Interview: Gus G Discusses New Firewind Album, 'Few Against Many'
Led by master shredder Gus G, Greek power metal band Firewind have enjoyed a loyal fan following in Europe for more than a decade, and their fan base in other territories is always growing.
They've come a long way since Gus started the band as a small project, and they're ready to release their seventh studio album, Few Against Many.
They've toured actively behind their previous release, Days Of Defiance, and used the momentum from the road to jump straight into the studio as soon as the touring cycle ended. The result is a tight, strong and catchy set of tunes that will hit the European market May 21 via Century Media Records and the North American market May 22 on Firewind's own label, which is distributed via E1 Music.
I recently chatted with Gus about the band's new album. Enjoy a transcript of the conversation below, and check out their official Facebook page for all things Firewind.
GUITAR WORLD: The new Firewind album, Few Against Many, is set for release in May, yet the previous album came out in October 2010. How did you manage to put this one together so quickly?
I was just writing a lot of stuff while I was on the road with Ozzy. I had a lot of free time on my hands because we had a lot of off days in between gigs. So, to be honest with you, I didn't really plan on doing it so quickly. On one of the tour breaks, I just sat down and put all my ideas into some demos, and as it turned out, I had a few good songs together. The rest was just about sending it to the guys and we worked on it together. So it just took a few months to get it all together, really.
Would you say you're now comfortable with writing on the road, and you do it whenever you get the time while on tour?
I worked whenever I felt like it, whenever something came to me. It was not like I was planning sessions or something to write new music. It just came to me. I had a lot of free time, hanging out in hotels, getting bored, and I also had a guitar with me.
You did a North American tour last year, and you played one or two new songs in those shows. When you were playing those songs, their titles were not announced. Did they end up on the album?
Yeah, they did! We actually did one song, which was "Losing My Mind." We played it at the last show of the tour in LA, and people loved it.
You must have been happy to do that tour because you went to North America after a long time and it was the first tour after the release of Days Of Defiance.
It was officially part of the touring cycle for Days Of Defiance, but the timing was really wrong. It was one year later, after the album. But the tour was also done for the reason that we wanted to connect with our fans. We did this tour not to really promote the last album. I mean, of course, we did that as well, but we did it because we wanted to go and really see what's happening, what's the band's dynamic out there, who are our fans in the U.S.
We wanted to explore all these markets because we were headliners for the first time, and it was a good idea to capitalize my success with Ozzy and my popularity. So in that sense, it was good timing to strike while the iron is hot and just go back and really introduce my band. In a way, we got a brand-new chance.
What is your assessment from that tour? Do you think you have good fan following in the U.S. as compared to other territories?
Yeah, America is still a brand-new territory for us and we've done only two tours there in the past. We've not had any significant amount of sales or anything, but there's definitely an underground fan base that is very loyal and really hardcore, and that was really nice to see at every venue. We would go from places like New York, Montreal and Chicago to really small, "middle of nowhere" places.
Fans would show up. They would travel and have their T-shirts and limited editions and imports and all of that stuff. It was overwhelming. It was great to see all that, and we were like, "Wow! There are these people who've been expecting us and waiting for us for so many years." And, of course, there were new fans along the way as well. So I think it was a really good thing that we did that tour. It's something we can only build on and make it bigger.
Interestingly, for this album you jumped straight into the recording process after the touring for the last album was done. Did that help you as a band and made you tighter?
Yes, we were tight already from the tour, and we had done 40-odd shows in Europe and America. We just had a few weeks of break and we just rushed straight into the rehearsals for the album and it was a good time. It was a very smooth process, actually. We didn't want to do it under a lot of stress or deadlines. To be honest, we didn't sign a deal with Century Media [Europe] till the end of the year because we had booked everything but we didn't really tell many people about that. We just wanted to do it our own way and just feel comfortable with it.
Now that the album is done and will be released soon, what plans do you have to promote it on the road?
I'm going to start out with Ozzy this summer. I'm doing the European tour with Ozzy & Friends, and right after that Firewind is going out and doing some festivals in Europe. Then in August we are going to China and Taiwan. In September and October we're going to be in Europe and the UK, and that's going to be followed by a U.S. tour. So it's going to be a busy time for us until the end of the year.
Have you ever been played in those Asian countries with Firewind before?
We played in Taiwan once before. That was six years ago, but not in Taipei. It was some other small city. We've never been to China, so that's going to be the first one. And we've been to Japan four times.
Were you happy with the amount of touring you did for Days Of Defiance? I mean, would you have liked to tour more, or were you satisfied with it?
I was very happy with it, because we did the tour with an old record on our backs. We didn't have a really new record to promote, didn't have any marketing. We just relied on our fan base and just spreading the word out there. We had really good attendances and it was a pretty successful tour. It can only get better next time with a new album and the right promo behind it. So I'm really looking forward to going out there again this summer.
One of the festivals you're doing this year is the Download Festival in the UK. I think the last time you did it was in 2008. What was that experience like?
It was pretty crazy. We had just done a month-long tour in America, and we just literally took the plane from the US, landed in London the next day, jumped in a van and went straight to Donington, and just played, with no sleep. The excitement was so much, it was fantastic. We just went in and killed it out there.
We played the smaller stage. It was a tent, but it was packed with around 5,000 to 6,000 people. They were all really into it, and I think we gained a lot of new fans just through that gig. We played earlier in the day that year, but this time we're playing the third stage and we got a pretty good slot. We're playing right in between Lamb of God and Megadeth, I think. So it's a pretty good time slot. We're going to have a packed tent, as it's late in the evening.
Coming back to the album, on the song "Edge Of A Dream" you had Apocalyptica as guest musicians. What was it like working with them, and how did they contribute to the song?
It was great, actually. It was one of those things where we had a ballad, but we needed something to lift it up. I thought it would be great if we got the Apocalyptica guys involved in this. I imagined cellos on top of that song, and we didn't even know the guys. We just asked our manager to send them the demo, and see what they think. We didn't even think they would reply, but they got back to us two days later and said that they would love to do it! So that's how we met those guys.
Because you mentioned that you wrote the songs while on tour with Ozzy, that brings me to my final question: Did you feel your flow of writing music was constantly getting disrupted because you could write only on off dates and not continuously?
The thing is, I didn't really write with a purpose of being finished at some specific point or going into the studio at some specific point. There were no plans at all. There was no studio booked, and I didn't even tell the guys I was writing. It was just ideas. At some point, I just realized I have around 20 riffs in my head that I really like, and I didn't want to forget them. So I thought I'd better put it on tape and record it.
Andrew Bansal is a Los Angeles-based writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, reviews and pictures on his website -- with the help of a small group of people. Besides being hugely passionate about heavy metal, he is an avid follower of jazz music and recently started a blog called Jazz Explorer to pursue that interest.