Interview date

26 Septembre 2011


Blaster of Muppets


Interview Gus G. (face to face)

Here you are, finally touring for Days of Defiance a year after it was released. Was this tour delayed because of your involvement with Ozzy Osbourne?

Yes, it was a long tour with Ozzy Osbourne, we just finished last month. I mean, we did a few gigs in between in Japan or in summer festivals, but this is finally the proper club tour we can do.

We learned that Mats Leven was replacing your singer for the European tour, is Apollo alright?

Yeah he’s fine, he’s alive, he’s ok (laughs). He just has some trouble back home, you know, some personal issues I cannot mention, but you know, he’s fine and he’ll be back with the band for the next tour which starts in a couple of weeks in America.

Was Mats Leven an obvious choice to replace Apollo? Did you have other singers in mind?

He was my first choice, the first person I called. And we were lucky he could do it. He’s been a friend of mine for eight years now, and I’ve been a fan of his work since the Yngwie Malmsteen days you know. He’s a great singer, one of the best for this genre. I’ve always wanted to do something with him, to work with him, so it’s great he was able to help us out under these conditions. And it’s been great touring with him, he’s such an easy-going guy and a fantastic frontman. And he sings a song like it’s nothing you know, it looks very easy for him, he’s such a professional. The stress was gone after the first rehearsal.

Apollo has been the singer of this band for quite some time now, do you think you’ve finally found the perfect singer for Firewind?

Well, nobody’s perfect you know. He’s not perfect because he has missed some tours (laughs), to be honest. I like all members to be there on all tours. But, I mean, with all that stuff on the side, he’s a great singer as well, he’s one of the best I think, and he’s also a great songwriter and we work very well together. And that’s why we’ve done three albums together.

Why did Mark Cross leave the band after the Premonition tour?

Well, it was our choice to continue without him. We were not really getting along on a personal level or on a musical level. So you know, when that happens I think it’s best to go separate ways. I was not really happy and I think he was not really happy either, so we just asked him to leave. But there are no hard feelings, I think he’s a great drummer, just not for this band.

What memories do you keep from the HellFest 2011?

Well, were you there?

No, I wasn’t actually. I would have loved to but wasn’t available.

OK, you didn’t miss much actually. We had not rehearsed, we were totally unprepared because I had been touring with Ozzy… It was hectic as always, playing a festival slot for forty minutes and get the fuck out. But it’s a pretty good band, so we pulled it off no matter what, but I know we can do better than that. I know there was some mixed reviews and feelings from fans, some said it was great, some others said that the sound didn’t do us justice which I can understand…

Yes, but this sound problem is quite a common issue in festivals, it happens a lot.

Yes, it happens a lot, but people are picky. So I try not to read too much on the net. But you know, it was a weird sound even on stage that day. I thought the sound would probably be better later on with Ozzy, but it wasn’t. There definitely was sound problem that day.

You’ve had a crazy year, working both with Ozzy and your band. Are there other things you’d like to do or is your life as a musician quite complete?

I’m writing new material all the time. I’m writing songs, maybe one day I’d like to do a solo album, maybe with different kinds of stuff, more hard rock or bluesy stuff… But I’m very happy with what’s happening in my life right now. I mean, I’m in fucking Ozzy Osbourne’s band you know (laughs) and I’ve got my own band, we’ve been going strong for many years. It’s very nice, I’m able to do both… Life is good.

Talking about Ozzy, are you invited to compose for the next album or will you just be hired to play others’ compositions?

I am a hired gun but I do some writing as well. When I joined the band for “Scream”, it was a bit late and everything was written so I did my best on that album which I think is a really good album. But we’ve been writing songs together with Ozzy while we were on the road and I think we’ll probably get back to it later next year, because I think he’s having a break now. So I’ll be more involved with the next one.

Do you prefer playing big stadiums with Ozzy or smaller venues with your own band?

Well, both are fun. Clubs are more intimate, it’s not a big production, you just go out there and sweat and see everybody’s faces and it can be a great experience. And then of course, doing the arenas and stadiums is something not many people in the world get to do, it’s a different feeling, it’s a bit like living the dream, playing in front of thousands of fans next to Ozzy Osbourne… and I enjoy both. But I’m not too picky you know, when the stadium tour ends, I go back to the clubs and see people who pay tickets to listen to our songs and it’s something I appreciate very much.

Has writing already begun for the next Firewind album, or is it too early?

We’ve been writing actually. We have about ten songs now… and we’ve got ideas for many more. We’ve been doing demos, and I think that by the end of the year we’ll be ready to start recording.

Great, how does this next album sound so far?

Well, it’s gonna be a bit different this time. I think it’s gonna be a bit heavier. It’s gonna be a real heavy guitar album. And I’ve tried to introduce new elements in our music as well. It’s still going to sound like Firewind, it’s gonna be speedy as hell and stuff but I don’t want to do a fourth album in a row that sounds like “Allegiance”, “The Premonition” or “Days Of Defiance”, you know. Those albums use the same kind of formula, you know. I want to keep the great elements we have on those albums but I want to move on to the next level. We want to make the band sound evolve, I think it’s important not to make the same album again. I want us to be a bit more adventurous with the next one. If I want to do a seven minute song, or something fucking heavy, or a weird song with tons of parts in it, or have a two minute solo in a middle of a song, I want to be able to do it. So, maybe I shouldn’t talk too much about it and we should see what the final result will be, but I definitely have a plan about coming back with something a bit different and a fresh sound.

Have you got plans for another live album (Live Premonition is great)?

Not now, I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m thinking more about the next studio album, writing new material rather than doing another live DVD or CD.

What records are you listening to these days?

I’m listening to a lot of Gary Moore lately. I really love his blues albums. I also listen to Black Country Communion… Hmm… I don’t know what else… (the singer from Wolf rehearses next door and sings “Evil Star, Evil Star, Evil Star…”) Hmm… Well, Evil Star, I’m listening to Evil Star right now (laughs)! Actually, there’s good stuff out there, I’ve heard the song “In Waves” by Trivium, and I thought it was pretty cool. I didn’t listen to the whole album yet but I liked the song. I’ve also listened to a couple of tracks from the new Dream Theater and it sounds cool, too. These days, a lot of people are making good records again, which is great.

Would you say the band has suffered from illegal downloading? Do you feel like you have to tour more in order to make money?

I always knew that. I always thought that the best way of promoting a band was touring. It’s not like the 80’s when you could sell records just by having a video on MTV. That’s when the real work on an album starts, you have to promote it and go and play wherever you can.

Even before you joined Ozzy, were you able to make a living with Firewind?

I was making money because I was involved in the publishing and I run the day to day business of the band. There’s a fair repartition in the band, everybody has equal shares but the thing is that because I’m the composer and wrote most of the stuff, I was getting higher publishing income and this has been a main income for me for the past few years. And I’ve got such a big back catalogue not just with Firewind but with all the other bands I played with, like Mystic Prophecy, Nightrage, Dream Evil you know, I probably made thirteen ou fourteen albums… So I could support myself. And the other thing is that I also make money from selling these things as well (he shows me his guitar). It’s something really cool, I think… Because you can’t download a guitar, you can’t download a pedal. So when you like a guitar player and his sound, you want to buy his gear.

What would you like to say to your French fans?

Thank you French fans, it’s always a pleasure to play for you. We are very grateful for your support and I promise we’ll be back soon.

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