Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself?
GG: My name is Gus G. I play guitar for Ozzy Osbourne & my own band Firewind.
MW: How did Firewind come together?
GG: The story of Firewind is a weird one. I started out back in 1998 doing demos with friends helping me out. My demos caught the attention of 80s guitar hero David T. Chastain, who signed me to his Leviathan Records label and helped me find musicians to put together the first Firewind album. Since then we’ve done 7 albums changed several line-ups until we finally became a full touring band.
MW: Tell me about the following releases:
MW: Nocturnal Symphony
GG: My very first demo I recorded back in 1998 with the help of some friends from Berklee College Of Music that I briefly attended. My very first attempt to write songs, so the outcome isn’t really any good haha!
MW: Between Heaven and Hell
GG: Our first album. After Nocturnal Symphony demo, I kept writing material for the next 3 years and under the guidance & help of David Chastain, we came up with this album.
MW: Burning Earth
GG: The follow-up to our 2002 debut. This came out in late 2003 in Japan and early 2004 in rest of the world. Same team behind this album. David Chastain producing and Stephen Fredrick on vocals. I love his rough voice which is very “Graham Bonnet” vibe. On this album I used a different rhythm section and our 2nd longest serving member joined – bass player Petros Christo.
MW: Forged by Fire
GG: Our first 2 albums were successful in Japan and we were asked to tour there. That’s when I realized I needed a REAL band, and not a bunch of studio musicians if we were gonna tour the world. Enter a new vocalist, Chity Somapala & Bob Katsionis on keyboards and after the Japan tour in 2004, we entered the studio to record “Forged By Fire”. A bigger record deal came together with Century Media Records and this album gave us better distribution, bigger worldwide sales and press and our first European tour.
GG: After some complications with the “Forged By Fire” line-up I decided to give it one last shot and see if the band could finally make a breakthrough album. Enter vocalist Apollo Papathanasio & drummer Mark Cross and with this line-up we remained stable for a few years. “Allegiance” was the album that put Firewind on the worldwide Metal map. We toured, Asia, Europe & N. America for the first time, played lots of big festivals, headlined our first UK tour and got our first Top 10 album in our homeland Greece. Toured UK & Europe with DragonForce which opened up a whole new generation of fans for the band.
MW: The Premonition
GG: For many fans our finest moment. With a stable line-up we established the sound we started on “Allegiance” album. The band’s identity shaped up finally and we had created our own sound & style. We became the first Rock/Metal band from Greece that played Download Fest at UK’s historic Donington location, we did our first European headline tour and got a top 5 single in Greece with “Mercenary Man”. We toured extensively for this album as well.
MW: Days of Defiance
GG: We continued building on what we established with the previous 2 albums, but this album was done under pressure, as I had just joined Ozzy’s band and wasn’t able to put in my 100% into it. The relations within the band members were tense. I think this album has some great songs in it, but the production could have been better. Still, we toured succesfully as headliners in Japan, Europe, UK & N. America which made us realize that our fanbase was solid around the world. So, it was still an important step.
MW: Few Against Many
GG: New drummer on this album and it’s Jo Nunez of Nightrage. He definitely kicked in some energy in the band. A much heavier album & really good production on it. We mixed it in the US for the first time at Audiohammer studios with Jason Suecof & Eyal Levi. Lots more guitar than the previous records. We also collaborate with Apocalyptica on the song “Edge Of A Dream”. Our debut single “Wall of Sound” went gold in Sweden, while the album charted in Germany, Sweden, UK, US and Greece where it went to #1 and stayed for 2 continuous weeks. Not bad so far ;-)
MW: Why has there been so many lineup changes in Firewind?
GG: Being in a band is not easy. You need to compromise a lot in order to be in a serious touring band. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle (despite what many think) and it requires lots of sacrifices. We’re not a band that started out like 5 buddies from the same town. I had to build a band with members from different places around the world. Along the way, people want different things and change. So, I think that’s the primary reason why we’ve had so many members in Firewind.
MW: Tell me about your new lead singer Kelly Sundown Carpenter?
GG: Kelly is an amazing singer and will be singing for us on our upcoming US tour with Turisas, as Apollo decided to quit recently. We jammed with Kelly recently and he did a great job on our songs. Looking forward to playing some gigs with him and we’ll see what happens.
MW: Tell me about the new Few Against Many tour?
GG: In 2012 we toured Europe & Asia and 2013 will take us to North America with Turisas on the “Guards of Glory” Tour. For details & tickets, check http://www.firewind.gr. After that we plan to play lots of European festival until August.
MW: How have the Firewind fans reacted to the new lead singer Kelly Sundown Carpenter?
GG: I expected it to be a lot worse. Apparently there are lots of fans out there who are looking forward to the change for various reasons. There’s some that took it really bad which was expected, but to be honest even with Apollo in the band, we had to recruit replacement singers for our tours. In 2007 Apollo missed the whole 2nd leg of the “Allegiance” Tour and that was a whole around-the-world run! Also in 2011 he missed our European headline tour which was also important cause it was Firewind’s first tour since 2009 when I joined Ozzy. So, changing singers is not a new thing for us!
But it’s amazing cause I can’t think of any other band that would be able to get away with shit like this. I think we do, because our fans come to the shows to listen to the songs, they connect with the music first and foremost and that’s a very strong thing. And that means a lot to the rest of us in the band.
MW: By the way congrats on your award Best Metal Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine. What did you think when you won?
GG: Thank you. I still can’t believe this just happened! It’s really humbling and it makes me want to play even better now. I’m proud of this achievement and I thank each and everyone who voted for me!
MW: Are you looking forward to the Full Metal Cruise? Tell me about the cruise?
GG: Actually I don’t really feel comfortable being on a boat. But we’ll be on the Full Metal Cruise for 2 out of the 5 days, so I think that’s something I can deal with. Besides that, the line-up is killer and I’m looking forward to the experience. The whole idea of doing gigs on a cruise ship is more and more popular these days and I’m curious to see how’s that gonna be.
MW: What big music festivals is Firewind doing in 2013?
GG: So far we’re confirmed for Sweden Rock, Summer Breeze, Bloodstock, PPM Fest, Rock In Den Ruinen & the Wacken Metal Cruise. We’re going to be doing lots more, so stay tuned for more announcements.
MW: Which festival is your favorite to play?
GG: I like them all, as long as it’s organized and the whole festival is properly run.
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
GG: I wanna thank everyone for supporting Firewind the past 10 years and also our latest album “Few Against Many”. We’ll be releasing a live album before the summer, so keep checking back for more news on that as well as more shows added!