French band Gojira, is without a doubt, one of the most unique bands on today’s metal scene. They keep their position, not only because of their origin, but also for their life philosophy and respected releases. Their latest album Magma, which was recorded in band’s brand new studio, is receiving a wave of compliments since its release and naturally was one of our main topics for a discussion. With Joe we also spoke about his gear collection, touring, life challenges and meditation. This interview was conducted on a Brutal Assault festival 2016.
Live photo credit: Milan Říský
Full audio here:
It’s pretty warm today. How do you usually travel around Europe and did you manage to do some sightseeing in Prague?
It’s the end of the summer tour, so we really miss our homes. We wanted to some sightseeing, but we got stuck on the airport. Luckily we have a tourbus, so I can lay down and enjoy air-condition. (Laugh) It’s cool, I don’t want to complain.
I have to congratulate you on amazing album Magma. We went on a summer trip with my buddies through ex-Yugoslavia and we enjoyed it during the whole trip. You cannot imagine, how perfectly your music fits to Croatian coast filled with rocks and often inaccessible nature.
Thank you! Nice, Croatian coast must have been beautiful. Glad to her that. (Laugh) Unfortunately, we don’t get to play in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia as much, as we would like to.
I want to evolve gracefully
Do you also face a challenge, when people ask you to play in exotic destinations as Tunisia and many others?
Unfortunately we can be only at one place at a time, but we travel a lot and play a lot of places. However, the future is open. We have an agent that’s booking the shows and facing requests from all over the world. We are going to play in Chile, where we played only once and promised to come back. We try to keep our promises, but it’s hard sometimes. Personally, I would like to play in Central Africa, in the places like Mali. I don’t know if there is even possibility to do that, but it would be an adventure. Unfortunately, extremely expensive one probably. There are so many places I would like to go to. There are also places, where people wait for ages to see us. Let say in Sweden. We do some festivals once in a while, but fans are complaining, we don’t play there enough and it’s true. However, the fact is we tour solid amount of time. We are on the tour for the half of the year, which is a big deal already for us and our families. We would have to tour nonstop to satisfy everybody. (Laugh)
During a tour, you rely mainly on your signature model guitar from Charvel Guitars. Could you please some specifications you had in the early stages of its production?
For me it’s all about the pick-ups. I mean, everything is important of course, as the tension on the strings, type of wood, surface of the neck or its shape. But for me the dynamic of passive pick-up is the most important in my approach to guitar. I tried also active pick-ups, but it just doesn’t work for us. We need the natural ups and downs of dynamic pick-ups. So, I put a lot of emphasis on it and therefore they are customs too. I worked with Charvel, which falls under the same house as Jackson and Fender. So, I was in their headquarters in Los Angeles and we went through everything. Next to that, the shape and the look of guitar is also very important. I wanted to evolve gracefully. I am becoming older with time and I wanted something less aggressive than guitars I had before. I came to a conclusion, Telecaster is the right shape for me, with the Flying V right behind it. (Laugh) Therefore we made a metal guitar, with a classic shape.
I fully understand, as I had a feeling it’s not exaggerated at all. Solid and conservative design.
Yeah, nothing fancy. I didn’t feel the need to come up with a signature that has a new shape. I didn’t try to change the world of guitars with my signature model. It’s just a fucking badass to play rock or metal. That’s what I wanted and I have a great tool in my hands. You can easily buy it on the internet. It’s a bit expensive, the US model, but there is a new model coming that is cheaper, but the quality is maintained. I played the prototype, so I know what I am talking about. It’s a bit lighter, thanks to the wood, but the shape is the same. It’s also better for the back, which is sometimes giving me hard time. (Laugh)
I assume there were number of brands, which were providing you their products. How did you manage to filter the offers to come up with the best solution?
Yeah, I have an access to a lot of gear, as brands send me a lot of their products. But I am not a nerd nor geek. I don’t spend hours on internet, trying to find the best thing. I rather have small conversation with my guitar tech about this stuff. I just can’t keep up too long. (Laugh) I prefer to tell jokes and stories.
He must know you better, than you know yourself, right?
Yes, but it took a long time to be on the same page. Let say when it comes to the stretching of the strings. He used to stretch them a lot, as I am playing pretty strongly. Same goes for the intonation, as he knows me so well, that I don’t need to double check. I just take my guitar and play. It’s always perfect, as I need it to be. And if something goes wrong, we talk about it afterwards. Sometimes it’s just because he didn’t have time or something like that, but we are on the same page now. Therefore we don’t need long conversations anyway, as he is a filter between me and the gear world. So, he comes to me and says: “We are in touch with that brand and they are offering you to try their guitar, pedal or this or that.” I trust him on that, as I have kids now and can’t spend too much time on testing amplifiers for hours. (Laugh) But when it comes to a record, I don’t mind spending days checking all possible options during a production in our own studio. I took a time to evaluate a lot amps, heads, cabinets, even guitars and mics. However, I ended up using my signature model and EVH 5150 which I use on stage anyway. Even with a blind test, I came across an item and I said:
“Wait! What’s that? I want that!”
“Well, that was your EVH.”
“Ok, then its ok.” (Laugh)
Home & Peace?
Did you also consult your guitar technician, when you were choosing a gear for your studio or did you also bring somebody else in New York?
No, we did it ourselves with my guitar tech and the sound guy. It was a few days of experimenting and recording.
Instead of just sitting down, taking notes and drinking coffee, we were building a studio and recording an album
How long did it take to make this happen? I believe, you must be grateful with your brother to finally have a space on your own to be creative and also save some money during future recordings.
It was a bit crazy. It was like jumping, to catch a rope, you are not sure you’re going to catch. It was nothing safe and we didn’t have a lot of money. I had to think fast and make quick decisions, as we had an album to record. Instead of just sitting down, taking notes, drinking coffee and writing music, suddenly we were building a studio, which is crazy, when you think about it. Nobody wants to go to a task like that, where there is delivery of an album ahead of you. But that’s the way, we do things since the very beginning. We always built our own studios, rehearsal spaces, recorded things ourselves, as well as promoted or even developed our own teasers. We like it this way and building a studio, was just another step and it went surprisingly really fast. I hired people to help me. In New York, there are a lot of communities, like the Mexican which is well established in the real estate business. Everybody is working with Mexicans. Some of my neighbors are workers and they are cheaper than other people. So, I worked with them and we became friends. Therefore it was also a cultural experience.
I agree it’s very useful to have a community around yourself. I live in busy Prague, but I also love to switch it for weekends in our family house in the village called Stará Bělá, close to my hometown Ostrava, where I also appreciate local community.
New York is very inspiring for that too, as you can find anything, anywhere, all the time. Even if people recognize you for playing in a band, they will not make a big deal out of it.
On the other hand, I can imagine, New York is really wild city. Was that also an inspiration for a video of a track Silvera?
Yes, absolutely. Next to that, we were there, when we were supposed to deliver a video, so we said: “We might as well use the landscape around us.” It’s telling something about the time we had in New York, releasing the record, our conversations about the world and how the things are going. Especially, how people are alienated by technology. This video is touching various subjects, which are important to us in a poetic way. We don’t want to be too judgmental, criticize nor communicating something which will sound as we are better than other, because we are part of this world and this society. This global ignorance and selfishness…
Meditation can be even painful
I must say, your lyrics spoke to me a lot, as through certain experiences in the past few months, I changed my life approach. I started to practice meditation and became a better listener, I believe. As you have more experience in this field, where do you find persistence for regular practice of meditation?
You know, it’s weird. These days I haven’t meditate in a while actually. But I know it’s the most simple and powerful thing in the world. Yet, it’s pretty difficult to go back to it. It’s like working out. When you work out, it seems easy and nice, but when you stop, it’s really difficult to get back. Meditation can be even painful, when you haven’t done it in a while. Breathing and not moving anywhere is almost painful, but super powerful.