By Andrew Bansal
Greek power metal band Firewind are just about to complete their ongoing ‘Guards Of Glory’ North American tour as main support act to Finnish viking metal band Turisas. The band released their seventh studio album ‘Few Against Many’ early last year, and have been doing plenty of touring worldwide following the release. Yesterday, on March 2nd 2013, a few hours before they played at the Houston stop of the current tour, I spoke to guitarist and mastermind Gus G over the phone to talk about the tour, the change in vocalist, future plans for Firewind, his gear setup, and more. Read the conversation below, and check out Firewind and Gus G using the links at the bottom.
You’ve come to the last few shows of this tour with Turisas. How has everything been going for you guys?
It’s been really good so far. We’ve had a good time, played shows all over the place and we’re getting along with Turisas. They’re an excellent band. We’ve been making new fans as well. It’s been a really good tour!
You’ve toured the States quite a few times before, but this time was it a different crowd for you, because Turisas is more of a folk/viking metal kind of a band?
Yeah, we’re seeing all of their fans coming to the shows with painted faces and makeup and stuff like that, but it was cool. Turisas attracts a younger audience than we do and that was the goal for us with this tour, to get in front of a younger audience and it seems the Turisas fans are digging what we’re doing, so I think it’s been good for us.
Recently, you’ve had a change in vocalist. Apollo Papathanasio, who has done the vocals on all of Firewind’s albums so far, left the band. How have you reacted to that? It must be a pretty big change for the band.
Well, it is and it isn’t. People following the band for the past few years would know that we’ve had different session guys at the live shows even when Apollo was in the band because he just had to skip a few tours during the year. So whenever the schedule was getting too heavy for him and he would have to take care of stuff back home, we had to get other guys. So this time, he had to skip again and he was like, ‘You know, instead of holding you guys back, I might as well just quit.’ I think he did the right thing for him, for us as well because we can only do that [getting session vocalists] so many times and we’re better off trying to find a new permanent guy instead of getting replacements for a tour. So at least now we know that we have to find somebody new, and in a sense it’s a bit sad but at the same time it’s some sort of relief.
The singer who’s on the current tour with you is Kelly Sundown Carpenter (Adagio, Beyond Twilight, Outworld, Darkology). Is he going to be your permanent guy?
We don’t know yet. We’re not going to rush that decision. We’re really happy with what he’s doing on stage, he’s doing a really good job. But we have this tour and then we have a few festivals back home and then Firewind might be on hiatus for a while, so we’re going to see what we’re going to do.
That’s understandable. Coming back to the tour, you also did one acoustic show in Vancouver. What was that like?
There was a record store near the venue which was an old-school record store, like a proper metal CD and vinyl store, and they invited us to do a meet-n-greet and acoustic session there. So we thought it was a really good chance to do something like that, to create more awareness for the show and also promote our latest album ‘Few Against Many’, so we went down there and played a couple of songs. A lot of people showed up and it was great to meet the fans and everybody.
Did the Firewind music fit in well with the whole acoustic arrangement?
Yeah it did, and it felt really nice! We did the song called ‘Mercenary Man’ which we also recorded as an acoustic version back in 2008 when we released the EP. We did a song called ‘Edge Of A Dream’ from the latest album. It’s a piano song but I did it with the acoustic guitar and it came out very nicely as well. We also did a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’. It was a good show.
That sounds awesome! So, you’ve done a good amount of touring after the release of ‘Few Against Many’, but since you said you’ll be on hiatus, I guess there won’t be a North American headline tour any time soon?
Well, I’m not sure, you know. There might be some gigs here and there. We haven’t thought that much about it. If a tour offer comes in which is something we really can’t turn down because it’s good for us, we’re going to do it. Otherwise I’m not sure that we’re going to come back and headline another five weeks. I don’t see us doing that this year. May be we’ll come and do some selected dates, but it depends on the ideas. I’ll be talking to our business people about that, but I’m not sure about what the next step’s going to be like. I know that we’re putting out a live album this summer which is of a recording that we did last year. It’s kind of like the close of a chapter with this lineup and the first 10 years of the band. After that I don’t know what’s going to happen, really.
Interesting, man. So, last year you also did some shows in your home country Greece. What kind of a following do you have there? A lot of bands are bigger and more popular outside of their own country. Does Firewind fall in that category or do you have an equally good fan base in Greece?
Greece is actually one of our biggest markets. We can sell out pretty big venues. We did four shows last year and it was like insane. We did two shows in Athens and two shows in Thessaloniki where I’m from, and we recorded all of them. We also recorded the rest of the tour we did in Europe. But yeah, Greece is one of our main territories alongside some other European countries, and Japan as well.
Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve been using that and I even used the prototype before it came out and when we were testing it out. So yeah, it’s a really good pedal, man. I’ve been using this pedal as an overdrive pedal. It’s not a full distortion thing. It’s just an overdrive, where you push it and it kind of gives you a little bit of an extra kick for your lead tone, kind of like a booster. It’s based on an older pedal called BBE Green Screamer, so we came up with the G Screamer (laughs). It’s a cool little pedal. We just made some adjustment to its input, which is something the technician did to make it cleaner. So yeah, I’ve been using that one.
In terms of your stage setup, I think Firewind has so many lead parts, harmonies and solos, so is your setup more complicated as compared to what you use for Ozzy?
No, it’s exactly the same setup! Same amps, same guitars, same pedals. My sound is pretty basic. I use only a couple of pedals, a Wah-Wah and a chorus, and a little bit of distortion, and that’s it.
It is, yes, but at the same time it’s still traditional heavy metal. Obviously, Firewind is closer to the power metal side and Ozzy is classic hard rock and heavy metal, but you just need to create that one sound and you can then do whatever with it. The main tone comes from your hand. You need to create the sound. The song’s vibe needs to come from you and it’s not really from a rack or something, unless you’re playing some different kind of music like may be when the music is too progressive or whatever, and you have to change to put in some acoustic sounds or things like that. For Ozzy’s music you’ll may be need to push a pedal in a chorus or something, and that’s about it. I also do a lot of different tones from rolling my volume down, to cut the gain down and go into clear and then getting it that way. It’s a bit more of an old-school technique I guess.
Related: Turisas/Firewind LA gig review