Guitarist Gus Drax- Sunburst
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo pictures of the band.
Sunburst is a brand new band from Greece that released their debut album FRAGMENTS OF CREATION in February this year. I had the pleasure to talk to aspiring guitar hero Gus Drax about the debut and about when and why the band was formed. Sunburst singer Vasilis Georgiou is also involved with Drax in the band Black Fate, so if you’re into well produced and executed progressive metal make sure to check out the music of Sunburst.
Hi Gus, nice to talk to you again, how are you today? Are you ready to kick off the interview?
Ηi Anders. I’m doing great, how about you?
Yeah lets go.
You, Georgiou and Milones started Sunburst back in 2010; what made you guys want to to form a band?
I wanted to form a band since…I started playing guitar. When Biomechanical went on a hiatus I decided that it was the right time. I knew Vasilis, and we had been talking about doing something together. Kostas and I were introduced by Vasilis Liakos who is a common friend and he also helped the band at its first steps. We started together working on original material while we were taking offers to play shows and we gradually started building our name. That’s how it all started.
What bands inspired you to start a band? Was it given that you were going to play the kind of music you do?
We knew we wanted to do something in the Progressive Metal genre yes. Our favorite bands are Dream Theater, Nevermore, Conception, Ark and many many others that are also outside of the Progressive genre like Behemoth for example or Meshuggah.
For how long have you three guys known each other?
Me and Vasilis for a bit more than a decade. With Kostas we met around 2009.
You and the guys are also members in other bands is that correct?
Yes. I play also in Suicidal Angels and Black Fate where me and Vasilis are also bandmates. Kostas plays with a band called Foray Between Ocean and we also both participated on the new Paradox album which is going to be released in June and its called Pangea. Nikos also plays in a band called Jailcat.
Is it correct that the bass player from Black Fate Liakos was a member of Sunburst in the beginning?
Yes. He helped us at our first steps. The demos that we had online until recently were with him on the bass. We just wanted to do shows and Vasilis couldn’t follow so we decided to search for a bassist that could do that.
Did you begin to write material for an album straight away?
Yes. When I talked to Kostas and Vasilis about the band I already had ideas for the songs and we immediately started rehearsing and working on it.
Where does the name Sunburst come from? Does the name have any special meaning to you?
There is not a specific meaning behind our name. We were just searching for a cool sounding name that will give a good idea of how the band plays and sounds. We knew from the start that the word Sun would be a part of it and one day Vasilis called me all excited and told me “Hey Gus I think I found it. What do you think about Sunburst” and that was it. We had a name.
Actually…we haven’t played in Greece yet! We have only played outside of Greece so far. Our first show was in December 2012 in Belgium where we will actually return. We play in Belgium and Netherlands in 6,7 and 8 of May.
I know that the band has performed at several festivals, which ones and which one were the best to perform at?
We have performed at the Moonlight Metalfest,at the R-mine Metalfest and at PPM fest. R-mine and PPM are by far the best ones! Great crowds and we also got to perform in gigantic stages. It was a cool experience.
How did you land the shows without having released an album?
We had some demo songs on youtube and we got noticed from a Booking Agency. They asked if we would be interested to play shows even without a release and we said..why not! Actually the whole procedure made us rehearse the songs and saw what works live and what doesn’t and we also changed a bit the songs because of that!
Sunburst performed with acts like Symphony X, Saxon, Fates Warning, Amorphis and Therion. Have you opened for those acts or have you performed with them at festivals?
We have performed with them at festivals.
Have Sunburst done a lot of touring up to today?
No, not really. But its in our goals.
Did Liakos leave the band back in 2013, or what happened?
Well, he didn’t want to do as many shows as the rest of us but it wasn’t a problem for anyone. We are still great friends. We split in the best way and we still hang out together
Why did he leave? Was his departure expected?
Yes it was expected but like I said everything is great between us. We really appreciate the help he provided.
Was it hard to recruit a new a new bass player and how come you decided to go with Nick Grey?
Yes it was really hard. Before Nick we also tried with other 2 bass players and didn’t work. When Nick sent us his videos and recordings we realised that playing wise he was a fit! A few days later we also met him and we knew he was the one. We get along perfectly. He is one of my best friends and like I told him recently…
Whatever I do musically (for example another solo record) you are in!
Has Grey been involved in other bands/projects before joining Sunburst?
Yes he is also a member of a band called Jailcat and he had one called End Of Innocence I don’t know what goes on with this one though.
Where in Greece do you live? Do you all live in the same town?
No but we are very close. Me and Vasilis live in Larissa. Nick stays in Thessaloniki and Kostas in Trikala a town next to Larissa. We are 60-90 minutes apart. Nothing extreme.
The debut album FRAGMENTS OF CREATION
When did you begin to work on material to the album?
Since the day one that we were formed. Around 2010.
Are all songs mainly written for the album or did you use any older material as well?
No,everything was written for the album. I don’t confuse projects. When I have a new idea I know immediately for which band is meant.Where it fits best.
Who writes the songs and what are the lyrics about?
Well I come up with most ideas and we all together work on them. Lyric wise we talk about personal struggle, social issues, political and religion in an artistic form. We also have some fiction in “Remedy Of my Heart”
Were there any songs left over and that you didn’t feature on the album?
Complete songs, no. Only ideas that we didn’t like or somehow didn’t evolved in songs. We don’t write..lets say 15 songs and choose the best 10. We just see what evolves well and what doesn’t.
What can you tell us about the video to the “Dementia” songs?
That it was a bitch to make! haha
We shot it a super hot August weekend with 45 degrees. Terrible heat. We had technical issues with power going down. Lights got destroyed but somehow…we and Bob Katsionis made it. And we are really satisfied with the result.
Dementia [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
The video got over 40 000 clicks, congratulations, what response have you received on the video from fans?
So far great! Fans seem to be really into our music and we are really satisfied with that. Not only the views and the likes but also the feedback it self. We are taking some great comments.
Was it your intention of making a long album, it clocks in on 60 minutes and features 10 songs?
No we didn’t set any time goal to be honest. We just worked on the ideas we had that’s all. We wrote every song separately. We had 2 goals.
1. The songs to be different. We didn’t want to have 10 similar songs.
2. The songs to be interesting. No unecesary parts. We didn’t want to have any boring moments.
What is the shortest song (4.16) “Lullaby” about? And what are the longest (12.36) “Remedy Of My Mind” about?
“Lullaby” is a ballad and its about a sick girl. “Remedy” is a fiction story about a vampire couple that is in love and…things are getting really bad.
How come you chose to name the album FRAGMENTS OF CREATION?
We didn’t have an album title until Vasilis started working on the artwork. That is where we got some extra inspiration.We used the lyrics of our songs and the artwork to find the album title so everything ties up really nicely.
Fragments are those “pieces” that you see leaving the main character of our cover and its also a reference for the Music itself. The songs. Songs= Fragments of Creation
Who did the cover art work and what do you think of it?
Vasilis did the artwork and I absolutely love it! It was an absolutely brilliant idea.
To me yes. We play Progressive Metal. We have many influences in our music but a general title would be Progressive Metal yes. You can listen to a lot of influences like Power or Thrash or even Black Metal ones but in our core we are a Progressive Metal Band.
You got a few well known people that made guest appearances on the album like Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Serious Black) on keyboard, Astrous (Aenaon) and Mina Ginnaopoulo on backing vocals and John K on orchestral arrangements, how did those people end up on the album? Are they all old friends of yours?
Yes. Each and everyone of the guests are friends of ours. We ended up calling them when we realised we needed some extra “elements” in our songs.
When we knew that we needed some brutal vocals we called Astrous. When we needed some female vocals we called Mina.
As for the keyboards,we wanted to have a normal keyboard player performing the keyboards. Bob is a great friend of mine,I know him almost 10 years now and he happily participated.
John K is my bro from Biomechanical. He is a world class Musician and he did the Orchestral arrangement on Remedy Of My heart. When we got the song back with his work our jaws hit the floor!
The reviews I read about the album is all positive, how does it feel to get such great response on your work? Do you care about what critics and media writes about your work?
Yes. It feels absolutely great. We had a strong positive feeling about the album but you never know until you release it. When we started getting the first reviews we got excited.
And yes we do read and care about what critics media and the fans say about our music. We care for both positive and negative feedback.
We want to improve and become better and listening only the compliments is not helping you in that direction.
We are getting some really exciting messages everyday. The feedback is 100% positive and we are very happy and satisfied with that.
The bio writes that “The sound of Sunburst can be described as Dream Theater meets Nevermore”, do you agree with that description?
You and Geirgiou really impresses big time on the album, are you happy with the members efforts? Would you like to have done anything in a different way?
I am happy with everybody’s work in the album. At this point that you are asking me I wouldn’t change a signle thing in the album.
It’s also said in the bio that FRAGMENTS OF CREATION shows you are a force to be reckon with, is that true?
Yes. But don’t expect our next album to be FRAGMENTS OF CREATION #2. We are going to evolve. We are going to progress.
Do you think that fans of Black Fate is going to appreciate FRAGMENTS OF CREATION?
Its really possible yes. We are close, even though Sunburst are more proggy, heavier and more technical. Black Fate is closer to Power Metal.
Production, studio work
In which studio was the album recorded and who produced it?
The album was recorded in different studios.The drums were recorded in Pink studios.All Electric guitars were recorded at G studios owned by the drummer of Black Fate.Acoustic guitars and Bass were recorded at Fireball Music studio in Thessaloniki and Vasilis recorded his vocals in his own studio.
We co-produced the album with Panagiotis Katsaounis who mixed and mastered it.
Were any of the members part of the mixing and mastering process made by Panagiotis Katsaounis?
No. But we were really involved in the whole procedure. We had a very clear vision of how we wanted the album to sound like. We discussed a lot with him,we told him what we wanted,he told us his point of view and he did it perfect.
In Athens Greece.
Where did your guests record their parts?
Bob recorded his keyboards in his own studio. Mina at her own studio. Astrous at Vasilis studio and John K at his own studio.
The bio states that Katsaounis is an up and coming producer, which acts has he worked with besides Sunburst?
He just finished working on the new Paradox album. He has done a great job both in Sunburst and Paradox and I am sure he has a great future in front of him if he continues working like that.
Label and management
Was it easy to get a record deal or was it a struggle?
Easier than I expected to be honest. There was s lot of interest for the band after listening the album.
Why did you wait so long until you signed a deal?
We wanted to have our album done first. As soon as we finished we started searching. We send the album to all of the labels that we would be interested to sign to. Even the biggest ones and we had in mind to sign a deal with the label that will offer the best conditions. That was Inner Wound Recordings.
The Black Fate album Between Visions and Lies was released by Ulterium Records which is a brother/sister label with Inner Wound. We were really satisfied with their work on the album,with what they did for the band. We know them,they know us,there is a great relationship between us and mutual respect and trust.
The choice for us was more than easy.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the album and band so far?
Do you see any difficulties that the band is based in Greece and the label in Sweden?
Nope, not a single one. There is great communication between us and our cooperation is super smooth.
The label releases the album in Europe and North America and Bickee Music in Japan but what about the rest of the world, who releases it there?
Inner Wound: Everywhere else besides Japan
Bickee Music: Japan.
Are there any plans on releasing the album on vinyl?
We don’t know that yet. I would really like that though even if I won’t be able to listen to it. I would like to have it and people also have been asking me about it so why not.
No. We manage our selves at the moment. We’ll see about it in the future.
What do you think of the illegal downloading industry that grows stronger and stronger each year? Do you think downloading hurts the bands and the record dealers?
It is how it is and we all have to deal with this I guess. It hurts the whole industry and the bands and labels who adapt to that will survive. The best way for bands to make money right now is by playing live shows. Not through sales.
Many artists thinks the record industry is dead, what do you think?
I absolutely disagree. As long as there are bands and musicians the industry will be alive!
Personal with Gus Drax
For how long have you played guitar?
Since 2002. About 14 years now.
What or who inspired you to pick up the guitar?
I knew I wanted to play guitar since I saw Dream Theater’s Live in Tokyo in video cassette! The moment I saw John Petrucci performing I knew what i wanted to do.
Have you taken guitar classes or are you self-taught?
I have taken guitar lessons for about 2-3 years and then I continued practicing on my own and I still practice every day.
What was the first band you joined or formed?
The first serious band I joined was Biomechanical.
I never left and will NEVER leave Biomechanical. I joined in 2007. The band is in hiatus. If the band reunites I will be the guitarist again.
Back in 2010 you released the solo instrumental album IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION, when was the idea born to do a instrumental album?
Since I listened to all these great Guitar instrumental albums like PASSION AND WARFARE by Steve Vai, PERPETUAL BURN by Jason Becker, Cacophony, Marty Friedman, Richie Kotzen and so many other great guitarists.
I always wanted to do one (or more) album like that.
Is it correct that you released it on your own without back up from any label?
Yes! I didn’t like the offers that I had so I decided to release it on my own.
What do you think of the album today?
It represents my level of playing and songwriting back then. I am very satisfied and proud for it but I have improved dramatically both as a guitarist and a composer since then.
You’re involved in many bands like Black Fate, Paradox, Suicidal Angels and Sunburst, where do you find the time?
Well, Black Fate and Paradox are not the most active live bands so it really comes down to Suicidal and Sunburst. With some scheduling everything works out. So far everything works smoothly.
You have also made appearances on albums with Divine Disorder amongst many, how many albums have you appeared on?
Yes when someone approaches me for guest appearences I never say no If I like the whole concept and the band. I give a lot of attention in the music. If I don’t like it I’m not doing it. I honestly can’t remember all my guest appearences. They are at least 20.
Which guitars and equipment do you use? Do you have any dream guitar?
I use my signature model from Siggi Braun Guitars and the Kemper.
Visual Sound Pedals and Shure wireless.
I have a guitar with my name on it. It is honestly my dream guitar.
Practice practice and practice. If you don’t breathe to play guitar you can’t go far. Believe in yourselves, because If you don’t do it nobody else will. Work hard everyday and your time will come.
You are both really fast and also technical, is it all talent or do you have to exercise and practice a lot?
I used to practice and still practice everyday. Nothing comes on its own. You have to work hard. I practiced countless hours with a metronome playing my favorite songs from my favorite guitar players and I also did an uncountable amount of exercises.
My favorite guitarists had all something in common. They have admit that they used to practice for many hours, so I did the same.
On your youtube site you play through “Break The Core” and it was really nice to see you do that, do you have a lot of viewers?
I have an active Youtube channel and it grows every day. I do a lot of videos and different kinds of videos. Guitar Tutorials, gear demos, playthroughs and more. And since we mentioned them,there are more very interesting playthroughs coming up!
Break The Core (Sunburst Playthrough)
How’s the metal/hardrock scene doing in Greece? Are there many places to perform at?
We have some great bands here. We never lacked talent. Now with the internet and the social media you will listen to many more Greek bands. I guarantee that. Yes we have some Greek shows coming up. They will be announced soon.
Which one is the biggest metal/hardrock act in Greece at the moment?
Greece has gone through some major financial crisis a while ago and maybe still is, has that had any impact on you and your music?
Yes. When something affects life its innevitable that it will affect everything else including Music and Arts.
Since last fall there are also a lot of refugees from Syria and other parts of the middle east coming to Greece to seek asylum, is that notable for the common man in any way in Greece? In Sweden the media reports about the refugees in the Mediterranean sea almost every day.
In some specific places yes. It is noticeable. I am pretty sure that the media are exaggerating a lot so don’t believe everything you hear.
Are there any plans on heading out on tour now that FRAGMENTS OF CREATION is out?
Yes we are starting with a Benelux tour and we have some Greek dates booked as well. We are considering every offer that we have. We want to play as much as possible.
Do you have any festival shows booked for the summer so far?
Not yet but we are currently looking for that.
How’s the interest for the band in Japan and Asia?
We just learned that the album went out of Stock in Japan and we were really surprised and happy of course. Things are going very well in Japan for us and I think it would be ideal if we could go and play there.
Could you describe a Sunburst show with three words?
Energy, Power, Enthusiasm.
Well, social media is where people is going mostly but we are on the making of our official website. Its really important to have one.
The video to “Out of The World” was released about a month ago, what can you tell us about the video?
Yes, its going great. Even better than Dementia! It was shoot very fast,only in one afternoon by Lefteris Pasalidis and Wrecked Visuals. The guys did an absolutely amazing job! We went to Thessaloniki, at Nicks (our bassists) Fireball Music studio and we shoot it there. It was a great vibe and a great atmosphere and I think that this reflected in the video as well.
Out Of The World [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs on the album?
Yes we shoot one more video clip a week ago! I will not reveal which song it is for,I would like to keep this as a surprise but I can say that its going to have a story going on as well,its not going to be just a performance clip.
Fireball Music Studio put up a bass play through on youtube of “Forevermore” who are Fireball Music Studio?
Fireball Music Studio is our bassist’s Nick studio. It works as a normal studio. Bands can go there to rehearse and record. Sunburst also rehearses there.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Sunburst yet?
That maybe they should listen to the album cause there might be something for them in there. If you like high quality Metal you might want to check us out.
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy “FRAGMENTS OF CREATION”?
1. High quality music
2. High quality packaging (artwork etc)
3. High quality performances
Before I leave you, do you have any final words of wisdom to share with the readers and the fans?
Thank you very much for this interview. Hope to see you all on the road soon.
Thanks a lot for taking the time making the interview, I wish you and the band all the best and I would really love to see you guys live in Scandinavia soon!
Same here man. See you soon!
Gus Drax Youtube Page