Being the lead guitar player for the living legend that is Ozzy
Osbourne must be the dream of every young guy who ever decided
to pick up a six string.
Greek guitar hero Gus G has managed to successfully live that
dream while having both his feet firmly attached to the ground
and without sacrificing his solo career with the much loved
outfit Firewind in the process!
the night of the band's first ever headlining sold-out show in
London, I met up with both Gus and frontman Apollo
Papathanassiou for what turned out for me a fairly short but
quite enjoyable chat revolving around the band's latest
full-length release 'Days Of Defiance', Gus' participation in
Ozzy's current tour and both bands' plans for the future!
Hi guys! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
It is a great pleasure for me to be interviewing a group of very
Your last album 'Days Of Defiance' has been receiving many
rave reviews and that must be quite pleasing, seeing as it comes
right after a release as important as 'The Premonition' (2008) -
a very strong and equally impressive album!
Gus: Yes, our last two albums got equally great reviews and it
feels good when we get recognised that way and you get quite a
lot of people around the world saying good things about your
music - it is indeed a great feeling. It is very satisfactory.
I am a massive fan of 'The Premonition' album, and to me that
album made sense as being part of an escalating musical process
and, as with most bands, it made me feel that you had reached a
stage where things cannot become any better.
The new album is really growing on me - I am not sure yet, as
I am still going through the process of getting to know it,
whether it's going to top your previous effort but I can see
many similar elements such as the strength of melodies and also
your vocal performances, Apollo, which are once again top-notch!
I have to personally congratulate you on your work there.
Apollo: Thank you.
From your point of view how do you see/find the difference
between 'The Premonition' & 'Days Of Defiance'? What did you do
differently in the studio in order to come up with such a
Apollo: Actually, the thing is with the vocals that I had more
time to figure out how to do things. Everything was more
scheduled and it is easier when you don't have the pressure to
that sense there was a big difference between 'The Premonition'
and 'Days Of Defiance'. With 'The Premonition'...the time was
not there as we had to do and deliver the package faster than we
did with 'Days Of Defiance'. So it's better to have time to do
Is it fair to say that, when comparing the two albums, the
'Days Of Defiance' record would not have sounded the way it did
had you not gone through the process of recording 'The
Gus: Well, I always feel that each album you do marks where you
are at, at a certain moment in time, how your feeling are and
where you are as a band and that you need to make that step in
order to move to the next one.
could not have made that album two years ago, you know. 'Days Of
Defiance' is where Firewind are in 2010 or 2011 now.
Stylistically I don't think that we are playing anything much
different from what we did in the last two albums. We certainly
did have, as Apollo said, more time on our hands and we got
to...we eliminated the stress and that really helped us in
getting more creative and producing really great performances
from each and every one of us in this album.
That was the one main difference, you know, but like I said
before, the music kind of like remains the same in a sense - our
roots are still there. We are just trying not to repeat the
mistakes that we did in the past and make it as painless as
possible because recording an album is a painful procedure.
Once again, one thing that really makes Firewind stand out in
my opinion is this ability to record different types of music.
I mean, you have everything from classic Hard Rock to the
heaviest up-beat stuff. It is kind of strange asking this kind
question but I will do it anyway: of all the different styles of
music that you play, which is the one that's closest to your
heart? Would it be a power ballad or a stronger, heavy, crunchy
Gus: It's hard to pick one out because I think that Firewind is
that band and one thing that's fantastic about this band is the
fact that we are able to jump from a ballad to a Speed/Thrash
Metal track and then back into an instrumental composition or
into whatever - a mid-tempo, Hard Rock or an atmospheric
keyboard rock song, and then back into a Speed Metal song or
like all moments, you know? I like to play fast personally, so
(laughs)...I like the fast songs a lot, but not to leave the
other stuff aside. I believe that there is a very big bonus for
the band that we can do that, so I am not going to pick.
What about you, Apollo? You recently had a stint with
Spiritual Beggars and that must have been a really good
experience and, again, even then people commented on your vocal
approach. Do you think that this experience kind of helped bring
new elements into the music of Firewind, something that perhaps
sometime in the future you can use as a weapon in the Firewind
Apollo: I think Firewind has its own...identification, if you
know what I mean. We do what feels most right to our hearts with
the music of Firewind.
With Spiritual Beggars, we use and follow a more 70s style of
music and elements, something that I don't have to use in
Firewind. Maybe I could use some parts...you know, in Spiritual
Beggars I have a low register, but in Firewind we just give it
all in another way and we have this balance between, as you
talked with Gus before, from ballads to fast songs, to mid tempo
- we can combine all those things and still keep a certain
I do not think that I am going to use anything...my historical
singing background is more Blues orientated like Whitesnake and
I still use some such parts in Firewind.
Gus: Yes, indeed. We do use such elements on our records.
Apollo: Yes, we do but in a higher level, you know? Just so that
it fits Firewind! So, I don't think that I have to compare these
two bands because these are two different styles of music we are
talking about. I can sing with this style in one band and with
another style in the other, so I don't really have to mix styles
in each band.
Ok, I see what you mean. Something else that's really
interesting about the new album is that it was the first time in
the band's career where we had a single ('World On Fire') being
released in digital format only on the Internet.
Gus: Yes, it was indeed the first time that we did a digital
What was the reason behind such a decision? Is it also going
to be released in a ‘proper' format?
Gus: No it will not...I guess that this is a sign of our times
really. It doesn't make any more sense to release maxi singles
because there isn't a market for it.
few years ago we released singles in Greece and we were like on
top five of the national charts top ten or whatever and then the
sales started becoming less and less, so in the end, you could
only sell a couple of hundred copies and be like number one or
something, you know?
And then that thing simply vanished, not only for us that play
Hard Rock but also for mainstream acts, you know? So, I guess
that the sign of the times is that people buy stuff from iTunes,
the physical thing is going down more and more, and I guess that
the labels decided to do it digitally only this time round,
which I don't think that is a bad idea.
It's all about promoting your work really and if that's what it
takes to do it these days then that's what you've got to do, you
You just got to be happy about playing your music and
the fact that we still get the chance to travel around
the world, make a living from it and have fans coming to
see us in clubs or festivals wherever we play is
amazing! As long as that thing doesn't go away I think
that we will be in a good place, you know?
This is a little bit of a double-edged sword in the sense
that Metal fans are renowned for being loyal and for wanting to
have the right format for their record collection back home!
They are collectors, so I am really curious how they will react
when one day we are going to know that the new Firewind album is
only going to be digital...
Gus: Probably one day, you know, the new Firewind album will be
counted as how many hits, free hits, is has on YouTube, or on a
fu*king website, you know? It will not matter anymore how many
people actually bought it! It's gone to another level now!
When you're an artist, selling an album doesn't mean sh*t
anymore - you have to sell the whole thing! It's equal as to
selling a drumstick with your name on it or selling a guitar
pick or selling a guitar, a DVD or a shoe with your logo on it!
The music now is part of a greater picture you know? Whereas
before it was the main thing and the rest kind of came with it!
So, this is where things are today and...I don't know - I guess
that what we are doing is kind of like being caught in the wrong
time here but it doesn't really matter, you know?
You just got to be happy about playing your music and the fact
that we still get the chance to travel around the world, make a
living from it and have fans coming to see us in clubs or
festivals wherever we play is amazing! As long as that thing
doesn't go away I think that we will be in a good place, you
I have to ask one Ozzy Osbourne related question which I am
sure that you expected at some point, which is important as I
feel that it is related with the whole Firewind thing.
When you started your career, Firewind was the means of
releasing your music, your solo project. Then, you went around
performing with different bands and then came back and decided
to focus exclusively on Firewind...
Gus: I kind of did things the wrong way around! At first we were
like an MP3 band; me, a label guy from Atlanta helping me, Dave
Chastain, helping me with various session musicians and I always
had...my secret dream was to get Firewind to be a real band, but
it was just not happening at that moment.
So, we did a couple of records like that and the reason why we
started to get real band members to join was because our records
started selling well in Japan! They offered us a tour there, so
that's when things started - that's why I said that we went
backwards! It took me a few years to find these guys and
so...sorry what was your question?
...well, some people, myself included, are kind of worried
that when you got the gig with Ozzy Osbourne, we would have
Firewind becoming a side project again. Then we see Apollo
getting involved with Spiritual Beggars and that's when we
become really worried, you know? Now that Firewind are getting
to a good place, we would hate it if that momentum were to stop,
Gus: I see.
Apollo: I am just thinking that many people play music but they
also have a job back home. Maybe you could make such a
comparison that Gus playing with Ozzy is the second job that he
has and when he doesn't get involved with that job, he plays
with Firewind. I think that you can compare that with any kind
of job. I am working too when I get back home, but when it gets
to Firewind and when it's time I go out and play with them!
So, it's all about keeping that fine balance between touring
with Ozzy and having free time for Firewind, right?
Gus: I think that doing a tour with Ozzy is a big commitment,
you know? It's a big tour and you play in stadiums and arenas
everywhere and obviously when I am there I have to do that.
But the thing is that when that tour ends that's when our
schedule starts and when we start rolling our machine, then
that's the main thing, you know? There's always time enough to
keep everybody happy and do everything, you know?
like what we do now, for example, with the first ‘phase' of the
album. What we are doing is that we are doing some selective
gigs; we are doing a London gig, a New York gig, a Tokyo gig and
we are playing all the big places, all the big centres of the
world, you know? That's kind of cool, because we have been
touring nonstop since...
Apollo: ...since 2006!
Gus: Since 2006 we have not stopped touring! We have played in
every fu*king club of the world, you know? This is like a cool
thing for us; it's great to get out and play cool gigs like that
and obviously, you know, I am going to finish the Ozzy tour and
then we are going to go out again, so...yeah! It keeps everybody
happy, everybody busy and the bottom line is that, you know, a
band like Firewind is only benefiting from a situation like
that! It's really putting our name much higher on the map, you
Gus, your personal contribution to Ozzy's 'Scream' album was
not big in terms of creating the material...
Gus: No, I came in last and my job was simply to play the
guitars because the songs were already there, so...
Is that something you reckon is going to change in the future
if, let's say, you decide to record a new album with Ozzy?
Gus: Yeah! I would like to write for him! I have already started
writing stuff for him, you know? But, you know, Ozzy doesn't
make albums that often, you know? It could be a few years before
we do a next one, and Ozzy is also in that sense, if you compare
Firewind being like a back burner, Ozzy's solo career has been
like a back burner for many years as well, because he's doing
Black Sabbath, he's dong books, he's doing movies, he's doing a
lot of things.
So, I am sure that after this tour he's going to take a break
from his solo stuff. We will keep on writing, but he will take a
break and he will do his thing whether it's called Sabbath or
it's called whatever - the Osbournes, you know? It's good as it
keeps everybody busy!
Guys, on my way here I saw a massive queue outside the venue
and as far as I know this is a sold out gig today. Now, to have
achieved that in a country like England where this kind of sound
is quite a difficult thing, so you must have done something
really great there.
Gus: We have worked hard here for years! We have been touring
here since 2005 and keep on coming back - many times!
Apollo: We have played short gigs.
You have opened for bands like Stratovarious if I remember
Gus: We have opened for Stratovarious and...
Apollo: Grand Magus.
Gus: We have headlined our own tours, we have supported bigger
bands, we have done a Dragonforce tour, a Stratovarious tour, we
have done Download, we have done Bloodstock...we have done
almost every Metal festival there is here! We play gigs from
small towns, we have played in London a million times, so this
is a good come-back for us here and this is very successful -
the first time we get our own sold-out show here! It's a good
day for us (laughs).
Guys, do you want to give a message to our subscribers, your
fans here in the UK and also the people who are going to listen
and read this interview?
Gus: Happy New Year! (laughs)
Apollo: Happy New Year!
Interview © January
2011 John Stefanis
Photos by Noel Buckley
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