30 Jan 2017

Firewind

Firewind make a double return since they release their first album since 2012 and they go back to their familiar style, having made a temporary diversion with “Few Against Many”, with a new singer, German Henning Basse. Gus G talks to Rockpages.gr about choosing Basse, the return to the band’s sound, “Immortals” Greek concept, the first time Firewind work with an outsider and more. Finally, he promises that Firewind will play at their home country… can’t wait for that! Interview: Yiannis Dolas

Firewind 01

Rockpages.gr: I see a turn to the classic Firewind style…

Gus G: Yes!

Rockpages.gr: We go back before “Few Against Many”. Is this something you did on purpose, or does is come out like that for Firewind and the new singer?

Gus G: No, for me it was a conscious decision. I think that having released already two solo albums and going down that road now, having a solo career, things are becoming more clear about how Firewind are supposed to sound. So, I know exactly what the fans want… to tell you the truth this wasn’t an album to please my own musical endeavors. This is an album I wanted to make for the fans. Because, to be honest these guys supported us all those years. You play music for yourself, but when you reach that point like us who have been going on for 17 years having released already 7 albums and established our style and sound you have to think a bit further than you own desires and ambition.

Rockpages.gr: The new signer Henning would be able to follow your melodic direction? He sounds more grainy and aggressive…

Gus G: The guy has tones of melody. He can sing melodic… and he proves so in the album. He can sing ballads with feeling and he can be aggressive, he even remind to some listeners our first singer, Stephan Frederick. In general, Firewind had always medium voices, we never had high ones… you know like Italian power metal… Apollo was medium as well, a fat voice with grain. The same goes for Henning, although he is more grainy, but he can also produce clean vocals as well. Still, my favourite range for Firewind is the medium ones…

Rockpages.gr: I was going to say that he sounds like Stephan…

Gus G: Yeah, and that was Firewind’s style more or less. Of course, every guy that sung in this band had its own style and voice, but this is the kind of vocals we always had.

Firewind 02

Rockpages.gr: So, what would you say that were the criteria for offering Henning the job?

Gus G: Well, what can I say? He had the most wonderful eyes and we couldn’t stop looking at him… (laughs) He was very handsome (laughs)! Henning is a friend of ours for 10 yeas now. He helped us a lot in a very difficult time in our career in 2007 when we were touring for “Allegiance”. He sung for the biggest part of that tour back then… apart from that he is a guy we knew, we’ve travelled with him, shared the bus – which is very important for me- he is a very good performer, he sings great and he is an amazing frontman. The fans loved him. When he toured with us 10 years ago we got great feedback and positive reviews. We feel at ease to go on with a guy like that instead of someone we don’t know and don’t know how thing are going to turn out. Plus, when we met again with Henning after all those years he was looking for a band and we were looking for a singer…Firewind 04

Rockpages.gr: We saw him last summer, when you opened for Scorpions, but it was too short…

Gus G: Yes man, it was a Scorpions gig (laughs)… but, that’s good because you always have to leave the audience wanting some more!

Rockpages.gr: Well, that’s true and it gives me the opportunity to ask you about any shows in Greece. We should expect you guys coming to play here, right?

Gus G: Of course, there is no other way… three out of five of us are Greek, although some people might say that we are an international band. There is no way we put out an album and we don’t play our home country. This time we also want to play in more cities than just Athens and Thessaloniki.

Rockpages.gr: Would you say that the album’s concept about Leonidas, Thermopiles and Salamina made the others a bit more “Greek”?

Gus G: Yeah! Absolutely! Both of the guys… Joe already knows a few Greek… he’s been already 5-6 years in the band… they know our character as people, they’ve spent time here rehearsing, recording and stuff like that. They love Greece and they know how special is the country for the fans and they know exactly what’s our status in our home country. I’d say that we feel them like if they were Greek. Even if we want to talk shit in Greek sometimes we know that Joe understands what actually might say…

Rockpages.gr: How come you decided to work on that project with Leonidas, Thermopiles and Salamina now?

Gus G: It was an idea that we had in our heads for a long time now, but for things like that you need the right timing and it’s not easy to create a concept album at any given time. It was something different for us, something the band has never done and it was a challenge. Now, why did we pick these battles? For several reasons… the battle in Thermopiles is one of the most heroic. Not just for us Greeks, but for the entire world, historians and simple people around the globe. The battles in Thermopiles and Salamina are of the most important in world history. It was also a time in Greek history that the kingdoms united against the enemy, Persians, so it was a new begging in Greece. We love history, we love the “300” movie of course and we think that this story, despite being a cliché, is more important if its told by Greeks than Americans! And surely it’s a story where heavy metal is the ideal soundtrack.

Firewind 03

Rockpages.gr: So, do you or the Greeks in the band have a message you want to get through by choosing this concept? This story has a lot of meanings, not only now, but always…

Gus G: Well, everyone can come up with their own interpretation. We have no specific message. We kind of think ourselves as ambassadors of Greece all those 15 years. Always from the artist point of view. We are not politicians, we just travel abroad and play, so we thought that one point it would be nice to make an album with a Greek concept. So, not only do we tell people we are Greeks, we also talk about our history. We are proud of it, why not? When we play to foreign countries and tell them we are Greek they can’t believe it. Some know our history better than we know it, which is kind of embarrassing really (laughs). So, there are a lot of messages in there… sure it’s bravery in Thermopiles where 300 Spartans fought against Xerxis army of thousands. All this has a symbolic character, so all the messages that you might think of are in there… of course!

Rockpages.gr: How easy or difficult is to adapt such a concept in your music?Firewind 09

Gus G: Well, it’s not easy at all. For me it was a unique experience, I just had already three songs that I wrote in 2009 with Denis Ward for a similar project we tried to begin about battles in ancient Greece, Alexander the Great and all that, but we never made it, because in 2009 I joined Ozzy and he had Unisonic, my life changed a lot so that project never saw the light of day. But, those three songs had the epic character, because they were written for that purpose. I had that sound in my head and I revisited those ideas and when I listened to them again last year I realized that they had the Firewind tag on them, although they were more epic. Those songs were “Ode To Leonidas”, “Warriors And Saints” and “Wars Of Ages”. Anyway, I talked again with Dennis we said that we’d finish the songs and I started writing the music. I always start from music… Dennis helped me because writing lyrics is not my strongest point, so I needed someone to do it. Put all those stories in lyrics so that they’d become songs.

Rockpages.gr: This is the first time you are using an “outsider” for one of your albums…

Gus G: We always had one here and there… but, one specific songs. But, this is the only time we have one for an entire album.

Rockpages.gr: Plus, Dennis produced, mixed and mastered the album, so he played an extra role too.

Gus G: The initial idea was that we writing the songs together, but since they guy is multi-talented, he has his own studio and he is an amazing sound engineer and he can mix, I asked him to finish the project, since he was all over it and wrote it with me. It was a better idea than working with someone else, since Denis understood the character of the album and wrote 50% of it. It made sense.

Firewind 07

Rockpages.gr: “War Of Ages” that you mentioned before is one of the album’s highlights along with “Hands Of Time” and “Ode To Leonidas”. What do you have to tell us about it?

Gus G: I had the initial idea for the song and sent it over to Katsionis and asked him to put his stuff in there. I sent him the basic riffs and he added his parts and sent it back. I also think that this is a very special song. It’s got a hard rock style, but it’s epic with a very catchy melody. It’s about the battle in Salamina…

Rockpages.gr: Another one that stands out is “Lady Of 1.000 Sorrows”…

Gus G: Yeah, it’s the albums ballad and I have to say that you are not the only one to notice this. A lot of journalists have mentioned that song and I’ve read good feedback about in in reviews. We were thinking about releasing it as our fourth single at some point and make a video for it… we’ll see. I think it’s one of the best ballads we ever wrote and the lyrics talk about Leonidas’ visit to the Delphi oracle, where he asks for advice.

Rockpages.gr: Is there a chance to shoot this video in a Greek location? For instance Salamina…

Gus G: It’s kinda tough to tell you the truth. I still don’t have a clue of what this video will look like.

Rockpages.gr: The music video for “Ode To Leonidas” was very impressive and of course brings the “300” movie in mind…

Gus G: Yes, that’s true but we couldn’t have made it just like the music. We didn’t have so big budget, but still we worked a lot for it. The entire video was shot in front of a green box and the actors and costumes were great. The director added his personal touch in that.

Rockpages.gr:… and it could have been a disaster!

Gus G: Well, at this point the reactions we got for this were mixed, some thought it was bad and some great. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I think it’s one of our greatest songs and the video offers a great visual to what we created sonically.

Firewind 08

Rockpages.gr: Listening to the album I have to say that your combination with Bob on guitar and keyboards are among the best we can find in any Firewind album. There is a lot of technical stuff there, but they suit the songs great.

Gus G: Well, look we play together for how many years? 13? It makes sense. We know each other, we know where the one has to step in and where to back off… we’ve find our direction and where each one of us should be. Maybe that’s why it sounds so balanced this time.

Rockpages.gr: Do you think that now in 2017 Firewind’s sound might be more up to date with what it was 5 years ago? Nowadays for instance there are bands like Sabaton that are popular playing a commercial type of heavy metal…

Gus G: I don’t know… I think that apart from the band you mentioned that the rest of the genre under the category of power metal is going through a crisis. It’s at a dead end. There are way more cool and popular styles today that someone may play. If I was forming a band today I wouldn’t chose this style of music, let me put it this way, and go “aahhh, we are going to make it with this one!” (laughs)… or that it’s very popular. We do this because it’s our style and we keep doing what we always did, either there are 100 people in the crowd, or 5.000. It’s always to play to 5.000 of course, but that’s OK. This was a choice we’ve made a long time ago, we don’t do this because it’s trendy. On the contrary, this style was never trendy, or a hype. Maybe in the late ‘90s, but we didn’t even exist back then!

Rockpages.gr: What about your solo career? Do you prepare for a new album?

Gus G: Yes, I already write stuff from my next album and I have a tour in Japan in March and there will be more announced, both tours and projects I will do.

Rockpages.gr: I guess that making solo albums, as you said before, made you look things with a fresh eye and gave you inspiration for Firewind.

Gus G: That’s true because it opened a new door for me to experiment on whatever I wanted, work with other musicians, producers, show a different side of my composing skills, evolve as a musician and make more clear how Firewind should like.

Rockpages.gr: Any news from Ozzy’s camp?

Gus G: I don’t have anything to tell you man! I know that he is touring with Sabbath and that’s all…

Rockpages.gr: What do you think about Black Sabbath being on their final tour?

Gus G: It doesn’t seem natural to even think about the world without Black Sabbath. I don’t know what happen when all this come to an end. Honestly, I hope they don’t stop. As a fan I hope one of my favorite bands since childhood will go on. Just like when another of my favorite bands, Scorpions announced their last tour I was devastated. And then I was so happy when they said they weren’t going to stop. Apart from a lot of people being rude about it the audience follows these guys. And that says it all. If only Black Sabbath would remain active and Ozzy would make a gig here and there so I could play with him would be superb. As a fan I hope that they are all healthy because they are getting older. I wish they can play the most they can and please their fans around the world. And I am sure that’s what the fans want too. Nobody wants a “farewell” tour. They want to see them as much as they can.

Rockpages.gr: Unfortunately, and I am sure this is a conversation you’ve had, if the bands we listen since we were kids called it quits we are going to run out of older bands…

Gus G: We are living in weird times man. I am 36 and lived this huge technological progress. We experienced miracles, like the internet… we grew up in the ‘80s and we listened about all these bands when we were kids, because our music is relatively new. And now all the originals are waving “goodbye” and there’s negative feelings all around. I am sure that good bands are not going to be lost. There are great bands out there and some will take their place. Of course, we shouldn’t expect the new Black Sabbath. There are bands out there thay do something different, more fresh and other generations grow up with them. You have to consider that there are kids who haven’t seen a vinyl record in their lives. Kids born today will only know about Spotify, YouTube and will listen to music through their smartphone, or whatever it is they will use when they grow older. We are afraid of radical changes, that’s a fact, because we don’t know how to react. What was it like in the ‘50s when Elvis came along? People though he was the devil. We will have to adjust.

Rockpages.gr: What do you think that it’s Firewind role in the future when Maiden, Priest, Sabbath will not exist any more?

Gus G: I think that the band’s goal has always been quality and decency. We never used any kinds of tricks, or made anything to create a hype. If you ask our fans they will tell you that they love this band because they are attached with specific songs and maybe specific people. This speaks volumes of us and that’s what gives you longevity. Now, I don’t know where we will be in 10 or 20 years. What I always say is that I wish we are healthy and then we will see where this thing leads.

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