Gojira’s Mario Duplantier: 10 drummers who changed my life

Gojira’s Mario Duplantier
(Image credit: Miikka Skaffari/FilmMagic)

When it comes to Gojira, there are many striking elements that capture the attention. But while the epic visual displays and other-worldly guitar tones may stun the senses, but nothing hits harder than the immense percussive prowess of drummer Mario Duplantier. From the French band’s death metal-indebted debut Terra Incognito to this year’s stellar Fortitude, Mario has claimed a stake as one of modern metal’s most exciting drummer. 

“There are so many great drummers out there that it keeps you humble,” he tells us as he prepares to talk us through the 10 drummers that changed his life. “I know I have my qualities and things that I’m good at, but the work is never done: if you stop working on your drumming for six months you’ll lose a lot. It’s a real discipline and I’m not done.”

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Lars Ulrich

Lars Ulrich was probably the first drummer that really made me pay attention. I was maybe ten or eleven years old and my brother had received the Metallica Live Shit: Binge & Purge video boxset for Christmas. We were sat watching it and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Lars; the way he was playing, the colour of the drum-heads, the movement… it was all so badass. Right away I was telling my brother, ‘That drummer is the best in the world!’ That was when I decided I wanted to play drums.

“Lars is a genius; if you listen to the first five Metallica albums, the drumming is so special, particularly the way he writes those patterns. Even now I think he’s the best showman drummer in the world. Its not about the tempo or technicality – it’s something else. Nobody could imagine Metallica with another drummer.”

Igor Cavalera (Sepultura)

“When I heard Sepultura’s Arise it had the same shock factor Metallica did. Igor Cavalera had this tribal approach to the kick – ‘ta-toun-KAH ta-toun-KAH’ and he placed it in an unusual way that also highlighted the way he tuned the toms. Even the way he looked was unique; I saw a picture of him and there he was with this long blonde hair, going crazy behind the kit.

Igor is still one of my biggest reference points even today; the space he leaves between the notes in the songs meant there was always so much air in Sepultura’s songs. He doesn’t smother the guitars or vocals – everything fits perfectly in place. The way he plays feels incredibly technical, but he can also go straight back to something simple and kick you in the face. My goal is to be as good as Igor Cavalera. Songs like Amazonia are truly inspired by his energy.”

Sean Reinert (Death)

“I’ll be honest, I could fill a list of best musicians with members of  Death. In fact, they were the first death metal band I really got into – I love each era of the band and how they evolved over time stylistically. 

“Sean Reinert became a part of Death a time when drummers – particularly in death metal – were incredibly technical and innovative. There were so many great players in the scene, but then I heard him play and there were elements that were heavy, fast and melodic. I realised it was possible to push the limits and Human pushed me into entirely new dimensions of playing. He taught me you could be incredibly fast and still play like a jazz drummer; he pushed the boundaries for what extreme music could be and that’s something I always keep in mind when working on Gojira songs.”

Gene Hoglan (Death)

“When Godzilla [Gojira’s original name] formed – around 1996 – we were enormously into Death. I remember going to a music store back when it was just Joe and I – Christian [Andreu, guitar] and Alexandre [Cornillon, original Gojira bassist until 1998] hadn’t joined yet. We took an advertisement out to find a bassist and guitarist and just put ‘Influences: Death’s Symbolic’. That’s how much of an impact Gene Hoglan’s playing had on us at the start.

“As young musicians coming from the Southwest of France we knew it would be special to find somebody who knew and understood those records. We were just a rip-off of Death to start with after all! I really loved how Gene incredibly precise he was, he differentiated himself from Sean Reinert and put his own stamp on what Death were doing at that point. His work with other bands is incredible too, he’s very consistent.”

David Silveria (Korn)

“Just listen to any of those first five Korn albums. Each of those records would make my Top 20 albums of all-time, right up to Untouchables. David Silveria is definitely one of the main reasons I love it so much, but I could also pick out the guitars, the sound of the bass, the way Jonathan Davis sings… It’s perfect and contributes to the overall power of the music. 

“There’s so much variety and power in their music, but David Silvera in particular created his own style. On the first two albums he plays a crazy amount of ghost notes, playing without using a metronome so his beat is moving all the time – it’s so tasty and groovy. Then on Issues he got rid of all the complexity of the first album and came in with this fresh, simple style that really inspired how I approach the writing.”

Abe Cunningham (Deftones)

“The Deftones sound is the perfect balance between the three core elements – drums, bass and guitar. I can’t imagine anybody else drumming for them, because Abe Cunningham has such a unique groove. Just listen to the way he fits so many ghost notes between the snare and the kick; the groove and tempo is so unique and so special that his style of playing really touches my soul. It’s almost like he turns the drums into a melodic instrument – he doesn’t play percussively, he really builds the musical elements. 

“There’s nobody else that really plays like that and there are songs like My Own Summer (Shove It) where his beats hook you right from the very start of the song. I really appreciate that kind of approach and have used it for our songs a few times too.”

Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel)

“The Morbid Angel albums Domination and Covenant really helped shape Gojira’s identity when we were first starting out. Domination was probably the biggest shock I had a music fan/musician. We dropped that album on and got instantly addicted to it, going back and discovering things like Covenant later. They are two of my favourite death metal records and I’ll put on Covenant whenever I feel frustrated, when I have a lot of pain or sadness… it’s a medicine on my soul.

“The way Pete Sandoval plays on those records really impacted me and it always makes me feel better to hear those songs. He’s got a very memorable style and beat; the snare, the ride, the atmosphere… there’s something so pleasant and mystical about Pete Sandoval’s drumming. There are no triggers either – it’s all him!”

Kenneth Schalk (Candiria)

“Candiria were a band that came from New York; before Code Orange and Knocked Loose, they were the godfathers of that heavy hardcore style – super groovy and progressive, intelligent but catchy. 

“Kenneth Schalk had an approach that was from another world – he used a lot of gospel chops and is very groovy. He’s a real beast! I really got into his style of playing, which then went on to influence a lot of From Mars To Sirius. The song Ocean Planet was directly inspired by Candiria – and in terms of drumming, my goal was just to sound like him.

“I saw them live at the first edition of Hellfest – called Fury Fest at that point – and he was this fucking monster full of muscle; he must work out every day! He utterly destroyed those drums and was so energetic that it felt like a whole different level – I was a beginner compared to him.”

Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine)

“Brad Wilk really shows how simplistic drumming can just serve the music. I was a huge fan of Rage Against The Machine – the drumming is so simple, all about making those riffs sound amazing – made even better by putting his beats alongside those Tom Morello guitars. He’s absolutely a big influence on me, particularly in how he doesn’t go overboard when it comes to the drums serving a song. 

“Brad has something special – you can hear any song from the three Rage Against The Machine records and feel that it’s him. I think he got better on each of the albums; I really loved Battle Of Los Angeles because the drumming is just perfect. There’s no other way of saying it – it completely bypasses your brain and makes you want to dance, getting right into your emotions.”

Vinnie Paul (Pantera)

“Like a lot of metal kids in the 90s, I grew up listening to a lot of Pantera. I don’t listen to them as much these days, but still love their music and Vinnie Paul was one of the most talented drummers in the metal scene and really stood out as a player. 

“He had a unique groove, but was also incredibly precise and knew just where to place his parts to really give the songs a real impact. His feet were super-fast and tight and the way he hit the drums was unbelievably powerful –  he was a real king of thrash.

“A visual drummer with a big charisma who invented a lot of the most memorable drum parts of the genre, he was a big influence on me and I love the sense of style he brought to drumming.”

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.