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Gus G (Firewind)

Interview with Gus G from Firewind
by Anton Sanatov at 04 March 2017, 12:07 AM

When it comes to Power Metal one is used to expecting nothing less than rays of exorbitant grandeur. It is indeed one of those Metal sub-genres that has managed to take the already spiked dynamic momentum of Heavy Metal and glorify it with even more blazes of immensity. Of course, not every band is suited for carrying the scorching torch of the epic genre, but if there is one group that can handle such a task – and has been doing so for many years – it is FIREWIND. In the wake of the band’s latest studio release “Immortals” Metal Temple had the opportunity to catch up the groups main composer and guitarist extraordinaire Gus G. and discuss heritage, tradition, technical difficulties and the art of ‘stepping things up a notch’.

Hello Gus.

Hi, how are you?

Fine, thanks. How about you?


Would you like to get started?


I’d like to begin by asking a bit about the new record. What was your vision for this album; what direction were you taking with “Immortals”?

Well, first of all it’s a concept album, and it’s the first time that we’ve attempted to make a concept album; so that was quite a task in itself. I don’t’ know, for us the whole mind set was to do more of what we did before, in a sense that, we said: “let’s take everything, all the elements that define what FIREWIND is and lets step everything up a notch”. We wanted to have more shredding solos, more epic arrangements, to make the heavy parts even heavier, to have bigger production values. We also didn’t want to limit ourselves to 3-minute songs; two songs out of ten on this one are over the 6-minute marker, and that is pretty much a record for us, we’ve never done that before. There are all these kinds of things that we tried out for the first time. We really didn’t hold back.

One of your albums – 2003’s “Burning Earth” – also features a song called “Immortal Lives Young”. Is mortality or immortality something that you contemplate quite often?

Huh… Apparently, now that you mention it. (Laughs) Well, that song, “Immortal Lives Young”, is actually about a different thing. It’s about that time when you’re young and you think that you are basically Superman; you think you’re invincible and that nothing can happen to you. Then when you get older and you become an adult you realise that “hey, we’re all going to die someday”. (Laughs) This album on the other hand is not about that type of subject. It’s about our heritage and our Greek background. We’re focusing on the epoch around 400BC and the two wars that happened at that time in Ancient Greece – the very famous battles of Salamis and Thermopolis. So for us, this album, the “Immortals” is much more representative of the spirit and the bravery of those people.

So would you say that Hellenic history is a major source of inspiration for you?

Not up until now. Like I said, it’s the first time that we’ve talked about it. It’s something that was in the back of our heads for a long time; and even fans were approaching us and telling us that we should talk about our and given that we play Power Metal it would be the perfect vehicle for that. It was always one of those things that we’ve discussed within the band, but you just need the right timing for these things, you cannot force it. Our previous albums mostly talked about the human condition through realistic lyrics that are relatable to everyday life, but this time it was a different, it was time for us to pay tribute, if you like, to our heritage and also bring forth a part of our history. Of course, we also thought that it would be cool if a Heavy Metal band from Greece told that story as well; it would make it more unique.

As a lead guitar player/composer the spotlight is always on you. Do you push yourself to implement new techniques, scales or musical approaches to keep the content varied?

Yes, absolutely. I always practice and I always try to come up with new things. To me music is like a never-ending journey, and it’s the same thing with the guitar. There are all these endless possibilities of what you can achieve, of what you can do.

And did you use any new recording or playing methods on this album?

Well, to begin with we actually recorded in different studios; we did the drums in Belgium, the vocals in Germany and we recorded the guitars and keyboards in our home studios in Greece (I have a pro-tools set-up, as I’ve always been recording with those things). We did a lot of re-amping for the guitars, which is a modern technique but it not really new for us, and when it came to the solos I indeed tried to push myself. On some songs I wanted to be more extreme then on some other songs I wanted to be more melodic. I guess I would go back to your first question. Everything was ‘more’ this time around. In the melodic parts I wanted the melodies to really stand out – therefore the album has some really strong melodies and hook lines - and when it comes to shredding there are some really insane, fast and intricate parts on there for sure.

The gap between this FIREWIND album and the last has been the longest in the band’s career, during which we saw you release two successful solo albums. Did the return to the band-fold require any sort of adjustment?

Well, I think it was more of a thing where everybody missed the band and everybody felt like it was the right time to get back together and take it slowly.  I think that one on the main things that has kept this band together is the friendship; I think that without this friendship the band wouldn’t exist today. We all just missed each other as friends and we always kept in touch even when I went out and did solo stuff. We also decided to make some changes in our infrastructure, how we work as a band; we got a new booking agent and now we are self-managed. I think that we are all a bit more mature right now then we were five or ten years ago and we all know our place in the band, and everybody trusts each other. I believe that the band functions a lot smoother on both a personal and professional level.

What are the major differences for you personally between recording a solo record and a FIREWIND record?

Well, when I went into the studio to do my first solo record it was a strange experience for me because there was really nobody else there to talk to and ask for an opinion. (Laughs) There were no band members there, just the guy with whom I was recording in the studio. Therefore it was like: “well, I guess if I like it lets move on to the next song”. Whereas in the past I had to consult with the band and see what they think and whether they have any ideas. It’s good to have the band there but sometimes its also quite liberating to be on your own so you can just do whatever the hell you want and not have to really fight for your ideas to go forward. I would say that both are very special in their own way. On this album however, we didn’t really do it how we used to do it as a band - because these songs had already existed in my hard-drive for years. I’ve been piling them up and so there were not too many new songs that were written (maybe a couple) and a lot of those ideas go back to around 2009. Also, this time I worked with a co-producer (Dennis Ward) who co-wrote the album with me; I did all the music and he wrote all the lyrics and melodies. Everybody in the band just basically trusted me to finish the job. You know, when the time comes when I’m finished and I’m ready to present the idea I just really hope that they like it, and luckily they did.

Did you bring any nuances form your solo work into this record?

Like what?

For example your solo work featured some electronic elements, so did you try to incorporate anything similar into this album?

Oh no, no. For us and for me it’s pretty clear by now what FIREWIND should sound like. It is a Power Metal band and everything should be about that. It should be a very classic, traditional Heavy Metal sound or a very European Power Metal sound, and I just leave all other experimentations for my solo projects.

And what do you think makes a great Metal song?

Obviously a great riff, a great hook line, for the vocal, for sure…but you need a killer solo in there too. (Laughs)



Being a technically proficient guitarist there are probably not a lot of licks that you cannot master, but are there any songs (yours or others’) that you find particularly challenging?

On this new album?

On the new album and in general.

Oh a lot of songs are challenging for me to play. I find out that sometimes I push myself too hard in the studio and then before we go into rehearsal I have to practice those songs again in order to play them live; because there is a difference between sitting in a chair and playing the same lick over and over again a hundred times and playing it with a guitar hanging low, your legs spread, headbanging and raising your Metal horns to the crowd all whilst expecting it to sound tight and clean. You do need to practice the same parts when you’re standing up as well. I suppose that “Ode To Leonidas” has a very challenging solo and I would say “We Defy”, but that’s just off the top of my head. To be honest with you we haven’t yet rehearsed the new material. I also think that one of the toughest one to play would be “Hands Of Time”, because that song is written in strange keys; not in the usual E or A. It starts in F sharp and then the solo is in G sharp, and that is a very weird key to solo in and do all these technical guitar parts. So I’ll probably have to practice that one quite a bit.

Are there any instruments besides the guitar that you play or would like to master?

I like to play bass, but that's a guitar with fewer strings isn’t it? (Laughs) No offence to bass players. I love playing bass on my demos, and even on my solos albums I play bass as well.

Given your Greek heritage, have you ever played any of the traditional Greek instruments, a Bouzouki for example?

You know, I’ve tried playing one but I’m not very good at it. I’m sure that if I’d practice a bit I could do it. It’s just very different. The strings are doubled like that of a twelve string guitar and those guys play really fast and they have no sustain on their sound, no distortion; it’s all clean. So it’s pretty hard to play that stuff.

Do you have any future plans for more solo work?

Yes I do actually. I’ve already been writing and piling up some songs. It depends on when this tour cycle is over. I suppose that we are looking at some time in 2018; by then it would three years since “Brand New Revolution” came out. Of course we’ll wait and see, but that is my aim right now.

And are we going to hear you play on a new OZZY OSBOURNE record any time soon?

I don’t know man. That’s really a question for him and not for me.

Alright. Is there anything that you would like to add?

Thank you for the interview.

Thank you Gus.


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Edited 09 December 2022

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