In times of Covid-19, cancelled live shows and more, there is also positive news to report. One of it is a new Firewind album, which will be released on May 15th. Firewind guitarist Gus G. made some time for MHMB. Gus provides some details about the new album and gives also some insight into how the current crisis affects him as a musician.
Markus’ Heavy Music Blog: Hello Gus, great that you could make some time for MHMB. More important these days than ever, how are you?
Gus G.: Yeah, I’m good. I’ve been home for a month. I saw it was coming up. I saw it early on. I quarantined myself right before they announced it on the national side. I saw it coming for some reason.
MHMB: I guess you’re in Greece right now?
Gus: Yeah, I’m in Thessaloniki. I live here.
MHMB: What’s the situation in Greece right now? I guess everything’s closed there too, or?
Gus: In Greece, it’s pretty much over here. I think yesterday* only one person died. We only have 2,000 cases and 100 people died all together. So we managed to confine it right away. I don’t know how this happened but it happened.
MHMB: Gus, let’s talk about some exciting stuff. You will release with ‘Firewind’ a new album. Having listened to the album a few times gives me the impression of a logical continuation of the typical Firewind sound, but there are also a few more twists than on the other releases. How do you look at new the album?
Gus: Yeah, I agree with your description actually. It’s like how we started but also there are also a lot of elements reflecting Firewind throughout our whole career in different eras. Somehow there is something on this record, it’s hard to explain, there is something that’s like new elements somehow. This is gonna carry us through the future. I think it’s partly because of the new singer, maybe also because we have a different sound and production this time, which is a bit more fresh.
MHMB: Yun mentioned Herbie, the new singer. Did his addition add something to the songwriting for the new album? Did it give you a wider range of possibilities?
Gus: Of course. You know, I heard how Herbie sang and immediately I was like ”this guy should fit with the band perfectly.” We tried it out, we wrote a song but when we started working I saw that he has all these other sides to him as well like his vocal style and he could offer a lot. My style with his style and the stuff that he brought to the table is definitely one of the major reasons why ’Firewind’ sounds like that now. So on one hand you have that kind of Firewind-stuff because he also reminds a bit of our first singer Steven Fredrick. He has a little bit of bluesy stuff too that Apollo used to do. So there is a combination of a lot the eras that were very defining for us. And then he has he has his own vibe. I think it was really fortunate that he is a songwriter. He co-wrote like seven songs with me. Yeah, that was basically the project because I had nobody to help me finishing this record. Dennis Ward, who started to produce with me, had to leave in the midst of the production because he was hired by Helloween. Me and Dennis, we co-wrote like four songs. I think Dennis did like four melodies and then I had to complete the lyrics, which is not really my forte but when Herbie came in I was like ”now I have a solid co-writer”. I’m very oldschool like that. I want to write the music and I want the singer to take care about the lyrics and the vocal melodies. It’s just the way I learnt how to write stuff. There are very few cases of guitar players who are able to do it all, but those cases are also guitar players who have a great voice as well.
MHMB: The album contains with ‘Overdrive’ a song that’s rather unusual for Firewind, with some Black Sabbath references being very present. How would you describe the song and is it more of an exception or can we expect more of these songs in the future?
Gus: The thing is, I had all theses songs anyways. When I started writing the music, it was for me pretty much business as usual, as it was with the previous line-up. You can have a really different musical idea but if you put the vocal stamp on there, that sort of makes it what it is. So, I thought I have a lot of different songs, not only ’Overdrive’, but also a song like ’Space Cowboy’, a lot of these rocks-tracks as well. So I knew it would not be the norm for a Firewind record but I thought if the vocals and the vocal melodies are a sort of cohesive throughout the record it will give this album a strange but nice variety. So I just had to keep it even-though I knew from the beginning that it’s not a usual track. It’s just taken out of the Black Sabbath ’Headless Cross’ era cause I like that stuff. And also for me it’s refreshing to write stuff in other directions and have fun with it instead of making ten or twelve songs that has to be like that old Firewind album. It’s kind of boring to try to do this. It’s not exciting. Every now and then it’s good to spice it up a little bit. I was also skeptical of course and I was like well ’maybe we have a few bonus tracks in the end and they maybe won’t fit with the final tracklist’. In the end we had the discussion when we heard the final mix. That’s when you really get to hear that it sounds really cool now and you can put it on the tracklist. I made a comparison with our breakthrough album ”Allegiance’. When the album came out, it was also the same case. It had a lot of variety in there and so many different things, like this one. I also realized this is what a lot of Firewind fans refer to this as our golden era. For some reason maybe there’s something in that stew, that ingredient, that made that band to what it is. So I thought that if this comes up naturally, why push it away. Let’s just embrace it and I get a lot of similar feedback from people lately that they like the variety. They think it’s a good thing.
MHMB: Compared to the previous album ‘Immortals’ the new one isn‘t a concept album. There are three songs though that are connected (Orbital Sunrise‘, ‚Longing to Know You‘ and ‚Space Cowboy‘). It‘s storyline with an astronaut in focus. How did you come up with the story?
Gus: When we started writing lyrics with Herbie, the first song we did was ’Devour’. Then he asked me like ”Hey Gus, what about the rest? What do you want to write upon with?” and I responded that if it makes his life easier let’s have a concept in mind. I’m a Sci-Fi fan and maybe we can write a song about an astronaut or a cosmic traveler. Then he went away, wrote the first song, which was ’Space Cowboy’, and I thought it was cool. Then he sent me the next song, which is ’Orbitual Sunrise’ and then he sent me ’Longing to Know You’, which is a ballad. At that point I told him, well it maybe shouldn’t be like a full on Sci-Fi concept and he said that it’s OK. He just had this idea, can spread it out over 3-4 songs and then we see where it goes. It’s not only a Sci-Fi story. It’s also that there is other meaning behind it. ”Space Cowboy’ is pretty obvious. It’s this guys who’s an astronaut, basically riding on his spaceship. So that’s a pretty obvious rocking track and the ballad is also pretty obvious, because he’s missing his family and his new-born son that he can’t meet until he goes back to earth. ’Orbitual Sunrise’ has a cool meaning because it’s like a look at the earth and a look at humanity but through the eyes of this astronaut. It’s a bit beyond that story. I wouldn’t say it’s like an ecological message but maybe it is, how we destroy our earth and look what happens right now. We’re sitting here and we’re going through a pandemic. This is something that is man-made. We made this. We brought this to ourselves.
MHMB: I had to think about maybe the lyrics are almost a kind of metaphor for you guys, being on tour, looking on the earth from different spots/countries. And being away from home too for a longer period.
Gus: It’s an interesting comparison. I mean we’re not like astronauts, but being a touring band, we observe different cultures and different things. You can see a lot of things on the road that can make you freak out. You go through different experiences that you wouldn’t go through if you just would go to your job, back and forth. And you do miss your family and friends. We do cruise through the earth and it’s a cool comparison you made but we not as cool as astronauts (laughs).
MHMB: The new record is number nine for Firewind and simply entitled ‘Firewind’. Is there any specific reason behind naming the longplayer ‘Firewind’?
Gus: It was like the perfect timing for this even though it’s album number nine. Somebody might laugh and say ”What the f***k now?”. There was a big line-up change obviously, not only for vocals again, but we went from a five-piece band to a four-piece band so we continue without a keyboard player. So it’s a new approach to the sounds. For me, it was this opportunity to really re-structure the band from scratch as if I would start the band today but of course I have already made eight albums and we already have eighteen years on our backs. Let’s just say that I’m giving a second chance to retroduce the band to the audience. Naming the album just with the band name is a statement and it’s a good time to do it now.
MHMB: In the world we knew, a tour would follow an album release and Firewind was booked for a North America tour with Primal Fear and Symphony X . I guess this tour will not happen, which brings me to question of the impact of Covid-19 on Firewind. To what extend are you and the band affected by the current situation?
Gus: This tour is not happening. It’s postponed to next year. At this point I’m not even sure we’re able to do it. From what I heard from the timeframe they want to do, our visas are expired. We are discussing ideas to maybe doing something else because we want to go to North America. We want to play there wether it’s on this tour or on another tour.
MHMB: Gus, thanks again for making time for Markus’ Heavy Music Blog. Is there anything more you would like add?
Gus: Nothing special. Just thanks for the conversation and stay safe.
*The interview was done on April 16