By Martina Fasano
Gus G has been very busy lately, and that’s just how he likes it. With credits to his name like Ozzy Osbourne, Firewind, Nightrage and Arch Enemy, Gus G is no stranger to the higher profile names in the heavy metal arena. His virtuosic abilities and dedication to his craft is apparent in every recording he has laid down in the studio. The fact that he is so humble only makes him even more sought out by some of the biggest names in the industry.
With several popular signature model products created in his name, Gus’s is one of the more recognizable names in the metal scene. If you haven’t had the chance to hear him play live, you’ll get the opportunity to do just that this April and May as he hits several North American cities (dates here) for what is guaranteed to be a shredfest filled with music from his many projects.
Gus was kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time and tell us all about his tour, gear, and the kinds of things he does to keep his chops ready for whatever the rock world throws at him.
You’ve had quite a busy year already and we’re only in a few months in! What projects have you been working on that you can tell us about?
You can say I like to stay busy! Just got back from a month of rock and metal cruises, I was on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise with Firewind and then on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise w/ my solo band. And to expand on this, I’ve just announced some select North American tour dates this April. I’m really excited to finally bring my solo show to the US and Canada. Right now it’s only eight shows but hopefully we’ll add more later in the year. I got a great band with me, they’re all from the US. On vocals Rob Rock (of Impelliteri) will be with me and the rhythm section will be Jeramie Kling and Taylor Nordberg (from The Absence). Amazing musicians all of them!
Your Seymour Duncan Gus G FIRE Blackouts System pickups are like a “best of both worlds” pickup set. The response of a passive humbucker with the power of an active one. How did you arrive at this particular combination and what was the design/test process like?
When I joined Ozzy’s band I knew I needed a pickup with high output being one guitarist in the band, so SD sent me the Blackouts which I loved. Such a well balanced pickup. Then I started wondering “what if we combined passive and active together?” I told my idea to my A&R, Evan Skopp who helped me develop my signature pickup. At the time SD was probably already working on the Blackouts Coil Pack, which was basically a passive coil with a preamp on it. So I tried that one and we based my Fire Blackouts signature set out of that. We went back and forth with lots of prototypes and voicings of that pickup. The guys would send me a new pickup out on the road each week and my tech would put it on one of my guitars and I’d play a couple of songs on stage. Then I’d get back to SD team with comments on what I wasn’t hearing or what was too much, and so on. It took us a few months, but in the end they nailed it.
The signature guitars that ESP makes for you are some of the coolest looking in their product line. How did your relationship with them come about and how have they created the guitar of your dreams?
I was in Japan on a promotional tour in 2003 when ESP approached me and said to me that they would make me any guitar I liked. That alone is a dream come true. So we discussed ideas and made a prototype for the Random Star model. Since then it’s all I played. Of course we’ve come up with variations of it, made some things better on it thru the years. I’m really proud of it, it’s a really good instrument.
That Blackstar Blackfire 200 is an absolute beast of an amplifier! I’m a huge Blackstar fan myself. What other gear is in your live/studio rig that helps you achieve your ideal tone/sound?
I always bring my Blackstar in the recording sessions, but I try to combine it with other amps and see how that sounds. For example, the rhythm guitars on Ozzy’s “Scream” album are the Series One 200 combined with a JCM 800. On my debut solo album “I Am The Fire” I used a Blackstar HT-100 with a Bogner and on my new solo album “Brand New Revolution” it’s my Blackfire together with an EVH 5150 III 50-watt.
As for live, the Blackfire signature is all I use. Lots of people ask me about effects and distortion pedals, but my main tone comes from my amp.
You have a successful instructional DVD that has been critically acclaimed and is loved by guitar players as well. How did your own learning on guitar progress and what types of practice routine do you have now?
One thing I figured out early on, was that learning guitar needed discipline. I was always serious about it and wanted to be very good at both rhythm & lead guitar, so I was one of those kids that practiced for 8-10 a day or more. So I would divide my time daily between practicing chords, learning a new chord voicing for example, scales, ear training, improvisation, practicing a new lick and develop my picking technique, and so on. It never really ends. I still do all that, maybe not 10 hours a day though, haha! But I still work on what I already know, cause it can always become better, and always search for new things to add to my “bag of licks.”
You’ve been Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, been the guitar player in Firewind, played in countless other bands and done sessions for some pretty influential names, but you also have your own solo work. How do you balance all of that and is there some advice you can give musicians about how to do the same?
Well, the solo thing is something that came out of necessity, after being bummed out of all the line-up changes that Firewind went thru the last eight years. I didn’t think that going solo could be a new career for me, so I’m enjoying that a lot right now. Ozzy is busy with Black Sabbath the past three years, so we play a few shows a year maybe and that’s it. Although when we start again, it’ll be a full on commitment. So for the time being, I’m doing my own projects and I’d say between Firewind and solo band, I got a pretty full plate, which is awesome.
My advice to young musicians would be to do what makes you happy. Everyone has a different path in music. What worked out for me, doesn’t mean will work out for you too. Follow your gut feeling, work hard, practice and be nice to everyone, that helps a lot!
If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I’ve been on Ozzy’s side for almost seven years now, I really couldn’t have imagined anything bigger and more awesome than that. With that said, it would have been cool to jam with Jim Morrison just to see what kind of crazy stuff he would have pulled!