On April 20th, guitar impresario Gus G released his third solo album ‘Fearless’ amidst a flurry of interest across the rock world. The word impresario is not a term that should be used lightly but this veteran of countless collaborations and band slots is regarded among the elite in the six stringed premier league.
The journey for Gus has been one of betterment. His earliest days saw him take the initial steps that many aspiring virtuosos take through lessons and parental support, but he took a leap of faith when he left his home in Greece and entered the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, at the tender age of 18. It was in those formative years, he began to raise his profile as something special - a trajectory that he continues to this day.
We managed to catch up with him as he was about head out on tour across Europe and asked what his inspiration was for picking up a guitar in the first place, “It was actually an album by Peter Frampton called ‘Frampton Comes Alive’. My dad had that vinyl at home and I heard him use the talk box effect and it fascinated me as a young kid. I asked my dad if he could enrol me to a music school so I could take guitar lessons.”
Gus’ influences are very much who you would expect beyond Frampton but it was interesting to learn that he prefers to listen to artists such as Vangelis when he is travelling. His love of progressive composition and the orchestral clearly influences his work and it’s nice to hear that he cites a fellow Greek artist in his own development.
Those early steps saw him collaborate with a number of bands before he formed his own band ‘Firewind’ who he has continued to work with to this day when he can find the time. That time is clearly in demand given his schedule but new album ‘Fearless’ is different in that he has worked within a power trio with Dennis Ward of Pink Cream 69 on bass and vocals, and drummer Will Hunt of Evanescence and Black Label Society.
We asked Gus about the trio and the songwriting process, “(Dennis Ward) and I co-wrote the last Firewind album ‘Immortals’ a couple of years ago and that album turned out to be a real landmark for the band. We basically continued to write in the same way on this record. After working so well together, we really clicked as people and song writers right away and it’s really easy to work together. We usually write songs pretty fast and that’s how it should be. The next natural step was to send him some of my solo music and see what he thinks. Before we knew it, we had six or seven killer tracks and that was that. Dennis said ‘I could sing as well if you like and we can do this as a power trio’. We thought why not. I’d never been in a power trio situation. It all made sense. Will (Hunt) really lifted those songs. When you have a drummer of Will’s calibre - a really big sounding type of drummer who can play the technical stuff when it’s needed, it was just the perfect fit”.
That chemistry is heard in abundance on the album and the opening track ‘Letting Go’ opens with a furious drum line that glues the chunky riffs to the lyrics perfectly. Ward’s vocals work well with his high register complementing the thick guitar tone and thunderous drums that prove the point that this is indeed a “power” trio.
The second track on the album dips its toe in the once controversial subject of convicted murderer and infamous psychopath Charles Manson. The track doesn’t celebrate Manson but explores his deeds and his motives. Gus explains, “It’s not something that I planned. I had a riff that was sounding like a Sabbath kind NIB kind of riff and I said to Dennis it was inspired by Sabbath and I was thinking about showing it to Ozzy at some point but that never happened. That got him thinking so he sent me back the demo and I said ‘Mr Manson - what’s that?'. He said Mr Crowley was already taken so let’s do Mr Manson. Just to make it clear, we’re not praising Charles Manson’s actions. Nothing like that at all. It was a horrible story and still sounds haunting to this day”.
The album also features instrumentals - something the fans had asked for. One such offering is the title track ‘Fearless’ which flexes and glides from its unusual three part harmony guitar-intro to shredded lines, smooth-toned almost bluesy melodies and to ice the cake - glorious finger tapping. Supreme!
The album has something for everyone and the cover version of Dire Strait’s ‘Money For Nothing’ is completely unexpected but works so well. There are subtle differences in the lyrics from the original and a shock key change after the intro but it is true to the original in every other way…..just heavier! Gus laughed when asked about the song choice, “It’s such an iconic riff. Mark Knopfler just rocks and it’s one of the best Dire Straits songs ever. I just had this idea that I could do a heavy version of that. I did a demo of it and we decided to have fun with it in the studio. We upgraded ‘colour TVs to LCDs’ making it more 2018. The whole idea was to play the riff in the lower strings on an open E string at a half tempo”.
The variety of songs continues through the album including the more commercial sounding song ‘Chances’. Gus said, “If that song had come out in the ‘90s it probably could have been a big radio hit (laughs). It is a radio-friendly track. I wrote it with that in mind. In the middle of the song there’s an Iron Maiden twin harmony”.
The album is a platform for Gus’ broad range of styles and this ensures the tracks are always engaging. The tracks flow well whether ballad, radio friendly, cover or instrumental and the Gus G DNA is woven through the structure and style of the playing.
The album is available at the usual sites but if you visit Gus’ official website, you can pick up signed copies!
The Fearless track-list is -
Don't Tread On Me
Nothing To Say
Money For Nothing
Thrill Of The Chase
Last Of My Kind
Bonus tracks on digipak and vinyl -
Little Ain't Enough
To hear the interview in full, please check out Episode #68 of our podcast:
Gus is touring before the summer and has a heavy schedule from September to Christmas but he intends squeezing some more song-writing into the year for his pride and joy - Firewind. You can see where he is playing, follow him on social media and check out his website here:-