FIREWIND Interview with Gus G. by Scott Alisoglu for Live4Metal.com
To be perfectly honest, the first time I heard Burning Earth I was prepared to give it a mediocre review. Then the more I listened to it the more I like it, the depth of the music, the darker and heavier tones, eventually becoming obvious. I ended up liking it more than Between Heaven and Hell and still listen to it for pure enjoyment today. What are you thoughts regarding this album's ability to grow on people (or is it just me)?
Gus G: I think that this is something magical about this album. No, it's not just you that felt this way, a lot of other people have told me the same. It's good when an album grows on you, cause you will want to listen to it over and over again and with every listen, you will always get something new out of it. I think that's cool.
Compare Burning Earth to Between Heaven and Hell.
Gus G: I think "Between Heaven and Hell" is a very good album, but the new one is more mature. It has a special character of its own, that I think is what it sets it apart from the other releases. The material on the new album are better arranged and performed. Of course I have more knowledge of things than I did 2 years ago, so this is only a natural development.
The album begins with a spoken introduction that is part of "Steal them Blind." It actually reminded me of something from a Manowar album. Tell me about the introduction, as well as the song.
Gus G: Cool comparison cause I love Manowar!! The idea of the spoken introduction was David's and Stephen's. I originally wanted this soundtrack type of keyboards as an intro to the album and then "bang!" the first riff comes in. It worked out fine with Stephen's words in the beginning. This song generally, is one of my favourites cause it contains some unusual musical parts. I think there's a very cool spooky vibe to the song, although it's a strong opener.
Stephen Fredrick's vocals on the album weren't as far out in the mix as on Between Heaven and Hell. He also didn't seem to be singing as high, letting the huskier end of his tone come out more. Is this something that just happened or was there some discussion about how the vocals should sound on this album?
Gus G: Actually, I won't agree with you that Stephen's vocals were high in the mix on the first album. I think they were placed where they should be. The same goes with this album. Well, the music was a bit darker on this album, so Stephen's performance was also a bit darker and a bit more epic on some songs.
David T. Chastain co-write several songs on the album. What did David's input add to the songs on the album?
Gus G: First of all, David writes incredible lyrics. I'm very happy that he contributed his lyrics on this album. David's input hasn't stopped there of course. He has also produced Stephen's vocals and generally I consider him Firewind's 5th member. He has helped the band with many things and has always been there for us.
"I am the Anger" is a song that you and David wrote together and it's also one of the strongest on the album. The stop/start rhythm just before the big chorus works so well. Tell me about the song. Is this the album's single?
Gus G: I guess you can say that, since we have also made a very cool video for that song. I agree with you that this is one of the strongest tracks on the Cd. This is a sound that I would like to approach more in the future. It sounds very contemporary, but with an 80s metal touch. Kinda like a very modern Priest. The video also came out very cool. There's these guys looking very metal that are in a deserted place and they are digging to find some crystal cube. And there's some really nice band shots on the video as well.
As far as catchiness goes, I found "Brother's Keeper" to be the strongest of the bunch. In my review of the album, I thought it sounded similar to something that some of the more melodic stuff that the Michael Schenker Group plays. Discuss that one.
Gus G: I like this comparison to, hahaha!! Actually "Brother's Keeper" was the very first song I composed for this album. I originally had intentions for this song to be the "hit single" but the album turned out too heavy and dark in the end. This song for me is also one of my favourites and it's a breath of fresh air in the album. I really like Stephen's lyrics and vocal line in the chorus. It's a very emotional song overall. We will definitely play it live. I guess MSG did have some songs in this vein. Maybe I was influenced subconciously. I originally had a Scorpions vibe in mind.
"The Fire and the Fury" is the instrumental that you wrote for the album. Did this song start out as an instrumental? Did you plan on putting an instrumental on the album from the beginning?
Gus G: Yes, I did plan to have an instrumental on the album for 2 reasons. First, to keep up the tradition of the first album with the instrumental song and secondly, because I don't get to do instrumentals in any of my other bands. I wanted to create one of the coolest instrumental songs around. When David heard this song he told me "are you crazy? This acoustic part could be a great ballad and the opening riff could be a really great metal song!" He's actually right! We could make 2 great songs out of it, but I really like it the way it came out. Everyone seems to be impressed by this song. It gets everyone's attention. We've actually done a video for this song as well, but it's only available in the Japanese edition of the album as a Cd extra. The video is basically showing me playing in a cruise boat that goes around Tokyo bay. We shot this video this September, while I was in Japan for promotion. I think guitarists would find it interesting.
"The Longest Day" is the album closer and the only thing close to a ballad. It is "dedicated to the innocents of war." It's got a very melancholy feel to it. Please tell me about the song.
Gus G: I'm glad that you felt the melancholy of the song. The lyrics are very touching. I guess it's our own anti-war anthem, like Scorpions have "Wind of Change". We feel that this song fits our times very much. Once again David wrote amazing lyrics and Stephen performance is stunning.
I know all the members live in different places around the world. Did you all get together to write and record the album? How much long-distance work did you do? Please explain the process of writing and recording this album.
Gus G: I am responsible for all the music and arranging in this album. Stephen wrote most lyrics and vocal lines. The way we usually write is like this: I make demos in my home studio which I send to David. Then he comes up with any arranging ideas that might work and he works with Stephen on the vocals and lyrics. This is basically our chemistry and it has worked out great so far.
Stephen worked with David in the US, and I worked in Europe with Petros and Stian on the recordings and production. We recorded the album in 3 different studios. Guitars, bass and keys were recorded in A29 studio in Greece, drums were recorded in Norway and vocals in Atlanta. After all this was done, I flew to Sweden to mix the album with Fredrik Nordstrom.
You are obviously consumed with music. You split time with Firewind, Dream Evil, and Mystic Prophecy. How difficult is to continually generate new ideas for each band?
Gus G: I always work with one band at a time, so when I work with a specific band I get into the band's sound very much, so that the material I will come up with will fit the band. Of course it doesn't always work and a lot of ideas are thrown away. But generally speaking, it has worked out fine so far.
For those who may not be familiar with these three bands please compare the music in each band.
Gus G: I can give you an idea of how each band sounds, but I don't like to compare them.
Firewind: Contemporary metal with very heavy riffs and twin guitar melodies.
Dream Evil: 80s cliche hard rock/metal with a heavier touch.
Mystic Prophecy: Power/Thrash metal with melodic vocals.
Explain your role in each of these bands and how your contributions to the music may differ depending on the project.
Gus G: I am the guitarist in all these bands. I also compose music for all of them. In Dream Evil I co-write with all my bandmates, while in Mystic Prophecy I write most of the music together with singer Liapakis. He also writes the lyrics. In Firewind I write the music and Stephen writes the lyrics.
Live 4 Metal has given quite a bit of coverage to Dream Evil, including an interview with Fredrik Nordstrom. Were you happy with how Evilized came out? Do you think it's a better album than Dragon Slayer?
Gus G: Yes, I know that and thanx for the support! I am happy with Evilized. I think that both of our albums are very good and I'm proud of them. I think Dragonslayer is more of a party album, while Evilized is a darker album. I think that both are equally good.
By the way, I meant to ask you this in the first interview. Didn't you have some legal troubles with Mystic Prophecy and a dispute with Crash Music? What ever became of that?
Gus G: Yes, we did. Crash Music released our album without even signing and returning the licence agreement. Of course they didn't pay the advance either. The label boss Mark Nawara should go to jail, as he's ripped off everyone in the business. But since no one can find him, I just hope something bad happens to him. He's the biggest crook I've ever known and his label is the biggest rip off ever!!! ATTENTION BANDS: Never send your demos to that label!!! Of course we could do nothing about this rip off. We couldn't find him and there's no way we can get our money back. Our old label (B.Mind) went bankrupt, so they couldn't care less about it.
Speaking of labels, what has your experience with Leviathan and David T. Chastain been like?
Gus G: Leviathan is really treating Firewind with a lot of respect and we are a big priority for them. Although they are a small label and they don't have a lot of money, they have managed to do many things for the band so far and I'm grateful for that.
David Chastain is really a mentor to me. I have learned so much from him about the music business. It's great to work with him.
Will Firewind be touring or playing any live dates?
Gus G: Yes. We have already announced our first ever Japan tour, through our website www.firewind.gr We will play there in January with Rob Rock's band. We are currently discussing a European tour, but I don't know if this will happen, as our Europen label Massacre, is very weak in helping their bands to tour. I promise though, that we will try our best to play in Europe this time.
With the amount of time you spend on music, I'm assuming that you don't have time left for a regular job. Are you able to make a living from these projects?
Gus G: Yes I am. I wouldn't have been able to play in 3 bands if I had a regular job. Of course I'm not getting rich or anything, but as long as I can pay the bills, it's OK.
Who are some of the bands you've been listening to lately? What albums have impressed you?
Gus G: I really liked the new Iron Maiden album. I think they came up with great songs once again.
If you were forced to pick one of your current bands to play in, which one would it be?
Gus G: I love all my bands, they are my babies. Of course Firewind is my priority, as it's my creation completely.
Do you have any closing comments for your fans and the Live4Metal readers?
Gus G: I want to thank you for the interview and for all the support you've given us so far!!