The Immortal Gods of Metal.... Gus G speaks out
Greek Power Metal God's 'Firewind' are no strangers to the meta scene, having formed by guitar wizard Gus G, who studied at Berklee School of Music in the U.S. and was soon discovered by David Chastain and soon released their debut album 'Between Heaven & Hell' in 2002. This was just the beginning of what is now, Gus has continued to keep the spirit of Firewind alive and continue to make classic Power Metal music ever since.
With 8 albums released, Gus and bassist Konstantine are the only original members since for formation. The band have had several line up changes, and with Apollo leaving the band in 2013, it wasn't long before Gus hooked up with long time friend and touring vocalist for the band Hennign Bass (ex Metalium) to handle the vocals on this new incredible album 'Immortals', which is a amazing album, recently released on Century Media. I managed to catch up with the band in Sheffield (UK) on their recent UK tour and to find out more about the new album and the future of the band. Here is what Gus had to say.
Well Gus it's been a long time since the last interview, I think something like 2008. It's good to see you man. So let's start the interview off by asking you just just how successful all the previous albums have been for the band?
"Well it's good to see you Jason, that's a long time since we last met, let's not leave it so long next time (laughing). To answer you're question, well since we last me you we a lot of things have happened for the band, we met on the 'Premonition' tour in Leeds (UK) right? In 2010 we recorded 'The days of Defiance' and then 'Few Against Many'.
After that we took a break for about 3-4 yrs. I joined Ozzy in 2009 & we took a break then and it got to a point after Apollo quit the band we just needed a break and I needed a break from the whole thing. We were all disappointed in the whole thing as we invested a lot of time and money into the band back then and the singer leaving again."
Are you still friends with Apollo since he left the band?
"Well I haven't spoke to him since he left the band 2012 and he quit the band and I didn't plan on doing any solo albums and after that I had no choice. In 2013 we had a hired guy for the tour he was Kelly Sundown and it didn't work out so we decided to take a break for a while. We didn't want to rush anything and we wanted to take our time and I ended up working with Mats Leven on some songs and he is amazing singer and then it ended up been my 1st solo album.
I had also the chance to collaborate with other musicians which was also very refreshing for me. I need to go out there and do other stuff and that also opened up another path for me as a solo career which I didn't see it coming actually.
So I ended up tour for the solo career and I have done 2 albums and have toured for 2 yrs with them. It was a different kind of freedom for me and it helped me get away and it also helped me with how Firewind should sound. To get more focused with the band, and the direction to what we were looking for.
We didn't want toe experiment any more and it was clear to me what Firewind should be and sound like. So in the end we regrouped and did some gigs together which was last year in 2016 and we did some festivals and in-between that I started collection lots of ideas for the next album in the last year that sound more Power Metal. we then started talking about putting the new album together which is 'Immortals'."
How do you see you're solo albums differ from the Firewind music?
"Well it is within the Rock & Metal scene but they are very different in that aspect because they are more based in Hard Rock as appose to Power Metal or Classic Rock or Modern Rock. I have been collaborating with different people, whereas Firewind is more straight forward Euro Power Metal, so if that's you're stuff then that's great if not then you should check out my solo albums. Its all good music."
Looking back at the previous albums with Firewind, which is you're must successful album?
"I think the most successful album would be 'Premonition' album and I also think that 'Allegiance' album is a great album too. In terms of sales or popularity. I think the line up of those albums had the right chemistry between them and it was when Apollo came into the band, the band found an identity and we kept our sound to the melodic Power Metal but we introduction some other elements and we got on some tours at the right time that exposed us to a lot of people and we are a good live band.
All these thing if you combine them with the right music we then reach more people. The new album 'Immortals' is getting great response from the fans. (Ed: The new album is great, only thing is you just get into and its over!) Well that's a good thing."
Before we talk about the new album I want to ask you why Apollo actually left the band?
"Well I think he just wanted to do less touring, whereas we like to do more touring. He had a job back home & family and kids and so he wanted to be more at home which I get. Henning did most of the 'Allegiance' tour in Japan, America all the summer festivals in 2007. I reconnected with Henning a couple of years ago and I asked him if he wanted to come out on my solo tour which he ended up doing, as Metalium his band broke up."
Was Henning the 1st choice as the replacement for Apollo or was you thinking of having Mats?
"Well with Mats it was all about doing my solo stuff and I didn't want to conflict it with Firewind and Mat's is in Candlemass as well and my solo career is a open door for friends and it's just me with a bunch of musicians and singers getting together for an album. In the U.S. I have a different line-up to that in Europe. That keeps it very fresh and open and there is no drama, it's just a bunch of friends helping me out.
For Firewind we needed somebody who would be 100% committed to the band and Mat's is a very busy guy, but Henning was looking for a band and he wanted to join a band and I think he is a more suitable singer for the music we play in Firewind. He is a more suitable Power Metal singer, and this is what he does and he fits the bands music 100% . We know him and we have toured with him and it made sense and he is a friend and a great front-man."
So let's new talk about the new album 'Immortals', did you do a lot of research into the Greek Mythology?
"Well it is about Greek history, these are facts and historical facts and about the battle of Thermopile & Salamis and I didn't do too much digging about the history but our co-producer Dennis Ward who wrote the lyrics and I am not a lyric writer I just write the music and I arrange stuff.
I have ideas for song titles and some lines here and there, and I would through stuff at time for inspiration and he would put them into verse or choruses and he was good with vocal melodies. It was just Dennis and me writing stuff together and it was him who did all the reading (laughing)."
The title reminded me of the films '300' and 'Immortals'.
"Well is it connected to the films, the battle of Thermopile is about the film '300' and it is a ode to our history and heritage. It is also a cool message about bravery and loyalty and the warrior spirit and they fought for a free country. I guess that always goes hand in hand with Heavy Metal music."
Did you come up with the title of the album?
"Yes I did, I had this little instrumental that I had just named 'Immortals' and it sums up what the album is all about."
How did it take to record the new album?
"Well the album was recorded in different places, we did stuff in Dennis studio, the drums where done in Belgium and guitars where done in my own studio, I have my own pro tools and Bob has his own studio too. So we started in June and we finished in September of 2016. We took our time recording this album and we just didn't lock ourselves in the studio and we had some festival in-between and then I did a tour of America with my solo band, we didn't work around deadlines."
Which songs from the new album are you're most favourite ones?
"I like them all of course, I would have to say the song 'Live & die by the Sword' it is a song that just keeps on building up and its 6 and half minutes long, it's probably the longest song on the record and it is a very dramatic song and heavy and it connects to the story on how the Greeks are surrounded by the Persians and it is their last stand."
Where did you find Johan?
"Well is he half Belgium and half Spanish. He use to live in Belgium but now he lives Spain for the last couple of years. Well he use to play with my other band 'Night Rage', we also did some albums for Century Media and we needed a drummer back in 2011 and we were going to do a U.S. with Night Rage and our drummer at that time Michael quit to join Gamma Ray so I called Marios from Night Rage and he said why don't you use Jonas he can be there and he can do double bass drumming."
Do you ever see anything of Mark Cross? Are you still friends?
"Well I haven't seen Mark in a long time. I think I ran into him a while ago but haven't seen him since."
How many videos have you done for this album?
"Well we did 2, the 1st one is 'Ode to Leonidas', the video was filmed in Curbia in Belgrade and we worked with a company called 'I Code' and the video reflects upon what the concept is about. "
How well is the album selling for you so far?
"I am not sure, I know we entered the German charts and I know the album is doing well so far. Its doing well in Greece at #6 in the charts so it's not doing too bad so far. Our streams have gone up a lot recently like Spotify."
Do you plan on doing any festivals this year?
"Yes we are, we are playing some in Germany, Bang Your Head is one of them, Slavica, one in Spain, one in Belgium, metal festival in chez Republic. I am going to Japan with my solo band in March."
Are you planning on doing a live DVD soon?
"No not at the moment, there is no talk about doing one."
Are you going back to Ozzy in the very near future?
"Well I hope so, I haven't heard anything yet I will have to wait and see."
Well it has been a pleasure interviewing you again, do you have anything to say before we finish this interview? bets of luck for the future Gus, keep in touch brother.
"I'd like to thank you all for the support over the years and for those who have checked out the new album thank you, and for those who haven't heard it yet please do so. Thanks for the inteview Jason, good to see you again man"
Thank to Firewind & Nina @ Century Media UK