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 12th, 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 seven 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.
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. We speak to Gus regarding his new album, Fearless coming out on April 20, 2018.
How did you get your start with Blackstar Amps?
GG: I had just joined Ozzy, and I was looking for a company to grow with together. I was the first artist that brought Blackstar Amps into arena shows. They were a young company. I’m also the only artist to have their own signature amp by Blackstar. They’re a fantastic company.
I remember taking them out on the Scream tour, and some of the crew guys were like, what the fuck is that? They’re saying what is this a joke? I’m like, no, it’s fucking, it’s a real. It’s a new amp company. Not many people knew about Blackstar. Ozzy’s longtime sound engineer, Greg Price, who’s one of the best in the business, the legendary sound man who been with him since the early nineties. He’s done, Van Halen and other bands. He was impressed with the amps. Greg said don’t fucking let anybody say anything bad about those amps.
The last Firewind album you didn’t tour the States. Was that because of the economics of people here not embracing this kind of music as European countries do?
GG: I feel bad we didn’t tour the states. We didn’t make it over there with Firewind. It was a conscious decision not to tour the United States this time. And I feel kind of sad for them because we have a lot of loyal fans. It’s not that we don’t have fans in America. It’s a considerable investment every time to do it, you know, with a VIisa’s, flights, tour buses, touring costs thousands of dollars daily.
You’ll do 20 to 25 shows very few days off, and then you’ll play like five or six fantastic shows, and then the rest is kind of like filling the gaps because of such a vast country. This kind of music doesn’t seem to take off. You can have your markets. You can do well or maybe on the east coast or west coast. We would talk about it with the guys and said, you know what, since this was our comeback album, let’s keep it to the basics. We know we have a good following in a few countries in Europe and then let’s do that. Let’s try it and play some festival so the younger kids can see us because we were away for a few years.
How different did you approach Fearless than your other albums?
GG: This album is like a three-piece band, whereas the first two albums were collaborations that were with different singers. The first ones were more like Santana kind of type of project where you had all these people come in and singing one guy each song and co-writing with different people.
Whereas now mainly me and my primary collaborator, Dennis Ward, we did everything together and he ended up playing bass and singing on the project and then playing drums. So that’s about it, a lot more meat and potatoes kind of record. Very straightforward, just a lot of ingredients and not much less external experimentation. Getting down to business, this is what it is, a guitar record, but with good songs, a lot of good songwriting. And some instrumentals here and there.
Your singer Dennis sounds a little bit like Ozzy on the first song Letting Go.
GG: I think that was kind of like a deliberate thing because I had the song and then he came up with the vocal melody idea and reminded me a little bit of the stuff that we did on Scream record, and I said to him, listen, keep it that way. It’s kind of cool. I like the Ozzy reference. It was a little bit of a deliberate move there. If you pay close attention to these, his voice is very different, is very melodic and sounds very different. I think the vocal lines reminded a little bit of Ozzy.
You’re departure from Ozzy Osbourne, you’ve been very diplomatic about it. Zakk Wylde told a radio station last year that Ozzy told him “you couldn’t handle it.”
GG: It was all good. Sharon gave me a call last year. She told me what’s going to happen. I got a heads up, and I am totally cool with it. It’s your band, and you do what you have to do. I was happy that I was there in the first place, and it lasted for. My original deal with the Osbournes was for an album and a tour that was going to continue for 18 months and that 18 months became seven years.
Technically they didn’t even have to call me after that tour, so they kept calling me back. So it was all good man. I’m lucky, and I’m blessed that I got to spend all the time with them and play all these shows and be a part of his band for all this time. I have terrific memories.
Ozzy wrote two songs with Steve Stevens, and we spoke about that the last time we talked
GG: We wrote a couple of songs as well and one of those songs after they let me go from the band. I decided to use it for this record. It’s a song called Don’t Tread On Me.
There’s a lot of history there with Zakk, and I understand that. Coming out of the Black Sabbath thing, which was huge of course, he needed a big boost. Given the fact that it’s a Farewell Tour thing, it’s cool that he’s bringing Zakk back to the band. You cannot take those kinds of things for granted honestly.
You seem more in your element with Firewind and seem happier including your solo album.
GG: Absolutely That’s where you hear a hundred percent, Gus G. I’m not bound by falling into those classic songs of Ozzy’s. You can put your input and your sound to it, but there’s only so much you can do with that. You’re like a sideman, and you’re trying to do the song justice for the fans. It’s not like hear my new riff.
What are your touring plans for 2018?
GG: I just got off the phone with my agent. I have like 50 shows booked for the rest of the year; There’s a lot of stuff piling up already, so that means I’m probably going to be on the road for at least four or five months. Starting next week.
I start out in Scandinavia and then do some Germans shows in May. I’m probably going to take it easy a little bit in the summer. I’m going to do a couple of festivals, one-offs here and there, but I’ll be coming to America for a tour in September in support of Fearless. It’s going to be an excellent guitar package of players which I can’t reveal at this time. It’s going to be exciting. It’s all confirmed, and all are getting the fine details together. I’m very excited about this.
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For more information on Gus G, please visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/officialgusg/