changes my perspective of the concert. It’s just for one and a half minutes though as I simply don’t have the stamina to go for longer than that!
What are the band’s plans for the next 6 to 12 months?
Lots of touring! We’ve got five or six tours lined up already for next year. It’s kind of strange as we always have to think ahead and be like “So what do you wanna do on that day?” six months before the day! We’re always trapped in this schedule that we set up for ourselves, months and months in advance. It takes a lot of responsibility, imagination and discipline for this lifestyle. But no, lots of touring mainly.
Any future UK Dates?
Yeah… I’m not sure but we’re going to be doing something soon. Can I talk about this?
Mario: *Mumbles* Yes
Joe : *Sarcastically* Yes, yes.
Mario: *Something in French*
Joe: Okie, so here you go, We are coming back in March. We’re really excited about that as it’s going to be a full UK and European run with full stage production.
What sort of gear do you use?
It’s very simple actually. My rig is basically: A good amp, a good guitar and a good wireless system. Other than that I have a little delay pedal but that’s pretty much it. A lot of people are surprised that we don’t use stuff like Axe-FX or Kempers given our sound.
We also use something called ISO-Boxes on stage. Instead of a cab screaming loud on stage, we place the cabs in a wooden box and place a mic inside of it. We can really crank it then and get the sound we want. It all depends on how it’s done as it’s not a formula. You have to really listen to it and place the right mics in front of the right speaker. It took us years to find the right sound and we’ve finally cracked it.
Have there been any new bands that you’ve come across recently?
There’s a lot of good bands out there and good music. When I discover one thing, I tend to stick to it for a bit and not really dig through thousands upon thousands of bands. I’ve been really hungry for new music recently though and I came across a project called Zeal and Ardor. They’re kinda like a mix between native American voodoo music and black metal. That’s kinda how it’s described and it’s really quite impressive.
There’s also a band called Car Bomb that I produced for recently. They’re really enjoyable and playing kind of in the style of Meshuggah and similar bands.
Is there any advice you would give to new bands?
I’m close to saying “Get a job and don’t do it” but I can’t say that as I’m doing it myself! It is a lot of work though and you need to patient and ready to work your ass off.
You need to be ready to compromise as well. You may have the greatest vision for your show, but that’s not how it works. You need to be able to go on stage without any soundcheck and perform for people who’ll be judging everything you do. You may also not be able to hear yourself and you just need to keep going. If you can’t do that, then you’re not really best suited for this industry.