Interview: GUS G of FIREWIND

Each time Firewind released an album over the last 20 years, it wasn’t just the brilliancy of exceptional guitarist Gus G (Ozzy Osbourne, Arch Enemy, Dream Evil) that fans were in awe of, but also the skills of every one of the band’s vocalists. Fantastic riffs, hooks, and solos by the gifted hands of guitarist Gus aside, it’s the great vocal melody – an integral part of every Firewind song – that’s causing a stir. In that respect nothing has changed in their newest album, simply titled Firewind, quite the contrary: with his charismatic voice new member Herbie Langhans (Avantasia, Radiant, Seventh Avenue, amongst others) refines each and every last one of the ten new songs and infuses them with an expressive force that is remarkable. “With Herbie, I feel like we’re doing a relaunch of the original Firewind cast because his singing style bears a certain resemblance to that of Stephen Fredrick, our first vocalist,” comments Gus. “I’m proud and happy that we can continue with the tradition of great Firewind vocalists thanks to Herbie.” On 15 May 2020 at the latest, when Firewind will be released via AFM, the public will hear just how competently new band member Langhans has stepped up to this challenge. 

It’s official: The band has once again brought their full potential, making Firewind a more than worthy successor of their 2017 concept work Immortals. “The new album is an exciting and fashionable mix of Hard Rock and Power Metal. These songs are fresh but tough and melodious at the same time. In my opinion, the record sounds exactly as a band in our genre is supposed to in the year 2020. But of course, the key feature lies with the quality of the composition, which has been our main focus again,” comments Gus. There’s nothing more to add to this succinct assessment!

I was given the opportunity to have a chat with Gus again to discuss the band chemistry and the musical longevity of Firewind as a band in addition to analysing the new self-titled album. 

ANTIHERO: Do you find that the current situation promotes personal creativity or actually stifles it?

Gus G: I don’t know. I think eventually if you are frustrated, eventually, it could lead to creativity. I mean, I’ve been pretty creative at home. I’ve been writing a little bit here and there. Not religiously, but I had some idea that I started working on and just trying to stay busy as much as I can, really.

ANTIHERO: Yeah. I think that’s the important thing at this time, as long as you’re trying to occupy yourself mentally, and also physically. 

Gus G: Yeah, absolutely. 

ANTIHERO: Firewind have got a new album due out next month. Given that the band originally was created to showcase your Nocturnal Symphony demo, do you find that it surprised you in terms of the band’s subsequent longevity and commercial success?

Gus G: Well I mean, yeah. There’s something to be said. Any band that can make it for, I don’t know, almost 20 years and still be around and make records… Yeah, that has something to say. I mean, I want to believe that we have a strong work ethic. But you know, we also have wonderful fans all around the world that make it possible for us to keep making music and we keep releasing music  

I mean, there are ups and downs like with any band, in a band’s career. I mean, we’ve had a lot of lineup changes and stuff like that, but that somehow that never stops us from disbanding. That’s what I always say. As long as there is something to say artistically and then through this band that’s based on this style of music, we’ll keep doing it.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned there the lineup changes, particularly with your vocalist over the years. I’m just wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your new singer, Herbie. Did you knew him for quite a while. 

Gus G: Actually, I did not, no. I just met him a few months ago. Yeah. I had heard of him singing in a band called Sinbreed about eight years ago, but I didn’t know his name. I knew he was in this band called Sinbreed. I remember how much I liked his voice, but then I never heard from that band again. When we were looking for a singer, I just turned to the record label to AFM records, and I said, “Hey, this is happening. Do you have anybody to suggest to do the new record in the next tour and everything?” They suggested Herbie, and he was a perfect fit, really.  

ANTIHERO: Did you have the songs already in place before you approached him, or was able to work with you on those?

Gus G: Well, it was a strange situation because the album was already recorded, the music and the drums, and the guitars. Everything was done. It’s not like we could have gone back and changed parts because the drum record… Once you lay down drums on the record, that’s done. You have to work with that. The arrangements and everything was done. And we had vocal lines for about four songs, but not for the other eight, I think… or seven. I think I did lyrics myself for three songs, and we were missing lyrics on like eight tracks. 

Basically, we collaborated with Herbie. He came in and he wrote the lyrics for the rest of the songs and the vocal lines and collaborated with me and also Dennis Ward who was supposed to produce the record, but he was also away. He couldn’t really sing. But he was in the studio with Halloween. But still, he offered his opinions and helped us out with stuff and helped steer the ship. 

While it was a sort of a stressful situation, in the end it worked out. It was the three of us working very hard for about a month-and-a-half to complete the rest of the vocals. But yeah, it was not like the traditional way where you start with a singer from scratch and you make the demos and you completely… It was like, we did the album and then we were like, “Okay, now we need vocals because this happened.” You know? 

ANTIHERO: The new album is self-titled. I just wonder what prompted that. Is it because you see it as a reinvention and a rebirth of the bond or it just seemed like a good idea at the time? 

Gus G: Correct, yeah. It’s exactly that. I see it as a reverse. I see it as if I pushed the restart button. This was the perfect time for that. It was a time to reintroduce the band, at least in my head. It was like this is the time to really restructure everything and change the philosophy a little bit around this, and make it a happy place again. I think it made sense that we have a self-titled album now.

ANTIHERO: There’s a couple of tracks on there. I’m thinking about Overdrive and Space Cowboy. They may reflect a different side to the regular Firewind sound. Do you think it’s important to keep pushing people’s perception and ideas of what Firewind actually represents musically?

Gus G: At this time, this was an idea that came out. I knew they were unconventional for Firewind, but I knew with the right vocal lines, they would find a place on the track list. I do think it’s important for everybody to try out new things. I think it’s kind of boring when you have to keep making the same album over and over again. 

And here’s another thing. This album, it might remind our older fans, it might remind them of a little bit… There’s a variation throughout the whole record, and maybe that might resemble a little bit of the albums like Allegiance and Premonition because those albums had that kind of variety. However, it’s not like we went in there and tried to copy those songs from those albums. You know what I mean? It’s like you have to keep moving forward and write the next song, basically. That’s how I look at it.

ANTIHERO: I read also that there are three tracks on there. “Space Cowboy”, “Longing to Know You”, and “Orbitual Sunrise”, that are connected.

Gus G: Lyrically, it’s like a little story. Like a little sci-fi concept if you like, where it’s about this astronaut who is basically orbiting around the Earth, goes on this astral travel, whatever. His thoughts and he reflects on his feelings and thoughts about Earth and exploiting the human orbital rotation of nature. Basically, his feelings on how he misses his family. The ballad is about that, missing his family and his newborn son and those kinds of things. Feelings that most people have, but through the eyes of a lonely astronaut.  

ANTIHERO: I just wondered if that’s the case of those three tracks being connected, I just wonder why you chose not to sequence them together in the track listing?

Gus G: Because it’s not like a continuation of a story. Well, I think Orbitual Sunrise and Longing to Know You are back-to-back, if I’m not mistaken. But Space Cowboy, that song is more about like, “Hey, I’m kind of being cool up here in space, riding in this ship made of steel.” It’s just like a statement, just him enjoying it out there in space. But yeah, it’s like a story within itself. Like I said, it’s… I mean musically also, it felt better to place it. I think it’s number 10 on the track list. I don’t always think about the lyrics. But I also think when I put a track list together, I think of tempos, key changes and mood changes throughout the album for the listener. 

ANTIHERO: Do you prefer working either on your solo material on Firewind which is essentially your own band, rather than for example, playing with Ozzy where you’re more… you’re fixed and you have to perform around particular songs and how they sound? You’ve got more creative freedom when you’re doing your own thing.

Gus G: Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely more freedom when you do your own thing, yeah. I prefer writing my own music. Ozzy, that was a huge experience. Even though I was a hired gun there, I would have never turned down such a gig. You know? 

It was the experience of a lifetime. But generally speaking, yeah, I do prefer working on my own music. Especially coming out of Ozzy, it was time for me to… It was important for me to focus on my own thing and basically take that platform that Ozzy gave me, the fame and all the stuff that he gave me. He made all these people around the world aware of who I am. It made sense to basically continue on my own path and just do my own music.

ANTIHERO: Outside of the general musical style that you are known for, I’m just wondering if you’ve ever had any desire or ambition to maybe release an album in a different style or a different musical genre. 

Gus G: I mean, I like blues stuff. I like blues rock. It would be cool to try to do something more bluesy someday. I’m a big Gary Moore fan. I would like to do an album in that vein sometime. But I don’t know if I will ever get to do that or when will that be. I’m a metalhead in the core. I just enjoy writing songs. I have distorting guitars and they are just heavy.

ANTIHERO: I know then a couple of days ago from your own Facebook page that the documentary, Life Through Fire, finally came out. Well, online anyway. I just wonder why it so long to come out, and do you have any plans maybe to put that into DVD production?

Gus G: Well, that was actually a couple of weeks. It’s kind of funny you mentioned that, because two weeks ago basically, I called up the director who did this. This was done from a director for the National Greek TV channel, kind of like you have BBC there. Our local thing for the Greek. It’s not called BBC, but anyway.  

I called up the director and I said, “Man, it’s been three years since that thing was broadcast.” A lot of people keep asking for that. A lot of people didn’t see it. He had prepared a version with, sometimes anyway, for film festivals and stuff. I think he got stuck on waiting for answers, to hear back from film festivals and documentary festivals. I said to him, “You know what? Forget about that.” Three years have gone, and maybe the documentary was aired in a couple of festivals. 

But you know, the thing is it was more like a broad… the character of it is more of a TV broadcast style, not like a Netflix type of a documentary. You know? So I said to him, “Look, we have this.” And time flies. I said, “Why don’t you just put it up there online for people to see?”   

He wanted to release it as a DVD. My thought is, the DVD market is dead. You don’t see many people releasing DVDs these days, because nobody fucking watches them. Everything is online now, either subscription based or whatever. I thought why don’t we just put it online, upload it on Vimeo or something? So people who want to watch it, they can go check it out. Actually, it’s a good time now because everybody’s on quarantine, killing time. It’s a good opportunity. We’ll see. 

I don’t know if it’s ever going to get a release on a DVD, maybe if it’s going to be as a part of a special box set. My point is, I didn’t want to wait until 10 years later over the last documentary. I think that would have been a shame. I thought we should still do this while it’s relatively fresh. As I’m heading into the next era of the band, I thought it would be cool to put this out there for whoever wants to watch it. I managed to convince him, so he uploaded it.

ANTIHERO: Okay. Just a couple then to finish. Who would have been the most influential musician that you have worked with either through your solo stuff, through Firewind, outside of Ozzy? 

Gus G: The most influential?

ANTIHERO: Yeah. Someone who’s taught you the most, that you have worked with and created music with. Somebody that’s a musician that you have worked with that would have taught you the most. 

Gus G: I think all of my collaborations have been really good learning experiences. I mean, it depends on what era of my life you are talking about. For example, when I toured with Archenemy back in 2005. That was a big learning school, because that was my first professional experience that up until then, I didn’t know. I was dreaming about how we did things. We did whatever we thought was right, we had nobody to guide us. Same thing with Firewind

All of a sudden I got to tour with Arch Enemy, and that was a band with management and crew. It was like the real deal. I learned a lot from that, I took a lot out of that. I mean yeah, that was a big school for me. That really influenced me and inspired me, I would like to say. It inspired me to think… Okay, I would like my band to function as professionally someday, hopefully. You know? 

ANTIHERO: Yeah. You must have achieved many career goals and dreams. I’m just wondering. If you still had hopes, dreams and ambitions, maybe in your career or in life that you haven’t yet fulfilled, what would they be? 

Gus G: I think once you stop dreaming and have ambitions and goals, you’re not really living. You know? 

I always have hopes about stuff, ambitions. I dream of things I want. Definitely, it hasn’t stopped. Even though I’ve ticked a lot of boxes on my bucket list, so to speak. There are still things to do. There are definitely things to do. As a composer, as a musician, I’m still learning music and myself. I’m still studying music. It’s a never-ending journey. 

I still have goals to reach for the band. I hope the band can become something bigger someday. So all of these things. I’m also getting involved in other things, like designing guitar pickups and pedals these days. So, there’s a lot of things to do. There are many ways to keep being creative.

ANTIHERO: Yeah. That’s great. Thank you very much for talking to me and take care. I hope to see Firewind back in the U.K. Whenever we get through all this. 

Gus G: Yeah, man. Yeah. Stay safe there, and thanks a lot.

Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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