|Posted on September 9, 2015 at 8:50 PM|
Interview with Gus G
By Dave Smiles
Gus G came to the attention of many metal fans as the guitar virtuoso within his band Firewind, who have eight albums to their name. He then went on to be known to a lot more fans when he gained the prestigious spot as lead guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The more dedicated of Gus G’s fans will know him from his time in bands such as Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil and Nightrage. He has also been a touring member of Arch Energy, and collaborated with numerous other metal bands.
During his long career he has performed and written music raging from hard rock, to power metal, to traditional metal, to death metal, with various other sub genres in between. Gus is truly a fan of music, and of the guitar, and is constantly seeking ways to continue his musical output.
With the frustrating line-up changes and singers quitting over the years with Firewind, Gus G is now focusing on his solo career and is all the more happier and refreshed in doing so. The results are evident when you hear his new album Brand New Revolution, which is the follow up to last year’s I Am The Fire.
With many of the guest vocalists, such as Jacob Bunton, Jeff Scott Soto and Mats Leven, returning Gus has a very diverse selection of musicians available to him to cover all his musical interests. I recently got to have a chat with Gus about writing songs, the music business, and of course working with Ozzy Osbourne.
First up, mate, congratulations on the upcoming release of your second solo album Brand New Revolution.
Thanks a lot.
So most of the singers on this album you worked with before on your previous solo album. Was it easier this time around having collaborated with them before?
Yeah, I guess it was. This is like a closer group of people that I work with. We work well together, very fast, very efficient. I send them stuff, they send me back stuff within a couple of days. We write songs pretty fast that way. It’s always good.
So you’ve been friends with these guys for a while. Is that how you came to know them?
I actually met Jacob during sessions for the first album, I am the Fire, which was two years ago. We write a song on the first album together and then we kind of clicked, and started writing more stuff after that. Mats I’ve known for around ten years I guess. I’ve known him from my time in Sweden and we always talked about doing something together. We wrote a lot of stuff for the first album, then we toured a lot together last year while we kept on writing stuff. As for Jeff, he’s somebody that I’ve not known that many years, I met him a couple years ago and we traded songs for each other’s albums and we just kept it up. We did a few shows again, became really good friend and we just kept on writing.
So do you write the songs with the music in mind for a particular singer?
Well, yes and no, if a song’s a bit more modern or American then I’ll send it to Jacob cause he does that kind of stuff you know, that’s his sound. But if I have something that’s a bit more traditional I’ll send it to Mats of Jeff.
How did working with Elize (Ryd) come about?
It was just somebody that I had in mind really that I wanted to work with and I write the song with another producer friend of mine in LA and we just sent her the song. I didn’t know her before we just sent her the song, invited her and she liked it and recorded the vocals and sent it back.
It’s a bit of a stand out track. It’s a bit moody and out there from the rest of the album.
I think so. It’s one of the best moments on the album. A very different track from the rest. It’s a very ‘produced’ track, there’s a lot of stuff happening. It’s even got some dub step beats going on, but there’s a lot of guitar work over it. But yeah, it definitely stands out, I think it’s going to be the next single.
Ok, cool. I was just about to ask if you had another song in mind for single release.
Yeah, I think What Lies Below is going to be the one.
Is there anything else on the album that might become a single in the future?
It depends, really, I mean we just put out Burn and month ago on American radio and it’s doing ok, it’s getting some air play in America and now we just put out a video for the title track. If What Lies Below does well then we’ll have to see what the third could be.
Is there anyone else you’d like to work with on future solo albums?
I’d like to keep working with the people that I worked with on this record. Write some more stuff with Mats or Jacob, or any of those guys. It’s always good. It’s a good team that I have with those guys.
Can you see yourself bringing all the singers together into one big show?
It could happen I guess, but it would depend on everybody’s schedule. Everybody has their own bands and they’re always doing shit. I mean for a winter tour and guy like Jeff Scott Scoto he’s doing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and that’s like from November until the end of January or Feburary. So if you’re going to do a tour you know that he’s not available over those four months. So it has to be some time Spring or early Fall. It depends. It’s kind of hard to bring everybody together. Sometimes it happens, like three or four months ago we did four shows in Sweden and Jeff joined us for those shows. And one night in Stockholm Mats was there in the audience and he came out as well. So for one show I had almost all the guys up there.
When it comes to doing your guitar solos are they planned out or are they more improvised, or a bit of both?
Both actually. It comes from improvisation and then I build it from there. For example, What Lies Below, that’s a very worked out solo part, that’s not like something you improvise. It was like a theme so I built that one up you know, so that it evolves into something else and kind of tells a story. The solo on the song Behind Those Eyes, and the outro solo is just like an improvisation thing. It depends on what the song calls for.
Do you have any songs you're particularly proud of, any favourites?
I like them all man, it’s hard to say. I was just talking to my band guys the other day about what new stuff we’re going to be playing on the upcoming tour and it’s only like a 45 minute set because I’m supporting Kamalot. I want to play a lot of new songs, I want to play most of them. It’s hard to choose, narrow them down to three or four new songs. I wish I could play them all.
Your music covers a lot of different types of metal and rock. You must have a wide selection of influences.
I guess, I mean ‘70s and ‘80s rock to heavy metal. I’ve been in Death Metal bands and Thrash Metal bands, I like a lot of stuff. I like guitar players from David Gilmour to Santana to Dimebag Darrel to Eric Peterson. Ywgwie Malmsteen. It’s a wide array of influences. I just like cool guitar players.
Any non-metal guitarists that you get a lot of influence from?
Yeah man, from Blues guitar players. I mean Gary Moore is one of my biggest influences. He’s a blues rock guy, he comes from a rock background. Eric Johnson, even Jeff Heally, or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Even going back like Albert King and stuff like that. I like all that shit.
It’s a pretty quick turnaround between your albums. Are you focusing more on your solo career at the moment?
Well it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? (Laughs) I mean, it’s something that is fresh again and it’s exciting. With Firewind I’ve been trying to make it work for so many years and there’s been all these line-up changes and singers quitting and stuff. The band got to a pretty decent level where we could tour the world and stuff. It got kind of tiering in the end so this is like a breath of fresh air for me so I’m really enjoying doing this at the moment.
Yeah, definitely. It’s supposed to be fun not stressful.
Exactly, yeah. Even my band guys, they’ve been telling me I was like a totally different person back then when I was in Firewind. I was so stressed. Now they see a totally different Gus, I’m more relaxed and having fun so I guess that says a lot.
How has working with Ozzy Osbourne challenged you as a musician?
It’s made me a much much better musician, man. I practised a lot more, I just wanted to step up my game, like a hundred times. I took it pretty seriously. I really wanted to do the songs justice. Because we’re playing big shows and it’s a big gig. It’s a big spot light on me as a guitar player considering who has been there before. And I wanted to do well. I know there’s a hierarchy when it comes to gigs like that. I know my name is probably right down the list of all those guys but still I want to be remembered for being a guy who did all that material justice.
How much pressure do you feel to carbon copy Randy’s solos or bring your own little spin to it? It there a level that you have to stick to?
I don’t have a problem with that. Obviously my approach is I see this as a fan, if I go to an Ozzy show I want to hear Mr. Crowley the way it was, you know? I don’t want to hear some guitar player doing his own thing. I mean, in those songs there’s always going to be moment when you put in your own licks. That’s inevitable. You’re going to have your own stuff and sound on it. That’s just inevitable, you’re going to do that. And that’s cool. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to go out there and change the key and change the melodies and stuff from the way it was written. Especially on a lot of classics. I understand if you’re jamming over a Black Sabbath song and those solos are like blues jams, like the solo to Paranoid. That kind of song, or War Pigs, you can play your own solos over that, but when you do something that’s like an iconic solo, for example like No More Tears or Bark At the Moon or Crazy Train, you got to stick to those.
What was it about the guitar that inspired you as a kid to pick it up and learn how to play?
I think it was listening to Peter Frampton. Frampton comes alive and the talk box effect. That really had a big Impact on me. I thought it was a robot in the beginning. When my dad told me it was a guitar it freaked me out. So I was all up for that and I immediately knew I just had to be a guitar player.
Did you ever have moments of frustration when you were trying to improve?
Of course, yeah. There comes a point where you say ‘how do I get to that next level?’ There’s always moments like that when you’re practising in the early days. Sometimes it can be frustrating but you have to keep working at it. Sometimes you need to be a bit static in order to move onto the next level. Stay where you are and just keep pushing slowly. Play the stuff that you already know, get better and then move on. Especially when it comes to building your technique, getting faster, those are the most common frustrations among guitar players.
What else would you like to achieve as a musician?
Um… I’d like to see some growth as a solo artist. It’s off to a good start and I’d like to see it grow even more. Just keep making good music, man. Making good music, and hopefully expand my fan base.
How important is the use of social media to you? Because it seems to have overtaken everything these days.
It is very important. It’s a good thing that you can keep in touch directly with your fans you know. I’m one of those guys who use it a lot as a tool. I try to reply to all the stuff that they ask me. I think it’s very important. Especially being active on Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram. I mean that’s where it’s gone these days. It’s very cool because you can see your fan base, meet your own demographic. What works and what doesn’t. On the other hand it’s kind of sad that nobody really gives a shit about music anymore, right? A photo of a cat is worth so much more than a new song. And that’s the sad state of the business today; or not the business, of the ‘art’ of the music. That’s the only thing that saddens me. Everything else I’m cool with. I’m a technology guy. I like it a lot and I use all that. …but at some point we have to bring back the value to the music. Because music has become so devaluated these days. You know, it’s fucked up.
Yeah, with the click of a button you can get rid of a file instead of having the CD in your hand.
And it seems like people don’t even care about that. They just listen to fucking seconds of music and then move on. Like I said if I post a photo of my cat it’s going to get a lot more engagement than if I post a new song that I actually spent thousands of fucking Euros to record, produce and master and mix. You know what I mean.
And I’m saying this while my cat is looking at me. (Laughs)
(Laughs) I think anyone who has been a fan of music for a long period of time, who came from a time when we used to line up to buy new albums, they can see the difference.
I think people listen to a lot of music these days, maybe even more so because there’s a lot more music out there, but cause there’s so much stuff, so much influence, it’s such a fast food world we live in that it just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a bit sad, because it still costs thousands and thousands of dollars to make a record, but it costs nothing to have it. I don’t know, I think it’s still in a very transitional period. Obviously streams is the new sales. I don’t know where it’s going to go with that. I don’t know. I’m not some fucking marketing genius or anything like that. I don’t know about math and all that shit. All I’m saying is I get the feeling that people take music for granted too much and it’s devaluated. What are you going to do when the music’s not there anymore?
That’s the scary thing. I remember when I was a kid we wrote the names of our favourite bands on our school bags, we had the T shirts. You could be the only kid in school who liked a particular band but it didn’t matter because it was ‘your’ band. Now kids have so many other things, they’ve got video games, they’ve got the internet, they’re not… alone anymore, so to speak.
Yeah, that’s the thing, it’s not exciting to kids any more. It’s just another song, it’s just another thing. I’ll listen to that for this week, or today and then move on. It’s just background music to whatever the fuck they’re doing, whether it’s a video game or whatever. With that said, there’s still the dedicated fans.
Those are the fans who still spend money.
Yeah, you’re always going to have them.
It’s important. Without them, there’s nothing. The good thing will be if more people realise that.
You’re definitely always going to have the passionate fans, and they’re with you for life.
Yeah. That’s the beautiful thing about that. I wish more people were like that. Like those hard core few.
Are there any plans to tour down here in Australia any time soon?
You know, we’re trying. I think it has to be the right moment when a promoter is going to feel that it’s safe for us to get down there and play. For Firewind it took us ten years to get down there, and still it wasn’t like any big shows or anything. Just club shows, but it was still good. I’m looking forward to it. I would love to come back. I had a great time. That was two years ago so I hope I can bring the solo show down there. I know that my agent is trying hard to make it happen but we have to pick the right time and the right places to play, or the right package.
Thanks for this interview man. Good luck with the upcoming tour. I hope it goes well.
Thanks man. Take care.
For more information about Gus G visit the official website at www.gusgofficial.com
Gus G – Brand New Revolution is available on Century Media Records.