By Andrew Catania
Konstantinos Karamitroudis, aka Gus G., is a young name in the heavy metal genre and has managed to bag many awards and achievements in the rather short course of his professional music career.
Born on September 12, 1980, in Thessaloniki, Greece, Gus G. grew up learning music at home. His father’s love for rock introduced him to the acclaimed bands like The Eagles, Pink Floyd, and Santana in his early childhood years. His father, who used to play and sing traditional Greek melodies at the local taverns and bars, wanted to deliver his passion to his child. His favorite childhood hobby was to listen to his father’s recorded versions of Peter Frampton’s album titled Frampton Comes Alive! Elated by his son’s genuine philia towards music, his father presented him with his first guitar, a basic classic piece, on his 10th birthday.
Partly because of his father’s wish and primarily because of the natural talent that seems to have genetically transmitted to him from his father, he opted to learn music at a very young age. He was enrolled at a local music school where his natural playing skills were nurtured and groomed. After having determined the simple techniques, he switched over to his first electric guitar by the time he turned 14. He joined a local music conservatory, and under the mentorship of a rock guitar instructor, he decided to test his fate in the rock and heavy metal genre.
1998 turned out to be a turning point in his life. He got himself enrolled at the Berklee College of Music and decided to focus on building his professional profile. His debut project was a joint feat with his musician friends and was titled as Firewind.
The demo bagged significant attention from prominent record label agencies as well as a couple of growing metal bands such as Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil, and Night Rage. Gus played a leading role in the debut albums of all three bands. The success of those albums might be debatable, but Gus’ talent was too audacious to be ignored. His playing technique received due praise from the critics as well as the audience. This compelled him to focus on his solo career and his band. Firewind has released several studio records from 1998 to date.
Aside from his solo ventures, Gus has teamed up with notable bands and acclaimed musicians for guest appearances, including Nightrage, In This Moment, and the Greek rock band named West Neighborhoods. His natural playing brilliance helped him make a mark in all of his solo, guest, and joint feats and eventually landed him on Ozzy Osbourne’s (The Unrivaled Godfather of Heavy Metal) list of prospected candidates to play as the lead guitarist in his next big album release. Gus was initially invited by Ozzy to learn with him and play for a few minor albums. His talent endorsed him as a wise decision on Ozzy’s part, and he was officially offered a role to play in place of Zakk Wylde.
I have wrote on many occasions that Ozzy Osbourne has missed the boat to write an album with Gus instead of the sophomoric album he released last month.
Aside from his associations with the Arch Enemy, Kamelot, Nightrage, Angel Vivaldi, Mystic Prophecy, and making numerous guest appearances and solos, Gus mentions that playing for Ozzy was an experience of a lifetime, and the honor itself outweighs all other accolades and awards he has accomplished to date. I spoke with Gus about Firewind’s self-titled album.
How did you find your new singer Herbie Langhans?
GG: It was through the label, AFM Records. After I decided it ain’t going to work out with Henning Basse, I reached out to the label, and said, “Hey, this is what’s happening, so do you know anybody who could help out and do this, and hopefully join the band and not just sings?” So it all happened pretty quickly. They suggested Herbie. I just heard of the guy. They sent me a bunch of links, and I knew he did Avantasia, and then I realized he was in this band called Sinbreed years ago. I remembered hearing one of their tracks and going, “Wow! This guy would be perfect for us.” We just hooked up, and I sent him some music. He did like a track, and we discussed it… and this was pre-corona virus, too, so we’re like, Dude, we have about six to seven weeks to write the music. We had the melodies for most of the songs. I said we have to write the rest of the record; You have to help me out. Then we have to record, mix and we got about two months and then two months to tour, in America and then the rest of the world. So…
I remember seeing an older video with the early line-up.
GG: That was back in August. By that time, it was still the old line-up. We went in, and we tracked the drums, and then after that, I came back home, and I did the guitars. We went on this tour with Queensryche, and it was still the old line-up. There was no progress on the music, on the record, …not on the lyrics or the vocals. And I was like, okay, something’s going on here. I don’t see this project being finished on time, and there wasn’t a good vibe between us, so I was like, that’s when I became skeptical when we were on that tour with Queensryche. I was like well when I go home I need to sit down and re-approach this and see how we’re going to do this, you know?
What led up to the parting of ways with Hennig?
GG: We are like brothers with the guys. It was the same with the keyboard player, who decided to step down as well. It was a difficult discussion. It wasn’t easy because, with guys who are your buddies, it’s not always an easy conversation. But, when they’re not happy and then eventually it made me feel like I wasn’t doing a good job like I wasn’t leading this band, I was unhappy, too. I was like; we can’t have this. With nobody happy, I would rather not be in the band. We need to make some changes here, to make it a pleasant place again.
Henning had a few health issues as well. He wasn’t sure if he could continue touring at this pace, so he needed to take care of himself.
Maybe he felt uninspired with the material. Shit happens like in all bands.
Did you do most of everything for this album?
Yeah. I did everything. I wrote everything music-wise, except for one song. The song Orbitual Sunrise, which I co-wrote with Bob Katsionis, it was Bob’s idea. And even after he left the band, I thought it was a good idea to keep the track. A good idea always wins. We worked together, and I included him on the tracklist. Lyric wise, I did three songs. And the rest is Herbie.
Did you have the material for this album already written out, or did this come from on the spot creativity?
GG: They just come creatively, I just write… as I was writing, it was still the old line-up, so it was just like business as usual. I wrote the songs; they came out naturally. I tried my best to just work around them to make the best arrangements. I wanted to make them exciting and make them better—the same thing as always. Take them up one level than before.
I’ve said a million times before and I’ll repeat it, Ozzy missed the boat to write some great music with you! His new album isn’t that great for me.
GG: Would it have been nice to do something, to write something with Ozzy? Yeah, sure, but we have to look at this from a different point of view, at least I do. It’s not like, oh, what didn’t I get to do. It’s more like what I did get to do while I was there, and it was a dream come true.
That’s how I look at it and what was so cool about it. Like I could sit here and say, why doesn’t Firewind have a quadruple platinum record in America? It doesn’t matter, you know? (Laughing)What matters is that we can do this thing and make music. The rest isn’t necessary. That’s always been my philosophy. It’s excellent for what comes your way and be grateful for what it is. I think I also said that back then. I mean, Ozzy, he has a big team around him, you know? He can write with whoever the hell he wants to. He can have any guitar player in the world that he wants. He can have any drummer, any bass player…I mean, he’s like, the guy from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you know? Guns N’ Roses, they’re there in a heartbeat.
Everybody is always happy to be there to play for such an icon. So, you have to think about all these things, that he can just do whatever the hell he wants, and it was just a blessing that I got to spend all thee years next to him.
What has been canceled for Firewind so far this year??
GG: I can tell you, for Firewind, nothing is going on this year. We were talking about a European tour in the fall, I mean the agent is working on it right now, some ideas are being discussed, it’s hard to say whether it will be safe to have shows in September or October. So maybe all of these guys will reschedule their tours until the fall, or they may have to re-reschedule for 2021. We just wait and see at this point. The Symphony X tour just got pulled yesterday, and I am waiting to find out when we are going to do it. I don’t think it until next year.
To Pre-Order Firewind’s self-titled album which is due on May 15th, 2020 please click here