Firewind – Have Axe, Will Travel

Sunday, 31st March 2013 Where have you seen the biggest growth in yourself as a person through the years?

Gus G.: I think I have become a much better musician since I’ve come to play with Ozzy. Just doing these gigs on such a large scale – he really made me want to be a much better player and mature as a songwriter. I look at myself and see how I am different from others to make Ozzy want me to be a part of his bands. I’m more confident about my style now. Can you tell us about some of the most memorable fan encounter experiences you’ve had – either in Firewind or Ozzy? I would imagine the Far Eastern audiences are quite warm and receptive given your guitar guru status…

Gus G.: Ozzy is God in Japan. I’ve had lots of experience with that country through the years; I’ve been touring there with Firewind for 10 years. That’s a place where we took off in the early years. The Japanese fans show up everywhere you travel, by train, in the hotel lobbies, they bring you presents and are very quiet and polite. As opposed to South American audiences, where the people go insane. I’m sure you’ve seen the Iron Maiden Flight 666 DVD? You can imagine a similar situation when Ozzy plays down there. That was my first time down in South America ever, it’s one of the places Firewind has never been yet. I didn’t know what to expect and it was mind-blowing. What are your feelings on social media at this point? You seem pretty active with your own official account on Twitter, do you think it’s really important to engage and connect with your fans in this immediate way?

Gus G.: I think it’s cool. I’m not sure if it sells more records – it probably does, but I think it’s just cool today that we have these extra platforms and channels to promote ourselves and connect with our fans to make new ones. It all depends on how you use it. I don’t use Twitter to post about drinking coffee and such – you need to promote yourself in a way without forcing things down people’s throats. If somebody has a question and I can give them answer -I like that. Do you still keep in touch with one of your first mentors in the music scene, David T. Chastain, who signed you to his label Leviathan Records for the first two Firewind albums?

Gus G.:Yes, actually I do keep in touch with David. Burning Earth, Firewind’s second album, is still with Leviathan and we re-released that one recently. On the Frets of Fury tour I actually met David for the first time, he came out to the Atlanta show. I’ve known David since 1998 and I had never met the guy. He’s produced a couple of my records, we’ve been in touch for a while. I learned a lot from him, he’s actually the very first person that really believed in this band. Did you experience any culture shock when you first came to the United States, as most are aware that you attended Berklee College of Music?

Gus G.: Yes, even before that I was visiting America since I was 11 years old. In 1991, I went to Florida to visit my uncle, so I hung out for a month and went to Disneyland. I came back in 1994 and spent a couple of months there in the summer. It was more of a culture shock the first time, picking up English was a challenge. I would say to people, “How do you do?” and they would say, “Hey, what’s up?” [laughs]. For an 11-year old kid that was weird. I really loved America from the first moment I stepped foot on it. How do you feel about the state of metal in 2012? What changes do you think need to take place to keep the music vital, fresh and well-supported?

Gus G.: I don’t know man, there seems to be a lot of different scenes in heavy metal these days. It didn’t really used to be that way. I’ve noticed in America the fans are a bit more open-minded when it comes to difference – a band like Firewind, we can easily tour with a band like Arsis in the US without getting tons of crap about it. You can’t really do that in Europe – Arsis would have to tour with a black metal band at least. That’s one thing I don’t like about heavy metal these days – everything seems to be about the tag…why does it have to be like that? Music is music – if you like different kinds of music, you should be able to enjoy that. I don’t know if the media has created this and forced it over to people, that’s one thing I don’t dig. We have a lot of cool bands and a lot of cool new music coming out every month, there’s something for everybody out there. You have a guest appearance coming up on the new Tiamat album, and have appeared on albums from artists like Dew Scented, Arch Enemy, Rob Rock, Old Man’s Child, and In This Moment among others – how often are you approached for these spots and what criteria do you set when it comes to choosing which bands or artists to perform with?

Gus G.: Usually, I get asked a lot about these things. Sometimes it’s just a friends’ band that I just dig and other times it’s been people I haven’t met but I like what they are doing. I just check out the song and if I like the song I’ll play on it. Tiamat, I know the band for many years and Johan [Edlund] actually lives in Greece. We hang out here a lot – I asked him to do some background vocals on the new Firewind track “Battleborn” and he did that, so he asked me to return the favor to do a solo on the Tiamat song. I checked it out, it was a really cool song with a Billy Idol vibe to it, so I played a solo on there. If you had to lock away one Firewind album and one song to be looked into 100 years down the road as the best representations of your wide breadth of work, which ones would you choose and why?

Gus G.: One song! Man, you have to be kidding me! [laughs] Not that I think we are full of classics or anything, but it’s pretty hard. What song am I mostly known for? I’m not sure… “The Fire and the Fury” is one of the good tracks, even though there’s no vocals in it. Allegiance would be the album to put the band on more of a worldwide map. Although I think The Premonition is a more representative album, as a whole. Right now, I feel proud about the new album, but I don’t know how that will look like a few years down the line. One of the things I find cool is you’ve always written instrumentals that still have that melodic sensibility that the average person can get into. Are you conscious of that factor when you create those instrumentals?

Gus G.:They have to be a composition for sure – we’ve never really done instrumentals that are backing tracks for Bob and I to shred like idiots. We have those moments in there, but they have to say something musically. That’s why we do a few of them – that’s why I’ve never done an instrumental record. I want our instrumental songs to be special. For example, we didn’t do any on the new album because we didn’t come up with anything as cool as “The Fire and the Fury” or “SKG” from the last album, as an example. I’m sure we’ll come up with another cool instrumental at some point. Do you still keep in touch with your former band mates in Dream Evil and Mystic Prophecy as we know you are able to with Nightrage?

Gus G.:Yes, I talk to Lia [Roberto Dimitri Liapakis] from Mystic Prophecy every now and then, and I recently Snowy Shaw last summer when I was in Sweden and we hung out a little bit. I spoke to Fredrick [Nordstrom, Dream Evil, guitarist] a few months ago. How important do you believe having a cohesive team is in developing the profile of Firewind, not just within the band members but also the business side with record labels, promoters, equipment manufacturers, management and so forth?

Gus G.: That’s very important. Not only having a solid band together, but like you said with the rest of the team around you really supporting everything and investing. I consider myself one of the very lucky dudes; I’ve had very early on support from Century Media, gotten along with the European label people and brought us from being a small band to a larger audience. We’ve had the same manager for the last five or six years, and booking agency at the same time. The factor with the endorsement partners – a lot of bands don’t have this. I love ESP guitars, Blackstar Amps, Seymour Duncan pickups – they make really good equipment and they help in other aspects with cross promotion to help the band reach different audiences as well. What do the next 12 to 18 months look for Firewind and Gus G. in general?

Gus G.: It’s hard to say right now – I’m not sure what is happening next year. For this year, we are going to be on tour with Firewind; July we are doing European festivals, in August we are playing in China. In the fall we will do a headlining tour of Europe and the UK for September and October, and I think we will come back to the US at the end of the year. I want to do some special shows at the end of this year, to celebrate the band’s tenth anniversary. There’s always a possibility next year of going back into the studio with Ozzy…who knows what’s going to happen.

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