Intervista Gus G.
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Hi Gus, how are you doing?
Good, thank you.
Let’s start talking about your upcoming album, “Fearless”; I’ve seen you play during the “I Am the Fire” tour and your band was completely different, how did you end up working with Dennis Ward and Will Hunt?
I’ve started working with Dennis a couple of years ago producing the new Firewind record.
I’ve known Dennis for quite a while, we wrote some songs together about ten years ago for a new project that we wanted to put together, but in the end there was no time ‘cause I joined Ozzy and stuff.
But we revisited those songs again and I asked him to help me to do the production for Firewind and the songwriting and it went really well!
So the next natural step was just to continue writing songs, and the way we do it is just I send him demos and he sends me back vocal lines.
We started working on this record, obviously, and towards the end of the session we started thinking, I started thinking, “How could I do it this time?”: in the first two records there were a lot of guests and stuff like that, this time I decided to have a more cohesive kind of sound, not a record that would be all over the places like the first two records.
Dennis offered to play bass and then I met Will Hunt in a hotel in Frankfurt at the Messe [Musikmesse] last year when I was on tour, he’s one of my favourite drummers so I just asked him if he wanted to play on the record, he said yeah.
In the end it just made sense that Dennis continue and also puts vocals on the record as well, because I was having a hard time finding someone to sing all that stuff and also tour with us, all the other really good guys are taken in other bands and are busy, so Dennis was there and he wanted to get out of the studio and tour.
You said you wanted a more cohesive sound, do you think you’ll continue with this lineup with your future albums?
Yeah, I think so!
As you said Dennis had quite a big role in the creation of the album, did you ever consider at any point to form a band rather than make it a solo album?
Yeah, I did.
The original idea was…I mean, it was a solo album, then I started thinking, “Maybe it should be a band, or an album titled “Gus G and…the malakas” or something” [laughs].
In the end it was a little bit of a branding issue, I worked so hard to establish the solo brand by now, I’ve done two records, I’ve toured quite a lot, I’ve invested a lot of time and money on this, so it sort of made sense to continue under the Gus G name.
And it seems to be working out okay so far because, you know, people really start to recognise a little bit now what I’m doing, I’m doing some solo stuff as well besides Firewind, and it takes time, it’s something that takes time and breaking a new band again now would be just a drag; it was just a little bit more convenient to continue like this.
In the new album you have the cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’, a song quite different to the music you play usually, why did you choose to record it?
It’s just a song I always liked.
I love the riff, such an iconic riff, it was a little bit of an out of the box choice, I like that.
I read some comments on the video of “Mr. Manson” where people were saying that it sounds like you wrote that song for Ozzy, and I must say I agree; is it what actually happened with that song?
The original idea was, yeah, was to give it to Ozzy.
I had the main riff which was very Sabbath, very ‘N.I.B.’ style…yeah, I wrote it originally with the intention of showing it to him, but obviously nothing came out of that.
I had this, and a couple of other riffs actually, on my hard drive for years, just sitting there; I sent it to Dennis and I said, “Hey listen, this is what happened, I have this”, I think he was just inspired by that and he wrote the lyrics to ‘Mr. Manson’.
Talking about Ozzy, a year ago it was announced that Zakk Wylde was back with him, what was your reaction when you heard the news? Was it in any way a relief that you could now focus fully on Firewind and on your solo career?
I cried myself to sleep for two months [laughs].
Honestly it was a little bit of a relief, yeah, because I was just kind of tired of waiting around for all these years, not hearing anything.
Of course he was very busy with Black Sabbath, I understand that, but then there was that in between of all that there were these one-off shows popping up and I had to make myself available for all that, but there was never any…I felt like there was no…I didn’t see stuff coming up for the future, you know?
So, as much as I loved being in that band and working with him, in a way it was a little bit of a dead end for me, speaking personally; of course now he’s gonna go on a big tour again, do his farewell thing and…that’s great for him, but it wasn’t a creative thing for me, so…
You anticipated my next question: prior to that news you hadn’t been very active recently with him because of the Black Sabbath tour; how did that work? He told you, “I’ll be busy for 4-5 months now, do whatever you want”?
No, obviously the tour was announced, so…but no, there was never any definite announcement like, “Hey guys, I’m gonna see you next year”, or something, it was always like, “We’ll see what happens”.
That’s a bit of uncertainty right there, and of course I have my own band, I had stuff to do, but I could never really book stuff too far ahead into the future just in case something came up.
It was really hard to get some info at some point…anyways, you know, that’s how it is, that was the situation so, yeah, like I said in a way it was a relief because now I can totally control what I’m gonna be doing, and that’s a much nicer feeling.
I’ve just seen before coming here that you’re only 8 days older than Ozzy’s debut album…
“Blizzard of Oz” was released on the 20th September 1980, so it’s just a few days younger than you are.
Oh yeah, right! [Laughs]
…was it ever weird thinking that you were playing with a man whose solo career have been as long as you have been alive?
Yeah, I mean, I grew up listening to his music, he is the Godfather of our music anyway.
Another funny thing I saw years ago…you know, a lot of websites do the “On this day”, all that stuff, and apparently on my birthday it was his first show with Randy Rhoads, September 12th, I think I read that somewhere on a website, that was a pretty weird coincidence.
Working with such a big and important musician has a lot of consequences which we could probably guess, but what was the most unexpected side of working with Ozzy?
[Pauses] I don’t know, that whole world to me was new when I joined, I was impressed by a lot of thing, “Oh this and that”, but actually I didn’t expect that he would be such a down to earth guy, so normal compared to his size, to how big he is as an artist, the big lifestyle, the big machinery around him, you know, he was a very simple man, actually.
Last year you also released a new album with Firewind, the first in five years; why did it take so long for the band to release an album?
Partly because I was busy with my solo stuff, establishing that and working on that, and partly because we didn’t have a singer and we really didn’t know how to move on, that was something that really hurt the band, not having a singer and we had to really think carefully how we were gonna do it.
I guess I really needed to do this solo thing to clear my mind.
How did the tour that followed go?
Really good, actually!
We didn’t expect it was gonna last that long, we set out to do maybe a few shows and we ended up doing like 70 shows or something.
So it was a lot for us, you know?
“Immortals” is a concept album on Greek history; do you think you’ll deal again with Greek history, or mythology, in your future albums, either with Firewind or solo?
It could be, yeah.
There are always ideas that we discuss in the band, who knows what’s gonna happen, we could continue and broaden the whole concept idea because this one seemed to work out.
I guess there’s an identity with us coming from Greece but then, again, you never know: you might just go into writing a more normal record away from concepts, historical facts and mythology, we’ll see.
How do you share your time between your bands and projects? When you write music do you start with the idea of who you’re writing for, or do you wait to see how a song sounds like and then decide what to do with it?
Yeah, I usually write when I’m relaxed and, you know, an idea comes to me, I write it and in the end I’m like, “Oh, this could be for the solo band” or, “It could be a Firewind song”.
I just put stuff down, pile up ideas and pick them up later.
What’s next for you? After you finish this tour what are you planning to do?
It’s kinda early on to say, but the idea is to do another Firewind album in the next year or two.
I think it’s probably gonna be in two years with Firewind, this tour has just started and it’s gonna keep on going probably until middle 2019.
This was my last question, thank you for your time, the last word is yours.
Mille grazie! [laughs]
I’ll see you in Italy soon, so thank you for reading this, I hope people can check out “Fearless”!