If you’ve been following Ozzy Osbourne for the past few months, then you probably know about Gus G. The Greek guitarist was given the difficult task of replacing Zakk Wylde in Ozzy’s band. But with the release of Scream, his first album playing with the Prince Of Darkness, he’s been welcomed as a perfect fit. While laying low in his home country of Greece before going full force on the road with Ozzy, Gus to Metal Insider about his work on Scream, the chemistry between Ozzy’s crew, the future of his own band Firewind and his love and respect for Zakk Wylde.
Ozzy Osbourne’s new album Scream has been getting rave reviews since its release. How were you able to put your own spin on the material? Were you able to put your own personal touch on it?
I want to think that I managed [to] in the end (laughing). I mean I’ve done quite a few albums with various bands in the past, and I’ve always written most of it. This was the first album that I didn’t get to write anything because when I joined in everything was done already. So it was a tough task, but at the same time I like challenges, and I tried my best. I approached all the songs with a lot of respect, considering his past and everything. Obviously, it’s an Ozzy Osbourne record, but at the same time I wanted to put a little bit of my own flavor to it to make that little difference on there. It was a very fun experience to do this album. It was great.
You said how you really enjoy challenges, but were you nervous at all going into this?
Originally I was, the first few days I started recording, but then I had some time off to think about some parts and then I got to go back and do some more work and actually start recording everything again from scratch. So the second time there wasn’t that stress. The second time around, it felt a little bit more relaxed. Me and Kevin [Churko, producer] worked really well together. There was a nice chemistry between us, and he helped me a lot. Like if there were some places that I got stuck or something, he would help me by suggesting some ideas. And then of course I came up with my own stuff and I gave my input with some ideas that I thought could be different. Stuff like that. I tried to be creative and not really let the stress factor take over.
So it really was like a partnership between you and Kevin.
Yeah! It was nice because usually I produce my own records in my band. And walking into an environment with another guy who is producing and stuff, I saw it very positively. Like ‘Oh, here’s someone I can learn from!’ was my approach and state of mind.
If you do get the chance to be involved more with the next album, what do you hope to maybe do differently?
It’s a bit too early to talk about these things. I mean hopefully there will be another album and hopefully I will get to write my own riffs for Ozzy. If it happens, it’s going to be great. The set up was different this time. It wasn’t really done like a band. It was more like Kevin was doing stuff in the studio and computer/pro tools, and he did some stuff with Ozzy and all that. But Ozzy’s been talking about the next record. He’d like to do it more as a band like jamming in a room. So I guess if we get to do that, it’ll probably be like a back to basics type of album. Maybe a bit more raw production or a bit more of a traditional heavy metal production. Who knows? It could be many different things. I have not had the chance to be involved from scratch so far. So I wouldn’t know what it would be like and what kind of discussions we would have before, or what kind of direction we would want to follow. These things are always up in the air and I’ll take it day by day. When we cross that bridge, we’ll see what happens.
How has it been working with Blasko (bassist) and Tommy (Clufetos, drummer) so far?
Really good, man. I think we really make a strong band together. They’re both killer players, really great players, and they’ve been pros for many years and are some of the best in the business. These guys rock hard man. Us three make a really good band together, and also Adam [Wakeman, keyboardist]. He’s a fantastic musician. So we got a really strong team here, and I’m sure if us four got in a room and started jamming on riffs, I’m sure the results would be killer.
That’s great, because from what I’ve seen from TV performances and such, it looks like you guys are having a blast. It looks and sounds great.
Oh yeah! You’re totally right. We’re having a blast! We’re loving every moment of it. Every single gig, everything we do, it’s been great fun so far. We’re on a three week break now and we can’t wait to get back and start the Ozzfest now and then the world tour.
That’s cool. Speaking of the live shows, Ozzy has been starting to add rare Black Sabbath songs to the set lists, like “Fairies Wear Boots”. Do you think that there maybe is a chance that Ozzy will add more rare songs from his solo catalog in the setlists?
Well you know, (laughing) you’ll be surprised. We’ve actually on the last couple of shows did “Killer Of Giants”!
Yeah! He hasn’t done that since, I don’t know, ’86 or something? That was great because that actually is one of my favorite songs and was actually one of the first songs I started learning on the guitar (the clean intro and stuff) when I was learning chords and all that stuff. So I’m glad we added it to the set list, and Ozzy is having a lot of fun doing that song.
That must have been amazing for you when you first performed it with the band, going from learning it for the first time when you were young to actually doing it in front of an audience!
Oh yeah man! It’s like one of those things where you imagined how it would be like (laughing) and yeah, here it is! It happened!
Are there any songs from his catalog that you’d want to play that you haven’t yet?
I’d love to do some more Sabbath stuff, me personally. I know that the band is ready to do a bunch of more stuff. We’ve rehearsed tons of stuff. We can play “Snowblind”. We can play “Sweet Leaf”. We can play a lot of stuff. We can also do other Ozzy stuff. We can pretty much do anything from Diary of a Madman and other stuff. I remember at some point during rehearsals we were even jamming to “Perry Mason”. I mean that’s not so much of an old song, it’s like a 90s song.
It’s still something we haven’t heard in a while though! So that’s still cool!
Yeah exactly! It all depends. That’s the thing. We’ve got one and a half hours onstage or whatever, like 90 or 100 minutes, and Ozzy’s whole career is full of classics. I mean which one would go first? I don’t know (laughing). What do you choose? I guess hopefully we’ll try to spice it up on every leg. Hopefully we can add or replace one song with the other. Hopefully we’ll get a little bit of everything in there by the end.
Well I love the set lists I’ve seen posted online so far. In fact, when I saw you guys perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, I loved that you played “Shot In The Dark” since it’s a song you don’t usually see Ozzy perform on TV.
Yeah, exactly! That was great that we actually got to do that on live TV. That was great!
It’s been almost a year since your first performance with Ozzy at Blizzcon. Is there anything you’d say that you’ve learned from your experience so far playing with one of your idols that you might not have known before hand?
Oh yeah, I mean just being in the Osbourne camp and watching these guys work every day. Everybody from the people in the office to the tour manager, to the techs, to the front-of-the-house guy. To how we roll with things and how everything is happening every day. That alone, the whole thing, is just one big experience, and I’m learning a lot from it. It’s not just the stage performance where I’ve learned. I’ve learned how to be more professional, and it took me to the next level. I’ve had to step things up a couple of notches or something (laughing). I’ve had to improve on all aspects. Not only that, but just even the day to day running of things.
You’ve mentioned recently that you just finished recording a new record called Days Of Defiance with Firewind. Are you afraid, though, of the difficulties that might arise from trying to juggle both Firewind and your responsibilities to Ozzy?
Well I’m not expecting to go out on a full 150 date tour Firewind right away because Ozzy right now is on tour and that’s the priority right now. Once the main world tour run is done and once we start to have a few months off then I’ll go out with Firewind. So I’m not stressing about that too much. Even if for Firewind we do less dates and it’s a bit more on an exclusive type of show deal, it’ll still be great exposure for us.
Would you say that you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned so far from being in the Osbourne camp to when you’re working with Firewind? Since it really is YOUR band.
Yeah exactly. I mean I always learn, and yeah working there in the Osbourne camp and being with them, like I said, is a big learning experience and that definitely will influence me. Probably whether I like it or not (laughing) it will definitely influence me in the way I will keep doing things from now on, and I don’t see that as a negative thing. I only see it as a great thing because these guys are the best. They’re the number one management. It can only help me learn and improve how we would do things in Firewind.
Do you see Firewind ever sharing the same stage as Ozzy, or do you feel that’ll be too much for you?
You know what, I wouldn’t mind it. I would love to do that. I know it could be tiring, but I mean I wouldn’t want Firewind to go on right before Ozzy, for example, because then it might affect the show. If I can imagine it in a situation like an Ozzfest where Firewind would play a bit earlier and then I would have a few hours to get some rest and go out and rock again with Ozzy, then I would definitely love to do that.
Well I hope you get to do that because I’ve never gotten to see Firewind live and would love to get a chance to.
Well that’s the thing, we’ve never really done many U.S. tours. We’ve only done a couple, and even one of them was just an East Coast run. It would be great for us to come back and do some more tours in the U.S.
And you’ve said in the past that you’ve noticed that Firewind has been getting a lot more exposure since joining Ozzy’s band.
It definitely is. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that a lot more people are aware of who Firewind is right now just because of me playing with Ozzy. It’s fantastic.
Have you had any contact with Zakk Wylde since joining the band?
No. I haven’t met Zakk, I didn’t contact him. I’ve read all the stuff that he has said about me in the press, and that was very nice of him and that really means a lot to me because if one of my all time favorite guitar heroes is giving me the thumbs up only gives me more confidence. It’s a big help for me and definitely makes me feel good because I have a great respect for guys like Zakk Wylde. I’m glad he has an open mind about this. Zakk’s got his own band and it’s fucking great, and I’m looking forward to seeing Black Label Society on the road, since he’s going to be on the Ozzfest. So I’m pretty sure I’ll get to meet him in a couple of weeks.
Actually I was just about to ask you, do you intend on trying to meet him at Ozzfest?
Well, I’m sure we’ll all be around at some point. So we’ll meet. It’s not like ‘Oh, I’ll go over to the second stage and knock on the bus door’ or something (laughing). I don’t know how it’s going to come down, but it’ll be nice to go by and say hi at some point. I’m sure we’ll all be around at some point backstage or whatever. I don’t like to think too much about like ‘How’s it going to happen? Who should go where?’ and all that. I’m just going to let the moment happen somehow. I’d definitely like to shake his hand because I’m one big fan of his.
It’s cool that you obviously have respect for your predecessors because it’s also obvious that you’re a fan as well.
Yeah, I’m a fan as well above all. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ozzy one day feels like playing with Zakk again. For me, when I was growing up Zakk was there. The first time I ever saw on TV, Zakk Wylde was on guitar. From my generation, Zakk Wylde was the man. As a fan above all, I know these guys, they’re like family more than just a team. So I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if one day he would jam again with Ozzy. I know these guys love each other.
Well now YOU are the man. (laughing)
Yeah, right now I’m the man! (laughing) Right now, I’m playing there. Don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way, but as a fan, trying to look from the outside, I mean I grew up watching Ozzy and Zakk together and that’s all I’m saying. I also know that Zakk’s been in and out of the band as well a couple of times. But with all that said, I’m very happy and feel very honored that I have this position right now and am there doing it.
You’ve mentioned Ozzfest a couple of times and how’s it coming up soon. Even though Ozzfest is making it’s big return, it’s only doing a couple of shows this summer. How do you feel about that?
I think that it is a great decision that they’re only doing select shows because they’re trying to bring up slowly back out there. The people of Ozzfest realized that they’ve had a couple of years of absence and everybody else trying to take over the position. Everybody is doing their own festival. And they’ve got a killer lineup this year, and I’m sure they’re just giving a little taste to people of what’s about to come for the future.
Is there anybody on the lineup this year that you are really excited to see if you get a chance to?
Yeah, I’m very excited about seeing Halford because I’m a big fan of his solo albums. I saw Halford on the Resurrection Tour back 2001, I think, when he played in Greece. He played in a club here somewhere, and it was amazing. I know that this is his first solo tour since, I don’t know, seven years or something. I’m really looking forward to seeing him perform the songs from the Resurrection and Crucible albums.
That’s cool. It’s definitely something that when you first see the lineup, you think of it as a bit weird that Halford is playing, but it’s really a cool and special thing.
Yeah man! I mean, he’s Rob Halford! What the fuck?! It’s going to be great (laughing).
You guys are also doing the U.K. and Israeli Ozzfests. The Israeli edition’s lineup still isn’t confirmed, but is there anyone on the U.K. you’re excited to seeing?
Umm, who else is on there?
Korn, The Murderdolls, Steel Panther and Skindred.
Eh, I mean I’m not really a fan of any of those bands. But the important thing is that Ozzy Osbourne is playing! (laughing)
And that’s who we want to see! (laughing)
Yeah, I’m going to get to play with Ozzy and see him as well (laughing).
You get the best view technically!
Well maybe Tommy has a bit of a better view.
Yeah. Maybe Tommy does because he has a panoramic view.