--- Gus G Interview--- 21/Sep/10
Hey Gus, first of all thanks for participating in this interview, Firewind have gone from strength to strength in the power metal scene and have become a rising force.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, what got you into guitar, who were your influences and how long you have been playing?
- I started playing when I was 10 after hearing Peter Frampton on his live album. That inspired me to pick up the guitar. At age 14 I got my first electric guitar and thatís when I got into Metallica, Black Sabbath, GNR, etc. My life changed the day I heard Yngwie Malmsteen playing. Immediately I was turned on to the shred guitar style but always maintained the heaviness. These were some of my first influences. Of course some other favourites of mine are Uli Roth, Michael Schenker, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Ritchie Blackmore, Hendrix and Jimmy Page. The list can go on and on.
I first heard Firewind when Forged by Fire was released, but you have had 2 previous albums which are Burning Earth and Between Heaven and Hell, you also have a demo titled ďNocturnal SymphonyĒ can you tell us the difference in style and fan base of those days compared to the days of Forged By Fire and the latest album Allegiance?
- Well the first 2 albums were with a different singer (Stephen Fredrick). He is a great singer but he couldnít really tour. So we were limited to being a studio band at the time. I love both our first albums and we still do quite a few songs from them on our live shows.
Of course our fan base has grown bigger and bigger since then and thatís the result of starting to play tours all over the world.
Now letís talk about your latest album with Firewind titled ďAllegianceĒ a lot has changed but the roots are still there, you now have a new singer (Apollo Papathanasio) and keyboard/guitar player Bob Katsionis, you also recruited the guest female voice of Tara Teresa for the song ďBreaking the Silence, how long was the recording process and are you happy with the band with its changes?
- The album recordings lasted one month and we recorded in JM and Friedman studios in Sweden. Iím very happy with the way things have been for FIREWIND the last one and a half year or so. Apollo was the best frontman choice for us; heís an amazing performer both in studio and on stage. Mark Cross is also the type of drummer I always wanted to have in my band. He really beats the sh*t out of those drums! Me and Bob wrote together for the first time on this album although Bob has been with us since the end of 2003. Heís a unique talent; there are not many people like him in the whole world! Heís probably the best keyboard shredder out there at the moment and he can also kick most guitar playersí asses as well. Heís also a great songwriter, engineer and producer.
Your guitar playing has shifted up a gear too, what I love most is that you don't overdo guitar solos and have them last 2 minutes in a 6 minute song, is the reason to maintain interest in a song or another reason?
- Iím a songwriter and a servant of music above all. The guitar thing comes in second. Maybe you donít believe me, but thatís the truth. My main goal is to write great songs that will stand the test of time. Of course I want my guitar work and solos to also be great thatís why Iím trying to play the best notes that each song requires. In my opinion, great solos are also short solos (with few exceptions of course, like Hotel California!).
I can hear Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman all over your playing; did you watch any instructional DVDs when you were learning?
- Yes I did watch their instructional videos when I was growing up. They helped me a lot in regards to finding out lots of details on their technique. I also learned a lot from them about the discipline of practicing.
You were very fortunate to have a guitar duel with Marty Friedman on the Forged by Fire album on the track Feast of Savages, how did you go about getting him and what was it like playing with a hero?
- It was a big dream coming true for me. I love Martyís playing on Cacophony and Megadeth and Iíve been a huge fan of his for many many years. I first met him in Japan while we were on tour in 2004. We kept in touch and when the time came to do the new album I asked him if heíd do a solo on this song. He gladly accepted and I love the stuff he played. Reminds me a lot of the early Cacophony days. Iím grateful for Martyís friendship and I was honoured by his solo on my album.
You have been in many bands such as Mystic Prophecy, Nightrage, Dream Evil and Arch Enemy, how did you enjoy your time with these bands and what do you think of the Ammot brothers back together?
- I had a great time playing with all these bands and learned a lot from each one of them. Iím glad that the Amott brothers are back together, sort of justifies my gut feeling to move on with my own band after the Ozzfest 2005 tour with Arch Enemy. Plus, to me Arch Enemy IS the Amott brothers! It would never sound the same no matter who played in Chrisí place.
Joe Stump is an active member with us at shred academy and has done many DVDs with us, you cite him as a huge influence, tell us what you like most?
- Joe is a monster shredder and I took lessons from him back in 1998. Joe is very true and faithful to the path heís chosen as an instrumentalist and with the neo-classical metal guitar style. He knows what he wants and what heís doing and heís one of the best of his genre. To me, that is very inspiring and motivated me back then to form my own band and follow my own path.
Tab books by the actual artists and instructional DVDs are making a comeback and I am very excited about some, any chance of a DVD or book from you?
- I would love to do an instructional DVD and/or book. I just hope Iíll find the time for it haha!! To be honest I have plans to shoot an instructional DVD but FIREWINDís schedule is pretty tied up at the moment and for the following months.
Another thing I am excited about is your signature guitar because when I saw the Tyranny video I said to my brother ďthat guitar is mine, they better release it,Ē was it a long process to get it built? Can you tell us some features?
- Thanks!! I love that guitar; itís the best one Iíve ever played! ESP put a lot of passion into their guitars and they make the best! I have 2 models actually Ė one is the black one u saw on the Tyranny video which comes with a standard bridge, 22 frets, rosewood fretboard, flame inlays and Seymour Duncan pickups. The other model is the same guitar but in red colour with flame top maple and an original Floyd Rose tremolo system. It also comes with a reverse headstock. ESP USA recently released the LTD version of it as well which kicks ass!
Greece is a beautiful country, do you sometimes get homesick on the road? Do you miss the great weather?
- I rarely get homesick on tour. I enjoy being on the road so much and I know that sooner or later Iíll be back home hanging out. You know I also lived in the US for a year and in Sweden for almost 3 years. THEN I was homesick, but not on tours.
They say behind every great man is a great woman, does family life or relationships have an effect on your guitar playing?
- Of course they do! Playing music is about having the right feeling to create and the relationships with the people that are close to you play a big role. I have a great family that supports me on my music since day one and Iím grateful for that. I also have a great girlfriend who loves me and supports me 120%. Life is so good when you know you have people that care about you and support all your efforts.
Being a guitar player myself, I have found it difficult to break a mould of the same things being played over and over, what advice can you give to people in the same shoes as me?
- Iíd say this: Donít worry about being ground breaking. Just be yourself. Keep the best elements from the guitarists you love that you think fit for your style and try to come up with YOUR way of doing things. Your own style and sound will develop in time; I know mine did and is still under development from many aspects.
Any closing statement?
- Thanks for the interview and support, check out FIREWINDís new album ďAllegianceĒ.