Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G.: “This is the Bible of heavy metal”

He may the new kid in town, but he has nothing but respect for those whose shoes he’s filling.

I’m talkin’ about Ozzy Osbourne’s new guitarist, Gus G., who sat down with the Away Team to talk about all things heavy, including his band Firewind’s new album, and working with the Prince Of Darkness.

Here’s a quick look at some of the conversation:

AWAY-TEAM: So let’s talk a little bit about the Ozzy gig. How did you actually land the job?

GUS G.: It was a year and a half ago, when his management sent me an email asking me if I’d be interested in the gig, and if I’d go out and audition. And that’s how it happened.

AWAY-TEAM: So you actually had to audition for him? What songs did you have to play?

GUS G.: Um, ya know, a bunch of his classic songs like “Bark at the Moon,” “Crazy Train,” “I Don’t Know,” “Suicide Solution,” “I Don’t Wanna Change the World,” “Paranoid,” stuff like that, ya know. We went in there and did about six or seven songs.

AWAY-TEAM: So now, you’ve gotten the job, and you come in during the middle of the recording of the “Scream” album; for someone like yourself who’s used to having a large amount of control over what goes into an album, what was the creative process like? Did they give you as much freedom as you’re used to? Or did they just say ‘Here you go, play it like this.’?

GUS G.: No, they didn’t tell me how to play really. They told me “Do what you gotta do as a guitar player. We need alot of your guitar in there.” Because when I walked in all the songs were already written of course, but the guitar work had been done by Kevin Churko the producer, who is not really a guitar player so it sounded a little bit weird. Ya know what I mean? Like very processed and stuff. So they were like “Make it as real sounding, and as heavy as possible. Just do what you do. We want Gus on there.” So like I said, while alot of these songs were not my songs, I thought it was very challenging to be involved in a different project for once. And try to make my mark as a guitar player on songs that I didn’t write. And secondly, it was cooler than ever because I got to play on an Ozzy Osbourne album.

AWAY-TEAM: With that being said, you’re following in the footsteps of some legendary guitarists in guys like Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, and Zakk Wylde. Those guys all had their own unique sound, when you’re playing their songs, do you try to put your own stamp on them? Or is it more like, those guys were so good it’d be sacrilege to change their sound?

GUS G.: Well, as a fan I don’t like to change stuff they did. Because we’re not just talking about anybody’s song, this is the bible of heavy metal, man. This is what shaped the sound of hard rock and heavy metal for all the rest of us to follow. So it’s not like I’m gonna go in and do my own version of “Crazy Train” or my own version of “Paranoid,” ya know. That’s not gonna happen. But you know, Ozzy and Black Sabbath songs, these songs came from jams mainly, and there’s always a little room for the guitar player to do his own little fills and tricks here and there. I definitely do my own thing, but without really interfering with the song composition if you know what I mean.

AWAY-TEAM: Zakk Wylde has been highly complimentary of you, in the media especially. Have you had a chance to meet or talk with him yet?

GUS G.: No. I never got to meet him, and I would really like to. I really want to thank him for saying all of these great things about me, because it means alot to me. I mean Zakk Wylde is an icon, and someone I always looked up to growing up. He was one of my guitar heroes, and just to hear a guy like that saying all those great things about me is amazing. It’s awesome, and I really appreciate all of his support. He’s really cool with me about that. He’s really given me the platform I need to go out there and do my thing. He’s been very nice, and I’ve always had the best thoughts about Zakk, ya know.

AWAY-TEAM: That’s really cool to hear. Now, your first show with Ozzy was last year at Blizzcon; what was the moment you stepped back and realized “Holy s***! I’m really Ozzy’s guitarist!”?

GUS G.: (laughs) Yeah, that was definitely the gig where I was thinking about all of that. Even the rehearsal, everyday I was like “What the f***? Where am I?” And that didn’t really end after Blizzcon, it still goes through my mind every other day. I’m like “Wow! Look how things turned out!” This is not something you can expect to really happen in life. It’s beyond any biggest honor a guitar player can have in heavy metal and hard rock. I mean, I was happy I was playing with my band, and when this came along I was like “Wow! Really???” When they called me for the audition I went in there and was like “I’ve got nothing to lose. At least I can jam with ’em and it’s a story I can tell my children one day.” But who would’ve ever thought that I would be in his band, and working with Ozzy for over a year now.

AWAY-TEAM: You mentioned being a fan, as a fan what was your all-time favorite Ozzy or Sabbath song?

GUS G.: You know, that is a problem actually, because he has so many great songs, I just love ‘em all man. I love doing the Ozzy stuff on stage, I love doing the Sabbath stuff. He has so many great songs on all of his albums. I mean, I love the “Diary of a Madman” stuff, I love the stuff from “The Ultimate Sin” that we’re doing. There’s more songs that I love that we’re not even doing, ya know. We’re playing two and a half hour sets every night, and to fit it all in we need at least four to four and a half hours to fit all of this material in there. He has so many classic songs that you just can’t possibly fit in everything.

AWAY-TEAM: So what was the most challenging song to learn?

GUS G.: Uh, I don’t know. You know all of his guitar players had some very interesting stuff in there. I really cannot seperate one guy from another because everybody was unique in their own way. Like Jake E. Lee, he was special, he was doing all these weird chords and playing around with harmonics and stuff. Randy, he had all this classical influence and mixed it with heavy rock stuff, and it’s also very interesting to play that stuff. And of course Zakk, his technique was at another level. And then you’ve got Tony Iommi, who’s super, super heavy and bluesy and just plays freeform. So you really need to be a well rounded guitar player to play all these different styles. But for me it’s really a natural thing, because those are the kind of guitar players I grew up listening to. I come from that school of guitar, ya know?

To find out what artists and album first inspired Gus to rock – check out the full Away team interview here.

Ozzy Osbourne – Fearless
Jimmy Kimmel Live – August 16, 2010