INTERVIEW WITH GUS G.
BY ARTO LEHTINEN AND MARKO SYRJALA
Gus G. has become a highly respected guitarist during the past ten years. Gus first gained his name in the Swedish band Dream Evil and has been navigating a band of his own, Firewind, for years before jumping to fill up the shoes of Zakk Wylde in the Ozzy Osbourne band. Metal-Rules.com sat down with Gus G. to talk about the future of Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne, his solo career, and of course his several guest appearances including Finnish “children metal band” Hevisaurus.
THE STATE OF CAREER AND UPCOMING SOLO ALBUM
Following your career during these past 10 years has been pleasant since seeing you for the first time in Dream Evil and then step by step by becoming what are you now – It has been really exciting 10 years for you.
Yeah, it has been. A lot of stuff happens, crazy changes in my life. It’s been a hell of a ride, I’ve really enjoyed it. I worked hard for what I do and stuff and I’ve dedicated myself completely to all these. So, I’m really enjoying it.
What is the state of career at the moment?
I’m obviously playing with Firewind. I’m taking a break from Ozzy’s band, he’s doing Black Sabbath right now. I’m also working on my first solo album. So, I’m keeping busy.
Tell us about more about that upcoming solo album?
It’s supposed to be recorded now, sometime in July and later. At the end of the summer we are going do recording. I haven’t signed it with a label yet, I’m still finishing up the writing. I’m going to have some guests on it. It’s going to have some instrumental songs, vocal songs. And I’m planning to release it next year some time. I don’t know when. It’s very different, the music is different from what Firewind is doing.
I can guess that the album is going to be something like more traditional metal?
It’s going to be more like classic rock or maybe a bit modern rock. So, it’s not going to be so heavy metal. I have two songs that are very heavy and very instrumental, more thrashing and stuff. There is stuff that is bluesy in there and there are some that are more of, kind of like Zeppelin vibe. It’s a different thing. A bit more groovy, kind of like mid temple and stuff. A lot of love songs.
Songs for the heartbroken from my life experience. “Laughs”
Are you going to sing by yourself?
No. I wish I could. I have a choice to work with many great singers, why should I bother singing. If I can get great singers to sing on my album – Why try to pretend I am singer? I’m a good guitar player, so I should be working with good singers.
Would you say any names, who will be in the album?
I can’t say right now, sorry.
But they, the lead singers, have already recorded their parts?
I still have not got all the guests in there, I’m still missing a couple I think. But I have three or four people in there already, there is going to be one main guy who is going to be doing a few songs. Then a few others do one song each. Some are known, some are not known. So, it doesn’t matter.
How about the rest of the guys, who else is playing on the album?
I’m going to be playing everything. Everything but drums of course.
Who is going to be the drummer then?
I don’t know yet. So, I’m working all that stuff right now.
Do you have plans to tour after the album is out?
I’d like to, if it’s received well I would love to have a full scale tour.
And the label will be?
I haven’t signed yet. I’m going to negotiate it with people. I have my own label as well in America, so if I don’t agree with somebody I will put it out of my own label.
What usually happens when you don’t have a label, one year later you are on Frontiers?
Frontiers? No, no. I don’t think I’m going to be signing with them. If I’m going to sign with a label it’s probably going to be Century Media, because I’ve worked with them for so long and they really understand what I do. So, it will be nice to kind of like keep it in a family or something. Otherwise, I have my own label. If we don’t come to terms, I will release it on my own.
How do you handle the business thing with your label, I mean, do you take care of everything or do you have people who do care of business, promotion etc?
I have a team of people, it’s me and my manager and I have a partner in America. I have a distribution deal with a big distributor. The same with what people do, PR and Section, Radio, Business people. I have marketing team and everything. So, it’s a lot more work. But it’s a lot more rewarding at the same time. We did it for FEW AGAINST MANY in America now, for the last Firewind album and it worked out fine.
I have learned on the news that Firewind’s future is some sort of question mark after this summer?
We just talked about trying to do some more gigs this fall, maybe go to Russia or Australia. That we were supposed to play there in April but we canceled it. So, hopefully we are going to put those tours back on. I would like to do some more tours with Firewind before the year ends, and then probably next year we are going to take a break. Because I’m going to go and do my solo thing. But it’s all up in the air, maybe my solo thing, there is no interest in that. So, if there is no interest, I’m not going to play. And then I’m probably going to work on another Firewind album or maybe, you never know what happens with Ozzy. So, I always keep my options open because you never know when the phone call is going to come in.
In the beginning, Firewind sounded more like traditional power metal stuff but album by album you have progressed more into the heavy metal, classical rock stuff.
Yeah, more classical rock stuff. Yeah. I think our style is a blend of things, like there are some hard metal moments. There is some traditional heavy metal you hear, like the Priest, Maiden influence. And then there is songs that are like influenced from bands like Thin Lizzy or rock bands, 70’s rock bands. So, it’s an interesting blend. It’s not just one thing. There is many colors, many sides to Firewind I think.
But when you were younger, I guess you were more obsessed by the power metal stuff than nowadays?
I was listening to a lot of Yngwie Malmsteen, when growing up, and I still do. The first album – I want to save a lot of guitar in there and a little shredding stuff and the fast double bass stuff. Yeah, later on I started to slow down a little bit to my songwriting, trying to write different kinds of songs. So, there is no point for me to make the same album two times. So, look at the first album, BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL and look at ALLEGIANCE, its two different bands, two different things. But it’s still the same, somehow it still remains the same. Somehow we can pull it off. But I like that, I like to change it up. I don’t want to do copies of the old songs, do a bad copy of that. I want to go to the next song. It’s the same with the FEW AGAINST MANY record, it doesn’t sound like the stuff we did before.
MEMBERS COMING AND GOING
Speaking of the members of Firewind, sometimes I’m not sure who is in the band or who is out ?
Me too, I don’t know. Sometimes, I got to show up for a tour, I don’t know who’s going to sing.
I was about to ask about Apollo. When he left the band, did this come out as a surprise to you?
No, not at all. He quit before as well. Back in 2007 he quit during the world tour of ALLEGIANCE.’ So, we hired Henning Basse from Metallion. And then two years ago, he also skipped the European tour for DAYS OF DEFIANCE, so we hired Mats Levén. So, it was no news to me at all. Apollo always did this as music was his hobby, he was never a 150% in this, like us.
Do you think he is now completely dedicated to spirits of Spiritual Beggars, because I saw him with spiritual in Holland a few months ago?
I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to him in months. I don’t know what he’s doing.
You also got a new drummer when Mark Cross left the band after three years…
We got this guy Johan Nunez from Nightrage. He was suggested by Marios my friend. Marios plays in Nightrage and I needed a drummer for the upcoming tour, and Johan here is s session guy. But we really, he liked us and we liked him. But he brought the new energy to the band, he’s a younger guy. So, we asked him to stay and he’s been in the band since 2011.
When members come and leave, do you ever wonder that, “Why I’m doing this?”
Many times. There is always times I’m like, “Fuck this.” But then, you know what I think after awhile I’m like, “Fuck this, if some guys doesn’t see the interest in this. Fuck him.” There is people out there that love this band. And what’s going to be more sad, a member leaving or the band quitting? The band quitting – And I’m not a quitter. So, I always come back. I hit stronger. When somebody fucking leaves, I come back stronger. That’s always my motto, that’s always how I think. I know there are people that are really dedicated to the band, and I don’t want to let them down. We’ve been doing this for 10 years. And we make a living from this, and these people, we know we owe them our career. I’m not going to quit because somebody, maybe he didn’t make a million dollars like he expected, “Come on, fucking wake up.” If you want to be a millionaire go fucking be a banker, don’t be a rocker. Do this because you love music, if you make money cool or whatever reason.
As you mentioned Yngwie Malsteen, but he had the same problem that you have – The guys keep on coming and going all the time?
Yeah, yeah. I think he had more members than I had in my band.
But he is a little bit older so you have still plenty of time to beat him on that! “Laughs”
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. That thing is also with Yngwie. A lot of people had joined his band. They join for the wrong reasons.People join the band called Yngwie Malmsteen, he sells the tickets, people go to see him. You should know your place. And musicians, it’s weird that we are weird people. Because the egos get involved. I know my place, I know what I have to do in the band. It’s the same with Ozzy, I’m hired to play the guitar. I don’t go and tell him what to do, he’s the boss. I’m there to play the guitar, I play the best I can. My own band is a different story.
When you got job with Ozzy – Do you think that Firewind has got more people, more audience to gigs or is it a normal stable thing for all?
I didn’t know what was going to happen, all I know is that I wanted to continue with the band. I knew there was going to be a break for at least a year because with Ozzy. And I said, will see what happens. And when we went back and did some gigs, we have no new album out. We booked a tour in America and a tour in Europe, just to see what happens after all these. We had no marketing, our contract with Century media had expired, so we were on our own, “Okay, let’s book a tour, let’s see what happens.” We went out and toured out there. It was very successful. There were still a lot of interest in the band, a lot of fans came out. And I saw a lot more Ozzy T-Shirts in the audience, it was a good thing. I was happy, because obviously some people kind of like, “Who is the new kid?” And they check and they go, “I didn’t know your band is great.” I think it’s catching up, it’s growing, it’s something that’s on a long run. And I think is going to bring in a lot more people in hopefully.
GUESTING ALBUMS AND HEVISAURUS
As you have played with several musicians and bands, you are always asked to play some solos and riffs on their albums – How do you pick up bands and where you are going with it ?
A lot of that stuff happened when I lived in Sweden and I was working with Fredrik Nordstrom in his studio and a lot of bands were recording there. Usually somebody would say, “Do you have a guitar player who can do a solo here.” And then Fred would say, “Yeah, my new guitar player. He’s from Greece, he’s great.” So, I ended up doing a little session like that because of Fredrik in the studio connection. And then after that, I don’t know for some reason a lot of people were contacting me. They were like, “We would like you to play a solo.” Here and there and stuff.
Like Rotting Christ?
Those were friends of mine. A lot of those were people that I knew. Again there was people that I did know, I don’t know. It was Rob Rock, asked me to play a solo at some point and other bands, I don’t remember. I’ve done a lot of those and if I liked the music I check it out and I do it.
How about the Hevisaurus? I had to ask because my nephew is really obsessed about it.
That took some convincing, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved with that. But Nino from Thunderstorm – So, he’s a good friend of mine for years and years – And our first European tour was with Thunderstorm, we shared a bus with them. He was, “Dude, I’m doing this fucking thing. Project is taking off big times, you should check it out. It’s like really good metal stuff.” I’m like, “Alright. And you really asked me.” So, I’m like okay. I like the song and it was fun, it’s cool. We did it for the kids. It was the Hevisaurus song “Rayh” that I played.
I think it also helps, you doesn’t understand the lyrics?
Yeah, I know, but the music was cool.
Is it possible to see you on the stage with the Hevisaurus costume ?
I don’t think so. I gave to Riffy Raffy Refry one of my guitars zone, I think he plays my second guitar.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT OZZY
Do you have any opinion about the new Black Sabbath album 13?
I just streamed the other day, because I was steaming on night times, and I fucking love it. It’s a very dark album, very doomy. Which I like, because they got back to what they do best. Yeah, and I love it. I really like, ‘God Is Dead’ song. I like, “Zeitgeist”, “Planet Caravan” type of vibe and everything. There is really brilliant moments in the south, you need to listen to the vibe more because some stuff is too fucking heavy, you can’t take it all in with a couple of listens. But I pre-ordered it on iTunes, so the day when it comes out it’s going to be downloaded already and what a beautiful song.
I think that it serves the 70’s sound and the feel and it really great with that album. There are long, over eight minute long songs there – really doom stuff indedd.
I’ve been listening it “Into the Void”. that what it was. Fucking eight minute doom roll, it’s like. It’s doom, yeah.
I think you have been asked for this many times, since you were asked to join the band, you played on the album SCREAM and all the songs were written written already?
Were you fully satisfied to material because it was quite different to what you had done before?
Yeah, it was a different situation. But I took it as a challenge. And I think I did my best considering the circumstances that I worked under. And Ozzy also understood that and he didn’t push me, he didn’t stress at me at all. Same for him and Sharon, they were like, “Go in the studio, do what you need to do.” This is what Ozzy want to add, go to stuff and they were very nice and very open minded. They gave me the chance to play in Ozzy band. He used to appreciate that.
If there is going to be another Ozzy album, and you said there are lots of writing that you have done already. So, is it going to be some different style this time?
The stuff that I write it’s different and only center, I’m trying to writing more on the classic Ozzy thing. The last time I spoke to Ozzy about it, he wanted to do an album like in the old days version f:ex BLIZZARD OF OZ. He got the band, doing the old jamming. Hopefully that will happen too, we have to see.
You are a big fan of Ozzy albums like THE ULTIMATE SIN and BARK AT THE MOON if I’ve understood, right?
Yeah. I’m not sure if we would make a ’80s kind of album, but we would try to make it a bit of an album that could be… I imagine the next Ozzy album to be an album that you can still play 20 years from now, and it doesn’t sound dated. Like BARK AT THE MOON stuff, there is a fantastic material there. But it’s from the ’80s there. But look at BLIZZARD OF OZ and DIARY OF A MADMAN, those albums. You can still listen today, the song currency. I would love to make an album that it can be current forever.
You were also the guy who did bring back the songs from THE ULTIMATE SIN to the set list. That must not have been easy to make Ozzy to do those songs again?
I don’t think I was not the guy, I just said to Ozzy, “Hey man, “Killer of Giants” is a great song.” And I said, “It’s one of my old time favorite song, one of the first song I learned how to play. I said, “You should think about that.” And then he listened to it, he came back, “What the hell, it’s a fucking great song.” And then we started playing it.
He didn’t play that stuff near to 30 years.
Sometimes you just need to remind a little.
Now when Ozzy is busy with Sabbath, how much you do communicate with him?
He’s very busy with the stuff he does, and I don’t want to bother him. Sometimes we text each other and hey, how are you and stuff. But I don’t bust his balls. I’m sure he’s got a million things going on. And when he’s ready, I’ve been writing a lot of stuff. I’ve sent him a bunch of demos, he has them, when he’s ready he can call me and I’ll always be there, so.
“MANIAC” ON VOICES OF FINLAND
You have covered the “Maniac” song, which is from the ’80s – Can’t remember now who sung it originally?
Do you know a singer contest called Voice of Finland – Where they pick up the singer there. there was a Voice of Finland contest on the Finnish TV – And one of the guys went there and sung this “Maniac” and it was really powerful, and the credits were given to Firewind?
Really? That’s great. When was that ?
This is awesome.
I think you can find it from YouTube. You search the Voice of Finland and Maniac in one.
Okay, I’ll check it out.
And the guy won the whole thing.
Yes and he’s a rock/ metal singer. It’s funny, it’s the most favorite TV show. There are hundreds of competitions and the winner gets a record deal, and other things. And usually…
…The 15 minutes of fame?
Yeah, something like that. But usually the guys keep on singing like biggest hits and stuff like that f.ex Bon Jovi. But he was really brave and sung that song.
That’s nice, that’s cool. Maybe he sung it, was a backing track from us.
No. He had a live band. Alright, thank you for your time.