Gus G. has spent the past decade quietly affirming his place as one of metal’s reigning guitar virtuosos. He has recorded more than a dozen studio albums, performed around the world as a member of acts ranging from Arch Enemy and Dream Evil to his own band Firewind, and has been Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist since being personally handpicked by the heavy metal legend in August 2009. Now, with the release of his first-ever solo album ‘I Am The Fire’ on Century Media Records, the fleet-fingered Greek fret-shredder will embark on the next chapter of his history-shaping career.
“People have been asking me for a solo record for years now, but I didn’t want to do an album that sounded like something people have heard from me before,” says Gus G. of his solo debut, an album that blends the metal histrionics that fans have come to know and love with a passion for classic hard rock and metal’s vintage roots. “Apart from a few instrumentals, this album isn’t traditional heavy metal or power metal, it’s got more of a classic rock vibe. It’s stuff that wouldn’t fit on a Firewind record, and I didn’t want to push that band in this direction. I consider myself a songwriter as well as a guitar player, and this album allowed me to experiment and explore that different side of me.”
That doesn’t mean that guitar solos are in short supply – quite the contrary, they’re plentiful throughout the 12 tracks that comprise ‘I Am The Fire’. Also plentiful is the roster of friends that help bring Gus G.’s vision to fruition. The aforementioned instrumentals “Vengeance” and “Terrified” feature guest bassists Dave Ellefson [Megadeth] and Billy Sheehan [David Lee Roth, Mr. Big], while the rest of the album features either Gus or Marty O’Brien [Tommy Lee, We Are The Fallen] holding down the bottom end alongside main drummer Jeff Friedl [A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Devo] and Daniel Erlandsson [Arch Enemy], who guests on the two instrumental tracks.
“The main difference in this recording and album experience is that there was no band, nobody to check with or please and nobody to consult with, it was just me doing whatever I wanted and playing with a lot of my favorite musicians, friends and people I admired,” says Gus, who also produced the record and recorded all the keyboards on the album. “When you’ve been in bands forever, it’s liberating to be able to do whatever you want without worrying about living up to the standards of a back catalog. It’s a fresh start, and in a lot of ways it’s more relaxing – it’s like starting from scratch.”
Vocal guests include Devour The Day singer Blake Allison (“I Am The Fire”), Steel Panther’s Michael Starr (“Redemption”), Eyes Set To Kill’s Alexia Rodriguez (“Long Way Down”), former Journey frontman and current Trans-Siberian Orchesta vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (“Summer Days”), Evergrey frontman Tom S. Englund (“Dreamkeeper”), Adler frontman Jacob Bunton (“Just Can’t Let Go”) and Yngwie Malmsteen/Therion alum and current Candlemass singer Mats Levén (“My Will Be Done”, “Blame It On Me”, “Eyes Wide Open” and “End Of The Line”) – and the results are as varied as the names suggest.
“The inspiration for the album started when Mats filled in on a Firewind tour – I’ve always liked him and wanted to work with him since he did Yngwie’s ‘Facing The Animal’ album, and I also had other songs that I heard different types of vocals on when I wrote them, like Jeff’s voice on ‘Summer Days’,” Gus explains of the vocals. “Jay Ruston mixed the album, and he also really played a key role in this project – I wanted to work with him because he made the album by The Winery Dogs sound so big and warm and not digital, so he was one of the first people I played the songs for and he really played an important role in helping pick the perfect people to bring out the details and colors in every song.”
‘I Am The Fire’ was mixed by Jay Ruston [Anthrax, Stone Sour, Steel Panther], produced by Gus G., and recorded between Los Angeles and Gus' home country of Greece through the latter half of 2013. In a career highlighted by a Grammy nomination for his performance on Ozzy Osbourne’s 'Scream' album in 2010 and accolades including Guitar Player Magazine's Best Metal Guitarist, the Dimebag Darrell Shredder award at the Metal Hammer UK Golden Gods Awards, and Metal Hammer Greece Best Guitarist on four separate occasions, ‘I Am The Fire’ serves as a whole new benchmark for Gus G.
“I already have an established band, so there’s no pressure on me as a solo artist,” he explains. “This is a whole different journey and a brand new adventure…”