Gojira, from a forest in France to fronting festivals
Posted: Feb 20 2022
French do-it-yourself metal band Gojira has been applauded not only for pushing the boundaries of metal but for the way that seems out of nowhere, they became the most buzzed-about band in metal. Now hailed as your musicians favourite band the way they have forged their own path is unmistakable. They have taken the foundations of rock and the technical side of metal and created a sound that no one else in the world has come close to.
In Ondres, France 1996, two brothers, Joe (19) and Mario (14) Duplantier decided it was time to start a band of their own based on their love of technical death metal. Joining them would be then 19-year-old Christian Andreu, a guitarist who also loved the likes of Metallica.
The three of them started to take formation as a band in the brother’s garage with Joe as the frontman, Mario on drums and Christian on lead guitar. With no plan, no pressure and no band name they eventually added Alexandre Cornillion as a bassist. In fact, at this point, the two brothers had other metal bands they were playing in and already had made names for themselves.
Eventually, they decided on the name Godzilla and shortly after, took to a stage for the first time playing at a local bar in Bayonne. They sold cassettes and begun self-releasing their music demos, 'Victim' in 1996 and 'Possessed' in 1997. In January 1998 Cornillion left the band and was replaced with Jean-Michael Labadie on bass.
In 1999, the band won the Templin Ultrasons, a competition to support young emerging artists. Following their win, in September 1999, Godzilla supported Cannibal Corpse, Edge of Sanity, Impaled Nazarene, and Immortal in France. This exposed them to a wealth of fans and the band started to pick up a following all over the country and released their third demo 'Saturate' and fourth, 'Wisdom Comes' in 2000. At the same time, the band were working on what would be their first album.
In 2001, they were forced to change their name to Gojira (rōmaji spelling of Godzilla) due to legal issues.
After hearing another Paris based metal band’s album they decided to go and record in the same studio in Brussels. The process of composing and writing had taken a long time, since 1996, but the album recording of Terra Incognita only took 10 days.
With the album now recorded and completed, the band had no label or record company, labels even deemed them too ambitious with their style of music. With nowhere to turn to release music they started their own label named Gabriel Editions.
Finally in March 2001, they released their debut album, distributed by the band themselves to a small store in Bayonne. It made big waves within the death metal community and gave them leverage to get themselves a manager through Sphere Management, Richard Gamba. Promoting the album, the band headed out on a country wide tour sharing stages with Hertz and Silence, Nihil, No Flag and Oversoul.
Following the tour, the band signed with an independent record label, 'Boycott Records' for distribution. The following year the band became owners of their own recording studio and rehearsal room called Le Studio de Milans in the middle of Landes forest. It was originally a barn but between their albums and tours the band rebuilt it entirely to house their needs.
The process to create The Link took a year and with a different approach which Mario Duplantier said was him wanting to play fast. This was because when it came to the recording start date, none of the equipment had arrived to the studio and when it did the album was quickly self produced and recorded with the band's live engineer, Laurent Etchemendy.
With no delay or reverb the album has a very raw sound to it. Released in April 2003, 2,500 copies were sent to French stores and was well received, leading to a tour across metropolitan France as well as Bilbao, Swiss, and Belgium, allowing the band to gain recognition.
In June, Gojira played at the Furyfest among other artists that were more of the hardcore genre. The fan base started to grow following their live performances and in 2004, Gojira played a sold-out venue dedicated for one night to French metal bands at La Locomotive in Montmartre in Paris, alongside Loudblast, No Return and Scarve. The band were becoming renowned for their live performances and developing a big fan base. They released a self-produced and self-distributed live concert DVD in 2004 of the tour, filmed by 16 cameras during a sold out show of 800 people.
In May 2004, the venue Le Florida in Agen invited Gojira and Yat-Kha to collaborate together in a one-night concert in three acts, allowing the audience to discover metal and ethno-rock music. Both bands played separately and Gojira toned down their performance; then they played together at the same time.
The Link era would eventually end after a successful tour of almost two years and facing significant financial difficulties. Gojira signed with Mon Slip label, which allowed them to have a higher financial advance, followed by a contract with French-based Listenable Records, in December 2004.
From Mars to Sirius
Back in the studio to put together album three with no pressure or expectations, the band wanted to focus on musical technicality. During the album’s process Joe, who wrote the album, was contemplating outer space and devoted his time to reading The Celestine Prophecy. Mario Duplantier commented that the concept behind the lyrics and the album title, written by his brother, is "an allegory of his desire to see humanity go from a destructive and masculine energy, symbolised by the warrior Mars, to an energy-based rather on emotion and femininity".
The album was completed in seven months and was released in September 2005. From Mars to Sirius displayed a revolution in the band's sound and was received well by critics. 15,000 albums were shipped to Paris and it landed at 44 on the Top Albums chart in France. Following the release, they ended up on tour across France, Belgium and Holland. They also re-released The Link on Listenable Records. First to really catch onto what the band were about to be was Kerrang! Journalist Lucy WIlliams who wrote an article which sung the band’s praises.
When it came to their performance in February at Élysée Montmartre in Paris, a crowd of journalists had gathered for the event. At this point the band were making money from touring and after over 300 concerts in France, the band signed with American label Prosthetic Records—into an "exclusive licensing agreement" with Listenable Records—to help give them exposure throughout North America. On 19 May 2006, Gojira performed in Brighton, their first UK show, and then forged links with England's media community at the after party organised by Kerrang! It was also the magazine that further increased their exposure and led to Gojira being asked to replace Mastodon at England's Download Festival 2006.
On 22 August 2006, Prosthetic Records released From Mars to Sirius in the US, which led to a sudden pre-order of 5,000 copies on the label's website. In September, a year after its release, the album had sold over 20,000 copies in France and the same equivalent abroad.
In early October, Gojira and Hatesphere embarked on a co-headlining tour of the UK. The band was included in Children of Bodom's US tour in late 2006, joining Amon Amarth and Sanctity as the openers. The Link was reissued in 2007 and the following month, the band joined Lamb of God on their American tour with Trivium and Machine Head. Then again played with Trivium on their UK dates in Europe. Towards the end of the more than 220-concert tour they undertook to promote From Mars to Sirius, Gojira embarked on work for the follow-up album.
The Way of All Flesh
The band returned to their humble studio in the woods to begin songwriting for their fourth album The Way of All Flesh. It took four months and in March 2008 the result was an album the band called more "more intense, more brutal, and more melodic" than its predecessor. The subjects on the album included life after death, immortality and the soul.
Recorded between April and June it was mixed in Los Angeles over two weeks and had an appearance of Randy Blythe from Lamb of God on the track ‘Adoration for None’. It was released in October 2008 but the band performed ‘Vacuity’ off the album two months before its release when they opened for Metallica in Aras. It debuted at 138 on the Billboard Charts in America and sold 4,200 copies in its first week. The album topped the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart where it stayed for one week, and a total of four weeks on the chart and it reached No. 21 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.
In October, Gojira toured supporting In Flames's European headlining tour, followed by North America from November to December. In mid-December, The Way of All Flesh ranked No. 5 on Metal Hammer's list of the Top 50 Albums 2008, and LA Weekly included the album in its list of the Top 10 Metal Albums of 2008. The following year, in January the band embarked on a headline tour to promote the album across France, UK and Ireland.
In March they were to play their first North American headline tour. They also played festivals such as Hellfest Summer Open Air, Belgium's Dour Festival, Eurockéennes Festival in Belfort, Sonisphere Festival in Barcelona and Graspop Metal Meeting. Around this time Terra Incognita was also re-released. Gojira accompanied Metallica on their tour around the US and Canada from 14 September to 12 October, performing before Lamb of God.
Over the years, Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe would join Gojira to sing on ‘Backbone’ at concerts, whenever they shared the same dates. As their popularity spread into America's metal scene, Blabbermouth.net wrote that the band "has become one of metal's most acclaimed and admired acts".
Following the US tour, the band returned to France for a few concerts, and then started a six-month hiatus, invoking saturation after only "a five day break" since 2004. The band's break ended earlier than expected after Gojira was announced as the opening act of Metallica's European and Russian tour in April 2010. In July 2010, Gojira was included in the lineup of the rock-oriented Vieilles Charrues Festival in Brittany. Performing for an audience mainly unaccustomed to metal music, Gojira's "delicate mission" was to close the evening of Saturday on the Glenmor stage.
Described as "more powerful" than Motörhead's concert in 2008 on the same stage, the show began with the song ‘Lizard Skin’ with an estimated crowd of between 40,000 and 50,000 people. Twenty minutes later, between 4,000 and 5,000 participants remained. Newspaper Le Télégramme claimed that "the show was of a rare sonic power. ... So brutal, that the band lost 90% of the attendance along the way". The context did not discourage the band who continued to perform "as if their lives depended on it", with a drum solo executed with "breathtaking mastery".
Since Gojira's concert, metal has been gradually excluded from the Vieilles Charrues Festival. The band continued the promotion of the album into 2010, including dates at European festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Bloodstock Open Air, Brutal Assault, and Pukkelpop. Throughout 2011, the band remained relatively private, focusing on new material, the Sea Shepherd EP, and played a handful of concerts in Europe during June and July, notably at Sonisphere Festival in France.
The EP was a non-profit EP which the proceeds would go to Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling organisation. The band by this point were active in the environmental activism movement as well as other causes they were vocal about. Even in 2021, the EP has yet to be released as the hard drive with recordings on it died.
The band had been free agents since the summer of 2011 after their contract with Prosthetic Records expired. Esteemed by Monte Conner, Gojira was acquired by Roadrunner Records on 9 November 2011.In the wake of the new contract, Gojira entered Spin Studios in New York City in November to set about recording their follow-up album.
Gojira's fifth studio album, L'Enfant Sauvage, was co-produced by Josh Wilbur and Joe Duplantier. On L'Enfant Sauvage, the band juxtaposed their death metal roots with elements more ambient and sophisticated, with an intent to find "the ultimate sound" on which they were working since their beginning, based on experimentation and research.
Joe Duplantier explained that titling the album in English inadequately encapsulated the meaning of the French term: "Sauvage is something that is not educated or something that is like free and completely free in nature. ... The idea with L'Enfant Sauvage is like with a human that would grow up in nature, raised by wolves, for example, without the influence from others and the influence from institutions or society in general.”
In 2012, K2 Agency founder John Jackson who represented Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Mastodon, and Guns N' Roses, signed Gojira to a global deal for the production of their concerts abroad. In March 2012, After returning from an Australian tour with Mastodon and Kvelertak, Gojira began a national tour supporting the album. After the many tours shared with Metallica, the band was accordingly invited to open a series of concerts of the European Black Album Tour notably at the Stade de France, the largest stadium in the country, on 12 May 2012.
On that day, the loudness of sound during Gojira's performance was measured at 120 decibels in the corridors backstage, which broke the record of the Stade de France and has remained the loudest sound ever recorded at the stadium.
Commenting on Metallica's motive for taking Gojira on tour with them, James Hetfield told a reporter, "I discovered their music with From Mars to Sirius, an album that I loved. Humanly speaking, I liked them a lot. They have their feet on the ground, are intelligent, sensitive. I have immense respect for them. And then Mario is an incredible drummer."
They also released a live DVD/Blu-ray titled The Flesh Alive on 4 June in Europe. L'Enfant Sauvage, released in June 2012 on Roadrunner Records for worldwide distribution. The album reached No. 34 on the Billboard 200, selling 11,000 copies in the US in its first week of release. L'Enfant Sauvage was 104 places higher than the first-week rank earned by The Way of All Flesh. It peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Tastemaker Albums chart, and No.13 on the US Top Rock Albums chart. The album reached a peak position of No. 6 on the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart. It landed in the Top 40 albums chart in six European countries, including France, where it entered the Top Albums chart at No. 7 and the Digital Albums chart at No. 17.
Hailed as the album that bridged the past Gojira to the future, they headed on another world tour. Included on this tour circuit was Nova Rock Festival, Copenhell and Slipknot’s Knotfest alongside Cannibal Corpse, Deftones, and Serj Tankian. Gojira was scheduled to tour North America with Lamb Of God and Dethklok, but it was cancelled due to the incarceration of Randy Blythe in the Czech Republic. By this time it’s 2013 and Joe Duplantier lived in New York for a year—unlike his brothers, Labadie, and Andreu, who remained in the southwest of France. Labadie said that "we communicate differently, because of the time difference, and it is not really easy, but that is okay because he is truly happy to live in the States.”
On 15 December, the band was the headliner at Indian Metal Festival in Bangalore; "the whole front row was crying", said Joe Duplantier. The tour continued again throughout the year playing festivals and shows and saw the band was nominated for Album Of The Year for L'Enfant Sauvage at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards at Club Nokia on 2 May. They took home the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards for Best Live Band at The O2 on 17 June 2013 in London.
In March 2014, Gojira released a Live CD/DVD/Picture book titled Les Enfants Sauvages, documenting more than 150 concerts that the band played on three continents in support of L'Enfant Sauvage.
In November 2014, Joe Duplantier began constructing a recording studio in Ridgewood, Queens, New York City. The same month, Mario Duplantier moved to New York. In 2015 Joe Duplantier, with his brother's participation, finished the construction of his own New York recording studio, called Silver Cord Studio. It has become the recording studio and headquarters of Gojira in America – alongside Le Studio des Milans in Ondres.
The next album would see Joe Duplantier experimenting with clean vocals and on 6 April, both brothers set up at Silver Cord Studio to begin recording Gojira's sixth album titled Magma. However, ten days into recording there, Joe and Mario Duplantier learned that their mother had fallen ill, and they flew back to France, which led the band to suspend recording sessions. The eventual death of their mother affected the album’s recording immensely and the band paused touring until later in the year.
Back on the worldwide circuit, they performed at Heavy Montréal Festival and Reading Festival in England and the band announced the next album was almost done. Rolling Stone named the upcoming release "their sixth-most anticipated album of 2016".
In May 2016, Joe Duplantier announced the itinerary in France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, and the UK launched in support of the upcoming album, with increased venue capacity. In early June 2016, a private concert of the band booked for one hundred people was shot in black and white and filmed by seven cameras at a television studio located in the Plaine Saint-Denis near Paris. Film director Paul Ouazan decided to create a special performance video focused on the crowd, saying, "I was immediately convinced that the band had a fifth member; its audience". It was broadcast on Arte later that month.
On 13 June, the band was included in the live lineup of the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, held at the Eventim Apollo in London. On 16 June, the band made their first world television appearance as musical guests of the day at Le Petit Journal, performing an extract of "Silvera" in primetime on Canal+ in France.
Magma, self-produced, was released on 17 June 2016 through Roadrunner Records. It was available for streaming in its entirety in the band's YouTube playlist two days before its official release. The album debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 17,000 units in its first week of release in the US, which marked the band's most significant progression in both chart and sales since the beginning of their career. It debuted and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart and No. 6 on the Tastemaker Albums chart.
The album topped the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart where it remained for one week, placing them as the first French band to hold the No. 1 position on that chart. It also reached No. 8 on the Billboard Vinyl Albums chart. The album debuted and peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard's Canadian Albums Chart, while on Australia's ARIA Albums Chart, it arrived at No. 11. Magma landed in the Top 40 albums chart in twelve European countries—including the Top 10 in France, Norway, Austria, Finland, and Swiss.
The worldwide tour commenced and spanned over four years and included a large number of festivals. This would also be the band’s 17th tour of the US. In November 2016, Metal Hammer stated that Gojira had "emerged as one of the most important metal outfits on the planet", with a "loyal, passionate, fiercely evangelical fanbase".
In mid-November, the band appeared on the live broadcast of BBC Radio 1 Rock Show at the Maida Vale Studios in London. Kirk Hammett would say later that Magma was "an incredible piece of art". Within six months of its release, Magma had sold 400,000 copies worldwide which led to Gojira being nominated for two Grammy Awards. Magma was nominated for Best Rock Album and its second single, ‘Silvera’, was nominated for Best Metal Performance.
Magma won Best Album at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards on 12 June 2017. The band embarked on a short run of US co-headlining dates with Opeth and then played as a supporting act on Metallica's US WorldWired Tour in summer along with Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat. Gojira headlined the Main Stage 2 at Download Festival—before Linkin Park on the Main Stage 1—in Paris on 9 June and Spain on 22 June.
In 2017, Mario Duplantier returned to France due to visa-related issues and for his family, saying that Gojira "is a bit in Ondres, a little bit in Brooklyn, a bit in Bassussarry... Between the Landes, the United States, and the Basque Country".
In 2018, the band cracked headliner status in Europe as they performed across summer leading line ups all over including Tuska Open Air Metal Festival, Brutal Assault Open Air, Into The Grave Open Air in Leeuwarden, and Bloodstock Open Air. On 8 September 2018, Nick John, the manager of Gojira, Mastodon, and Slayer, died from cancer. John managed Gojira since 2012.
On 17 February 2021, Gojira announced their seventh studio album titled Fortitude. The album's production began in early 2018 at New York's Silver Cord Studio, with its original release date slated for June 2020, then pushed to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The album, produced and recorded by Joe Duplantier, was mixed by Andy Wallace.
Forbes named Gojira's upcoming album as one of the "most anticipated metal albums". Gojira's 2021 single ‘Amazonia’ was released as part of a month-long fundraiser for a Brazilian indigenous rights charity curated by the band.
Released on 30 April via Roadrunner Records, the album debuted at No. 1 on the US iTunes all-genre sales chart and at No. 12 on the Billboard 200. The album topped on both the Billboard Top Rock Albums and Tastemaker Albums charts, and Gojira topped a second time the Hard Rock Albums chart. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Vinyl Albums chart and No.15 on the Billboard Canadian album chart. The album topped the UK Rock & Metal Albums chart, and the band also made a "global chart impact" with numerous top-five and top ten.
Throughout their entire careers to date, Gojira has been consistent supporters in the environmental movement. Even Joe Duplantier stated if he was not a musician he would be an environmental activist with Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Sea Shepherd EP is an example of that with proceeds going to Sea Shepherd to raise money for the charity's work protecting marine animals, especially dolphins, whales, and sharks. The charity named a $4million interceptor vessel after the band, MV Gojira. Members from both organisations are allowed to run a merchandise and literature booth at Gojira gigs.
In 2010, the band participated in the environment-friendly and multi-genre music festival Le Cabaret Vert in Charleville-Mézières in France whose main objective is to reduce its environmental impact. In June 2012, Duplantier expressed the band's support for Sea Shepherd and its founder, Paul Watson, when he appeared on stage in between two Gojira songs at the Rock am Ring Festival in Germany. In 2015, the band was invited to perform at the Emmaüs Lescar-Pau Festival in France, organized by the international solidarity Emmaüs movement, which is committed to fighting poverty and homelessness. They even launched their own charity auction for indigenous Amazonian peoples at risk of ethnocide and genocide due to the destruction of their habitat and the violation of their rights. Gojira has included a tab on their website as a platform to support existing forms of activism and providing information resources about safeguarding the oceans, the environment and animals.
On 26 March 2021, Gojira released a second single, ‘Amazonia’, for their seventh album Fortitude. The song and its music video address deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The music video showcased the fires, the native Brazilians performing a ritual dance, and protests against the devastation of the Amazon rainforest that has increased since president Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019. The band also established a month-long fundraiser for the Brazilian indigenous rights charity Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB). The NGO APIB represents more than three hundred Brazilian indigenous groups and is indigenously owned.
On 30 April 2021, the campaign quadrupled its initial goal of $75,000 and raised over $300,000 by selling autographed instruments and memorabilia from bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Tool, Slipknot, Deftones, Lamb of God, Bring Me the Horizon, among others. Items in the auction included one of Slash's signature top hats alongside a signed Gibson "Appetite" Les Paul, as well as a signed Max Cavalera ESP guitar, which sold for $15,000 each. An autographed Fender Precision Bass belonging to Labadie used during the recording sessions of From Mars to Sirius had sold at auction for $9,000, and a guitar owned by Joe Dupantier went in an auction for $27,000. Even their 2021 music video for ‘The Chant’, which was filmed in the West Bengal region of India, was inspired by Tenzin Tsundue and described the refugee children of Tibet during its invasion by China in 1949, fleeing their country in the hope of preserving their culture.
There is a reason why the likes of James Hetfield say they are his favourite band. They are still extremely active in life and music, a tour on the way for 2021 in the US and so there is much more to come from Gorjia.