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05 Sep 2013

Firewind Featured




The release of the live recorded album “Apotheosis” is a good chance to talk with Gus G on a typical hot Greek afternoon with the temperature in Athens, and Thessaloniki threatening to break the thermometers. Gus is not in a loss of words, he answers all the questions about what kind of singer is Firewind after, his first solo album, Ozzy, even “13”…
Interview: Yiannis Dolas Right after the release of the band’s second live reorded album, is there a new studio album somewhere on the horizon?

Gus G: We’ve released 7 studio albums, 2 live albums so far, so there is no real pressure for us to get back in the studio soon. We don’t want to rush a decision again. In the past I picked some band members under extreme pressure, deadlines, you know… I don’t want this to happen to me again! Actually, now it’s different. I don’t know how you think about it, but since you’ve done some things and you are not a “rookie” anymore. If it was say your second album you might have been in a rush to prove the world your worth, but since you’ve been down this road before..

Gus  G: It’s exactly like that! I couldn’t have said it better myself! When we were releasing our second, or third album we wanted so bad to go on tour, and for people to get to know us… but after achieving some things and you know that there is an audience out there worldwide that loves you and have expectations from you, you don’t want to disappoint them with your next move… So, what would you say that are Firewind’s criteria for recruiting a new singer?

Gus G: We have a rich back catalogue, so he has to sing every Firewind era, because the band’s sound has variety. We might be tagged as “power metal”, but we have our more hard rock songs, our more commercial ones, we have ballads, some more thrash-y stuff, power metal stuff… and of course a back catalogue with three singers so far. So he must be able to perform all of those. Also, another thing is that he has to be a nice person, very cool, so that you can hang out with. Because, when you are stuck on a bus for months or on planes… you know we spend one hour a day on stage and for the next 23 we are on each other’s face! He must be pleasant, a guy we can have fun with, there must be some kind of a bond and chemistry on a personal level. So, you want it all!

Gus G: Yes, that’s true! You can get someone from Brazil, for instance, even he has the most magnificent voice, because we won’t be able to get a visa to travel with us. There are several aspects… You always had an issue with long distances, especially when you started the band…

Gus G: Yes, basically back then I was on my own with some musicians, because I couldn’t get anybody from Greece… on “Allegiance” I found some musicians from Greece. It was Petros and Bob (Katsionis)… no, wait a minute Petros was also on the second album, but later we got a Greek lineup with Mark (Cross) who was living in Athens, so four out of five were here (in Greece). So, this, the distance factor might affect you on your choice for the new Firewind singer? What if you find someone who has all this you described but lives in Brazil?

Gus G: First of all, I wouldn’t have recruited anyone from Brazil, because he wouldn’t have been able to get a visa for the States, thus, we wouldn’t be able to play there! We came across that problem before, when we had a singer from Sri Lanka (Ed, Chitty Somapala) and we couldn’t play in England, or German. I remember specifically we lost a great support slot for Malmsteen in Hammersmith in 2004, or 2005… we were smashing our heads against the wall! There are so many things to consider… you can’t get someone who has an issue with travelling. Also, you have to get somebody who can communicate with the crowd, and can speak good English… there is so many stuff you have to keep in mind… From what we heard you are preparing your first ever solo album. Do you have anything to tell us about that?

Gus G: I really don’t have much to tell you at the moment… I don’t have anything official. I am on the writing process… Jeff Scott Soto will be singing on one song, right?

Gus G: Yes, he will be singing on one song… He told us about it…

Gus G: Yes, I know… he can’t keep a secret, can he (laughs)? The sound of the album is going to be different from Firewind?

Gus G: That’s a given! What’s the point in doing a solo album, if it’s going to sound like Firewind? The style is going to be different. Basically, it’s going to have a lot of acoustic guitars in it, more easy tracks, melo-er songs, and I think it’s going to be more classic rock kind of thing… this is where it moves so far, maybe more modern rock. It’s not going to be too much heavy metal, that’s for sure. Is it going to be mostly instrumental, or you are going to have songs with vocals?

Gus G: It’s going to have both: instrumentals, and songs with vocals… I feel like the Spanish Inquisition… are you going to have more singers, or just one?

Gus G: Yes, it’s going to feature several singers. We only worked with Jeff on one song. OK, since I like surprises, I am not going to ask you anything more and I will wait until you make an official announcement…

Gus G: Cool! I hope it is out somewhere in 2014, but there is a lot of things that depend on the record company, the special guests you want to have and their schedule. It’s all about timing in situations like this. It’s not like this is a band. At the moment it’s just me with some guests, friends, acquaintances… so, it has a lot to do with other people’s timing… Would you invite another guitarist as a guest on this album?

Gus G: Ehhmm, I don’t know! Why not? There is  a lot of things on my mind at the moment. I still haven’t completed the concept. When it’s complete you will see… Let’s get back to Firewind now, on your latest album “Few Against Many” in my opinion the band sounded a bit different. Less melodic, heavier, and more modern. Would you say that, if you agree of course, that this is a new direction for the band, or it just came out like that?

Gus G: Yes, it just came out like that. I really don’t know how the next Firewind album is going to sound like… I haven’t thought about that. It was a different direction, because I didn’t want to do the same album again. So, it was different from “Days Of Defiance”. Also, I wanted the specific album to be heavier and have more guitar, that was missing from the previous one… Since this is your band, it’s kind of awkward to hear what you say that you wanted “more guitar”…

Gus G: I am talking about my standards. Maybe the listener would not even notice that… I just wanted to have more guitar themes and fewer keyboards this time… Also, I have to say that the album reminded me of American bands…

Gus G: Well, since we mixed it in the States, it’s natural! The guy who mixed it works with Trivium and also a lot of American bands, and we wanted to have that modern sound, because our songs were more heavy, as you said, with more riffs, and a production like that would fit the album very much. So, how do you achieve maintaining your identity, as an artist, musician, guitarist and composer, even with going through all those changes?

Gus G: Actually, this is the identity of the musicians, the guys that are Firewind. Every one of us has his own style… now, you might add some elements to your personal style, and try different things, like different arrangements, beats, or whatever, but that doesn’t mean your sound is going to change drastically. Each one’s playing, attitude, and personality makes Firewind! … and Firewind are a Greek band, very successful and recognizable, while you also have the privilege to play along with Ozzy Osbourne. Do you have the feeling when you play with Firewind, or Ozzy that you are representing Greece out there?

Gus G: We feel like that anyway (laughs)! In general there is not too many bands doing this. It’s us and a couple of other bands, who play outside the borders, especially in rock and metal. So you should feel proud about it! I remember that you played in China in the summer of 2012, and you must be the first Greek rock/metal band who does it…

Gus G: Yes, that’s true and the same goes for Japan, when we played there ten years ago. Since then no one else played there… This is really important, especially now with all the problems that we have and all the bad press we get on the media…

Gus G: Yes, I think it’s important. With everything that’s been going on in Greece we always meet people we know, when we go abroad, that ask us what’s happening and all that. They want to know from first hand, from someone who actually lives in Greece, instead of just reading the paper, or watch TV. We are not politicians, and politics is not our job. We are musicians and we play so that the people will have a good time, and that we gain new experience. Now, it’s always great to represent your country, but this is not our goal. Your live album is called “Apotheosis” and I read that the title came out from the feeling you got from the crowd at your home gigs. So far in your career, when were those moments that you felt something like that, and you were very happy?

Gus G: Getting the gig with Ozzy was definitely one of those moments, and everything that came along… when I got my first golden, and platinum record… when I played in Madison Square Garden… when we were nominated for Grammy… when I made it on the cover of Guitar World… all those things that someone would have been dreaming of since childhood. Those things are… I wouldn’t say goals, because it’s crazy just to think about them. But it’s like when someone is having all those wild dreams. There is a moment when all those go through someone’s mind, until he comes back to Earth and he goes “OK, snap out of it!” Should I assume that some of your achievements were your wildest dreams then? Do you have more?

Gus G: No! I am really a very down to earth kind of guy and I don’t think that you can take all this for granted. If, at some point something like that happens, just enjoy it! Even though, when something like this happens you don’t think about it too much… you are either too stressed out, or you try to give your best. You don’t have the time to trip out the whole “apotheosis”… and mind you all those moments come and go really quick. You can’t take them for granted, and when they are over you go back to the music. It’s just you and your guitar and you just have to write another song. And that’s the greatest happiness for me… to compose! What did you get out from Ozzy & friends?

Gus G: It was a tour with a lineup that you don’t see every day. It was a great honor for me, and I am just glad I was part of this lineup with Ozzy and the rest of the guys. It was a great thing to watch… an amazing jam… And for us here in Greece, something you do not come across, if ever!

Gus G: Exactly, and it makes me very happy that this tour stopped in Greece… Because usually we watch those things on YouTube and say “wow, they are really lucky in England, the States, or wherever”…

Gus G: Right, but we saw it here too, it was the last date of the tour! Did you listen to “13”?

Gus G: Certainly, I bought it from day one! What did you think?

Gus G: It’s a killer record (laughs)!!! And I really enjoyed that they made a difficult album. There are no hits in there, or 3-minute songs. All of them are 8-minute long, totally doom, very dark, very heavy… I enjoyed that! That’s what I was expecting from Black Sabbath! It’s and album that requires several listens, and you always discover something new, and I like that very much! Whatever I have to say about the album we must be glad that those people came together again to give us another album. Sure, and you are very close to one of them, and I bet that you draw inspiration from what Ozzy is doing. Both the Sabbath album and his solo career…

Gus G: All this is a great inspiration for me. It’s really inspiring! Just watching all that thing with Sabbat… if I have the chance to make another album with Ozzy… how can I say it? this thing put me on fire! Have you written material for Ozzy?

Gus G: Yes, I’ve written a lot of riffs, and I’ve recorded demos, but we haven’t sat down to talk at all, because now it’s Sabbath’s turn. When it is over and he goes to his next solo album we’ll see… On “Scream” there is nothing yours, right?

Gus G: No, I am talking about the future. “Scream” was ready before I joined the band. I didn’t compose anything; I just changed some things around so that they would become more guitar-like. The only thing I wrote was the intro to “Digging Me Down”. But, I didn’t compose any of the songs, because when I got there everything was already written by Ozzy, Kevin Churko, his producer, and Adam (Ed, Wakeman). They just needed a guitarist, because all the guitars were played by Kevin, who is not a guitarist and they were kind of… robotic! There were no solos in the songs, so we had to make solo parts in every song and change the arrangements. Since “Apotheosis” marks the band’s first ten years, it’s inevitable to ask you what do you see for the next ten…

Gus G: Basically, I would like us to be still around playing. First of all be healthy and play for our fans… that’s it! I never make so farfetched plans, I just want to be healthy and be around with the guys playing, or whoever is still around (laughs)! You can’t say “this is what I will be doing in the next five or ten years”, because everything can change in the next week, two or five years from now. My longest plans for Firewind were for 6-8 months ahead and at the moment there are no plans for the band, not even for that period of time.


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