Lords Of Metal reviewed about a dozen albums on which you appeared, and we also did a lot of interviews with your (former) band members from your other (or former) bands, but we never had the occasion to talk to the master himself: Gus P.!
Gus who?!?!? Maybe you mean Gus G., because Gus P. is dead from what I've heard…..
Ok, I admit, I really screwed it up!! My deepest apologies… So what about a little introduction about you, and than I mean of course Gus G.?
I started playing guitar when I was ten. I was inspired after I listened to Peter Frampton's live album and after watching Al Di Meola on tv. When I was fourteen, my father bought me my first electric guitar. That's when I got heavily into practicing. By the time I was sixteen, I was playing in some cover bands in my hometown, Thessaloniki. When I was seventeen I was awarded a scholarship to study at Berkeley College of music in Boston. I went there but dropped out only two weeks later. That's when I felt I was ready to start my own band and try to get a record deal and tour the world. So, in 1998 I recorded my first demo CD under the name of Firewind. The rest is history, I guess…
In my review of the new Firewind album, I did compare you with Michael Schenker. It seems to me that you learned a lot of his solo techniques…
Thank you very much! Michael Schenker is one of my favorite guitarists! Yes, I've learned a lot of his techniques and his guitar tone is very inspiring.
What other musicians would you mention as your most important influences?
I would say Tony Iommi, Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth, Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Carlos Santana, as well as bands such as Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Manowar, Iron Maiden, etc.
A couple of years ago, you had four bands at a time!!! Nightrage, Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy and Firewind. Without going to deep into details, can you tell us why you left both Dream Evil and Mystic Prophecy? Especially your break-up with Dream Evil was kind of a big surprise, because that band was going to be really big…
Yeah, I was aware that Dream Evil was going to be huge, but I was pretty sure that the guys in the band would not follow up with the success. It was not such a serious band and they were lacking determination. Really only I and Snowy Shaw were the most dedicated members. Snowy also left the band a bit later. Mystic Prophecy on the other hand is a very serious band that demanded a lot of attention and it got to a point where I decided to continue with my own band and it just wasn't right putting the other bands on the side. So, I decided to leave them too. They have been very understanding and supportive on my decisions.
What about Nightrage, the death metal band with whom you recorded two albums? Will their ever be a third Nightrage cd?
Yes, they're planning to record it soon and I've actually heard the demos! I can tell you that it's killer material!! Nightrage too is a band with a lot of focus and hard workers and when I decided to make Firewind my one and only priority, there was simply no time left for other bands. Leaving these great bands I helped so much to build up, was a tough decision but also the right one. They deserve members who put 110% in their music!
You recorded about a dozen albums with the above mentioned bands, and they always got very positive reviews and most of them were also quite successful albums. Even a top act like Arch Enemy asked you to join the band. As a very young guitarist, how do you handle all that fame and fortune? What I mean is that it seems to me that you are definitely not some sort of Yngwie like person, who likes to be the leader of the pack and where no one else has something to say!
Well, Yngwie is a solo artist so I can understand he wants things to be done in a certain way. I respect that. On the other hand, Firewind is my band but everyone brings in their own ideas and input. That's what makes this so special. I'm a very down to earth person and if you ask people who know me, they'll tell you that I don't think or act superficial or anything like that. Keeping a low profile and hard work is what got me today where I am at.
Talking about Arch Enemy, how did you get into contact with each other, and can you explain your decision why you did not join them for a longer period of time?
I've known the Arch Enemy guys for a few years now; we would always meet in some festival or in Studio Fredman for example. Michael Amott gave me a call last year and he told me he's looking for a guitar player. I was very excited about joining Arch Enemy of course, they're a great band! However, after the Ozzfest tour, I realized that I had to make a choice: Either I play with Arch Enemy and quit everything else because they're a full time band, or I go my own way. So, I chose to go my way. Sounds kind of risky, but that's the kind of guy I am. I feel much happier being in my band and playing the music I love rather than playing in someone else's band.
Now let's talk about Firewind and the new album 'Allegiance'. What happened with Firewind after the release of 2005's 'Forged By Fire'?
We did a few shows in Europe for that album including the sold out arena tour supporting Hammerfall. That was a very big step for our career as we were exposed in a huge audience and a lot of people heard about Firewind. But after that I got the offer to join Arch Enemy which I accepted and I saw this as an opportunity to promote Firewind's album in the USA too. But our singer wasn't so happy about it and decided to leave. So, when I got back from the US tour with AE, we had to move on and find a new singer. At the same time we decided to change drummer as well, because Stian lives in Norway and made rehearsals impossible. So, we got a great new singer called Apollo Papathanasio and veteran German drummer (who lives in Greece, by the way), Mark Cross (ex-Helloween, Metalium, etc.).
'Allegiance' is a great piece of work. In my humble opinion it will be one of this year's top three metal albums. Are you yourself satisfied with the album?
Thank you very much! I'm very satisfied with the outcome, couldn't be happier with it. The production is better than ever, so is the songwriting and the line-up.
You used a slightly different musical approach on 'Allegiance'. The album sounds a bit like bands like Whitesnake and House Of Lords. What made you decide to make a little move to mainstream hard rock instead of another power metal album like 'Forged By Fire'?
I don't think we changed musical direction. Maybe you're referring to the song “Ready To Strike” which I admit is taken straight out of Whitensake's and Dio's books. But the rest of the album sounds very heavy and fresh at the same time. We were never really a power metal band with the exception of a few songs here and there that are more speed/power metal. We just wanna play Heavy Metal with great melodies, catchy hook lines and play it damn loud, haha! I think we always had catchy songs more or less, however songs like “Falling to Pieces” or “Breaking The Silence” are also very modern and I like this approach. I want us to be able to combine the vibes of 70's and 80's in our music, with today's production and modern elements.
You mentioned the song before, and I think 'Ready To Strike' is one of the album's highlights, it is pretty obvious that you took some parts of Whitesnake's 'Children Of The Night' for this song…
Maybe, but I don't remember stealing a riff or something. When I wrote these riffs I had Dio's “We Rock” in mind or Ozzy's “Bark at the Moon”. So, it's definitely a tribute to these great artists and it makes a great live song too!
Who is the female guest singer on 'Breaking The Silence'?
Her name is Tara and you can check out her site at: www.tara.cc . I've known her since 2004 when I lived in Sweden and played with Dream Evil. She's such a talented songwriter and singer and she comes from a different background more pop, soul, r'n'b, etc. So, while we were in the studio I gave her a call and asked her to come down and check out this song we had. We weren't sure of our own vocal lines so we asked her to help us out with the writing. She came back a few days later and she had written all melodies and most lyrics for “Breaking the Silence”. Her ideas were way better than ours, so immediately we asked her to do the duet with Apollo. We tried it out and it came fantastic! Truly one of the album's highlights!
Let's talk about the production process of your new album. Where and when did you record it? Was it different in comparison to previous releases?
We recorded it in Sweden at the JM studio. Fredrik Nordstrom engineered it and we did the tracking and production. Later on we moved to Fredrik's own studio and mixed it over there. We recorded it in February 2006 and mixed it in March. We had a very different approach this time. In the past we usually recorded in 3-4 different studios all over Europe. This time we chose to all relocate to Sweden for a month and record in one studio for a change. Turned out to be the best move we've ever done. The production's tighter than ever, so are the performances.
Can you tell something about the lyrics? Is ' Allegiance' a concept album?
No, it's not a concept album. The lyrics deal more with the human feelings and every day life situations.
What are your expectations concerning 'Allegiance'? Will it be just as successful as Dream Evil's 'Book Of Heavy Metal'?
I hope it will surpass that!! But being a bit more realistic, you can expect everything and nothing. The music industry is weird and the sales of all artists are not the greatest these days. However, in our home country we are enjoying success we've never had before. Our cd single ('Falling To Pieces') hit the charts at number eleven, two weeks ago and it's still up there on number fifteen!! The label expects the album to be a top ten chart entry soon as well. So, something must be right this time!
It seems to me that you are a very busy and also hardworking man. What plans and projects do you have in mind the next twelve months?
Well, Firewind is my number one priority at this time, so we are planning on a world tour, starting in Japan this October and then we will embark on a European tour. The tour will probably continue in early 2007 and hopefully we'll end up playing lots of summer festivals. If I find the time, I might record a solo album too!
When will there be 'the ultimate Gus G. DVD'? You must have recorded lots of shows the past couple of years…
We might do a Firewind DVD soon as well, it's in the plans, but we'll see!
Thanks for your answers and patience and I wish you all the luck with the album!!!
Thank you for the interview and your support!!! Rock On!!