If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed with Ozzy Osbourne it’s that he will be accompanied by an incredible guitarist. In his 30-year solo career very few have been chosen for this role. Now, lighting up the fret board is Greek guitar genius, Gus G.
The guitarist agreed to down-axe and talk with me about joining up with one of his idols, the possibility of a new Ozzy album, and setting up his own band, Firewind.
Geeks of Doom: So how are you?
Gus G.: Yeah, I’m fine. I just woke up actually! But it’s cool.
Geeks of Doom: Next month you head out across Europe with Ozzy and with Firewind for the summer. What are you up to right now?
Gus G.: Well I’m at home in Greece and I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff, catching up on stuff because I’ve been on tour for a year. So, you know, going home after almost a whole year with no break you got to take care of a lot of things. To be honest with you I’ve been practicing a lot of Ozzy songs…we are going to be rehearsing stuff from Blizzard [Of Ozz album] and Diary [Of A Madman album] he hasn’t done before so hopefully that will be on the setlist.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, this year it’s the 30th anniversary of Diary of a Madman, and also the 25th anniversary of The Ultimate Sin. So have you got anything special planned for the live shows?
Gus G.: Not that I know of. I mean, we played “Shot In The Dark” and we used to play “Killer Of Giants,” but that one came out of the setlist. I think there’s talks of bringing that one back. I mean, so, we might be putting “Killer Of Giants” back on there.
Geeks of Doom: Cool. Now that the dust has settled roughly two years after you joined Ozzy’s band, what has life been like for you?
Gus G.: It’s still amazing, man. It’s not something you really get used to, you know what I mean? [laughs] I mean that in a great way. I’m really loving all the changes that have happened to me and stuff, and that I’m having the chance to do this at such a level. It’s a blessing and few people in the world have the chance that I got so I’m very grateful and I’m really enjoying it.
Geeks of Doom: Good. How did you come to join Ozzy?
Gus G.: The management emailed me. Someone from his management sent me an email and they asked me if I wanted to go down and audition. You know somehow I had gotten on their radar, I don’t know how…so that’s how it happened.
Geeks of Doom: I read that when you were with Arch Enemy that you gave them [Ozzy’s people] a Firewind CD?
Gus G.: You know I did back in 2005 at the Ozzfest because they put out an ad on Blabbermouth that they were looking for a guitar player. So I just went in and gave them one of my CDs. But I don’t think that really had anything to do with it because that was like 4 years before they actually contacted me so I doubt they realized, “Oh, remember that guy from 4 years ago?” I think it was just, I don’t know, I think it was Blasko, the bass player. He knew about me, he had seen me around in magazines and the internet and all that stuff so…when they asked him about who he would suggest he came up with my name and then they checked me out and they liked what I did.
Geeks of Doom: Scream was not only yours but also Tommy Clufetos’ [drummer] first Ozzy album. Did Blasko and Adam Wakeman [keyboards] help you two to settle into the band quicker?
Gus G.: Well we did rehearsal. Not for the album, for the album when I went in to do the album it was just me and Kevin Churko, the producer. So me and him worked on the album, the other guys were not really involved in that. But we all rehearsed together and for the tour. And of course Blasko and Adam told us how to do things and were there to help us out with anything, any questions that we had, that was kind of good, you know?
Geeks of Doom: What was the first rehearsal like?
Gus G.: It was great! You know, this band had chemistry right from the start. So as soon as we started playing the first song it felt really great. It felt like a great band from the start and the fact that everybody is really good people, it really makes things even better, and we really get along.
Geeks of Doom: Did you speak to any of Ozzy’s previous guitarists before you joined?
Gus G.: No, not really.
Geeks of Doom: Which ones were you a fan of most when you were growing up?
Gus G.: I don’t know, I liked all of them because I never even separated them. I like Zakk [Wylde] for what he did and I’m a big fan of the Jake E. Lee albums. The first album that I heard was – the first Ozzy solo album – was Diary Of A Madman so I thought Randy [Rhoads] was amazing, very special. So…I don’t think I had a favorite to be honest with you, I really liked all the guys he had on there. Geeks of Doom: Cool. When the Scream world tour finally ends, do you have plans to get back in the studio with Ozzy?
Gus G.: There’s plans for that but I don’t know anything about the time frames to be honest with you. Because when the Scream tour ends in August I go out with Firewind, we’re doing a European tour and an American tour so I don’t think we’re going to be going back to the studio in 2011. So it might be sometime in 2012, but who knows? I don’t really know what Ozzy has in mind.
Geeks of Doom: Ok. Like I said it’s the anniversary of those Ozzy albums and also it’s the 30th anniversary of the British rock magazine Kerrang! and Ozzy is getting their Legend Award. It must be exciting to be part of all that history with Ozzy?
Gus G.: Oh definitely, yes!
Geeks of Doom: Can you tell us what is going to be happening at the Kerrang! awards?
Gus G.: [laughs] I wish I knew man! I have no idea. We’re just going to play a show at the Hammersmith [Apollo]. I’m very excited to play the Hammersmith, I’ve never had the chance to play there and it’s a legendary venue so I’m looking forward to playing there. I’m very happy that Ozzy is getting the Legend Award because I know that very few people have gotten that award from Kerrang, I think only a couple of people in the past. And yeah, I’m very proud that I’m going to have the chance to be there next to him on such an important day. I don’t know if there’s going to be any special things happening but we’ll see that day. We’ll see what happens.
Geeks of Doom: The Hammersmith Apollo’s a great venue, you’re going to really enjoy it there. Have you noticed a different reaction at your Firewind shows and a different reaction to the albums since you joined Ozzy?
Gus G.: Well the album [Days Of Defiance] got great reviews worldwide. At the live shows I think some of Ozzy’s fans have been showing up and…they’ve started getting more aware, [we are] getting more fans in. So yeah you could say that things have gotten better for the band. I think we’ll mostly find that out when we go out on tour again in September because this is obviously a very good thing for the band, you know?
Geeks of Doom: Absolutely. You set up Firewind originally as a solo project, didn’t you?
Gus G.: Well yeah back then it was more…me. Like an mp3 kind of band it, was me and a bunch of guys from around the world that our previous label, our first label, had hooked me up with. I didn’t even have a singer, it was just me doing demos on my four track. The label I had signed with had hooked me up with a bunch of musicians and we did the first couple of albums just exchanging files, like mp3 files. I was sending my demos, they were putting up the vocals, sending it back and so on. So that’s how we started more like a one man thing, you know? I didn’t really get a proper band until we were asked to go on tour in Japan.
Geeks of Doom: Is Firewind still your main focus?
Gus G.: Yeah, I mean it’s my band. I used to play with three or four other bands but I quit every other band. This is my thing, this is my own band.
Geeks of Doom: Were your Firewind bandmates happy for you when you joined Ozzy?
Gus G.: Yeah, very happy, man. Really happy.
Geeks of Doom: Your first Firewind album was in 2002. Since then you’ve been through quite a few line up changes – are you happy now with the guys you’ve got in place?
Gus G.: Yeah, yeah it’s really good. Like I said it took me a few years to find the right guys for the band because it was more like a studio band. So I didn’t really know the guys that were playing in the band when we were doing the first couple of albums. But by the fourth album that’s when we got a stable line up. That was with the album Allegiance in 2006. The only line up change we had since then was the drummer but the rest of us, we’ve been the same. We’ve had the same singer, Apollo [Papathanasio], and that’s kind of like the main core of the band; me, Apollo and Bob [Katsionis]. So yeah we’ve had a pretty good line up and we’ve been twice around the world with those guys and we’ve played over 250 gigs. So it’s been good!
Geeks of Doom: Well I hope to see you when you come to England.