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Gus Drax (Black Fate)

Interview with Gus Drax from Black Fate
by YngwieViking at 24 December 2014, 4:27 PM

The young rising star virtuoso Gus Drax was born in Larissa Greece, he’s currently the Lead Guitarist for the Greek Progressive Metal Band SUNBURST and various other projects/bands including avant garde BIOMECHANICAL and participating on the resurrection of legendary BLACK FATE . In 2010, Gus released his first solo album titled "In Search Of Perfection" which received huge recognition and critical acclaim, apart from being an active studio and live musician, Mister Drax also is a full time teacher, providing guitar lessons to many students all over the world. YngwieViking shared a privileged time with Gus for a discussion and interactive exchange about Prog Metal, guitars and guitarists in general…

Hi Gus, congratulations and big kudos!!! I really enjoyed the new BLACK FATE album, I think that “Between Visions & Lies” is one of the good surprise among the flow of release, as a fan of Progressive Metal and elitist music in general , It was for me a real blast…What will be your words to describe it?

Thank you very much my friend, I’m really happy you like the album. Well, I would describe it as Progressive Power Metal. It has different elements both from Power Metal and the Progressive Metal genre as well. We wanted to create songs that have a variety of elements, we have heavy guitars riffs but many melodies as well. We have some mellow and simple parts but also some technical ones. It’s a balanced Heavy Melodic album.

Can you first tell us about your personality, your background as a musician…Your past or actual involvement in other bands! I want to know everything!

Of course, I started playing guitar at the age of 14, really seriously from the first moment. I was really into it and I was practicing my favorite guitarists for many hours every day. At 19 I joined the English Progressive Thrash Metal band Biomechanical and that was the point that it became Professional for me. I did my first big gigs tours and festival appearances that helped me gain a lot of experience as a musician and also to take my playing to the next level. After that I released my first solo album called “In Search Of Perfection” which is a full Instrumental album and after that I started forming Sunburst with Kostas Milonas and a little bit later Vasilis Georgiou (we are also bandmates in Black Fate) and started working together. A few months later I joined Black Fate and after a couple of shows we decided to keep the machine alive and work together on a new album. The rest as they say… is history.

 In the review for “Between Visions & Lies“, I stated that the album reveals an new found Proggy personality and contains beside the obvious technical skills, an modernized update of the style with a low edge courtesy of the use of a seven string guitar… What is your feelings about this quote?

I think its spot on and really flattering as well. I’m happy that you feel we are doing something new and fresh. It’s one of the best compliments someone can do for us.

 Can you tell us more about the collaboration in your solo album “In Search Of Perfection” with the high profile Bass player Vasilis Liakos borrowed from the great Prog band Innosense, please tell us how it happened ? Was it the first seed for his extended addition to the Black Fate line-up?

Uhm not really to be honest. Here’s how it happened. Vasilis and I (and also Nikos and Vasilis Georgiou) are all living in the same city so we know each other for many years. I mean…I was a teenager when I first saw Vasilis playing on stage and met him and we became friends. When I was writing “In Search Of Perfection” I was also in search of a good bass player that could handle the bass lines and record the bass for the album. And when I saw Vasilis I just went and asked him “Hey, would you like to play on my solo album” and he was like “Sure send me the tracks I’ll start working” and that’s how it happened. When I joined Black Fate I didn’t know who the new bassist is going to be and a few weeks later Nikos informed me that Vasilis will be the new member which came as a pleasant surprise to me.

 Do you think that the technical level, the complexity of some song structures, the demanding melodies and the technical shredding parts, or the darkened colors in your music can be a block for some listeners, do you keep this aspect in mind while composing , or did you just get the inspiration to flow?

No, we really just go for it to be honest. We always try to write from our hearts and not compromising and write “easier” songs. No one guarantees that if you write easier songs you will sell more copies or you will be more successful. First of all you have to be honest to yourself and write something that you are proud of, because that’s what going to come out. If you release something that you don’t really like just to sell, I totally think that people will somehow get that “vibe” and won’t like the album either. As for the album now, I don’t really think that we have something too extreme in it that can make people turn their backs on it. I think that the album can satisfy all metalheads who are seeking for some High Quality Metal.

 About your first solo disc, please can you give us the full history behind it, are you in a state of mind for a second album?

Yeah the solo album was something that I really wanted to do since I started playing guitar really. I was listening to all these great instrumental albums by so many great guitarists like “Passion And Warfare” by Steve Vai or “Perpetual Burn” by Jason Becker ,Vinnie Moore’s “Minds Eye”, Marty Friedman and so many more and I always wanted to write one as well. I started working on it when I was 18 years old and got me a few years to finish it because in the meantime I became a member of Biomechanical as well so I didn’t have the time to work on it. I released it personally on 2010. Its co-produced by Jon Simvonis and me and mixed and mastered by Jon himself. Its me on guitars, Vasilis Liakos on bass and the great Bob Katsionis on keyboards.

I have two guest solo guitarists as well. Steve Smyth (Forbidden, ex-Testament,ex-Nevermore) playing a solo on the song “Hourglass” and Dimitris Bournakas my teacher playing a solo on the song “Abnormal Sequence”. At this point I am focusing on Sunburst’s first album but at some point yes, I will write another solo record for sure.

Gus, where are you coming from, as far as guitar influences are concerned? Which are the new guitarists that impressed you lately?

I have a lot of influences from many styles of music and many instruments as well. I’ll name a few. John Petrucci, Michael Romeo, Jason Becker, Vinnie Moore, Steve Vai, Marty Friedman, Criss Oliva, Jeff Loomis, Paul Gilbert, Richie Kotzen, Jordan Rudess, Kevin Moore, John Myung, Victor Wooten, Tony Levin, Paco De Lucia and so many, many more. I can go on for days.

 Please Gus, tell us about your thoughts and views with the new hype on 8 & 9 strings guitars? As a teacher, can you say that the interaction with your students is fertile for your own musical development?

Absolutely! As a teacher I find myself learning a lot from my students as well. Not only teaching them. It’s a very pleasant and creative procedure for me. Only by breaking down my playing into many many details has helped me change my playing dramatically because I see every aspect of it. So…thank you guys!

About 8 and 9 strings, I already use a 7string and I would probably like to try and experiment with an 8 string as well. But I think that from that point and on we are losing the meaning to be honest with you. And we are also entering the bass’s ground. Keep in mind that a big part of the people who use 8 and 9 strings (not all of them but many of them and probably most of them) use these guitars to sound heavier which is not the case. You can big and heavy with a normal 6 string guitar. Strings have almost nothing to do with it.

As an Artist from Greece, with a difficult exposition to the world but also an overcrowded panorama, what do you think about the Musical scene in your country?

Greece has many super talented musicians and bands. The reason that we don’t have more of them going further from our borders is the fact that there is still some lack of professional attitude by the bands and unfortunately from the location. Its way easier for a band located in central Europe to go around the continent and play shows in different countries with a small cost. A band from Greece starts always with a flight to central Europe. That’s not easy and definitely not cheap as well keeping in mind that you have to carry some gear and merchandise with you as well.

Are there new undergrounds bands or players that we have to reckon with in the next few years? Maybe some new acts that you want to produce by yourself sooner or later?

I’m not producing other bands or guitarists. At least not yet. I feel that I need to learn much more before I am in the position to do that. I still need to improve on producing myself, haha.
A new band that I really liked is called Assemble The Chariots. I totally think that with the right amount of work they can make something really really good in the future.

 What do you think of the state of the market today? What is your opinion concerning digital downloading legal and illicit?

It is how it is man and all musicians have to adapt on it either if we like it or not. Downloading is the new way of buying music. It has almost vanished the physical element like CD or vinyl which is something that I don’t like. When it comes to illegal downloading, fans have to understand that they are killing the bands they like. And to be honest with you I really think that there is something good out of downloading. I understand that someone maybe can’t afford to buy something that he is not sure that he/she will like. So a good way to use downloading is a “filter”. Download the albums that you are interested in but the ones you like go and buy! Help musicians keep making music!

Tell us what we have to expect form your side in the future to come?

There is the new Black Fate album and the debut Sunburst album that are coming your way very very soon. After that we will try to promote them as much as we can with shows at as many places as possible. Right now,even though the 1st Sunburst record is not released yet, I am already writing songs for the 2nd album and material for a second solo album as well. Expect lots of music and shows by my side!

What is the last CD you have bought?

“Impermanent Resonance” by James Labrie

 Please let us know your Instrumental album Top 5?

That’s a tough one:

John Petrucci – “Suspended Animation”

Steve Vai – “Passion And Warfare”

Jason Becker – “Perpetual Burn”

Vinnie Moore – “Mind’s Eye”

Cacophony – “Speed Metal Symphony”

Please let us know your ll time Top 10?

Dream Theater – “Images And Words (their whole discography really)

Nevermore – “Dead Heart In A Dead World” and “This Godless Endeavor”

Symphony X – “The Divine Wings Of Tragedy”

Megadeth – “Rust In Peace”

Queensryche – “Operation: Mindcrime”

Arch Enemy – “Anthems Of Rebellion”

Iron Maiden – “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”

Death – “Symbolic”

Pantera – “Cowboys From Hell”

Savatage – “Edge Of Thorns”

Liquid Tension Experiment – “Liquid Tension Experiment”

 Now it's time for the Chinese portrait aka Le questionnaire de Bernard Pivot , which is inspired by Marcel Proust but this questionnaire is probably more familiar to English audiences as the one that journalist James Lipton asks at the end of  the TV show "Inside the Actors Studio."

What is your favorite word?  Music

What is your least favorite word? Hate

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? Life!

What turns you off?  Bad People

What’s your favorite curse word? Malaka

What’s sound or noise do you love? Everything that comes out of a guitar

What’s sound or noise do you hate? Traffic

If not yourself, who would like to be ? Honestly, just me. I don’t want to be someone else.
What’s the profession would you not like to do? Working for the Army.

Who would like to see on a new bank note ? Hey Gus, here are 3 million euros for you. Now keep making music! Haha.

If you reincarnated as some other plant or animal , what would it be ? Since I love dogs I will say that. A dog!

If God existed, what you like to hear him say at the gates of Heaven? Let’s play some guitar!

Please can you in a few words sharing with us, your view concerning those famous guitar players?

Jimi Hendrix - If it wasn’t Jimi. Guitar would be different today.

Ritchie Blackmore – Rock Legend

Tony Iommi - The Godfather of Heavy Metal

Angus Young - Legend. I love his pentatonic playing

Ace Frehley - Great Rock guitar player

Eddie Van Halen - Legend. He changed the way we play guitar!

Michael Schenker - Another legendary rock player with great pentatonic licks and phrasing

Randy Rhoads He had so much more to give in the guitar world. R.I.P

George Lynch - Awesome phrasing

Yngwie J. Malmsteen - One of my favorites, especially when I was a teenager.

Steve Vaï -Another one of my favorites and a main inspiration of mine. One of the best
guitarists in the world in my opinion.

The Edge - Great Player with nice effect choices in his sound

Reb Beach - Love his Tapping Technique

Chris Impelliteri - Neoclassical beast

Paul Gilbert - One Of my favorites. I have practiced his songs and exercises for countless hours

Ritchie Kotzen - Same with Paul Gilbert. My Legato technique was forged primarily by his exercises and songs. Rock Chops was a big “school” for me.

Kirk Hammett - Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah

John Petrucci – My hero and ultimate favorite guitarist and musician in the world. The reason I started playing the guitar

Kurt Cobain - Great Songwriter

Guthrie Govan - Unbelievable fusion player. Love his solo album

Greg Howe - Rock fusion beast. I love his phrasing and tapping licks

Michael Angelo - Technical Beast

Zakk Wylde -I love Zakk Wylde. Huge inspiration for my vibrato and pinch harmonics

Dimebag - Darrell One Of The best Metal players of all times. Huge inspiration especially in riffing!

Jeff Waters - Highly underrated and underappreciated. I love Annihilator. Jeff is an awesome songwriter and guitarist.

Tosin Abasi - Great Player, but Animals As Leaders is not exactly my cup of tea.

I want to thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck with the new album and on the musical path ahead. Anything else you want to share with the MT’s readers out there?

Thank you very much for having me. I hope I see you all on the road soon

Metal On!


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