Interview with guitarist Gus G.
@ Firewind tour bus, The Underworld, London
February 19, 2017
Interview by Oliver M.
Five years after Few Against Many, Greek power metal masters Firewind are back in 2017 with their 8th opus Immortals. Despite the absence of their excellent long-time vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, this concept-album remains a great success. The band has recently finished their European tour and we had the opportunity to attend their show in London on Sunday the 19th of February. Before the beginning of the show, we met guitar virtuoso Gus G. and asked him some questions about Immortals and his life as musician.
Hi Gus! First of all, how has your European tour been going so far?
Really good! I mean, we’re in the UK still. We haven’t gone to mainland Europe but all the UK shows have been phenomenal so far.
This Immortals 2017 European tour contains six dates in the UK, which is a lot. Power metal music has never been popular in this country, but you’ve always had many fans there. That’s a paradox. How can you explain this fact?
Yeah, you’re right! Actually, we do better in the UK than in Germany, which is really weird for a band like us. Most German power metal bands can’t even come and play here more than one show. I don’t know… I think it has a lot to do with the tour we did with Dragonforce 10 years ago, at the time when they were at the height of their popularity. We got in front of a huge audience and I think we really must have won a lot of hardcore fans on that tour because we see a lot of those people still to this day on this tour. That’s one factor. I think the other factor is… We’ve had a UK management for many years and a UK agent. So, we were booking a lot of shows here. I mean, this is our 8th UK tour over the last 10 years. So, it’s a lot of tours to play in the island for a band like us. I think we’ve just put in the hard work, bothered to keep coming back and coming back again. Then, it eventually builds a solid fanbase. I think these are the reasons and… Maybe it has something to do with our music. People love it here and they follow us for many years. It’s a blessing!
Let’s talk about your new album Immortals. It’s your 8th album already and also a concept-album based on the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Why did you choose to write a concept-album for the first time and especially on that subject?
Well, first of all, it’s something we’ve never done before. So, it was challenging for us to try something else. You know, Greek history is so huge that we didn’t really know where to begin and what to talk about. But in the end, we’ve narrowed down to two battles that occurred in 480 BC: the battles of Salamis and Thermopylae. The battle of Thermopylae is one of the most popular ones in history and of course, it has been made into movies like “300” for example. We’ve just thought it’s a very heroic, legendary battle and it would resonate well with a heavy metal album as soundtrack.
Immortals marks the arrival of a new vocalist Henning Basse who is well-known for his contribution to the German power metal band Metalium. When did you meet him for the first time?
I actually met him 10 years ago. Our singer quit during the middle of a tour we were doing (actually right after France) and we needed somebody overnight. It was our previous drummer Mark Cross (who used to play with Metalium as well) who suggested we bring out Henning. So, we called him, he was available and wanted to help us out. He came out and that’s how we met. We met for the first time on that tour. Then, our first rehearsal was a show in Portugal. That rehearsal was only 10 minutes on the sound check but he killed it! Yeah, he did great. He did the whole Allegiance tour with us and after that, he came to America, Europe and Japan. Then, I met with him two years ago because I needed a singer again for my solo band for some of my shows. He told me he was still looking for a band and we were looking for a singer then. So, that’s how he came to join us full-time this time.
Immortals is a very good Firewind album in my opinion. Some songs are really great like “Vision of Tomorrow” for example, which is a bonus track for the limited Mediabook edition. Why did you choose not to include this song in the standard CD version?
Thanks! Well, it was actually a bit of my mistake here. I didn’t think about bonus tracks. When I was writing the album, I just thought about the album. Then, I delivered the master to the record label and they said: “Well, where are the bonus tracks? We’re going to need something for the limited edition of the album”. I said to them: “I didn’t think about it. Here is the album”! So, we’ve tried to find any live recordings but we didn’t find anything, something new. In the end, one song had to be left out and I don’t know… For some reason, that track is one of the really good songs of the album. It’s not a filler song but even if it was included in the normal track list, it would have been the last song on the record because according to the concept, it represents the new beginning. So, that’s how we decided to leave it out and I mean, most fans usually buy the limited editions. Very few people buy the standard CD version.
For me, that’s one of the best songs of the album, hence my question!
Oh, OK! Cool, thank you!
Your guitar solos are still very impressive after all those years. How did you find the inspiration?
I always listen to my favourite guitar players for inspiration and always try to push myself in the studio; like I need to do something better than the last record. I like to practice a lot. So, I try to come up with different ways of what I’m playing, try to evolve, take things to a new level and try to get better! Music is like a neverending journey. You always keep learning. I’m glad you’ve said that because I guess it reflects on the records that I’m getting better. So, it’s good!
What makes this fact even more impressive is that you play intensively in other bands as well. Indeed, you’re the guitarist of Ozzy Osbourne since 2009 and you have also your solo band. So, what is your priority: Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne or your solo band?
To me, everything is priority. You know, whatever I do, I do it at 100%. I can’t focus on both Firewind and Ozzy Osbourne at the same time. I concentrate on each band separately. For example, I focus on Firewind only for some time then, I’ll work for Ozzy only and so on! Having a solo career is just something that happened in the last couple of years. I didn’t think about it before but it’s just something that evolved. When I do something, it deserves my full attention and so, right now, Firewind deserves my full attention obviously.
Do you still have some contacts with your former long-time vocalist Apollo Papathanasio?
I haven’t spoken to him since he left the band.
Since 2012 then?
Yes, 5 years ago.
After that European tour, what are your projects?
Next month, I’m going to Japan and South Korea with my solo band. Then, I’m doing an acoustic tour in Europe again, supporting Steve Stevens. After that, Firewind goes to Russia in May and then, we’ll have some Summer festivals. When I’ll have some free time, I’ll start writing a new solo record.
So, your next album will be for your solo band, correct?
To conclude this interview, do you have anything special to add?
Yeah, thanks for the interview. Thanks to your readers for checking this out and I hope they’ll check “Immortals” as well.