GOJIRA Frontman: ‘My Bank Account Is Completely Empty’

Radio Metal recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier of Frech progressive metallers GOJIRA. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Radio Metal: What happened with the “Sea Shepherd” EP? How is it coming along?

Joe: We’ve had a lot of setbacks and technical problems that got us very late. For instance, a hard drive with a lot of takes we’d made just crashed. It was quite a hard blow a couple of months ago. We were working on the new album, we were almost ready to finish everything… When I arrived in the U.S., I found somebody who managed to get all the information back, meaning the EP’s audio files. I’ve been able to get my hands on them not so long ago. Now I’ve got everything, I need to sit down and work on it, there’s still a lot to do… I need to finish mixing and add a couple of vocals we’ve been recording. It’s not much, but I basically don’t have a second for myself right now, which means I don’t have the time to work on it. Nobody will do it for me, so I’ll just start working on it when we’re done with the album. We’ll release this fucking EP eventually. It means a lot to us and we’re a bit pissed off we couldn’t release it last September.

Radio Metal: When you announced you’d signed with Roadrunner, the feedback was mostly positive, but some purists’ reactions were a bit more negative. These people worry because “when a band’s situation is too comfortable, they don’t write with their guts anymore.” What do you think about that, and what would you answer to that?

Joe: I’d say they might be right. I’m not in the best position to judge. I’m in the thick of the action. As I’m talking to you right now, I’m in front of my computer, I’ve got a mic in front of me, I’m writing lyrics, I’m totally into it. GOJIRA really is my life, it’s my job. So I’m not really the right person to judge. I think there are people who have been following us since the very beginning and who may be more qualified to talk about what’s happening inside the band just by listening to the music. What’s important to me, at the end of the day, is the music. So maybe they’re right, but in my whole life, in my whole career as a musician, I’ve never had the time to take a rest, I’ve never had the chance to see what it’s like to have some support from a label so far, to have some comfort, to buy a house for instance. I’m so very far from that. So I remain quite far from these considerations or fantasies. I write with my guts, with my companions in adversity, and we’re more like warriors than lucky bastards that get lulled into whatever by some big label. I think those people have too much time on their hands to think about all these things, all these fantasies, but the truth is that you just have to listen to the music. You can’t really plan anything. But maybe they’re right, maybe after a couple of years with Roadrunner, our music will sound like shit, I don’t know.

Radio Metal: Do you think you can write with the same rage after 10 years working with Roadrunner, when you have a comfortable lifestyle, as when you’re in your garage and nobody knows you or listens to you, even if you have so much to say?

Joe: Of course it’s not the same, but it can’t stay the same anyway. I’m 35 now, and if I was living in the same conditions as I was when I was 16, I would definitely have some serious issues. It would mean that I’d still leave with my mom and dad, in my basement, and that I would we wearing baggy jeans and sneakers, looking like nothing. As you get older, it’s normal to want to work with professionals, to want to be in touch with the world. So, of course, there’s gonna be a lot of nostalgic, early fans that will say, “Yeah, on their first album they had so much rage!” But come on, I’m 35 now! You grow up, you get older and then you do what you can. I try to analyze our music and it’s true that there are things from our first album that you won’t find anymore, because we were maybe 14 or 17 years old at the time. And now, some deeper, richer, more interesting things are popping up, because we’re more experienced. It’s not the same albums, but that’s how life goes, everything changes all the time. When you buy something, at first it’s new, and then it gets old, you can’t help it. With a human life, it’s exactly the same: you change, you evolve and I think it’s interesting to remain flexible when you follow a band, and to accept its evolution.

Radio Metal: Even if you’re the most famous French metal band, just a few years ago you could hardly make a living from your music. Can you talk about your current financial situation?

Joe: Well, that’s quite simple, my bank account is completely empty! I’m waiting for an advance from the label so I can save some money for the months to come, because basically, if we’re not touring, we don’t get any money. So when you sign a record deal, you get an advance from a label, and you have to pay tons of commissions everywhere: management, lawyers, different charges to produce the record and so on. What’s left in the end is ridiculous, it’s just one month’s pay. OK, we’re a bit famous, but we don’t sell records. Records just don’t sell. The ones we sell basically fund the recording of the album. It’s a reality you have to understand in music business in general, metal isn’t the only one to suffer from that. We didn’t have the chance to live during the great era when people made money from record sales, that doesn’t exist anymore. Now, the way to make money is selling merchandising and touring. It’ll be the next step for us, a step that will allow us to make money, but we don’t make fortunes. We make enough money to live and work full time on GOJIRA, and that’s huge. Some months are a bit more fruitful and we can afford a new guitar or something, but for instance it’s very difficult to buy a car or an apartment because we don’t have a contract from an employer or an insurance. We’ve got music contracts, but when you have to talk to a banker… A couple of years ago I was like, “Fuck, I’d like to buy a house! What am I supposed to do?” And actually, I still can’t.

Read the entire interview from Radio Metal.