» Gus G. - Firewind
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Interview conducted March 5 2023
Interview published March 26 2023

"The other guys were more like weekend warriors and they just wanted this as an excuse to leave their house and go drinking."

Power metallers Firewind are out on a pretty extended European tour, supporting semi-pop power metallers Beast In Black, and as they in early March made a stop in Stockholm, Sweden, Metal Covenant got to talk for a while with main man and guitarist Gus G..

Tobbe: Greece was just struck by tragedy, because of the train accident of course, and in what way does an accident like that affect you personally? And how does that affect the Greek nation?

Gus: From what I've been reading on the news... It has been all over the news. Honestly, I'm ashamed for what happened, you know. For my country. I'm really ashamed, because how could they not see that those trains were coming at each other for 12 minutes straight? You can see how rotten our politicians are, and all the fucking ministries of traveling, and transportation, and all that stuff.

I was never the politics guy, but I mean… What is there that I can say that can, you know, help those people's losses? It was mainly students, you know. So many families lost their kids. So, I'm really ashamed for what happened, to be honest.

The initial reaction was shock, and you're like "Noo.", and the other one is like, "It's shameful that this should be happening.". Why does this have to happen in 2023? You order food delivery, Uber Eats, or whatever, and you can see, at anytime, where the delivery man is. Why can't they trace that with trains? There's nothing else, really.

You know, there's nothing we can say to soften the people's losses, really. It's really mind-blowing, man. So, I hear there has been lots of protests in Athens. There is, like, big stuff happening. I haven't even taken it to social media to talk about it, because what does my opinion matter anyways? I'm just a guitar player and how can I help with this? I can't. It's done, you know. Those people are gone.

It's just, like, crazy that such a stupid accident can happen at this year, you know what I mean?

Tobbe: And another sad thing, even if they aren't comparable, is that your former boss, Mr. Osbourne, has announced his end of touring days. Although he has used some technology for live shows in the last decade, I still feel that the heavy metal community loses a great performer and a great frontman.

Gus: Without a doubt. Maybe he will do, like… Who knows? He said he might do, like, a one-off thing. From what I read on his statement he was trying to come up with ideas about that sort of thing, but that he will not be able to travel extensively again. It's definitely an end of an era, when an icon like Ozzy Osbourne says that.

On the other hand, I was reading what Rob Halford was saying the other day, like, "Hey, dude. You've done enough for the community. You've done enough for rock and metal. For music. Rest up. You're 75. You've got grandkids. You've got your family.". And I stand by that, you know.

He has given us so much. All of us. Even though it's sad, the guy is still here with us. He's still making great records. I love both of the last albums he did. You know, I just hope he can stick around for as long as he can, on this planet with us, you know, 'cause we need Ozzy. [Laughs]

So, it's okay. I can live with him not touring as much, or whatever. I'm sure he'll find other ways to keep busy. And the way that I've known Ozzy, he has been such a guy full of life and always very excited. I know that it kills him that he cannot go on stage. I know that. He lives for being on stage. But it is what it is. Eventually at some point it happens to everybody. And think of how many guys that have retired also earlier than that.

Tobbe: But not so important to me as Ozzy is.

Gus: No, no. Ozzy is one of the fathers of this music. Without him we wouldn't have all this. I mean, the most significant heavy metal artist of all time. Absolutely. He and the Black Sabbath guys. I went to Birmingham the other day, we played there, and I went to see the Sabbath bridge. And yeah, that was nice, the monument they made for them. They should make statues of them too, in my opinion.

Tobbe: So, to Firewind. You recently put out a new single, Destiny Is Calling. Is that song the first taste of an already recorded new Firewind album?

Gus: You can say that, yeah. But we haven't recorded the whole thing yet. We've just finished the drums. We didn't have time to finish the rest. So when we go back home we'll try to get it done, as soon as possible. A lot of lyrics are missing, still. But it is part of the album, yeah. And I think this year we're gonna focus on doing singles. Dropping a few singles, every two or three months, and eventually those will be a part of the new album.

Tobbe: Does that go for the single you released in late 2021, New Found Power, as well? Will that song end up on the album?

Gus: You know, that song was a part of the previous recording session for the self titled album [2020]. It got left out. I don't know why, but somehow it got left out, and I realized, "Wow! That's a pretty good song.". And I would like it to be part of a record at some point, so I think it might make sense to add it on the next one. Just to have it there, even though it's from a different album session.

It doesn't really matter; we're still the same lineup, and still the same vibe and the same sound, so. Maybe it will be like some kind of bonus track on there. I can see that happening. We haven't decided yet. But if we're gonna release some kind of physical product, I can see that song living on there, you know

Tobbe: I quickly looked at which songs you play live on this tour, and tell me how you pick only 9 songs for a setlist when you have 9 full length albums to pick from?

Gus: I mean, at this point we cannot even say that we'll play one off each album. It's just impossible. So I think it depends on what you're trying to present and on what kind of tour you're on. Now we're supporting a band that sounds a little like disco and metal together, so obviously we're gonna play a song like Maniac, because that's like the perfect ending to our sets. Like a party song, and then they kind of take over from there, like preparing the ground for them.

And at the same time we're playing to a crowd that has mostly never heard of us before. It's a younger generation, a younger audience. When you play something like Maniac, everybody suddenly recognize it and they get in the zone. So that's one song right there. And then we're gonna play some of the stuff we released two years ago. We weren't able to tour, so we play two songs from the latest album.

And then the rest is kind of like a little bit of a best of. Which just kind of cover it for a band with our history. You think of it, like, "Okay. Here there are, like, a 1000 people and maybe 700 of them never heard of us, so what do we play then?". It's like a mixtape. Something like that. So this is what we're trying to do.

Tobbe: The tour has been running now for over five weeks and you have, like, two weeks to go until you're done touring for this time. Are you starting to feel a little bit homesick by now?

Gus: A little bit, yeah. I was kind of mentally prepared that I'm gonna be out for a long time this year. This is the longest bus tour that I've done, ever. Yeah, 8 weeks. It's quite long. But we decided to do it. It was a brave decision. [Laughs] We decided to do this. Yeah, and, you know, and I go home for, like, three weeks and then I'm out for another month. I'm doing a solo tour. So, I'm gonna be out there. So even though I'm homesick at the moment, and then all go home, I have to kind of like stay still pretty tense, because I've got another 25 gigs coming up.

Tobbe: Do you ever consider bringing in another guitar player to Firewind? To function as a second guitar player, obviously.

Gus: Honestly, I think it would mostly serve a visual purpose. Sonically, I think we sound great right now. The guitar parts that I wanna have, I already put them on tape. I'm not lying about that. We have some stuff on tape. But we're a band, that if that playback machine breaks down we can still play our show. We don't rely so much on it. We just have a few choirs, two or three keyboard parts, and then two or three harmony parts that are within the songs. And I think that's okay.

Tobbe: Yeah, there has been so much talk about backing tracks lately.

Gus: Yeah, it's kind of stupid. It was, like, this thing happening between Sebastian Bach and Ronnie [Radke] from Falling In Reverse, because Falling In Reverse canceled a show because of that. It's a different band though. We're not that kind of band that rely heavily on them, but we do use them.

I think most bands are using them nowadays. And others more than others. It depends on what kind of sound you want and you're going for. For us, this 4-piece works right now. I don't know; I wouldn't be opposed to bring maybe, like, a touring guitar player.

I don't think Firewind will ever become a 5-piece again. Never say never, but I just don't see it becoming a 5-piece again. I'm really happy with a 4-piece. It's more space backstage, easier to travel, one fewer person's gear to worry about, and set-up, and all that.

And also, you know, if we look at it from a financial point, yeah, there's more money left in the end too. So, you know, unless you're touring on a bigger scale, yeah, I don't really see it. It doesn't really hurt the band right now. I think it sounds good as it is. Nobody has complained about the sound. So I think if I would have done that, I would have probably done it, like I said, for a visual purpose, so that somebody can see, like, "Oh, there's two guitar players.".

I mean, I've also been used to doing that with being in Ozzy for so many years. I went from a 2-guitar band to being the only guy, and after coming out of that I kind of got used to the idea of being the only guitar player. So, it doesn't bother me; I don't know if it bothers other people, but I don't know if I should care so much about that. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Besides being the guitarist for Ozzy, do you every now and then look back at your time with bands you've been part of before?

Gus: Sometimes I think about it, yeah. All those things are important to who you become and where you go. All those experiences, for sure.

Tobbe: So say something nice, and something not so nice about A) Dream Evil.

Gus: Okay. Well, Dream Evil was the first big school for me. I learned so much from those guys. Getting to work in a great studio like Studio Fredman next to Fredrik Nordström. You know, he's the guy who taught me how to overdub guitar parts and how to record in Pro Tools. So, it was like a great base for me.

And, you know, my first experience with signing, like, a record contract, and seeing part of the music business. The not so nice thing is that really it was not a good live band, unfortunately. The best musicians there were me and Snowy Shaw. The other guys were more like weekend warriors and they just wanted this as an excuse to leave their house and go drinking. You know, like a very Swedish thing to do, I guess. And I couldn't handle that. I just couldn't do it. And I had a big problem with that.

I didn't like that the band was not rehearsing. They were not open to doing tours. They just wanted to do these one-off weekend things. So that was my reason for eventually leaving.

Tobbe: And B. Next band. Mystic Prophecy.

Gus: Yeah. It was happening at the same time. Lia [R.D. Liapakis], you know, he was one of the guys also who believed in me at first. You know, he gave me the opportunity when we did also, like, the first deals with Nuclear Blast and, like, signing the big contracts and things like that. Again, it was all happening at the same time.

The only thing was that, you know, it was mainly his music vision. He allowed me to write stuff, we wrote most stuff together, but I felt it sounded very samey after a while and I just got bored quickly, you know. But other than that there was nothing wrong in our collaboration. You know, we're still friends to this day. We even did a couple of gigs together recently. And they're doing great too. I'm glad he kept the band going.

Tobbe: And C. The last band I'm gonna ask about. Nightrage.

Gus: Nightrage, yeah. Well, that was a little bit out of my musical taste in the end, you know. When I was younger I was into a lot of the extreme metal and stuff. And Marios [Iliopoulos] is a great guitarist. And it was great playing with him; I learned a lot from him. And he's the guy who actually helped me get to Sweden, 'cause his ex-band [Exhumation] was recording with Fredman, and through him I was introduced to Fredman.

So, that was a very important link there, you know. He helped me a lot in the early days, as I helped him too when his band split up, and I helped him to put Nightrage together. But, you know, that kind of music just didn't really resonate with me after the second record.

Tobbe: You're doing both Firewind and solo stuff, but what else is there in life to do for Gus G. at the moment?

Gus: I clean the cat litter when I'm at home. Fucking wiping out the catshit. Yeah, I spend time with my wife and our four cats, and we just enjoy life back in Greece whenever I'm not touring. I'm at a very happy place right now, because I've achieved all the things that I ever wanted in the music industry, so I have no regrets, I have no hang-ups, I'm not bitter about anything.

I still have visions and things I wanna do of course, but I'm really comfortable within life, you know. I'm not in a struggling place in life. It has been good, you know. Yeah, I have a good family with my wife, we're enjoying it, and we live in a nice place. It's all good, you know. And I still do what I love. I make a good living out of that. I can't complain, really.

I guess I belong in, like, maybe that little one or two percent of musicians who are able to do that. And times are not easy, times are not easy. Yeah, we try to navigate. That has always been my philosophy about this. I try to navigate through the good and bad things, and the years are more and more difficult, so.

And, you know, we're not, like, total rockstars that are millionaires or anything, so. We try to navigate and we still try to do what we love. That is happiness to me.

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