A Conversation between Tom Araya of Slayer and Joe Duplantier of Gojira
Wed, 09 Oct 2013 08:10:33
"Let's make this fun," smiles Slayer singer and bassist Tom Araya.
Indeed, the ensuing hour-long conversation between the legendary frontman and Gojira singer and guitarist Joe Duplantier was a blast. Slayer and Gojira will be sharing the stage together on what's bound to be one of the fall's most explosive tours. Both bands share quite a bit in common. They're uncompromisingly heavy, undeniably infectious, and utterly unique when it comes to heavy metal. Slayer's legacy is indisputable, and Gojira have made one of the decade's best metal records with 2012's L'Enfant Sauvage. Get ready for the ultimate 21st century Clash of the Titans when these two hit the road…
In order to discuss their stories, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino sat down with Slayer mainman Tom Araya and Joe Duplantier of Gojira to talk the tour, music, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
When did the idea for this tour come about?
Tom Araya: I think it was when we first got word we were going to put together a fall tour. It was a while back. I can't think of when it was. They mentioned they wanted to put the tour together with Gojira. We were like, "Cool!" That's basically how decisions are made in our camp. It's like, "Hey, we want to put a tour together with this band", and we say, "Alright!" However, this isn't the first time we've toured together.
Joe Duplantier: We did some shows in Europe last year, and they went great. For us, it was a very comfortable situation to do this tour because we're in the same kind of vibe. We use no effects, no computers, and no crazy samples. It's like a raw, old school formula. It's two guitars, one bass, drums, and a guy screaming in a microphone. It's the might Slayer! It was an amazing thing to initially do those dates in Europe. When we received the offer to be main support for Slayer in North America, we were like, "Yes!" That's all I can say about this [Laughs].
You both play and sing simultaneously. Do those elements feed off each other?
Tom Araya: The band I was in prior to Slayer, I would sing every now and then, but I did more backup singing. I didn't really do the main vocals. Kerry King happened to join the band later on as it was already doing club shows or more like dances and stuff. When that band broke up, Kerry called me up and said, "Hey, I'm looking for a bass player. I've got a guitar guy and a drummer. I want you to play bass and sing". I just threw myself into it. It was more of a hurdle. I had to learn how to run and jump hurdles. It was more of a learning process for me. I had to learn how to play and sing all the time. There's some material we do that's very intricate. I either have to simplify what I play so I can sing, or I have to really work at playing and singing those parts. It's something that didn't really come naturally. I had to really work at it. It wasn't a natural process. I still have to work at it depending on what it is I play and sing. That's where I'm at with that [Laughs].
Joe Duplantier: At some point, do you feel like something happened in your brain or body as if you clicked and were on it?
Tom Araya: Yes! When I initially started doing it, it was something I had to work at. You're right. At some point, it just worked.
Joe Duplantier: It becomes almost natural. It's like one effort into two different things, but it's the same effort the body does. I find it's a very physical thing. Now, when I'm in the studio tracking vocals, I feel a little lost without the guitar because I'm so used to doing both at the same time. It becomes like one single thing almost.
Tom Araya: It does click. In the studio, honestly, I sing, and then I'll play the bass. It's not until we rehearse the music and get ready to do a tour that I have to put two and two together [Laughs]. You know what I mean?
Joe Duplantier: Yeah!
Tom Araya: Like you said, it's become something that's sort of effortless now. When I initially started laying with the band, it was something I really had to work at. Now, it's like being a piano player, you've got a right hand and a left hand [Laughs].
Joe Duplantier: Exactly! I started the same way too. It's funny. I was playing guitar and doing backing vocals in my first band in high school. The singer joined the army so he just disappeared. One day, he was like, "Oh guys, I won't be here anymore. I joined the army!" I thought, "Damn, we have this gig! There's no way we're going to cancel our gig. I'll sing!" It was a total disaster [Laughs]. This was a different band. A friend of mine recorded it with a tape recorder. We listened to that show like fifty times laughing so hard because it was so bad. The beginning wasn't easy. I also had to learn.
Tom Araya: It's like throwing yourself in the fire. That's what I did like, "Yeah, I guess I can play and sing!"
Joe Duplantier: It's funny because it looks like you were born doing both.
Tom Araya: [Laughs]
Joe Duplantier: You were meant to do that! It's crazy. You're not human anymore. You're just like an entity. What you've done is incredible.
Tom Araya: It's amazing because not too many people do that. There's a small circle of people who play and sing. It takes a lot of talent. Dude, you've got talent!
Joe Duplantier: Thank you! That's cool.
When was the moment you knew you'd do music for the rest of your life?
Tom Araya: It was never a thought of "This is what I want to do", I just did it. My brother learned how to play guitar so I figured I'd learn how to play bass. Being a part of a band was something I wanted to do. It didn't matter what we did. I just wanted to be in a band. It wasn't a thought of, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life". It was a part of my life. When Slayer came together, I was working in a hospital. I was a respiratory therapist. Thirty years ago, I never would've imagined being here or all of the things we have done as a band. I was just playing in a band that was jamming on weekends. I was working 24-hour double shifts sometimes. That was basically to support my habit, which was music. The decision of what I'd do for the rest of my life was made for me. The band was doing really well. We were doing tours. We got an offer to do Europe for the very first time in 1985, and I told work I needed a month off. They wouldn't give it to me so I quit. I was put at a crossroads, and I had to make a decision. My thought process was, "I'll probably never do this ever again. I've got to Europe. I've got to tour. I don't care". I left, and I quit. I never really thought about looking back or working ever again. It was about seeing where the music took me. That was a conscious decision like, "Fuck it, I quit then because I want to do this!" I might've heard, "Well, what are you going to do then?" My response was, "I don't know, but I'm going to do this tour!"
Joe Duplantier: [Laughs]
Tom Araya: That was it. I never thought about what we did. Things just happened, and we did them. We got offers. We took the offers.
Joe Duplantier: I feel like these things happen one step at a time, right? There's one tour in front of you, and you have to do it because it's boiling in you. You just need to do it at the moment. You don't even think about the future.
Tom Araya: That was something I never did. I never thought about the future. The very first time we did a U.S. tour. Brian Slagel had put all of these things together and said, "I've got a tour for you guys!" He mentioned this tour to us several times. One day, I got home from work and asked the guys, "Are we going to do this tour or what?" It was a tour written on a piece of paper with twenty dates. We needed to leave that day in order to make the first show. It was one of those situations where it's like, "Well, what do we do? We don't have a truck, money, this, or that". That was usually Kerry talking [Laughs]. Then, I go, "Fuck that! Let's just fucking do it. I've got a car. We can get a truck. Let's go!" We left that same afternoon. We packed all of our shit and went. That's just the way we've always done things. You'll say, "Hey, I want to do an album!" Well, we don't have money. So you're like, "Fuck that! Let's just do it. We'll figure out the money later!" You know what I mean? That's how it's been with this band. You got this! Let's do it. This guy wants to sign you. Awesome. We can do this tour. I'm in. Thirty-three years we're here. I never really thought about anything other than just doing it. There was no, "I want to be a rock star. I want to be rich and famous". It was more just doing something I enjoyed doing. I wanted to be in a band. You find yourself in this position doing interviews. Someone tells you, "Well you wanted to be a rock star!" You sit back and think, "I never wanted to be a rock star. You made me this way!" [Laughs]
Joe Duplantier: How do you feel today, Tom? Do you feel rich? I don't know how rich you are money-wise, but how do you feel about yourself in general? Do you feel rich with experience and all of that?
Tom Araya: Yeah, that's it. We don't have platinum albums. We only have gold records. That was the first four records we did with Rick Rubin. Other than that, I'm comfortable. I'm not complaining about my life. I enjoy my life. I'm rich with experience. I'm rich because now I have a family and two kids I adore. That's what really matters now.
Joe Duplantier: So, all of this took you to a place you enjoy now?
Tom Araya: I enjoy it today. Never once did I think it would take me here. I didn't think, "I'm going to be in a band, I'm going to do this, and I'm going to get married". I find myself in this place, and I really enjoy it. I enjoy my life with my family.
Joe Duplantier: I recognize myself in what you're saying about how you did things and how you jumped on every opportunity that was in front of you without thinking, "Is this the right thing for me? Am I building a safe life doing this?" You just jumped on whatever was in front of you. I really feel that's exactly what we're still doing with Gojira. It was really interesting listening to you and I couldn't help myself by asking you, "Are you a happy man today?" You know what I mean…
Tom Araya: Yeah, certain bands will ask, "Do you have any advice for up-and-coming bands? What should they do?" You're telling me you went through the same thing with your band, and you just did it. You didn't hesitate. You didn't pause. You just did what you did and you kept doing it. You never asked questions. You never questioned, period. You just went about it and did it and experienced it. That got you to the place you are now. It's so hard to tell people and explain that process because that's what we did. We got together, and we just played. Jeff Hanneman was the first to bring an original idea or song together. Then, Kerry followed suit. I think that was a competition between the two. That led to someone saying, "Hey, I do this. I want to put your song on a compilation". I never doubted or questioned anything. I looked at everyone and said, "I have a job, let's find someone to record it, let's make payments, and pay him what we can when we can". We didn't have money for an album, but it's like, "Fuck that! Let's do it and find the money later". I paid for half the album. The other half, Kerry talked his father into splitting that money and paying for it. We just did it. It was never about, "How are we going to do it?" It was more like, "Fuck it! Let's do it and worry about how later! The 'how' was after the fact".
Joe Duplantier: I know exactly what you mean.
Tom Araya: You're telling me that's what happened with you. I don't know how long ago you guys started as a band or before you even got a deal or an idea of an album.
Joe Duplantier: It took a long time. Everyone was saying, "You need to do this. You need to do that". We were living in the countryside, and everybody told us, "You need to sing in French. You need to move Paris otherwise you'll never make it on the radio". I was like, "No! That's not what we're trying to do. We want to do exactly what it's in our guts and play the music we like". It worked, but it took us a very long time. It was twelve years before we started to have some recognition outside of France. It was a very long time. It's growing slowly, but steadily. I never questioned it. It's the same thing. I really understand where you're coming from. It's great to hear you talk about these things. We all have so much respect for Slayer and what you represent. When I say "we", I mean the metal heads and the metal community. I'm so excited to be on tour with you! It's so cool!
What's your favorite Slayer song? What's your favorite Gojira song?
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