Interview conducted by Michael
Interview transcribed by Niklas
Metal Covenant has attended two
shows on the 2006 Dragonforce/Firewind tour, once in Holland two weeks
ago and once in Stockholm last week. When the chance rose prior to the
Stockholm gig to have a few words with guitarist and main man behind Firewind,
Gus G. himself, Michael was not late to line
up the questions.
Michael: So, what's up?
Gus G.: We're on a European tour with Dragonforce
and we're having lots of fun along the way. We have completed five
shows so far. Now we're in Sweden but a few weeks ago we played in
Taiwan and Japan, on this really cool festival called Loud Park, with
bands like Megadeth and Anthrax playing on it. Now we have a long
tour ahead of us, until mid-December.
Michael: What can you tell me about the new album?
Gus G.: It was released in July and is called
Allegiance, with eleven brand new songs on it. Fredrik Nordström
engineered and mixed it in Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, and then
we mastered it here in Stockholm. The difference between this album
and the others is that this was more of a teamwork effort. We have
two new members in the band and everybody contributed with song writing-
and lyrics-ideas. For the first time the whole band entered the studio
together and rehearsed the material before we recorded it, usually
we do everything on a computer. That's what I think made this album
so good, because we did everything together.
Michael: Why did you choose to make your
new album in Sweden?
Gus G.: I've recorded so many albums here in
Sweden, so I feel comfortable working here. Sweden is my second home,
basically. Fredrik Nordström has mixed all our previous albums,
so we always get a good deal here. We recorded it in January and February
this year, it was ice cold and we had to relocate to an isolated place
and just work. I told the guys, "Hey, why don't we all go to
Sweden for a month?" And we did.
Michael: How is everything working out with
Apollo, your new singer?
Gus G.: Very good. He's singing his ass off
every night and is a funny guy as well; he knows how to handle the
crowd. I think his voice sounds very good together with our material.
I've known him for many years, so it's not like we picked a stranger
from an audition or something. It's good to have old friends in the
band, which is the same with Mark, our new drummer. I've known him
for many years as well. It feels like a big family, basically.
Michael: Why has Firewind had so many different
singers over the years?
Gus G.: They were simply not the right persons
we were looking for. Stephen, our first vocalist, is one of the best
singers around, but he lives in Atlanta so it was hard to meet him
and to rehearse. So we were forced to move on without him. Then Chitral
came in, and everything worked great in the beginning, but when we
got out on the road we realized that we didn't really get along on
a personal level. We had different ideas about how the band should
sound, so he decided to leave last summer. That was around the time
when I joined Arch Enemy to help them out on Ozzfest, and Chitral
didn't like that I played with any other bands. But at the time Firewind
had no obligations, so it felt like the right thing to do.
Michael: Speaking of which, why have you jumped around in so many
different bands during your career?
Gus G.: I played in a lot of band at the same
time, actually. In the beginning I didn't know what would happen,
and then many of the bands I played in started having more success
and therefore had more obligations with tours and such. Back then
I always put Firewind aside for everything else, which wasn't fair
to Firewind and on the other hand not fair to the bands I played in.
So I had to tell all my friends in the bands that "I'm sorry,
but I have to quit and focus on the band that I want".
Michael: And now you have chosen your band?
Gus G.: Definitely, it's been like that a couple
of years now, it just took me some time to get out of the obligations
that I had. You can't just walk out on your band one day you know,
there are commitments that you have to fulfill.
Michael: So there are no other bands that
you work with now?
Gus G.: No, but people keep asking me when
I'm going to release a solo album! At the moment I obviously don't
have time, but if I had I would definitely consider doing it. It's
the only thing I haven't done yet, to make a solo album! (laughs)
It would be fun to explore other musical styles, not necessarily metal.
Michael: Where do you get your inspiration
to write music?
Gus G.: I like guitar music, but also more
classic rock. I mostly listen to old music and don't really keep up
with the new. I do listen to new music, even if I'm not a fan of any
particular new bands. Deep Purple, Rainbow, Scorpions, Megadeth and
Black Sabbath are probably my favourites.
You grew up in Greece, which is a very Christian country. How did that
inflict on you, playing metal and all?
Gus G.: I guess you could say that things are
a bit conservative over there, but I would say that Christianity is
more of a tradition in Greece nowadays, people don't believe in it
as much. But yeah, we're definitely more religious than the Swedes;
here everybody is an atheist! (laughs) Anyway, I never had a problem
with the religious things, it is rather the whole system in Greece
that is a problem if you're in the music industry. It's not like in
Sweden where you have great producers, studios, record companies and
promoters. You guys can watch heavy metal on the TV and listen to
radio channels like P3 where they play hard rock, because the government
wants them to broaden their programs. In Greece the government doesn't
want that, and that's why the biggest scenes in Greece are folk music
and pop. There are a lot of metal-heads in Greece though, but for
a musician it's much more difficult. It's not the best place to start
your music career, so I had to move out, first I lived in America
for a few years and then moved to Sweden, to play in Dream Evil. Sweden
was the first country that gave me a go, and in Dream Evil I finally
got my name out. I probably wouldn't have reached this level if I
still lived in Greece.
Michael: Where do you live now?
Gus G.: In Greece. (laughs) I moved back there
three years ago, it came to a point when a decided to put up my base
there, my studio and office. Now I have a full-Greek line-up in Firewind
so things are easier. We get more offers to tour and things are following
a course. We're not trying to get signed anymore, you know.
Michael: Personally I found your new album
to sound quite different than the previous ones. Do you have a plan for
how you want Firewind to sound in the future?
- Gus G.: Maybe it's because we have a new singer
and a new drummer now? Who knows, but I never really think about what
direction I want to take the music to when I write songs. Perhaps this
album has some songs that sound more modern, like the single Falling
To Pieces or Breaking The Silence, the duet we did with Tara. Allegiance
sounds very much like heavy metal, but still has a contemporary sound.
But we also have more traditional songs like for example Ready To Strike
or Insanity, which are full metal gear, if you know what I mean. I don't
know how familiar you are with our discography, but we always try to
add something new to each album. On Allegiance we've used more keyboards
than before, many themes are played with keyboard with a guitar underneath.
We're trying to blend the past and present sound, which has always been
my goal with Firewind. About what directions we'll take in the future,
I believe we're going to keep up with what we do, a lot of guitar-driven
heavy metal-music with catchy hook-lines. Loud stuff, that kind of direction!
See also: review
of the gig the same night
G sends his greetings.....