Gus G

I strongly believe that Gus G is kind of an underrated musician and to be honest I was glad to see him leave the OZZY establishment. He has been delivering the goods through FIREWIND for more than a decade and has a solid backcatalogue as a solo artist. Now, with Dennis Ward onboard, things look (and will sound) more interesting than ever. METAL KAOZ got the chance to meet him backstage at The Forge in Joliet, IL and had the following discussion about his upcoming solo album and the future of FIREWIND. Read on!

Gus G - Interview

Hello Gus and thank you for taking the time to talk to METAL KAOZ! First of all, how was the tour in Japan? Are they still crazy for Gus G?
Yes, they are! It was a great set of shows.

You had Elize Ryd with you, right?
Yes, and Henning Basse was also with me.

Great, so let’s talk about the present; how was the idea to put together the ‘Gunslingers US Tour’?
I have been friends with Vinnie since 2010 (I think) and I got an email from my agent that there were searching for support groups for this tour. And since I know Vinnie, I contacted him directly and we set this up.

So, the plan was to join this tour as a solo artist, right?
Well, yes, because I don’t think FIREWIND would have been a good match to Vinnie Moore. I mean, there is no musical connection.

Is there any chance for you to do something with Vinnie in the studio?
This is a good idea...

[interrupting] …Do you want to ask him right now? He is next door…
(laughs) I think at some point we should do something together. I just need to think about it; why not? We’ll see.

Cool, we will be on the lookout for any news. So, you left Century Media; was there any specific reason for this, or your contract with them just ended?
The contract did end but I needed a change; I mean, I have been with Century Media since I was 21 years old and now I am 37. There have been a lot of changes in the label, so it was time for me to move. However, they have my entire backcatalogue and it will stay with them.

Can you get the backcatalogue from them?
First of all, I don’t think they will sell it. After all, Sony has recently bought Century Media and this includes the entire backcatalogue, so I don’t think Sony would want to sell.

So, if you’d want, could you re-release any of those albums?
No, I cannot do this on my own. This was my first contract with a record label and usually these deals are forever and involved giving away all of your rights on the releases. For the second deal I had singed including the last two FIREWIND albums, the rights will come back to me after some years.

I guess you learned after some years, right?
Yes, of course I learned. And as your sales increase, then you can bargain better deals with the labels.

The deal you signed with AFM Records is for one album or multiple ones?
The deal is about three albums.

So, the obvious follow-up question is what is the update on your next solo album?
We are currently working on it. In fact, the album is on the mixing stage and we will finish that once we’ve returned from this tour. I have to send the masters early 2018 and the rough plan is to release the album in April.

And you are working with Dennis Ward, right?
Yes, he’s co-writing music with me, plays the bass and most probably he will also do the singing.

Does this mean that you won’t have guest singers this time?
No, there will be no guests this time. I wanted to do this album as a trio.

This looks more like a band to me.
Well, yeah, you could say that.

So, you are back in the studio with Dennis after doing the last FIREWIND album, right?
Indeed, he wrote all the vocal melodies (of course, Henning also worked on those later on) and I did all the music. We are working well together.

And he has a rich Hard Rock background.
Yes, he has. When I sent him the songs for the solo album, he immediately figured out the vibe of the music and there was no need for me to explain where I was heading with this.

You should tell him to bring UNISONIC or PINK CREAM 69 and do a tour here.
That would be awesome but PINK CREAM 69 don’t do US tours. It makes more sense for them to tour in Central Europe. This type of sound is more appealing there, in Asia and in South America, while in North US things are rather dead.

Unfortunately, you are right. And now that you mentioned South America, you have announced some live dates there with FIREWIND, correct?
Yes, it will be the first time for FIREWIND in South America.

Is there any chance to add some North US dates on top of that short run?
No, and in fact after those dates, the touring cycle for “Immortals” will close. And I am talking about club shows, since we will be playing in summer festivals in Europe in 2018.

Got it, so let’s go back to your solo album; how many songs do you have?
We recorded thirteen songs, I think.

And all of them will be in the album or do you have some as bonus tracks?
I think one of them will be released as bonus for Japan and the rest will be included in the regular version of the album.

Although this is kind of a cliché question, but in your case I think it is interesting considering the variety of music styles in your albums; how would you describe the music on the new album, especially now with one singer?
I think it will be on the same style I have been writing... [Dennis Ward enters the room and Gus G asks him] How would you define the new stuff we are doing? Is it like a continuation of the previous album?
Dennis Ward: It’s a little bit more melodic actually.
Gus G: Is it? But some stuff is heavier too.
Dennis Ward: Heavier and a bit more retro as well.

Well, we like retro.
Gus G: But with a modern production, because we don’t want to sound like that...
Dennis Ward: There are some retro sounding riffs, slower stuff...
Gus G: Bluesy and a couple of songs down-tuned, so the sound is heavier.

Thank you, Dennis for your insights; please bring UNISONIC and PINK CREAM 69 in the US!
Dennis Ward: (laughs) I will try! Thanks.

So, the way you and Dennis described the album it seems like it will be a mix of styles; he mentioned retro, Hard Rock and you said heavier stuff...
Well, I was not talking about super heavy but this is part of style. I mean, after all, I am a Heavy Metal guitarist, no matter what style I am playing. And by retro, I am not talking about the sound all these hipster bands are trying to have in their albums. It is still modern.

Being a solo artist, there are no boundaries when it comes to music writing; is there any specific music style that you would like to work on?
I would definitely like at some point to do other stuff and experiment more. As we discussed the last time we spoke, my solo career is on the beginning, meaning that I am still searching for my sound and this is why my first albums had a variety of styles with many guests. My style is still evolving... At some point, I would to do an album outside the Hard Rock sound with maybe ethnic influences, different musical instruments or even I’d like to work with a symphonic orchestra etc.

Would you have any problem releasing this music under the GUS G name or you’d prefer to give it a different name just because it is out of your usual style?
Well, let me write the music first, and then we can discuss the name. Branding and releasing the material are the least of the concerns.

Right, although I was heading towards to what we discussed last time about how the fans of a band kind of put boundaries by expecting a specific type of music. So, adding your name might raise specific expectations regarding the music.
Oh yeah, you are right, this definitely happens. So, let’s say I am about to release a symphonic album with me working with an orchestra or whatever, I would still release the album under my name. However, I have no idea if there would be any interest for such a release. Because I would like to have this released by a record label and not in some sort of a digital format.

Yeah, I see what you are saying. So, after the release of the new album, will you do a tour to promote it?
I would love to and I would love to return to the US in April / May. We are also working on some dates in Europe and of course there is the festival season too. We are also talking about doing a tour in Japan.

And where do FIREWIND fit to this picture?
First of all, FIREWIND have already the two and half months’ long Europe tour early in 2018, the South American dates and then there is an indoor festival in Germany. After that, the band will take a break until summer, when we have the summer festivals. We have been already booked for ‘Wacken’ and I think there are 2-3 more which have not been announced yet. So, the band will be playing live until the end of summer 2018.

What about a new FIREWIND album?
As I am putting the finishing touches on my solo album, I am already thinking of the next step. I would like to record the new FIREWIND album during the summer of 2019 and then release it in 2020.

I am asking this because last time we talked, your mindset was not clear about the future of FIREWIND.
Yeah, but things have changed since then. The band released “Immortals” which was very well received and the tour that followed was great. This year was like testing the waters for FIREWIND as played at festivals, people saw the band live for the first time and there is increasing interest for the band. Also, everything flows really smoothly between us, since everyone is on the same page this time. I mean, we are playing at the shows we all want to, and there is no pressure to do 100 shows and so on. There are no issues, there are good opportunities for the band and being active for 15 years, we are in the position to choose what we want to do. For example, we played live in Russia for the first time and now we will go to South America for the first time and these are places FIREWIND have never been before.

In South America, there is a huge interest and hunger for Metal bands.
Yes, but I will tell you how it will look once I get there.

I guess you are talking about the promoters over there, right?
Yeah, there is a lot of risk involved when booking a tour or some shows there. We have heard a lot of stories about losing money and canceling tours / shows. Anyway, I will know pretty soon. But there is a growing interest for FIREWIND and this is great.

Every band kinda faces the point of moving forward or calling it a day.
Well, FIREWIND have been twice in this situation.

And now the band is stronger! Thank you, Gus G for your time! See you onstage in a couple of hours.
Thank you, guys for the interview, see you then.

Hi Gus, thanks for doing the interview via the phone.

No problem Dimitris after all health comes first, so take care of yourself.


Thanks, but let’s get into business right away; so my first question is about the recent tour in Canada. The weather was pretty harsh, right?

Indeed it was! We were in the middle of a snowstorm but we did make it to the venues in Montreal and Toronto, and the shows were great. There were a lot of people in both shows.


That’s awesome. Let me ask you the obvious question; is Apollo out of the band or this is something temporary?

No, this time Apollo is out of the band for good.


Was this a joint decision or did he just say “I quit”?

This was entirely his decision. But we had problems with Apollo in previous tours when he had to step out, so now we realized that he can no more follow the band’s schedule. He has some issues back home with family and his job, so a heavy touring schedule was out of the question. I think he will continue with SPIRITUAL BEGGARS and do some occasional shows and that’s all.


So, being in a band as a full time member is not an easy task, right?

No, it is not. Things are not as good as most people think. This requires many personal sacrifices and of course a lot of time away from home. Anyway, I think this was the best decision for Apollo.


And was this the best decision for FIREWIND too?

I think this was the best for FIREWIND too, since having someone who is not able to follow the band by falling behind is not something one can work with. So, we need to find someone who is able to keep up with the band’s schedule and this is way better than just having Apollo for some shows. This is also not good for the fans.


Did you have enough time to find a replacement singer or did this happen in a short notice?

This time we had plenty of time since we knew about Apollo’s decision since November. So, we listened to some singers and we decided Kelly Carpenter was the best choice for FIREWIND, at least for the time being. And up till now, Kelly has done a great job.


I know Kelly from his days in BEYOND TWILIGHT where he did an amazing job. I think his singing style fits FIREWIND like hand in glove. Is it in your mind to keep him as permanent singer?

Sure, we have thought about that, but honestly we have not discussed this with him. After all, this is just the first week of the tour, so it needs time to get to know each other. He is getting better with each show and the band looks tighter every night. But to tell you the truth we are not in hurry to make a decision. We want to be 100% sure when choosing the next singer for FIREWIND and that he will be fully dedicated to the band.


There seems to be an issue between FIREWIND and singer…

(laughs) Yeah, we have changed enough singers during the band’s history but amazingly FIREWIND is still on a rising course. I think this is due to the fact the fans love the music first, even though they can eventually get connected with the singer.


Well, the truth is that Apollo had been with the band the most time from the rest of the FIREWIND singers.

You are absolutely right. After all, Apollo had been the singer in FIREWIND for seven years and we did with him four out of seven albums. We had a solid lineup for many years and this is why we won’t rush to make a decision about the next singer.


Of course, and you have a live album coming out soon, right?

Yes and it is on the mixing stage…

How many songs shall we expect in this one?

We haven’t decided yet. We have many recordings on our disposal and we have to choose the best ones because there are some issues to some of them.


Does this mean that you will be re-recording parts that were not that good?

No, because we have a lot of material and we will just leave outside whatever is not good enough. We did not record only the Greek shows but we recorded almost all the shows in the previous European tour with LEAVES’ EYES so we have a lot material to choose from.


That sounds like a lot of work.

Yeah, it is a lot of listening. After the shows in December I got in the studio and started listening to all the tapes and picked the best songs to use. A week ago I listened to the final mix and I liked it a lot except from some songs, so we have to put some additional work on this.


Do you have a release date in mind for the live album or even a title?

The plan is to release this sometime during this summer and there are some ideas regarding the title but nothing solid to tell you. We are working on the final mix, the cover artwork while being on the US tour, so I think the entire project will be completed after this tour.


So, after the US tour there are some summer festival and then what?

There is nothing planned and there is a good possibility for FIREWIND to take a break for a while after summer. I am also working on my solo album that I am thinking of releasing it sometime during this autumn.


Will you release this via Century Media?

I have not decided yet but I am in the talks with Century Media for a possible collaboration, but I am open to possible propositions. I haven’t signed a contract yet.


Will this contain instrumental music?

It will be half with vocals and half instrumental.


So, do you have singer for this?

I have singers… (laughs) I have already recorded some songs with a couple of singers but I cannot tell you the names. I want to have everything confirmed before making announcements. What I can tell you is that there are some surprises here.


How many songs shall we expect in your solo album?

I have completed 11-12 songs but I most probably have to write some more because I am not sure if all of them will make it in the album.


And what about the music; how would you describe it?

It has nothing to do with FIREWIND and it is more Hard Rock oriented. To give you an idea I’d say that if FIREWIND is more DEEP PURPLE then this one will be more LED ZEPPELIN.


That sounds very interesting. You also performed in a Jason Becker benefit show and shared the stage with Uli Jon Roth and Steve Morse among others.

Yeah, this was a benefit show to support Jason Becker with his medical bills. This was a great experience and I had the chance to meet Jason and this family; amazing people. It was a moving experience and the show felt more like a family, despite the fact I did not know everyone.


How did the show go?

It was sold out and as I heard from Jason’s friend this was the one of the two benefit shows that they made money out of it and helped supporting his treatment. From all the shows that had done in the past they did not make a buck.


That’s awesome indeed. Now let me ask you about Ozzy; do you have any news from this camp?

There are plans and some ideas for the next Ozzy album but everything depends on the BLACK SABBATH schedule and on Iommi’s health condition. But I have no other input on this; it’s like taking things as they come.


Let’s go back to FIREWIND; I imagine that you are using a specific setlist since there was not enough time to rehearse many songs, right?

Well, in this tour we are playing 40 minutes sets and this is very good for us. It’s a long time since the last time we did 40 minutes sets apart from festivals. We have two songs from “Few Against Many” and a ‘best of’ from the previous albums. This tour gives us the opportunity to play in front of different crowds that have no idea about FIREWIND. And this is the reason why we chose this tour and make a crossover in different audiences.

Ok, Gus, these were my questions and I have once more to thank you for taking the time to do this.

No problem Dimitris and I’m sure we will meet again, because you always come to FIREWIND shows. So, get well!