French death metal band Gojira have been in the studio over the last few months working on their follow up to their 2008 album The Way Of All Flesh. Vocalist Joe Duplantier is in New York finishing vocals and contemplating artwork, while the rest of the band are back in France rehearsing and preparing for their first visit to Australia for the Soundwave Festival.

It’s 1pm in the afternoon in Bayonne, France – and drummer Mario Duplantier has skipped his daily bodyboarding session to speak to Tonedeaf about Gojira’s new album, inspiration, and how he discovered metal.

“I think the next album will be even more natural, I’m a big fan of the next album,” he pauses and laughs. “It came very naturally. We took 8 months to compose the album and I think we were all very inspired. Personally I felt very inspired and I had tonnes of melodies and ideas for songs. I also created lots of drum patterns and Joe, my brother, came in with a lot of riffs. The fact it’s more simple than usual and there is more space within the song and more massive. There is something very deep, very emotional and it’s hard to explain for me.”

Certainly, Mario credits the instinctual power of the album to the close relationships the band shares with one another. “We know each other so well. My brother is in the band but the two other guys are like brothers too. It’s all about the connections between us, and when we play music it’s spontaneous and there is an amazing understanding between us. Of course this creates something deep in the music and I truly believe that.”

I asked Mario about the lyrical direction of the new album and whether it had evolved in any way since The Way Of All Flesh. “The new album is about freedom and [the idea] that each person has a wild child inside somewhere, somehow,” he replied in a soft almost melodic French tone. “We have tried in our life and with our band to keep this essence alive through our music. This album is about our state of mind and lifestyle. It’s a quest for honesty and the ultimate freedom, the freedom of the mind and the heart. We don’t want to fade away as we grow up, we don’t want to disappear into mediocrity so our message in this album is a present.”

So what is Mario’s lifestyle? And how does this inspire him? “My inspiration comes from… I would like to say it comes from the ocean you know,” he laughs. “Because I am on the ocean every day bodyboarding and I love the waves, I think it is very powerful. Sometimes after I surf I’ll go on the drums and phew it’s good energy.”

“I love to go early in the morning, and sometimes I stay 3 or 4 hours in the water, even in winter…. I would like to try to do an ARS [Air – Roll – Spin] you know, I’m a very bad bodyboarder,” he admits with another laugh. “My favourite trick is a reverse spin and sometimes aerials. It’s very hard for me to go in the air. I do drop knee too… I love it!”

Gojira has kept the same line up since it’s beginning in the mid nineties, when Mario was just a teenager. He explained that his brother Joe is the one that influenced him to become a musician. “When I was 10 years old my first musical shock was Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I was into sport and I didn’t care about music. My brother always played CDs close to me and I said, ‘Ay please stop this music inferno, it’s only noise… please it’s a nightmare!’ and then one day he played the song Orion and I was just stoked. I got a sense for the music and that was that. I asked him to give me a CD and he gave me …And Justice for All, so I became a huge fan and one year later I started drumming.”

“It was very spontaneous, I managed to play a simple rhythm and progressed very fast because I was such a small kid. I listened to Death when I was twelve or thirteen years old and that was my second big shock you know, with Gene Hoglan on drums.”

From such humble beginnings, Gojira are headed our way for the first time very soon for the Soundwave Festival, and Mario is obviously pretty happy about finally getting a chance to visit Australia.

“It will be our first time which is why it’s such an amazing thing for us. I’m very, very curious about Australia. I want to see the colour of the ground, because I have an idea it’s something red which is a cliché I know. I want to see the animals, the trees, the people, the ocean and the food. Everything is full curiosity for me because we live so far away from you guys.”

Gojira jet into the Soundwave Festival shortly (kicking off Saturday 25th Feb) and will be playing Soundwave Sidewaves alongside Mastodon and Kvelertak. 

Photograph © Gabrielle Duplantier