I had a thought the other day. Gojira are pretty damn popular, right? They’ve sold enough records to flatten Tokyo, toured the world with bands a big as Mastodon (repeatedly), and generally impressed the hell out of the metal community by writing some of the most massive elephant riffs of the last decade.
So where are the Joe Duplantier soundalikes? He’s an incredible vocalist, one of the most distinctive in the scene. But it’s rare that I hear a new band and think, “man, this singer is totally biting Gojira.” And here’s why: it’s fucking HARD. I don’t know the science behind it, but for whatever reason it’s much easier to just straight up scream than to pitch scream. Most mere mortals would blow their voice out halfway through a 30 minute set (and still miss most of the notes in the process). Hell, even the greatest metal vocalists of all time have either seemingly done permanent damage to their voice via repeated pitch screams (Philip Anselmo) or gradually moved towards cleaner delivery (Devin Townsend).
But hey, at the very least you can aim for stealing Gojira’s guitar tone. I had a chance to talk to the Joe about his guitar and vocal craft, and although he keeps it simple I was surprised by one or two components.
Gear Gods: I talk to a lot of guitar players, but I don’t get a chance to talk to a lot of vocalists about their craft. Now one of the signature elements of Gojira is of course your vocal style, so I was curious of how you developed your tone of voice. Did you come to it mainly from the singing end and get more aggressive with it? Or did you come from the screaming side and then develop the pitch aspect afterwards?
Joe Duplantier: Well my singing was mostly very brutal at the beginning, really death metal when I started screaming. And then I started singing a little. I felt like I needed it.
It seems like [the pitch aspect] was there right when Gojira formed. Was it something you developed in previous projects, or did you just decide that was the right style for the music you wanted to make when you formed Gojira?
No, I didn’t really decide what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a fireman when I was a kid. A firefighter, you know? So that’s what I decided, but in the end I’m standing in front of a microphone and screaming. So really it came just like that. I had no control [over] what I’m doing. I don’t decide to do this. It’s stronger than me. I have to do it. I can’t help it.
When I was a kid I was listening to a lot of music, and I was listening to Metallica. I was heavily influenced by the old school scene that, now it’s old school but at the time it was new and fresh and amazing.