Interview: Gus G talks Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne, And Future Solo Record

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 12th September 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.

Gus’s recent releases include Brand New Revolution and a couple of guest appearances for Attitude and Attitude. Gus has been ranked at 3rd position among the top 3 guitarists in the world by Japanese magazine BURRN! In 2003.

We recently had a chance to interview Gus where he shared his insight on his career so far and where he aspires to land in the future. Read on to find what he has to say.

Hey, Gus!  Welcome to All That Shreds.  I had the pleasure of seeing you with Angel Vivaldi recently.

Yes! That was a cool show that night I remember

It was a very cool show.  I was wondering where you were going to put all your gear.  I was just like, wow!

(laughter)

Everything fit alright in the end.  It was a cool stage I thought

Yes! It’s a very cool setup there.  That is where a lot of the hard rock metal bands go

Yes,  they told me that.  It was cool

How are you liking AFM Records?

We just started working together and they have their rights to a new album for North America and Century Media is handling the rest of the world.  So I’m curious to see what they do in North America.  The last album I put out on my label basically

 
Has it been five years now since Firewind came out with the last album?  Anything particular change in recording on this one versus your old one?

Yes.  The last one we did everything in a studio altogether.  We used a couple of different studios we did the drums in Belgium and then everybody did their stuff in their home studios.  Like I have my set-up here, so I did guitar and bass with Petros and Henning he went with the producer studio in Germany, and they did the vocals there like the album.  It sounds really good.  It’s got your DNA all over it.  I can hear your playing from miles away.  It’s a Firewind album.  I associate you with Firewood.  Whenever you’re doing a solo record, Firewind is you  Yes, Yes! Thanks, man, thanks!!No problem.  Do you have plans of touring Europe?

Yes, it starts in February in the UK and Europe and then I do a little bit of a solo thing in Asia.  I have three shows in Japan and Korea, and then we would get back with the guy’s, and we would do a bunch of festivals in the summer

OK.  Any plans on bringing Firewind to the states?
I don’t know.  I think a lot depends on how the album is doing over there.  We have not discussed any packages or anything like that or touring plans for the states.  We’ll see! We’re not cynical about it; we’d like to come back.  Hopefully,  if we have the right feedback from fans and the proper support and it’s the right package, yes we would want to go backThat would be fantastic to see you guy’s back here.  You’re with Jackson Guitar now, that is kind of surprising

Yes!  I went with them I think it was in May or June

I know the other company you do not discuss much of it.  But the other company I think you were with for 12 years

I was with them for 12 years.  Sometimes you’ve just got to change it up.  I’ve been playing Japanese guitars for a long time, and then I fancy playing American guitars and then trying it out.  Jackson was very enthusiastic, and they have a right theme.  Not only excited about the marketing scheme and all that, their team on how they build guitars have good ideas and are not afraid to try them out so to speak and I like that attitude.

So do you feel more at home now with Jackson versus your predecessor?  

You know I’ve had a terrific run with ESP I can’t complain.  They gave me my first signature guitars and stuff, and we did well.  Now with Jackson, it feels like the right team to be a part of.  Those guys are fans of what I do.  They’ve been bugging me for a few years now. It’s like hey man if you ever feel like trying something else out, we’re here.  I met up with them, and I went to their factory.  You know they are owned by Fender, so  I went to the Fender factory which is pretty amazing.  The whole vibe there was very cool, and everybody was really on it.  You know the guy who builds my guitar is Mike Shannon who made Randy Rhoads Jackson guitars, and it’s very cool.

It’s quite an honor isn’t it?

Absolutely! Yes

Jackson is part of Fender.  They make a good product there.  Are you still touring around with your 200-watt cabs?

Yes! That is my set-up live.  That is what I had in Orlando.

fw_i_p01_small1

It was freaking loud!

Yes!  It’s a 200-watt head.  The cabs that I use, those Blackstar cabs they are more significant than the regular Marshall cabs.  They are kind of I don’t know; there are designed to be played loud I guess.  It’s cool

Gus tell me how did you start playing guitar?  Was it as a kid?

Yes.  I started playing when I was nine because my dad had this record at home he kept playing, Frampton Comes Alive, by Peter Frampton.  I just loved the way he did the Talkbox, and I thought it was a robot effect or something.  I didn’t know it was a guitar at the time.  Yes, that is how I was interested in picking up a guitar

Interesting.  Do you remember your first guitar?

The first guitar that my dad got me was a classical guitar.  For the first four years,  I was stuck with that classical guitar, and I was going to some local music school learning a few chords and stuff nothing too exciting, but when I was fourteen, he saved up and got me my first electric guitar, which I still have.  It is a Fender Stratocaster.  It was one of those models and the first attempt that Fender made to try to be a bit more metal.  It was like a Floyd with Rosewood and a humbucker

How did you get into your first band?

I was playing covers when I was 16 around town just classic rock stuff.  I played for a couple of years before I went to America after high school.  I went to Berklee College of Music for a while and dropped out of that and did some recordings with some classmates from Berklee and that was the beginning of Firewind as a project, as an idea.

And that was back in ’98?

Yes,  ’98.

Ok,  so you were trying to shop at labels to get your project Firewind acknowledged?

Yes.  Just trying to see if there was any interest out there at the time and there was no interest.

(laughter)

Ok.  So Firewind got signed?

Yes, I was still young, and my ideas were not developed, so I was doing all these 4-track recordings, and I would send them to this label in Atlanta, Leviathan Records,  and the owner was David Chastain.  He would write me back letter’s or e-mails and said yes he would encourage me to keep working at it, and eventually he offered me the first contract, and that is how we signed with Leviathan.

Wow! That is awesome.  With Firewind do you do most of the writing or is it split up amongst the team?

It depends on every album.  Sometimes it used to be me and Bob, Apollo, our previous singer.  In the very early collection,  it was just the other singer we had back then and me.  On this record,  it changed up again.   I made all the music and co-wrote it with Dennis Ward who co-produced the album with me.  So he and I co-wrote and co-produced the whole thing

Very good.  Tell me how you got the Ozzy Osbourne gig.

I got an e-mail from his management in 2009 asking me if I would be interested in auditioning.  I was like yes, of course!  I learned a bunch of songs, and a couple of weeks later they flew me out to LA, and I did the audition.  It went terrific and they asked me if I wanted to come back and play a show with him, and that was it.  In August 2009 we did the first show which was a televised appearance or something.  It was a show in Anaheim, and that was a warm-up thing.  Then I went back home, and two weeks later they asked me to come back and play another show with him, The Sunset Strip Festival and the next thing you know I was hanging out at his house the next day, and he played me the record he was working on and I ended up staying for a few days recording some guitars and the next thing you know I am working entirely on the next album, and everything took off from there

I’m sure it had to be pretty exciting touring the world with Ozzy and playing in stadiums and festivals

Oh yes, of course, man, it’s incredible!  These are things very few musician’s get to do, and it is mind-blowing

Is there any word from his camp that you guys are going to be going back into the studio?

No,  I have not heard anything.  I know he has been hinting at press a little bit the past few months, but I don’t know.  Yes there is apparently a plan for another album, but it’s probably not set in stone right now, still busy with that Sabbath final tour

fw_i_single_p01_by_firenesia1

Yes, he’s still doing that until February.

Yes apparently and maybe there is going to be some more gigs they said or festivals or something like that.  Didn’t Naomi say that or something?

They did say that yes.  It’s supposed to be in February I guess I saw one report where he was writing with Steve Stevens which scratched my head because that makes absolutely no sense

Yes.  That’s not new.  Those demos, those are from last year.  He was telling me about it.  I don’t know.  There’s nothing official I know he is busy doing this other thing right now.

That’s good.  Who are your endorsements?  Obviously,  we know Blackstar and Jackson.  What else are you endorsing?  Are you endorsed by a pick company or pedals?

A lot of people! A lot of good people.  Seymour Duncan for pickups, I’ve got my pickups through them.  DR Strings.  Morley pedals and Boss Units, Line 6 for my wireless units.  Red Monkey makes my guitar straps and some of the accessories like the cuffs that I’m wearing, wristbands

I know you came to America from Greece but did you find it hard to be noticed?

You mean back then when I was 18?  It was a tough time for heavy metal in America back then.  Like in the late ’90’s it was about wrap metal and new metal was emerging and all that stuff.  The traditional stuff was nowhere.  I was a bit discouraged back then.  I ended up going back home a year later, and I ended up living in Sweden for a while, and that’s when I got started with Dream Evil

Oh wow ok! That I did not know.  In 2017 Firewind is going to be your top priority until the Oz-man comes calling?  How is that going to work out for you?

Yes, apparently we have a new album so to promote it we have the tour, we have a lot of festivals that we’re going to be doing and just keep doing that and in between that keep writing my next solo record.  I have some occasional solo gigs here and there, and we’ll see what happens after that.  If we get to work with Ozzy then that’s what’s coming up next, and if that doesn’t happen then I’m going back into a solo record I guess

Your last solo record is fantastic.

Thanks!!

How does it feel to have your name thrown in with some of the heavy-weight guitarists like Steve Vai and all them?  Because your name is in the mix there with them

It is a big compliment of course!  I am nowhere near as good or as big as those guys, but some of those guys are my heroes.  I grew up their posters on my wall and listening to the records and stealing their licks.  Anytime you get to do a show with those guys, open with them or jam with them or with any of those guys it’s a big moment for me

Good luck on the album.  I look forward to the next one.  If the Oz-man comes calling, I will see you on the next tour!

Firewind’s new record will be released on January 20, 2017.

You can follow Firewind @ http://www.firewind.gr/2013/home.html

You can follow Gus G @ http://www.gusgofficial.com/home.html

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