Interviewed by Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Jenny Walroth at Century Media Sweden for setting up the interview and Century Media for the promo pictures
Now it’s time to once again talk to Gus G from Firewind and check out what he’s been up to since our last talk. Firewind has recently released their new studio album ALLEGIANCE. Well let’s hear what Gus G has to say…
Hi Gus, what’s up, nice talking to you again.
You too Anders.
Did your last album FORGED BY FIRE do well?
Yeah it did pretty good.
What did the media think of it? Was there any differences between what the European media and the U.S media thought of it?
I can’t recall any differences in the opinions and reviews, both US and European press was very very good, most of them loved the album.
Are BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL and BURNING EARTH avaliable in the stores? If they’re sold out is there any plans on re-releasing them?
I believe there’s few copies left in stores for both albums. They can also be purchased through the internet. Hopefully we will re-release them sometime next year.
Who owns the legal rights to those albums today?
Actually I just bought the rights to the first album “Between Heaven and Hell”. “Burning Earth” is still owned by Leviathan Records.
Why didn’t you do a proper tour on FORGED BY FIRE? You only did a few shows together with Hammerfall on that album, how many did you do?
It wasn’t many shows with HammerFall maybe 7-8 in total, but they were all big arena shows. It was a different situation on that tour. For example we played in front of as many people as we would, if we did 25 shows. So, those gigs drew a lot of people with an average of 2500 people per show. It was huge exposure for us and we got to play really big stages. We also did a one off show in London with Nevermore and a headline tour in Greece.
How was it to be support to Hammerfall?
Very good. They are the nicest guys and they treated us very well. I’ve known them since the Dream Evil days and I did a tour with them back in 2003 when D.E. supported HF.
So it was nice to go back on the road with those guys, they have a huge fan base and they gave us the chance to play in front of their thousands of fans.
Did you do any festival gigs with them? If so on which festivals?
We didn’t do any festivals with HF.
Was the shows made with the same line up as on the album FORGED BY FIRE?
Our drummer Stian couldn’t make it to the HF tour cause of his obligations with his own band, Pagan’s Mind. So, we recruited Fotis Benardo (x-Nightrage) for that tour. Worked out very well.
Last time I talked to you you said that the Firewind line up was steady but shortly after two members left, why did Stian on drums and your lead singer Chity leave?
Well, after Stian failed to follow us on the European tour it became clear where his priorities were. So, we decided to get a drummer from Greece instead. In regards to Chity, we had different opinions about the band’s direction for the next album and lots of other things too. The point where our partnership fell apart was when I decided to join Arch Enemy for the Ozzfest tour. He just didn’t want me to do it and decided to leave the band.
Are you still friends with each other?
Yeah, no hard feelings. People come and go in our lives all the time. I cannot change somebody’s mind and their feelings about certain things. Everybody makes their own choices and Stian and Chity made theirs. The show must go on!
How did drummer Mark Cross end up in Firewind? Did you knew him from before? Was it hard to find new members?
Yes, I’ve known Mark for a few years now. He lives in Athens and I always meet him whenever I’m there. I gave him a call last summer and he told me he wasn’t doing much, different session works here and there and was looking for a new band to call “home”. It was perfect timing really. I’ve always loved Mark’s drumming style, he’s a beater! That’s the drummer I want in Firewind. We did try out several people, but none could reach Mark’s caliber.
Why did you choose Apollo as the new singer, what does he have that makes him special?
I think his voice fits great with our music. Since he sent me the first demos from the new material, I instantly felt that this was the guy we’re looking for! Another good thing is that I’ve known Apollo from way back when I lived in Sweden. So, we’ve been friends for quite a while now. It feels much better to have a guy in the band that you know, instead from picking some stranger from an audition.
Have you heard anything by Majestic and Time Reqiuem, the bands Apollo were a part of before Firewind?
Of course. I first met Apollo when he came to Studio Fredman to mix the first Time Requiem album. Since then we were talking about doing something together some day. When Stephen our first singer left, we actually asked Apollo to join, but back then he had obligations with TR and another band Meduza. So, it was impossible for him to be a full time member with us. But I gave him a call again when the time came to find a new singer again and luckily he was available and into it this time around.
A few singers have come and gone in Firewind, why is it so hard to keep a singer?
I guess we just have bad luck with singers. First one couldn’t go on tour, second one didn’t agree with other things on more personal level. I mean we’re not the first or the last band that changes lots of members. Look at Megadeth, Iced Earth, Death or Annihilator. The core of the band has been me, Petros and Bob for the past 3 and a half years. But our little family feels much stronger these days with Apollo and Mark on board.
You can say that Firewind now are an internationel act with thought of the bandmemebers nationalities, how many countries are represented in Firewind?
Right now, mainly Greece with the exception of Mark who’s half German half British. However, he’s been living in Greece for about 20 years now. He speaks the language fluently. It’s the first time we all communicate in our native tongue in the band. So, we also see Mark as a Greek, we feel we’re a full Greek band now!
Lets talk about the new album ALLEGIANCE, how long did it take to write and record? And who’s written the material?
We’ve been writing the new material for a year. Actually since the release of our previous album. We just wrote lots of songs and kept the best. This time we all collaborated in the writing. Me and Bob co-wrote 6 songs, then Bob wrote the music for “Till the end of time”, Mark has a full song in the album (DreamChaser), Apollo wrote lots of lyrics, so did I. I wrote a few songs on my own once again, but in general it was more of a collaboration from all of us in the band.
The first single out of the album was “Falling To Pieces”, are there any bonustracks on the single?
Yes, we included 2 non album tracks. One is called “Demon Nights”, it’s a very Sabbath-y tune. The other one is a cover of Blackfoot’s “Teenage Idol”. Great song!!
What are the lyrics about this time?
Different things. As always, we mainly write about everyday things, situations and feelings we go through. So, it could be stress, relationships, and all sorts of thoughts.
ALLEGIANCE was recorded in Sweden this time, why?
Because I’ve done most of my albums in Sweden and I feel very relaxed to work with Swedish people in Swedish studios. You guys have some of the best studios and engineers in the world in my opinion! Also, Apollo lives in Sweden too. In the past we always recorded in different studios, this time we chose to all relocate and work in one studio instead. Turned out a wise decision. We worked very closely and the outcome is the best we’ve produced so far.
Where are JM Studio located and who’s done the production?
It’s located in Mollnycke, just a few Km outside Gothenburg. Fredrik Nordstrom engineered the album and we did the tracking ourselves. I’m responsible for the overall production with help from my bandmates of course.
The album was mixed at Studio Fredman by Fredrik Nordström, how was it to work with him again?
Awesome! I love to work with Fredrik. We know each other so well now. He knows what I like and he just makes it happen and always amazes me with his new equipment and production ideas.
How many bandmembers participated in the mixing process?
Why the title ALLEGIANCE?
It’s symbolic and very imposing. We hope that the fans will pledge their Allegiance after they listen to this album!
Who’s done the cover artwork and what do you think of it? Does it symbolize anything special?
It’s done by Carsten Drescher, he works at Century Media’s in house graphic designer team. He’s a very talented artist and as soon as he sent me this artwork I felt that this was it! I just wanted a strong color and something symbolic in the middle. Something that would suit the album’s title.
I think Firewind have taken on a different musical approach with this album, now it’s more melodic heavy metal than before, is that true? What do you think?
Yes I agree. But that’s what we’ve always been doing more or less. We play melodic heavy Metal and I would place our style where tradition meets today. Although we’re not doing anything new, we somehow manage to sound fresh and that’s what we were aiming for.
There are a duett “Breaking The Silence” featured between Apollo and Tara, who’s Tara?
She’s a Dutch singer who now lives in Sweden. I’ve known her for a few years now. She comes from a pop, soul background. But she’s a great performer and songwriter. We asked her to write her own version on this song cause we weren’t so happy with the vocal lines we had. So, she wrote most lyrics and vocal melodies on “Breaking The Silence”. Turned out much better than our version! So, that’s when we decided to make this into a duet between Apollo and Tara. Definitely a highlight!
You have also included an instrumental track “Before The Storm”, what’s the story behind that?
Not much of a story, really. Just kept the Firewind tradition where we include an instrumental track on each album. This time instead of a full speed metal track, we went for a ballad. It’s a nice break from the metal madness of this record!!! Obviously I was very influenced by Gary Moore and Thin Lizzy while I played the lead parts on that one.
Do you have any favorite song on ALLEGIANCE? If so which ones(s) and why?
Most of them are favorites, can’t pick out a special one.
Are you satisfied with the work Century Media have put into the album, like promotion etc?
Yeah, they’re pushing even more this time and want this album to succeed.
How many albums are you signed for at CM?
After Allegiance, 2 more.
Earlier this year you played at Sweden Rock Festival, how was that?
Amazing! It was a great gig and the people seemed to be very much into it. I heard from lots of people that considered Firewind the biggest surprise of the festival. Very flattering. We owed a good show to our Swedish fans, as the last time it wasn’t really the best we could do (on our show with HammerFall in Gothenburg’s Scandinavium).
Have you done any other gigs this year?
We also played Prog Power fest in England, Lorca Rock in Spain and Evolution fest in Greece with Dokken. We were supposed to play Bulgaria’s Monsters of Rock but that was cancelled by the promoters.
How big fanbase do you think Firewind have today and where in the world are you biggest?
I don’t know how big or how small we are. I know we sell pretty good in countries like Japan and Greece. Actually our new album is doing very well in Greece. It’s on the Top 20 for 4 weeks now! This really marked a new peak in our so far career.
I’d really think you’re the Yngwie Malmsteen of the 21st century, what do you think of that?
I’d say thank you very much!!! Although no one can ever be like Yngwie, cause he was so innovative and gave the world a whole new option on how to play the el. guitar. I definitely don’t play anything new like that. I just play the best I can, with my own personal “touch” to my sound and style.
What’s the most common question you’ll get from the fans?
Probably when will we play in their hometown.
Do you still live in Greece today? How’s the metal scene in Greece?
Yeah I still live in Thessaloniki, the most beautiful city in the world J The Metal scene here’s growing but with very small steps at a time. With the exception of bands like us or Rotting Christ, it’s safe to say that Greece is more known for its fanatic metal fans, rather than its musicians. We have some great musicians, but they work better alone. We’re lacking team work. Great example of this is Marios of Nightrage. He had to relocate to Sweden to make it happen. Or John K. from Biomechanical.
You played at Ozzfest with Arch Enemy last summer, how was that?
Amazing experience! Arch Enemy guys are very good friends of mine and we had a great time together. Plus I got to go on tour with Maiden and Sabbath!!! Doesn’t get any better than that.
Was it hard to learn to play Chris Amott’s guitar parts?
Not really. Our styles are similar. We love the same guitarists and share the same influences. So, it wasn’t so hard for me to enter the mentality of Chris Amott’s playing. He’s an amazing player, I have great respect for him.
Were you offered the part as a steady guitarist in Arch Enemy?
Yes, but that was the moment where I had to make a choice. Either I would disband Firewind and play only with Arch Enemy or I would go my own way. So I took a risk and chose the not so safe way. Feels good though, I haven’t regretted it. I’m very happy with Firewind’s course right now.
You have quitted both Mystic Prophecy and Nightrage, why?
So, I can fully concentrate on Firewind. It came to a point where I couldn’t follow these bands on each tour or activity. It wasn’t fair for them and it wasn’t fair for Firewind either.
What did the remaining members think of your departure from the both bands? Are you still friends with the guys?
They respected my decisions. Of course I’m still friends with everyone. Both Lia and Marios are close friends of mine and our friendship is beyond our musical collaborations. I had a great time playing with them, I learned a lot from them and I’m very proud of the music we created together.
How took Marios in Nightrage the news that you left the band, I know that you are really good friends?
He was sad, and so was I. But he told me that this was the best decision for my career and supports me 100%. That’s a true friend!
Are you currently involved in any other bands/projects besides Firewind?
When can we expect to see Firewind on the roads on a proper headliner tour do you think?
That might take a while, but u never know. Maybe this album becomes huge, maybe on the next one. But we’ll be on an extensive European tour with Dragon Force this Autumn. (Anders – Firewind supports Dragonforce through Europe this winter)
How would you describe a live show with Firewind?
Very intense, entertaining, energetic, very METAL!!!
Apollo are also singing on a few other albums with different artists and Mark Cross are involved in At Vance, do you see any problems with that?
Mark only did a tour with At Vance as a session player. He’s only involved in Firewind at the moment. Apollo recently did a session studio job for Evil Masquerade, but Firewind’s also his main priority.
Finally I’d like to thank you for answering my questions, is there anything you’d like to say to the fans and readers outthere?
Thanks for your support all these years! To the fans: We’ll be seeing you on tour this Fall!!! Till then, pick up our new CD and Pledge your ALLEGIANCE!!