FIREWIND Interview with Gus G. by Ken Arai
1) There is a new drummer and bass player in the band. Please let us know how this came upon. Will they be a permanent member of Firewind?
Yes, we have 2 new members in Firewind and that's Norwegian Stian Kristoffersen (Pagan's Mind) on drums and Greek Petros Christo (x-Breaking Silence) on bass. They are permanent members and I hope that we will stay together for years to come, as both of them are close friends of mine. For the new album, we needed 2 new members as Brian Harris was only available as a session musician, something we don't want in FIREWIND. Konstantine had to leave the band for his personal reasons. So, I thought of my old time friend Petros, who's also from my hometown, Thessaloniki in Greece. I met Stian when they were mixing their album with Pagan's Mind @ Studio Fredman in Sweden. I was impressed by his drumming and since I've played in Norway twice, I hang out with him a few times and we became good friends. So, when the time came to look for a new drummer, I felt that Stian was the right person.
2) The producer of the new album is credited as you and David Chastain. How did you co-produce the album with David as you are currently living in Greece and David, in the US. Did you get together with David in the same studio at one point?
Well, believe it or not, me and David have never met! However, we are in touch on a daily basis for the last 3 years or so......I can say that David and me pretty much organized this production. I have built a studio and have recorded and produced all of the guitars, bass and keyboard recordings and David took care of the vocal production. Since we work both in Europe and USA, I was taking care of the recordings in Europe with David's help of course, and he did the same for the parts that were recorded in the US.
3) Like the first album, mixing of the new album is being done by Fredrik Nordstrom who is also a band mate from the band Dream Evil. What is so great about him?
Fredrik gave the band the sound that was needed on the first album. So, all of us felt that he should mix this album too. I think Fredrik is one of the best engineers/producers of our time.
4) We understand that Eroc did the mastering of the new album. Can you tell us other bands/albums he had worked on? It mentioned that "Thunder and Lightning on STEAL THEM BLIND by Eroc". We assume its the beginning part of the album?
I have worked with Eroc before, as he has mixed and mastered Mystic Prophecy's Regressus album. Eroc has also worked with Grip Inc. and he has done re-masters for classic bands like Judas Priest, Ian Gillan, etc. Regarding the "Breckerfelder Thunder" as he calls it, the story is like this: We needed a thunder effect for the intro of the album. Eroc suggested that we use a recording of his. The man had actually recorded a thunder back in 1992 and he never used it on a recording. So, what you hear on the album intro, is REAL thunder and lightnings!!!
5) We assume there wasn't a chance where all 4 members got to together in the same studio for the recording. Can you tell us how you had communicate with Stephen regarding musical directions?
Me & Petros worked together in Greece, while David worked with Stephen. To be honest, I wasn't really in touch with Stephen for the recordings. I just let him do his own parts and then David would send me mp3s of the vocal parts they recorded. Then, I would discuss them with David, since we're in touch every day.
6) There are total of 10 tracks(9 for rest of the world) and they all sound great. Can you tell us which track you think is the lead track and why?
I really like all of the songs in the album and I made sure that there were no fillers! I wanted each song to be special this time. There are some very strong songs on the album. Tracks such as Steal Them Blind, I Am the Anger, Immortal Lives Young as well as the instrumental the Fire & The Fury.
7) Angelos Lyrtzis is credited as fretless bass performed on "Still The Winds. How did you get to know him?
Angelos is a very old friend of mine. We are from the same town and we started playing music together. At our first steps we even had a band together!! However, we went different paths later on. Anyway, Angelos is now the bass player of the Greek deathcore band, HomoIratus. He showed me some of his artworks and I really liked it. So, he did all of the band photos and booklet art for this album. When I was recording the guitars, I invited him to the studio and it turned out that he played fretless bass on Still The Winds. It felt cool to have him guest on our album.
8) Why did you make the title of the album "Burning Earth"? What is the reason behind it?
I felt that it was a strong album title and a strong realistic message to the people. A lot of the lyrics in the album are about the greed and hypocrisy that reign in this planet, and Stephen really wrote some great lyrics this time, as did David Chastain.
9) We heard that you will be making a promotion video of "I Am The Anger". Can you tell us what kind of concept it will have and little bit about the production team?
Yes, we made a video for the song "I am the Anger." It turned out great I think. The whole concept of the video is a group of people working and digging somewhere in an industrial area, looking for a crystal cube that holds a special power. Once they discover it, you can see the band playing through that crystal cube. It really is a nice concept and there was a lot of people involved in the making of this video. It was quite a big production. The outdoor parts were shot in a place right under the great Mount Olympus in Greece!! The video was directed by Angelos Lyrtzis and Argyris Vrettas. Those people really understand our music and our vision and they came up with the whole concept. I hope we will work with them again in the future.
10) Can you tell us what you have been doing after the release of Firewind "Between Heaven and Hell"? We understand you have been engaged in various projects such as Dream Evil. You came with Dream Evil twice for a tour in Japan. How was the reaction?
After the release of "Between Heaven and Hell" I did a lot of promotion in Europe and America for the album. Soon after, I started playing festivals and touring with Dream Evil, and it left me with no time to tour with Firewind. At the end of 2002 I recorded another album with Dream Evil and I have been busy ever since. A European tour followed, as well as a promotional tour in Japan and after that I released an album with German metallers, Mystic Prophecy. In June 2003 I returned to Japan to perform with Dream Evil once again. The reaction of the people was more than amazing, it was unbelievable!!! It was a dream coming true for me. We played bigger venues and the fans gave us a warm welcome back. Thank you all for that!!
11) You are one of the brightest hope among the young guitarists. Is there anything you try to keep in mind as a guitarist on a daily basis?
Not really. I must say that I don't practice as much nowadays, as I mainly compose. What's important for me, is to stay in touch with the guitar and keep playing.
12) Firewind's new album will be released on November 6th in Japan. Please let us know if the release of the album is confirmed for any other territories and if so, when and where. Will there be a tour confirmed for any of those territories?
The new album will be released in Europe on November 10th. I don't know the US release date as of now. We also have deals in South America, Mexico and Taiwan. However, I know nothing of those release dates either. As soon as we know, we will announce them through our website at: www.firewind.gr In regards to touring, we are planning on some possible dates in Europe and maybe some festivals next year, but nothing is for sure at this point. It's way too early to announce something official.
13) The Japanese fans are really looking forward to Firewind's tour in Japan. Can you tell us how the show will be like if it realizes? Will you be doing any other cover songs besides Scorpions' "Pictured Life"?
I know there have been requests for a Firewind tour in Japan and I really hope for us to make it this time!! You can count on that we'll put on a great show for all our fans!! I don't know if we'll do any other cover songs, unless people write to us and have a special request. We always consider our fans' opinions and requests.
14) We have heard that the artwork was done by the Japanese artist.Can you tell us what was it that made you decide to go with his artwork?
At the time, we were looking for the best front cover art, and I can tell you that we literally went through 20 different covers. However, Kazuo' art really attracted me when I saw it. It had the perfect colours, that I > couldn't find in any other art. I'm glad that I was introduced to this artist. It was EMI's idea to try with him. I thank them for bringing us in touch.
15) Can you give us some comments and any episodes of the recording or song writing for each songs on the album?
1) Steal Them Blind- This song is one of my favourites. I think it' very powerfull, yet it contains some very passionate melodies.
2) I am The Anger- This is a song of Power and I went for the ultimate heavy riffing on this one. I really like the chorus and Stephen' performance.
3) Immortal Lives Young- I think this song is Firewind' most epic one. I wrote this song right after I watched Lord Of The Rings/ The 2 Towers( I felt very inspired and I immediately came up with the riffs and melodies. My favourite part is the acoustic middle section. Still, I get the goose bumps when I hear Stephen' performance there!!
4) Burning Earth- Another fast powerful song. The lyrics are very direct and the combined with the music, as whole it' very in-your-face.
5) The Fire & The Fury(Instrumental)- Propably the heaviest riff on the album. We wanted to make a really heavy instrumental song and I think we achieved it. Stian really proves why he's one of the best newcomer drummers in the scene. We named the song "The Fire & The Fury" Because it is divided in 2 parts. The Fury is the opening savage riffing with the fast leads, while the Fire is the emotional acoustic part of the song.
6) You Have Survived- Another song that was inspired by The Lord of the Rings. I guess after watching that movie, all my Manowar and Conan the Barbarian influences came out!! I love the lyrics on this one. Stephen really is amazing on this song.
7) Brother's Keeper- This is propably the outsider on this album. It's not a heavy song, it could actually be a Pop song!! It's very Scorpions influenced. However, once Stephen starts singing, it's nothing close to Scorpions. He has such a unique style, that it can only sound like a Firewind song. I'm happy that we included this song on the album cause it gives the album variety and it' a fresh breath from all the heaviness and the fast songs. I'm really proud of my lead too, I think it has a very good feeling. Also, the chorus is one of my favourites!!
8) Waiting Still- A lot of people that I've played the album for, really seem to love this song. I guess it's because there's nothing cliche about it. The riffs are heavy but the rhythm is weird, so are the vocal lines. The chorus is very melodic and the bridge and solo part are totally different from the rest of the song. I really don'tknow how this song turned out like that. However, this one and (Brother's Keeper(Bare the very first 2 songs that I composed for this album.
9) The Longest Day- This could turn into what David Chastain said "The Anti-War anthem of our times." The song has a very Scorpions vibe to it, kind of like Wind of Change." feeling, but heavier. I really like the way this ballad turned out.
10) Still The Winds(Instrumental) - Japanese bonus track- I really like to make acoustic instrumental tunes. This is my latest. Angelos Lyrtzis is playing 5 string fretless bass and it gives the song a nice feeling. I think my melodies might remind of old Scorpions once again. I think it's a very dream-y song. Enjoy!!!