Gojira’s Joe Duplantier: James Hetfield barely has drums in his in-ear monitors, Lars Ulrich follows his lead onstage

[L-R] Joe Duplantier, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich
(Image credit: Future / Gonzales Photo/Lasse Lagoni/PYMCA-Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Gojira singer and electric guitar player Joe Duplantier is a major Metallica fan, and in a recent interview with Rock Sverige he discussed how James Hetfield was the musician most important to his musical formation, calling his right hand a “hammer.”

“James Hetfield has something... if there was a school for rock, he would be my teacher,” Duplantier said (via Ultimate Guitar). “I want to follow his course. His right hand is a hammer, an unstoppable hammer. He's the foundation of the rhythmic section in Metallica.”

Duplantier went on to say that Hetfield’s rhythm work is so dominant that, onstage, even drummer Lars Ulrich follows his lead. What's more, Hetfield barely keeps any drums in his in-ear monitor mix.

"I think Lars is just dancing around James' guitar,” Duplantier said. “Everybody follows James. One time we were on tour with them, we became friends with their monitor engineer because he was doing our monitors too, we hired him. We gave him like $100 in cash every day, 'Can you do our monitors? We don't have our own monitor guy.' And he was like 'I got you.' ”

Duplantier continued, "Then when Metallica played, one time he gave me James' spare in-ears. This little box, a receiver. He said, 'Joe, come here!' – because he saw me watching James and analyzing his fucking right hand. It's out of this world. It's not necessarily impressive on a technical level, it's the precision and the consistency and it's sharp.

"He gives me a little radio there and I plug it in, I have my own in-ears and I'm like, 'Oh my god, oh my god! This is James' fucking monitors! What?' I plug them in and put them in my pocket and look at him and I was amazed to see that there were almost no drums in there. Who does that?

"Maybe there was some hi-hat, but he was flying through the songs, playing and singing and it was only him, in his monitors. A little bit of drums to stay connected to the rest, but some people need a lot of drums because they're so chaotic and are just sitting on the drums, like in my case for example.

"This guy can do a whole show and I'm pretty sure everybody's following him, even Lars," Duplantier said. "I think Lars follows James when he plays."

Gojira are currently gearing up to release new album, Fortitude, which is due out on April 30 via Roadrunner Records. You can hear latest single, Amazonia, below.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.