“We want these shows to be fucking stellar. We’re going to play our asses off!” – Gus G on Firewind’s imminent Aussie tour.

Gus G was setting stages alight with his blazing guitar solos long before he achieved international metal stardom as Ozzy Osbourne’s axeman. Now Firewind are preparing to unleash their Greek fire and fury Down Under for the first time.

Firewind is a band that is currently flourishing in the constantly shifting heavy metal landscape. Their seventh studio album Few Against Many entered the charts at number one in their native country of Greece last year and they also released a live CD celebrating their ten-year anniversary entitled Apotheosis – Live 2012 this past June. Firewind, that also features charismatic multi-instrumentalist Bob Katsionis, are finally enjoying the international respect and success they have worked so hard for.

Despite being busy recording his highly anticipated solo album, Gus G tells me he’s full of energy. Markos, his infamous pet cat that I enquire after to resounding laughter is “good” and “asleep upstairs.” Considering his status as one of metal’s most distinguished and adored guitarists, I applaud his efforts at always taking the time to reach out to his fans and ask how does he manage to remain so humble? Well, why shouldn’t he? “You know, people don’t like assholes,” he laughs. “Not that I’m trying to be nice – it’s just who I am. There’s always somebody that can ruin your day and I’ve learned that wherever you go, whether you’re travelling or working, nobody wants an asshole around.” He also reminds me, after I mention some of Firewind’s 2013 achievements, the year did not kick-off so smoothly after the departure of long-time vocalist Apollo Papathanasio.

You’ve had a busy year. What have been some of the highlights?

“This year kicked off a bit badly because our singer quit, but we decided to carry on, we were like: ‘This is not going to be the end of the band, no way!’ We got ourselves a really great singer from the States whose name is Kelly Sundown. We started touring America with him at the beginning of 2013, then we came back and played about ten festivals here in Europe, and it was great. Of course, in between all that we also put out our live album, Apotheosis.”

Kelly certainly seems confident on stage with you guys. 

“I really dig that guy. Technically speaking, he’s the most proficient out of all of us. We’ve done like, 40 shows with him this year and I haven’t heard him make a single mistake. We make mistakes all the time on stage, and we’re like: ‘Are you even human, what’s going on with you?’ (laughs). He has these pre-show rituals and he really takes care of himself. He’s really professional. The feedback we’ve received from the fans has been amazing and we’re all very excited for our first shows down there. I’m glad our Australian fans are going to see us with him.”

What’s a typical day like for Gus G?

“It depends; every day is different. I’m actually in the process of mixing my first solo album. I’m recording bits and bobs here and there, so I’m very busy with that. We’re mixing the album in LA, but I do a lot of the guitars here at home.”

You seem like a guitarist whose instrument is never far away…

“Yeah, that’s true. I actually have a guitar standing right next to me. I have guitars all over my house.”

So it’s kind of like an extra limb then?

“Yeah it is. It’s definitely like an extension of my body, for sure. I’ve been playing for so long now and it still amazes me how the guitar offers endless possibilities. Even if I don’t do a practicing session, I still like to pick it up and play, and each day I can see that I need to get better at certain areas. It’s also inspirational to pick up a guitar and know you can come up with something new.”

You have a huge catalogue of songs, have you given any thought to the set list for the Aussie shows yet?

“It’s going to definitely be a ‘best of’ type set list. We actually started discussing this last night with the guys and we’re going to be talking a little more about it during this week. We would like to add more ‘obscure’, if you like, tracks from our career for the hard-core fans that are coming to see us – play stuff we haven’t played for years. I’m also going to do a very cool guitar solo!”

How does it feel knowing you’ll be playing in the world’s biggest Greek city in terms of population after your hometown of Thessaloniki?

“Insane! I hope we play a sold-out show in Melbourne!”

It’s been almost ten years since the release of The Fire and the Fury, an instrumental track that has become synonymous with you and Firewind. You manage to keep it fresh each time you play it, how did that infamous piece come about?

“To be honest with you, I never really expected that an instrumental song would gain so much notoriety and become a must have for our live shows. When I wrote that song, I knew I had this killer riff that was supposed to be for a vocal track, but I didn’t know how to develop it more from there, so I just kept adding more guitar parts. I wrote it there on the spot with my little drum machine while I was recording the Burning Earth album. I was never really good at making instrumental songs and it came together very naturally for me. When we started playing it live, people would go mental – ape shit – and I was like: ‘Other songs are not getting the same response that this one gets, I don’t’ know why!’”

Tell us a little about your four ESP signature guitars for all the gear heads out there.

“Three of the four have this shape called the Random Star and I’ve been playing those for about ten years now. They come in different colours and they mostly have similar specs. When I joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band, he asked me if I liked to play Les Paul guitars and if I liked the Les Paul shape, and I was like, ‘well, I don’t really play Les Paul’ and he suggested that maybe I should try them for a couple of songs. That gave me the idea of designing a new guitar, so that’s how the white guitar with the graphics on it came about.

Any final words for your Australian fans that are eagerly awaiting your arrival?

“I want to thank everybody for their patience and I’m sorry we had to postpone the previous tour. We’re really, really happy and excited to get down there. We want these shows to be fucking stellar. We want to develop a strong bond with our Australian fans and keep growing there and hopefully come back again. We’re going to play our asses off! We just can’t wait to see everybody.”

Firewind on tour in Australia:

Thursday Oct 31st Sydney – Manning Bar

Friday Nov 1st Brisbane – HiFi

Saturday Nov 2nd Adelaide – Fowlers Live

Sunday Nov 3rd Melbourne – Corner Hotel