Ozzy Osbourne/Firewind – Gus G. (guitar)
The Greek God-like guitarist landed the high-profile Ozzy Osbourne gig last year and then went on to record the new album Scream. He is currently on the first leg of the North American tour with the Prince of Darkness.
Gus also just released a new album with his other full-time band, power metalers FIREWIND. But his new gig with Ozzy was a headline grabber when it was announced that he would be taking over Zakk Wylde’s spot in Ozzy’s band. A position that mere mortals would be terrified of, but Gus has taken everything in stride. His maturity and professionalism as a musician has led him this far.
Speaking from Montreal on an off-day from the Ozzy tour, Gus put his job as Ozzy’s new guitar player into perspective.
Describe the feeling or thrill you had when you first got the Ozzy gig?
It was the happiest day of my life. I couldn’t really believe it was happening. It’s been one of the biggest events in the hard rock and heavy metal world for the past year; Ozzy switching guitar players after 20-plus years. It’s the biggest honor for a guy like me, or for anyone that would be put in this position. If you’re a rock and metal guitar player, it doesn’t really get any bigger than that. It’s the biggest honor one could have.
How did the initial contact happen? When/how did you find out Ozzy was interested in you?
The management. I guess I made their short-list somehow. I don’t know where from. Maybe because I was on the Ozzfest in 2005 with Arch Enemy or maybe just being with Firewind and touring around. I guess some of his people in his office knew about me and they asked me if I would be interested in auditioning. That’s how it happened.
Everything was written, really, all the songs were ready. I did go in and try to change around parts that I didn’t feel like how I would do them or didn’t feel comfortable with. It’s not like I went in there and rewrote stuff, because it was already written. I kind of like joined in the eleventh hour when it came to Scream. I thought of it as a challenge as well, it was the first record that I hadn’t written anything. I had to put my own stamp and mark on songs that I didn’t write. That was something different and obviously it was fantastic for me just to be able to play. It was amazing, I got to play on the Ozzy Osbourne album.
Do you think that you’ll be included more in the songwriting on the next album?
Yeah, we’re already discussing ideas for the next one and I’ve already been making lots of riffs. Don’t know how that’s going to end up, but Ozzy definitely wants to do another full band album, kind of like he did with the first two albums. Get all of us in a room and just write songs and riffs and just get it down.
I’m sure you’re aware of the legacy of Ozzy and the great guitarists he’s always had in his band. Do you feel this as pressure on you or do you consider it a challenge?
As it were, I was like, “What did I get myself into?” “How am I going to prove this?” I came from a different scene, I’ve been with my own band for years and all I’ve been doing was my own thing. I didn’t really care if people called me a guitar hero or anything, but all of a sudden I was put into that spotlight and was given that chance and opportunity, so I gotta live up to this. But in the end, you don’t really stress about it, just be yourself and play your part and hope that people like it. I guess Ozzy fans have been very nice to me because they could see that I’m an honest guy, so it’s very embracing.
You’re already an accomplished musician and a great showman. Without you seeming the least bit arrogant, does it feel like just another musical job?
It’s not just like another job. To be honest with you, the only time I’ve ever been hired by a band to play was with Arch Enemy. That was for summer of 2005 to help them out when one of their guitar players quit. Other than that, I’ve always played in my own band and been involved with the vision and production and stuff. It’s not like I’ve done a lot of auditions in my life, this was really the only one. So it was really a big deal at that calibre of level.
A new Firewind album was just released, and it’s a great piece of fiery power metal. Any plans to tour with them once the Ozzy tour is done?
Yes, of course. There’s definitely plans for shows. We’ve already done a few shows. We were here (US) a couple of weeks ago before the Ozzy tour started, and we did a few shows on the East coast. We’re planning to come back to the US and do some shows on the West coast in May, when I have a break from the Ozzy tour. In January, we’re going to Japan, and we’re doing some shows in Europe, and we just started confirming some summer festivals in Europe in June and July.
With Bob (Katsionis) and Apollo (Papathanasio) in their many other projects as well, did the guys in the band understand you joining Ozzy?
Yeah, I was obviously very open to the band about it. I said, “Hey, listen, I have the Ozzy gig and I gotta do it.” I’m not going to be a fucking idiot and turn it down, you know? (laughs). The band is not stupid either, everybody sees the benefit to us. The band has already become bigger without really playing that many shows this year. We’ve already got more attention. It’s really working out for the best. Everybody’s very happy about that. I also said to the guys, while I’m out there touring with Ozzy, feel free to do your own projects. And whenever I have the free time, we’re going to be confirming shows and everybody was cool with it.
You’ve been in many other bands such as Nightrage, Mystic Prophecy, Arch Enemy and Dream Evil. You keep stepping up to the plate and are now definitely being rewarded for your talent with the high-profile Ozzy gig. Did you feel that this was your next step in your musical career?
You certainly cannot expect gigs like that to come along. Before, I was just happy doing what I was doing in Firewind because the band was progressing slowly but surely. And the album was bigger for us, and we achieved a lot of things in the last four or five years. I certainly did not see a gig like Ozzy Osbourne coming. Who would have ever thought? It’s the best ride one can have, really.
What’s next for you? What do you hope happens next or continues to happen?
I just take things day by day. Of course, I have my plans and my ideas. But you really cannot expect anything in this business or in this time and age. You just have to take things as they come. I couldn’t be in a better position right now. I’m totally happy with what I’m doing; I’ve got a big world tour ahead of me to finish with Ozzy, I got a bunch of dates with my band, I keep writing riffs and songs constantly. Hopefully these will end up on a new Ozzy Osbourne record at some point. I’ll just play it by ear and see where it goes, man.