Gus G is undisputedly one of the most recognisable (if not THE most) Greek metal musicians. He is the one that shredded next to Ozzy after all and, on an international level, his talent is well received, being considered as a modern guitar hero. From the days of Nightrage and Dream Evil all the way to 2020 and his three solo albums, he never abandoned the mothership of Firewind, the band that let the world know his name. Thus, the release of their new album, Firewind is a very good opportunity for us to ask him some questions about the new record, the artist situation during quarantine and, of course, his cats.
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► Given all the beyond-exceptional reviews on Immortals, press and audience-wise, was the whole writing process stressful? How high were the standards for the new album set up to?
Indeed, the album did very well, even purely commercially speaking. Immortals was our first concept album, as we dealt with History and specifically with Thermopylae. The material we produced was very good, we were coming from a break, we also had the whole History part, which in terms of marketing served well in the overall success of the album. So, to tell you the truth, I found myself at a strange crossroads, on the one hand I thought of continuing on this path, but on the other hand, it was not really working for me, so, in a way, you can say that it stressed me out. It definitely troubled me and put me into thoughts.
Sometimes unexpected musical matches occur and the result exceeds your expectations
► You said that Firewind are restarting with this album. Did this restart indicate the album name? Secondly, what were these elements that you wanted to change, as in line up the changes were small, in the sound on the other hand, you keep your style.
I want Firewind to grow bigger, and we're taking steps in that direction. Sometimes small ones, other times bigger ones, but we have managed to move forward for so many years. We had two changes this time, one was Bob, who was not replaced, and another one regarding the voice. I decided that this time I should give all it takes in order to achieve our goals. We have a consistency as a band, despite the short break we had, we came back strong and so we intend to continue. At some point, I wondered how I would set up Firewind, if I were to do it in 2020, and with that in mind it was that the album was created. I felt that now is the time to make a statement and release a homonymous album. Many bands do it in their first release, but we decided to do it now.
► Another change I noticed, sound wise, is presented in the song Overdrive, which is really something new. Do you want to tell me a little bit about how it came out? At this point I must admit that it’s been a while since the last time I had so much fun listening to a song!
(Laughs) I'll tell you something funny about this! So far I've given a lot of interviews, which is good, because it means there's interest in the album, but eight out of ten, I’ll have a question about this song! Well, you should know that I originally intended it to be a bonus track in a special edition, but when Herbie sang it I really liked it and so I said let's put it on. Sometimes unexpected musical matches occur and the result exceeds your expectations. I know that Overdrive is reminiscent of Black Sabbath times with Dio, you could say it's a song from another era, but the main reason it makes sense to everyone, is its groove, I think. (Definitely says I)
► Do you actually care to give a specific label to Firewind, heavy metal, power metal, hard rock, or is it more important for you to just share a sincere artistic result and whoever may like it so be it?
If you listen carefully to the album, remembering our whole discography, you will find in it (the new album) elements from all our records. I don't really care about the labels, but I definitely want people to like our music. As I am mainly responsible for the songwriting, I am in the position to say that with Firewind we’ve already established our sound identity. Of course this doesn’t set a limit to what we do and it doesn’t mean we stop evolving. In Firewind, you'll hear heavy metal parts, power metal elements and some hard rock stuff. If I think it's a good idea and it can be developed, we'll work on it. So yes, at Firewind someone will hear what I have to say as a musician in a sincerely artistic way of speaking.
► The album is facing an obstacle that wasn’t realistic for you to predict, since it’s a first time thing for the whole planet (referring to the COVID-19 pandemic). Have you thought about postponing its release? And what are your plans for its promotion, since the possibility of live shows seems like a very long term plan?
We definitely thought about postponing the release and it was me the one who would communicate with the company to find out if and how we were about to proceed. Soon we understood that, whether we released it now or in August, nobody could reassure us that things would be any better. As of the moment we speak, every tour has been cancelled and we don’t know when or on what terms and conditions we will be returning to them, so we will move forward with whatever means we have. On top of that, a lot of other album launches have been postponed, so in the future releases will be so “crowded”, that even from a marketing aspect, the album would not be reinforced from a later release date. In both cases you have your pros and cons. We ourselves, along with our company, decided to stick to our initial plan. Nevertheless, I believe that one way or another, the album will establish its presence.
► What are your thoughts on the situation concerning artists in times of quarantine? You are going through some serious trials as a profession, would you like to comment on that?
Firstly, I want to say that I don’t want to make any foretelling on the pandemic matter since what will actually happen is unknown even to scientists. What I would advise artists though, is that they should not panic and they should be patient. But basically I speak for myself, we don’t happen to go through the same everyday lives and the same problems. I repeat though: the key word here is “patience”.
► As a band Firewind have a lot of spectacular moments to show, but in the minds of many it is the Gus G figure that stands out, as if they can't escape your shadow. How does this make you feel?
I hear you… Well, honestly, I don't think anything else could have happened. We used to be a band that co-decided everything, but that didn't work. Consider the biggest bands, there's always one "brain" and in some rare cases there are two. In Firewind I have the overall composition, I write all the guitars, and these, believe me, are already a lot for one man! In addition I have taken over all the side work that needs to be done: the management, the booking etc. Each one of the rest bandmembers have their own role, the one that suits them better and that they like and the one that they can carry out successfully. When we got back from the Few Against Many tour, we said let’s take a break. To be completely honest- I was a little tired of it all and wanted to do something else. That's when I came up with my personal project, which is mainly based on collaborations that I had the desire to realize and ideas that existed, but did not fit into Firewind.
To tell you the truth, what happened next came as an absolute surprise to me. I started receiving suggestions for live shows, the interest of the people was undiminished, so this whole project was taken to a higher level than I initially expected. To some extent I think it gave me the renewal I needed. Today we are trying to do a restart, we are making a return to our roots, as the keyboard parts have been reduced a lot, but I don't think we are repeating ourselves. I believe this is also natural, as in my twenties I had different and certainly a lot less experiences than I do now. However, this group is my child, my personal band that I made when I was young and the one I continue with to this day.
► You are already involved in a couple of very famous and successful projects. All this awkward lockdown situation, will it indicate the birth of a new project or maybe a new release?
Ok, look, the truth is that during the first two weeks of the lockdown, I composed a lot of music, but the rest four of them I was involved with the promotion of the album. Of course, I have a hard drive full of riffs and ideas, so we definitely have a lot of material for future use. I do believe though that the lockdown in general was a nice opportunity for composing music.
► In a few months you’ll be 40. Firewind, Ozzy, Dream Evil, Nightrage, you have lived a musician’s life that a lot of people would be jealous of. Tell me about some of your future expectations, what are your plans or dreams?
The truth is that I have crossed off a lot of my bucket list entries, but that doesn’t mean that my plans and dreams stop here. As I said before, I want to see Firewind grow, I also have a lot of ideas for my own personal project that I want to materialize. Concerning album releases, I really do think that my next step would be an instrumental one, as it’s something that I really want to do.
► Gus I’ve seen you on stage and I’ve been following you on social media. You always have a vibe going on with people and you never cease to interact with them. Do you love this interaction so much?
I’m a lucky man, all these years that I’ve been playing music, I’ve gathered fans from all around the globe. I’m twice as lucky if you think that these fans not only remain but their numbers expand as well. My relationship with them is an honest one, I love to learn things, to listen to their ideas and talk to them. I want to have this honest relationship so it happens as something really spontaneous, if I tried to fake it, sooner or later this façade would drop and they would see behind the lies. I think that this relationship with my fans that has evolved after all these years is my ultimate reward as a musician.
► Cats. I myself being an “ex-catfather” would like to ask you how many cats you have, their names and how your fixation with them occurred.
At long last, now we’re talking (laughs)! Well, look, I haven’t grown up alongside any pets but here’s what happened. My wife’s grandmother had a male cat, Markos. When she passed away, this cat was to remain homeless. Despite being nine years old, we adopted him and we learned (and loved eventually) living with him.
Markos lived up to the age of twenty and after him, it turned out to be impossible living without a cat. So, we adopted Valentino, a Siamese cat. Along came the three-legged Marquess and Leon, the one that happens to be my personal technician and a fond eater who I fear someday will consume us as well! We didn’t plan on getting these two but we saved them from some really difficult situations and we kept them without any second thoughts. Our house really seems like a jungle right now but it’s definitely worth it!
We'd like to thank Gus wholeheartedly for the interview and wish him all the best until we enjoy him on stage once more