» Gus G. - Firewind
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Interview conducted November 23 2019
Interview published January 18 2020

"It's everything you can ever imagine about a megastar like that."

Metal Covenant met guitarist Gus G. to talk about Firewind, solo material and Ozzy related stuff.

Tobbe: Firewind is working on a new record and tell me what you've got so far.

Gus: We've done drums and guitars and a little bit of bass and we're kind of like putting the lyrics together. But the core of the album, like drums and guitars, are recorded.

Tobbe: So we're looking at an April/May release maybe?

Gus: Something like that. It's not locked in 100 percent yet. But yeah, I would say sometime in May.

Tobbe: Any tour plans yet?

Gus: I think we're gonna start touring in America first and then hopefully come back to Europe and do festivals. I haven't heard anything about confirmations. I know there is a US tour. I've heard about Australia and Japan, but nothing worked out for Europe in 2020 yet. But I mean, it's gonna come in. It's like one of those things. In the early stages you don't know much, but then all of a sudden everything comes in at the same time. We're actually working on all of that at the moment. It's kind of a crazy period right now.

Tobbe: And solo stuff. You put out a new EP, a digital EP, in September, Live In Budapest Part 1. Tell me about that one.

Gus: The thing is we had these recordings from Budapest, and some other shows as well, from my solo tour, from 2018, and I said to AFM Records "Why not do, like, a live thing? I've never done a live solo record or something." and then they said "How about we do digital EPs Part 1 and Part 2 and then at some point put the two together and then add some more songs and then put out a physical product or something?". You know, instead of doing the traditional "Okay. Here's a CD and then now it's over.".

So basically it's, like, throwing some stuff out there to keep the name out there, because my album [Fearless] came out in 2018, so. So we did this now and I think sometime in first months of 2020 we're gonna put out Part 2 and then find a good timing when we can release it as a full album. Yeah, it was a good recording and we thought "Why not? It would be a good thing to showcase my power trio band.".

Tobbe: And what makes you decide if you're gonna put out a Firewind record or a solo record?

Gus: You know, I don't know. It's just the way that I'm feeling things out, depending on what offers come in. I wanted, originally, to kind of do one year solo/one year Firewind to not get bored as well, and make sure I kind of like branch out easier. And so far I've kept to that. But, you know, with that said, I'm doing this Firewind thing. I don't know what's gonna happen after that. You know, if I'm gonna do another solo record after that. I mean, I am, but I don't know if that's gonna be the next or maybe it's a continuation with Firewind. We'll see how it goes. It's kind of going between two things right now. It's been fun so far, but we'll see how it goes.

Tobbe: It's not so uncommon that people have two bands actually.

Gus: Yeah, you kind of need to do that, it seems. I mean, with the solo thing I get to branch out and do other things that I couldn't do in Firewind. I can play more hard rock stuff or more instrumentals. And as a matter of fact I'm thinking about doing a fully instrumental next time. Which is something I haven't done and people keep bugging me about it, so I might as well do it. Get it out of the system.

Tobbe: You obviously feel like you can express yourself on a larger scale when you do solo stuff. You've done instrumental stuff before and you're talking about a whole record here.

Gus: Yeah, obviously. I mean, on a solo record like that, an instrumental record, you could do whatever the fuck you like. You can have even a jazz song, or, you know, a rockabilly song. You can experiment, you know. You can make experimental records like that. Whereas Firewind, of course I still express myself there, it's my band, and my thing, and my style, but we've created a space that we are moving in already. We have our own style by now, 9 albums in, so fans expect a certain thing.

It's kind of funny, 'cause you want to be known for a certain thing. When you start out you're like "I wish people can accept and like this." and once you get some fans and you create a sound, then you're kind of stuck in that because that's the format basically. There's a certain chemistry that makes it sound what it is. And that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing of course.

Tobbe: How do you approach songwriting differently between your solo stuff and Firewind?

Gus: If it's something that's more speed metal, or just classic metal, or a bit more, you know, balls to the wall kind of thing, it pretty obviously gonna end up on a Firewind record. Like the more modern stuff, or more hard rock stuff, or if something sounds a little bit more on the American side of things, less Euro and something else, I'll probably save it for solo.

I mean, obviously if I'm gonna start making instrumental solo records now it's gonna be even easier to separate the two because instrumentals are gonna be in one project, so. I mean, I still play heavy metal and speed metal when I do instrumentals. It's still with the same guy and with the same style. With Firewind it's also a little bit, you know, that the singer puts his own thing on it and all that. With my solo records I've done collaborations with other people. So it depends, you know.

I get a vibe of what each song sets out to become, and then I decide. I've never really had any problems, you know. Especially with Firewind it's pretty obvious which sound I'm going after, and what we have created so far, so it's all based on that. Whereas everything else that's different, I'm like "Okay, maybe that wouldn't fit on this record. It's probably gonna be something else.".

I mean, I have a riff vault in my computer with probably another 20-30 ideas that don't even fit, even for a solo album. So I don't know where they're gonna go. Maybe they become something one day.

Tobbe: When you're mentioning doing a fully instrumental, I'm thinking: Have you ever thought about making an even more advanced album, like a progressive metal album of any kind?

Gus: No, I don't think I could do that, because I'm not so exposed to that. I never dug in too deep to that. So I wouldn't know how to write long, intricate instrumental songs. I've always liked catchier stuff. I mean, never say never, but I don't see myself sitting down and writing 7 or 8 songs like that for a record. It feels like it would be fake, towards myself first. Like, I would be trying to do something that doesn't come out naturally.

It has to be something natural, you know. It has to be, even if it means sometimes repeating yourself. You have to find formulas to step out of the box a little bit, but the most important thing is to keep true to yourself first and foremost. If I went out and tried to do a King Crimson style album, or a Dream Theater type of album, it would be fake from my side, 'cause I know I don't have that in me. Or so I think.

Tobbe: Or so you think, yeah.

Gus: Or so I think. You know, sometimes you never know. That's why I say never say never. Maybe I sit down with another musician someday and I'm like "Wow! I had this and this and this." and all of a sudden you have something else. Who knows, man? The stuff that I play when I sit down is usually, like, what you hear on my records. You know, this is me.

Tobbe: On the last solo record you collaborated a lot with Dennis Ward and will he be involved in your coming solo stuff as well or will you try to collaborate with someone else?

Gus: I mean, he's involved in the new Firewind record and he was also involved in the Immortals record [2017]. So we write a lot together. Like, I do the music and he does lyrics and vocal lines. A little bit Henning [Basse, vocals] as well. Not so much, but mainly Dennis because he's co-producing with me. So it's too early to think about the next record, you know. I mean, if I do an instrumental record obviously I'll be in charge of all that myself, 'cause Dennis is mainly responsible for vocal lines and lyrics.

Tobbe: On a more personal level. What would Gus G. do today if he had never gotten his first guitar?

Gus: Oh, fuck! Who knows, man? That's a good question. I think I probably would have been working around the music industry somehow, because I really enjoy this and I like this kind of music. Maybe I would have been a manager. [Laughs] Probably be on the business side of things, 'cause I'm into the business side of things too. Probably doing more of the office job, but maybe managing an artist or something like that. I can see myself in that.

Tobbe: Speaking about business. Artists and musicians often talk about artistic freedom and expression and stuff like that, but to what extent could also money be a contributing factor or an important factor when pursuing a career?

Gus: I think it has a lot to do with it, you know. I mean, most musicians, the biggest percentage, obviously, we are starving musicians for most of our lives. That goes for the biggest percentage and then there's, like, a few that made it really big, and then there's another percentage that is kind of at a mid-level, surviving and stuff. It's always the question that artists ask themselves over dinner or in a discussion within a band, like "If we did this or if we did that? If we gave into this business model, would it change anything?".

You always ask yourself these questions. I too have asked myself these questions. I can tell you money isn't a driving force for me, but on the other hand I need to have enough to get by. Since I was 20 years old this business is all I've known, so it would be hard for me to right now go and get a day job or do something else and focus on all this that I do. That's why I keep my hands on a lot of things.

You know, I'm into designing instruments, or pickups, or pedals. It's all branches of what I do while creating music. But yeah, money does play a roll, whether you like or not. I mean, it's different not having the financial backup from a label or an investor or something and doing it yourself, and it's different having them.

I'm gonna totally twist this for you. If you have nothing to say, or if your art or your music is not strong enough, like the content is not good enough, all the money in the world cannot save you either. I mean, you have to weigh it out and you kind of need one, but you also have to be able to have something to say as an artist and believe strongly in what you do.

Tobbe: Of course we have to talk a little bit about the Ozzy days as well. Is the chance about zero to none for a return as Ozzy's guitarist?

Gus: [Laughs] This thing is this is not, like, one of my decisions, you know. If he would want me back, obviously he would call me up or his camp would send an email or something. You know, when I stopped working with him I told Sharon right away, like "For whatever reason there's ever a need for a guitar player and you guys are still up for it, I'll be happy to do it." and she was, like "Yeah. You never know.". So we just kind of left it open like that. We were really on good terms and stuff.

But it seems to me that Ozzy has entered a different phase in his life now, and so have I too. That seems like almost a lifetime ago that I did that. And obviously Ozzy can handpick whoever he likes to to play with him and jam with him. I mean, who knows? Ozzy is really known for definitely shaking things up whenever he wants and thinking out of the box and changing the whole game. As far as I know Zakk [Wylde] is back in the band.

Tobbe: But he's not on the new songs. Feels kind of stage.

Gus: So there you go. It's, like, a little bit strange. But people get attached to certain things, you know. I mean, Ozzy Osbourne is a solo artist. He can jam with whoever he wants, you know what I mean? And Zakk has his band and I have my band. We've all benefitted so much by being next to this man. You know, it gave us opportunities that we would have never else imagined. So, I can just be grateful, really. Will I ever return? Who knows? Probably not. But if he ever wanted me to I would like to jam, yeah.

Tobbe: Did you ever see the man besides maybe during some recordings and when you were on stage together?

Gus: We always traveled together on tour. We were on the same plane and we stayed in the same hotel. Usually in the beginning of the tour, especially during the days off, we'd all go to dinner with the whole band. It was a nice time, you know. The camaraderie was really cool. That's probably the biggest thing I miss about that. The camaraderie, you know. It was a fun time, just traveling all together and doing all these things. And of course the gigs were huge and stuff.

Tobbe: And police escorts.

Gus: Yeah, we had to be escorted sometimes right after the show and taken to the airport, to fly away with his private jet or something. It's everything you can ever imagine about a megastar like that. But, you know, that just had nothing to do with us. We were just, like, the backing band. [Laughs] But it was nice to experience that, because it does good for your ego to kind of like "Oh, fuck! This is what it's like.". It's kind of cool, you know.

But nobody should ever take this for granted, unless you are the star. If you're, like, a sideman like that you shouldn't take those things for granted. Just enjoy it, you know. At the end of the day, if you're a musician you love this because you love to play music. Not because of the luxury lifestyle or something.

Tobbe: His wife gets a lot of shit for being, like, greedy, evil and cruel, but you seemed to get along well with her.

Gus: I got along great with her. She has always been generous and really nice to me. I don't have a single bad thing to say about the Osbournes. Like, they treated me so nice, you know. And my family too, and my wife, when we went to Greece and all that. They were always really cool to us, you know. And if there was a problem and I wanted to speak to Sharon, she would always listen and stuff. And they were very clear with me what they wanted from the start.

So, really, there is no misunderstandings there at all. I love them and I have nothing bad to say about them. But I too read the stories what happened back in the '80s and stuff. But I don't know; I wasn't there. When they called me up they asked me some specific things and, you know, my job was to play guitar and I did the best I could. And they were nice to me, always, the whole family.

Tobbe: If you get an offer from a promoter to play a couple of songs off the Scream album [2010], would you do so?

Gus: Fuck yeah! You know what? I love that record. I'm proud that I played on that. We only played [Let Me Hear You] Scream live and it would have been nice to take some of those songs on stage sometimes. 'Cause Ozzy definitely will never play those, so maybe the only guy that could ever play any of this material would be me.

Tobbe: That's kind of why I'm asking.

Gus: Are you trying to put the news up there somehow? [Laughs] You know, it would be nice. Actually on my solo set I recently started doing little bit of an Ozzy medley, as a tribute to him. I worked out this little medley with some of the most iconic solos that I like, and I've included a little Scream there as well, because, yeah, that was my little page in there. It's good to play that solo and those riffs again after all these years.

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