Gojira’s Joe Duplantier talks salad, Metallica and revolution.
Rachel B. Levin
When musician Joe Duplantier—the guitarist and lead singer of the metal band Gojira—became a vegan about four years ago, something unexpected happened. The French-born New Yorker, who’s known for his aggressive vocals and heavy guitar licks, discovered that he could rock even harder. After cutting out animal foods, “I’m full of energy,” he says. “When I get on stage, I’m never bloated or slowed down by whatever I ate during the day.” That energy boost is definitely a boon in Duplantier’s headbanging line of work, which recently involved touring with Gojira as the opening band for Metallica, the metal legends who first inspired Duplantier to pick up a guitar.
The personal benefits of veganism aren’t the main reason Duplantier—whose last name just happens to sound a bit botanical—chose a plant-based diet. Ever since his childhood in Bayonne, a coastal town in southwestern France, Duplantier has been concerned about his impact on the environment.
“I would go to the beach as a kid and I would have black stains on my feet when I came home,” he says. “I asked my parents, ‘What is this?’ And they said, ‘It’s oil.’”
Frustrated by the human carelessness that polluted the ocean he loved, Duplantier channeled that anger into playing metal music. “I had to grab a guitar and start screaming,” he says.
That passion for the environment found its way into Gojira’s song lyrics. Their 2005 breakout album, From Mars to Sirius, was ecologically themed, and various songs over the years have focused on everything from global warming to floating “islands” of garbage in the ocean. Duplantier is currently mixing three new songs that will exclusively benefit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a nonprofit that uses direct action to protect marine wildlife.
Beyond his particular concern for the ocean, Duplantier believes that going vegan is “the number one thing we can do to reduce our impact on the environment,” since raising livestock depletes natural resources and generates greenhouse gases.
Though it can be tricky to stick to the diet while touring the world, Duplantier keeps it up by making sure he’s got plenty of his favorite vegan foods—like avocados, carrots and pumpkin seeds—backstage in his dressing room. “That way,” he says, “when the pizza comes after the show, I’m good.”
Being healthy and earth-conscious may not fit the stereotype of the hard-living metal musician, but Duplantier embraces the contrasts. Though Gojira’s songs often explore dark themes like death, loss and anguish, wholesome things bring Duplantier great pleasure. “Give me a salad,” he says, “and I’m happy.”
Having toured with Metallica multiple times is one of Duplantier’s greatest thrills. “When [Goijira] first started,” Duplantier says, “we wanted to be [Metallica]. That was not possible. The second option was to dream about playing with them one day. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s true.”
Amazingly, Metallica not only inspired Duplantier’s career—the connection also led him to his wife, Vilma, a performance artist and animal rights activist.
One night on tour several years ago, the two bands had a stop in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“Lars [Ulrich], the drummer of Metallica, invited us to drink wine in a cozy bar,” Duplantier says. “And that night she came in, and we fell in love.” Today, Duplantier says, Ulrich has become “kind of a godfather” to his young kids, Mila and Orest, who have been known to headbang and do air guitar when daddy plays.
Duplantier’s desire to positively influence the next generation is at the core of both his dietary and musical choices. On Gojira’s most recent album, Magma, which garnered Grammy nominations for Best Rock Album and Best Metal Performance, “the message I find most striking is that we have the power to change things,” he says. “The true change, the true revolution, comes from inside each one of us.”
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