Gus G Talks New Solo Album, 'Brand New Revolution,' and His Beginnings with Ozzy Osbourne
Gus G. is best known as the guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band—the latest addition to an esteemed lineage that includes six-string legends like Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde.
But prior to joining up with Ozzy in 2009, the Greek guitarist had already made a name for himself as the mastermind behind Firewind, a power-metal unit whose bracing and soaring anthems function as a platform for Gus’ over-the-top, acrobatic shredding.
Over the years, the 34-year-old has also played with Euro metal acts like Nightrage and Mystic Prophecy, and even did a short stint with Swedish technical death metallers Arch Enemy, standing in for Christopher Amott on the 2005 Ozzfest tour.
Needless to say, Gus is not one to take it easy for any length of time. And so, in 2014, while Osbourne was otherwise busy with the Black Sabbath reunion, the guitarist took the opportunity to launch a solo career, releasing his debut album under his own name, I Am the Fire.
The record saw Gus not only flexing his technical guitar muscles but also honing his songwriting chops. The album boasted a mix of hooky hard rockers and speedy metal anthems, on which Gus was joined by an array of guests that included vocalists like Mats Leven (Candlemass), Jeff Scott Soto (ex–Yngwie Malmsteen, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Ralph Saenz, a.k.a Michael Starr (Steel Panther) and bassists like Mr. Big’s Billy Sheehan and Megadeth’s David Ellefson.
Now, less than a year later, Gus is already back with his sophomore effort, Brand New Revolution.
As for why this record followed so quickly after I Am the Fire, he explains, “I just had the songs, really. On this album I wrote a lot with Jacob Bunton, the singer for Lynam and Steven Adler’s band, and the thing about Jacob is we did a song that ended up on the first record, and then after I mixed that record we just kept on writing. And the next song we came up with was ‘Brand New Revolution.’ I even wanted to include it on the first record but the label was like, ‘No, no, we have enough.’ But I thought it was a pretty killer song and so I said, ‘All right, there’s the title track of my second record!’ So we were on a roll and we kept on writing. Before I knew it, I had an album.”
On Brand New Revolution, Gus is once again joined by several guest vocalists, including Bunton, Levin and Soto. And, like I Am the Fire, the new album sports more than its fair share of guitar pyrotechnics.
But, first and foremost, it is a collection of songs; in fact, other than the opening number, a dazzling display of technical ferocity called “The Quest,” there are no instrumentals on the record. “That’s really what I was going for,” Gus says. “I’m actually getting a lot of pressure right now to put out an instrumental album, but I’m not the kind of guy who can write 10 or 12 of those. It’d probably take me 10 years to do a record like that. I like to write songs—I’m a band guy and I like to work with singers. I’m very old school. I just like three-minute, catchy songs. But they have to have cool guitar parts—that’s the difference. If you know how to write a great song and you can put a killer solo to it, to me, that’s it.”
Days before leaving for Germany for a string of dates as the support act for Hellyeah, Gus spoke to Guitar World from his home in Thessaloniki, Greece, about his influences, how he sees himself as a guitarist and creating Brand New Revolution.
He also took time to discuss the status of Firewind and how his solo work differs from his output with that band, as well as give a bit of insight into what it’s like to have “the most coveted guitar position in the world” with the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
How did Brand New Revolution come together?
It’s almost like two EPs in one, because it was done in two sessions. The first session was done in L.A. with a band in a live room, with Jay Ruston [Anthrax, Steel Panther] engineering, and we caught that live energy and atmosphere and vibe. The other half, I came back here to Greece and we did it the more traditional way for me, where the drummer lays down the tracks first and then I do the bass and the guitars. So it’s half and half.
Do the two halves sound distinct to you?
They do. I don’t know if other people can tell so much, but I can hear it. But overall I think this record actually sounds more cohesive than the last one. Because doing the L.A. sessions let me know the direction I wanted to go in with the record. So even though the second half was not done with the band all together in a room we tried to capture the same vibe.
You’ve said that you like to write songs, not instrumentals. But Brand New Revolution starts off with a pretty intense instrumental, “The Quest.” Is that type of thing more difficult for you to write?
Yeah, it is. That song is just me going apeshit on the guitar. Just really fucking balls out on every aspect. And that stuff comes out of nowhere, really. Every time I write an instrumental I don’t know where the hell it comes from. Because I really don’t know how to develop an idea for an instrumental. It’s always in my mind that I’ll play a riff and I’ll hear a vocal melody over it. I’m always thinking, Where’s the chorus? The only guy I know who can write a proper instrumental is probably Joe Satriani. He’s very good with that.