At the first place I would like to apologize to our guest and our readers for delay with this interview. Our crew had unexpected technical problems. Now, when the problems are solved, I hope you will enjoy in interview with Κωνσταντίνος Καραμητρούδης, better known as Gus G. Interview was conducted in Club Fest, Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia, on October 22ed, 2016.
Gus, thank you for your time, I know youve been very busy.
It’s a pleasure.
Are you in the Belgrade for the first time?
Fourth. I’ve played here twice, once with Firewind in 2008, I played with Ozzy in 2012, and than, my third time was actually earlier this year, this summer. I was here to film a video, and than now we came back again to do another video.
I always wanted to know what’s the story behind your stage name, why Gus G?
It’s a secret! I’m just kidding, obviously (laugh). My Greek name is Konstantin, I have a family in America, my uncle. When I used to go to visit him in Florida, when I was younger I would ask him: “Hay, uncle, what is my name in English?” “Oh, you are Gus!” “What does it mean?” I think all the guys named Kostas that emigrated to the States during the sixties and seventies, they became Gus.
So, that’s your secret! Thanks for sharing it with me.
You were born in Greece, in beautiful city of Thessaloniki. As I know, you started playing guitar at the age of ten. Did you have any formal lessons from the beginning?
I did actually. Well, the first four years I went to a small music school in the neighborhood, my teacher played a little bit of piano, a little bit guitar, so I really did not learn a lot of stuff, just few chords. But when I was 14, I went to a proper conservatory and I had formal training. I learnt about theory, harmony, how to read, to write music, and that really opened my eyes. And of course, at the same time I was practicing, listening to the bands I like, Rock and Roll, heavy metal, stuff like that.
Who introduced you with Rock and Roll and metal?
My dad actually. He had a vinyl of Peter Frampton, he’s the guitar player from the seventies, and he had a vinyl called Frampton Comes Alive and when I heard that I was flored. I was: “Wow! What’s this?” And than, of course, my dad exposed me to Pink Floyd and Beatles, Santana, stuff like that. As I was growing up, I saw on tv the first videos of Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. You know how it goes. I got into heavier shit.
You left Greece when you were 18. You went to Berklee, Boston. As as I heard, you left it only few weeks or months later?
Couple of weeks.
Have you ever regret you left it?
No, no, not a single minute. Nothing against the school. It’s a perfect school. It was just not enough for me. When you are 18 years old you are very impatient. You want things happen now, now, now… So, I just wanted to gain eperience to play with fine musicians. That’s what I was missing. I was good at doing my homework, and practicing in my room, but I wanted to have experience, to play with other musicians. So I decided pretty quickly: “Hay, I don’t wanna to stay in school any longer, I need to find guys to form the band”, so that was my goal.
So, that is how Firewind started. At the beginning it was a project.
That was my project. I made a Firewind. I made my first demo with some of my classmates from Berklee, they helped me to make a recording. And from there, I started making first demos for record labels. I was hoping I would get noticed by somebody and I was noticed by a small label in Atlanta called Leviathan Records. He rode me back and he would say: Hay man, you are still young but very talented, keep on working on your sound.” So I would send him demos every week like: “Hay, listen to this, listen to this…” I would bust his balls. David Chastain is his name. He played in Chastain, it’s the eighties band.
Firewind is actually the name of Uli Jon Roth song from his album Electric Sun. He is one of yours I would say idols?
Who else except Uli?
I would say Michael Schenker, Tony Iommi, Yngwee Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Garry Moore, a lot of guys…
And today, from the young generation of guitar players, who do you recognize, who can stand face to face with them, accept you of course?
I don’t think I can stand face to face with those guys.
I think you can!
Thank you, but I … I don’t know… I just did a tour in America with the guy called Angel Vivaldi. He is not known in Europe, but in America he is really upcoming. He’s a different kind of artist, very DIY (do it yourself). He has no label, he is self financed, he’s been doing everything through socail media. He plays new prog kind of stuff. He is Joe Satriani flavor. So, I just did a tour with him, he is such a great perosnality on the stage, very musical guy and I think he has a great future. He is a kind of guy who comes to my mind when you ask me about newer generation. I can see, people are going crazy for him on shows. I haven’t seen that for such a long time. I always tell him: “You are the future!”
Firewind was put on hold for a few times, because you are very talented guitar player, everyone wanted to cooperate with you. You have been working with Dream Evil, Nightrage, Mystic Prophecy, Arch Enemy, Ozzy Osbourne, Cans, Doro… Which of those experiences were the most valuable for you?
All of them. Every experience I’ve had has led me to where I am today. With all of that stuff, I wouldn’t be here today. You know, having a knowledge. Everything has been valuable, everything was good experience, everything has been learning and humbling and I’ve enjoyed in everything I’ve done.
With whom you would like to play in the future?
I don’t know, there’s a lot of musicians I admire. Too many to mention, really. I like a lot of stuff, but I’m happy just doing my thing. I like doing my solo band, I have my band of course, and playing with Ozzy… Does really anything can be better than that?
Yeah, it’s like your dream cane true.
When we talk about Dream Evil, everyone thought you are gonna be just guest guitar player. Of course, you were involved in writing music and lyrics.
I cofounded band, yeah…
How important for you is to be involved in creating process with each musician you have been working with?
Music is about creating and being creative and chemistry in a band is everything. Some bands have that chemistry, some don’t. Some stuff works and some stuff doesn’t. In the case of Dream Evil, chemistry was there right away. For me the most important thing is to understand each other, whoever it is I’m cowriting with, we have to understand each other, to be on the same page.
Back to Firewind… You came her to make a video, actually you did it yesterday. Can you tell me something more about it?
It’s gonna be really good.
And album will be released in?
You postponed tour. It will start in February 2017. Who is in Firewind now, you had a lot of line up changes in the past.
We did, but it is the same line up since 2011 minus a singer. So, me and Petros, and Bob on keys, Johan on drums, and we have new singer. His name is Henning Basse, he used to sing in Metalium for a long time ago. But he’s not such a new guy, we call him a new guy, but Henning toured with us in 2007. He did a world tour of Allegiance album. He was right there in front of us all the time. We were talking about singers and I was like: “Guys, this is our guy!” He loves the band, he can sing, the fan loves him, he’s such sweet guy. He’s a beast on stage, and he sounds really good on our new record.
Tell me something more about the album. Is that a secret?
I can’t release so much info now because it is coming next year. It’s a concept album, we are making actually about Leonidas 300 and the Greco-Persian war. A lot of songs are focused on that and of course the Battle of Salamis, Greeks against Persians, I think it was 480 before Christ, maybe, not sure. But I think it was than. It’s our first concept album. We’ve never done it before, so it was a challange for us to do it.
When you started your solo career, everyone expected only instrumental album.
I don’t know why, maybe beacuse I’m guitar player? Honestly, I’m not a fan of instrumental guitar albums. I think it is cool to have few instruments on album, but I like to have vocals, I like to have songs. Listening to guitar for 30-40 minutes only, with no voice, for me it’s a little bit boring. Plus it’s just hard to beat all that classic albums, Satriani and Vai. I never had aspirations to be instrumental guitar player. But I realize that people like that. At the same time I don’t want to be put in the corner, I like the effect that song can have on somebody, to somebodys life. To me that’s just more important than just playing stuff on the guitar.
It seems that you are very busy. If you are not on the road, you are in the studio. Do you have any free time and how do you like to spend it?
I have a wife and two cats. In my free time I’m at home, spending time with my family.
When were you in Thessaloniki for the last time?
I got back home three weeks ago, from the tour. It supposed to be relaxing but it hasn’t. It’s been crazy because I have to finish everything with the album, deliver everything, video, we’re setting up for the next year, a loot of bookings. My day is pretty busy, I work a lot on my computer, I have a lot of meetings, but I like it, I love it. This is what I do.
The most important is to love your job. That is the key of success.
You have to. If you love what you do you’ve already won. If you are miserable doing something that’s the worse people can do themselves. Stuck in the situations where they are not happy.
During the years you have been using different equipement. You have custom made guitars, pedals… You are here tonight to promote Jackson guitars and Blackstar amps. Whan can we expect tonight in the few hours we have?
Usually, I play some songs. I like to take questions from an audience, I like to get to know my audience, it’s good opportunity for me to get know people, I wanna try to answer ass much as I can, if I can help them. And, usually it’s a fun evening.
What do you expect from the future? Where do you see yourself in let’s say 10 years from now?
Hopefully alive and well. Number one. Number two: I still want to keep making music and I want to progress with my career, I want to write better songs and of course, I hope the things will keep growing and reach more people.
Thanks again for your time. All the best, I hope we’ll see again.
God bless, you too. Thank you very much.
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