Firewind Guitarist Gus G.
Interviewed by Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Jenny Walroth at Century Media Sweden for help with the interview
Thanks to Century Media for Promo pictures of the band
Gus G., guitar player and leader of Firewind, who recently released their third album FORGED BY FIRE had the kindness to answer my questions about Firewind, their new album, his appearances in Nightrage, and his previous band Dream Evil. Nightrage is about to release their follow up to their brilliant debut “SWEET VENGEANCE”.
Would you like to tell the readers some background info about Firewind?
In late 1998 I recorded some demos and I gave the project the name FIREWIND. In 2001 and after several more demos, I signed a record deal with Leviathan Records (USA). My producer and label boss David Chastain brought me and Stephen Fredrick (vocals) together and recorded and released the first 2 FIREWIND albums: Between Heaven and Hell (2002) and Burning Earth (2003). The albums were released thru Massacre Records in Europe, EMI in Japan, Rock Brigade in Brazil and some smaller labels in smaller territories. FIREWIND parted ways with Stephen Fredrick in late 2003, and went on to tour in Japan in January 2004 with new singer Chity Somapala (x-Avalon) and a new 5th member, keyboard-wizard Bob Katsionis (also in Nightfall). We are now releasing our new 3rd album “Forged By Fire” with Century Media in Europe and EMI in Japan.
How did the media respond on the two previous albums from Firewind?
Very well actually. Although the albums weren’t a huge commercial success, we got a lot of great reviews over the world in both major and small press, as well as online magazines.
Do you have any numbers on how much the two previous albums sold?
Hard to say exactly, but I believe the previous albums sold about 27-30.000.
Why the name Firewind?
Because it’s a strong word. Fire is definitely a symbol of power. I got this name from Uli Jon Roth’s album Firewind with Electric Sun.
You have recently switched singers. Have their been more member changes in the line up during the years?
Yes, the rhythm section was different on the first album. We had an American drummer, Brian Harris (x-My Own Victim, Kenziner) and Greek bass player Konstantine. However, these guys couldn’t follow the band’s activities, so I had to replace them. In early 2003, Petros Christo (bass) and Stian Kristoffersen (drums) joined the fold and we’ve been together ever since.
How come you picked Chity as the new vocalist? What makes him special? Did you have any other vocalists in mind?
I asked Chity to join us, because I fell in love with his voice from the first moment I heard it. The guy is a perfect mix of Tony Martin, Dio and Klaus Meine. These are my favourite singers and I thought it’s amazing that Chity has been influenced by these guys! Plus, Chity is an awesome musician, songwriter and a pure person. That’s the people I need around me in the band. Of course I had other singers in mind, mainly some more famous guys. However, I decided not to go into that direction, cause a singer with a household name would probably involve managements, compromising with their own schedule, perhaps wanting more money, etc.
So, I thought it’s best to get a singer that he could be into the band 100% and share the vision with us, instead of being a “hired gun”. Chity is the perfect singer for Firewind, I can say that now being 100% sure!
What is the difference between Chity and Stephen’s voices?
Stephen is more of a shouter, while Chity brought in more “colours” and melody. He can also sing aggressively like Dio style, but he sings with a lot of feeling and he has a style of his own – even though if he’s far from Stephen’s style.
Why did Stephen left Firewind?
It was actually our decision not to continue with him, as he told us he wasn’t able to go on tours. So, the band had to move on with or without him. We want to thank him for his amazing work on the 2 albums and wish him the best of luck in the future.
What do you think of your old label?
I like David Chastain and Leviathan Records. I learned a lot from him and he helped Firewind so much. While the promotion and budgets were always limited, David did his best for Firewind and believes a lot in me and my music.
I know that you’ve been out touring in Japan but have you done more live shows besides that? If so when and where?
Unfortunately we weren’t able to tour in Europe in 2004, although we had some offers for big tours. The problem was our previous label – Massacre. They simply didn’t give us any tour support. I’m glad we left that label.
Anyway, even with the financial problems going on, we managed to play a huge summer festival in Greece, Rockwave. Judas Priest, WASP, Gamma Ray, Soulfly, etc. were also on the bill. We also did a show in Norway this past December.
You have recently signed on for Century Media, what made you decide on them?
I wanted Firewind to sign with Century Media, because I have worked with other labels and from my experience Century Media is the best! They’ve done excellent job on the Dream Evil and Nightrage records and they also believe in me very much. I was very happy that they also felt the same way as me, about working with Firewind.
How many albums have you signed on for CM?
4 in total – including “Forged By Fire”.
How long did it take to record your new album “FORGED BY FIRE”?
We started late May 2004 and finished the mixing in late August. Of course there were breaks in between, because of the Rockwave festival appearance and rehearsals, as well as my recordings with Nightrage. It was a crazy summer, but I managed it haha!
Who has written the music and lyrics and are the lyrics about anything in particular?
I wrote all the music and Chity wrote all lyrics. Also, Bob Katsionis wrote the main riff of “Beware The Beast”. The lyrical themes and ideas are mainly political. They express Chity a lot, and that’s fine with us. I’m saying this because they’re serious subjects that have to do with our everyday life, so they also express us.
I’ve read in the bio that you have used three different studios to record the album in, why so many and not only one?
It was a matter of convenience. We’ve always recorded this way. I have my own studio, so I record all guitars, bass and keyboards there. Chity lives in Germany, so he did his vocals there with Markus Teske (Vanden Plas, Symphony X). Stian lives in Norway, so he did his drums there too. That way is more convenient for us, instead of relocating somewhere in Europe for a whole month.
The mixing was done in Studio Fredman in Gothenburg Sweden, how many of the members took part of the mixing, how long did it take to mix the album?
I was only present on the mixing, as I’m responsible for the final sound and mixing. The mixing job credit also goes to Patrik J. Sten, a colleague of Fredik’s. Fredrik basically put up the sounds and Patrik completed it.
Stian joined me in the studio the last day to check it out. The mixing took us 3 working days and 2 days doing nothing, as the hard disks crashed because of a fucked up DVD we put in (that DVD contained the files of our recording). In the end we got it down, but the stress wore me out.
You have recorded a video to the track “TYRANNY” are you going to release the song as a single or an EP?
It’s not in the plan, but u never know. It will depend on the album’s course.
How did you get Marty Friedman and James Murphy to guest on the album, do you know them from before?
I know Marty from Japan. He came to see one of our shows last year. So, me and him became friends since then. I was very happy when he accepted to do the solo on the instrumental track “Feast of the Savages”. In regards to James Murphy, I had never met him before, so I just emailed him and told him I was a big fan and would love to have him on the album. It’s a dream that came true for me – having some of my all time guitar heroes play with me on our album!
Firewind’s debut album came in ’02 and the follow up the year after, how come it has taken so long to follow up album number two?
That’s cause I had a busy year, with Dream Evil and Mystic Prophecy. I was working on 3 albums at the same time and doing shows and tours as well. I only got 2 hands man! hahaha!! In the end, I decided to quit Dream Evil and get things going on with Firewind instead.
Why the title “FORGED BY FIRE”?
Because we’re back with our best and strongest album to date, new great singer, full time lineup, new great label. It’s more of a statement that we still got the Fire in us, after all the hard times Firewind went thru (with ex members, and record label).
Are you pleased with the cover art work? Who has done it?
Yeah, I think it’s cool. It’s definitely FIREWIND hehe! It was done by Japanese artist Kazuo Hakamada who also did the cover of “Burning Earth”.
I’d describe your music as power/heavy metal, how would you define your music?
Modern Heavy Metal. I say this, because we have influences from the 70s and mainly 80s, but with a bit heavier more contemporary riffing and modern production.
Firewind have made some big success in Japan, how come you succeeded so heavily in Japan?
OK, we’re not that huge over there, as people might think, but we definitely have a strong fan base. I guess the guitar hero status helps a lot, plus I’ve really concentrated in Japan the past 2 years. I did concert tours with Dream Evil and Firewind, promotional tours, clinic tours, etc. Firewind made an impact in Japan since the first album – I guess our image and music style appeals to the young Japanese metalheads.
Are there any current plan on head out on tour now that the album’s out?
Yes! First of all, we’re doing a one off show in the UK with Nevermore. Also, we just got confirmation for a European tour with Hammerfall in April. Lordi and Thunderstone are also appearing on the bill. We also plan to do some separate smaller shows on our own in Germany and maybe Denmark. We will also do some shows in our homeland, Greece.
The bio says following about FORGED BY FIRE – “A record sure to please fanns of Helloween, Dio, Judas Priest and Masterplan” – how do you comment that?
I guess the record label has to put a tag on the music, so they can sell it better. You can say that Firewind belongs in the same genre. After all Dio and Judas Priest are influences!!
Do you have any idea of when album number four is going to be available in the stores?
Hahahaha!!! of course not! It’s still to early. The main plan for now, is to tour in Europe and build a good reputation for our name.
Are Firewind a democracy where everyone decides, or is it you who makes all the decisions in the band?
It IS a democracy, as everyone is free to say their opinion and throw in ideas. However, everyone understands and respects that I have the final word on most decisions. I could never keep the band going on, if I didn’t have the input from my friends in the band.
Have you read any reviews on “FORGED BY FIRE” what does the media think off it?
So far so good! We’ve been getting great reviews from Japan and Europe so far with high soundcheck positions, album of the month positions, etc. I’m happy that this album made the difference, as we worked hard on it and believe very much in it.
Is this a steady lineup that you have now?
Are you pleased with the outcome of the album or do you feel that you should have done anything different on it?
I think that the mastering is maybe a bit too loud, but that’s OK, as it really bows the speakers out on every club that it’s played haha!!
Do you have any favorite track on the album?
All of them!!! haha…
How does it feel to be called a guitar virtuoso?
It feels nice cause I see that my hard work over the years, pays off. Of course sometimes I blush when they call me a guitar wizard hahaha!! I don’t really feel that way, although I understand that I might appeal to a younger generation of fans/guitarists, as a guitar wizard. It’s OK with me.
How many bands are you currently involved in at the moment?
Firewind, Nightrage and Mystic Prophecy.
Why did you leave Dream Evil?
Because the guys had other priorities in their lives, such as jobs, kids, wives, etc. My priority is music and I wanted to focus on a band that I see more long-lasting in my career.
When I interviewed Snowy Shaw he said following regarding you leaving the band “He fell in love with Peter and mixing business with pleasure is never a good thing! No, seriously he wanted to focus on his very own band Firewind where he’s in total control”, how do you comment that?
Firstly, it’s typical Snowy humour hahaha!! Secondly, he mentions something about being in total control. That was also a problem in Dream Evil ? making decisions. A member would get sad when his song was rejected from the final album track list, some members couldn’t tour when some other members wanted to, and stuff like that. Firewind was always my baby, so my principal was to lead the band’s career without having 3-4 other guys wanting other things or going into other directions.
Are you still friends with the Dream Evil guys?
Of course!! I still keep in touch with them and see them whenever I’m in Sweden.
How are your relations towards my country Sweden?
I always loved Sweden from the first moment I stepped my foot on that country. I love the Swedish system in general, as well as the music industry that you have. I think it’s a very rock n’ roll country, and has some of the hottest girls I’ve ever seen! ha!
Have you learnt any Swedish while you been here?
Ja visst!! Jag alskar Sverige och svesnsk bruden med stora pattar!! hahahahaha!!!
(ps: sorry for any spelling mistakes)
Anders: That means ” I love Sweden and Swedish girls with big tits”
How does it feel being part of a band where everybody’s talking Swedish and you can’t understand the language?
It was a bit weird in the beginning and I would complain sometimes…haha! But as time passed, I understood more and more and in the end it didn’t really bother me, even though I understand some of it and not all. But that’s why I have a Greek band now! ha!
Are you pleased with your effort on Dream Evil’s “THE BOOK OF HEAVY METAL”?
Oh yes! I think it’s a great album, I’m very proud of it.
Which of all your bands have the highest priority right now?
Firewind is my main band. I play with the other bands, when I have free time from Firewind.
Nightrage are soon to be releasing a new album, are you a full member of that band?
If Nightrage are headed out on tour, will you join them?
Yes, of course. We’re already making plans for that.
Have you done any live gigs with them so far?
One show in England last December. It was the “Hammered at X-Mas” festival with Arch Enemy, Haunted and Dark Tranquillity. It felt great to be on stage with my close friend Marios after all these years I’ve played with him. The band had an amazing energy on stage. Can’t wait to tour with Nightrage!
For how long have you played guitar?
Since I was 10. Now I’m 24, so that would be 14 years.
Do you have any idols/role models within that you look up to or that have inspired you to play guitar?
Yes, of course! Who doesn’t? I’ve been inspired by so many guitarists, from Carlos Santana and David Gilmour to Tony Iommi, Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Schenker.
When I met you, you have always been so kind and signed your autograph for all the fans, are you always that nice? And isn’t it tiring sometimes to be a public person?
Sometimes I might be tired of a long hard working day, but I always liken talking to the fans and signing for them. OK, if I’m on a tired day, I just might not talk so much haha! But I believe that I’m a friendly guy in general and I have the greatest respect for the people that buy my albums and come to my shows!!!
Where do people recognize you the most, in Sweden or in Greece?
When I lived in Sweden I was recognized a lot, cause Dream Evil played often there. However, I don’t live in Sweden now and my popularity and fame in Greece has grown a lot. So, maybe I’m more of a local hero for the Greeks.
Are you a good friend with Marios in Nightrage with thought of you both being Greeks?
Marios is simply my best and closest friend for almost 10 years now. And he’s not only a patriot, but also a neighbor! We come form the same neighborhood in Greece!
Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of metal-rules.com?
Thank you for supporting my efforts! Make sure you check out FIREWIND’s new CD “Forged By Fire”. Stay Metal!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
My pleasure Anders.
More info about the band: www.firewind.gr