Firewind

Firewind were “on ice” for quite a few years, while their leader Gus G. was pursuing a solo career and acting as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist. That time off did seem to have done them a world of good, because following a series of good albums that somehow seemed to hit a bit of a brick wall in terms both of creativity by also band appeal, seems now to easily crumble – by the combined efforts of the Greeks and their new German singer Hanne Basse (Metallium) with “Immortals”, their first concept album, being probably one of their better ones. Guitar/Keyboard player and media producer Bob Katsionis, dons a helmet, sandals and grabs a sword that was handy to make light work of whatever questions we threw his way...
Firewind band pic

Hi Bob, it’s good to have you on Grande Rock. Firewind is back after a long absence and the new album “Immortals” is one of the most solid ones you’ve managed in a long while... was the idea about it fresh – or were you slowly writing material - during the downtime?
 
B: Thank you very much, that’s exactly how we feel like about it! There were some ideas here and there but also Gus has been writing some of this stuff for another project which never saw the light of day. When Gus found a “window” of free time he instantly put the band together, played these ideas for us, and we started working immediately on them. We were really thrilled because we knew that this would be a great new Firewind album!
 
 
Five years is a long time-period to be away from the scene. Were there plans made in advance for an album, or was the whole thing really put on ice and you resumed just when schedules allowed?
 
B: Exactly. The band was on ice and everyone did different things; for example I did some new works with Outloud and I also joined Serious Black, which kept me real busy. After our invitation to perform on 70000 Tons Of Metal Festival Cruise, we all felt like we should give it another chance. That’s when Gus played us the new material and we were like “Alright, this is fuckin cool, let’s go and do it”!...
 
 
Will the return of Firewind to action, cause any possible issues with your membership in Serious Black or do you think you’ll be able to “balance” the two?
 
B: Well... this is a real nightmare for me every day, but thank God no serious conflict has happened yet. Cool thing is that now Firewind have a new management, which communicates with the SB management and we try to avoid double bookings. I’m afraid that if things get really complicated and problematic... then I will have to choose a band to continue with so I will cause no problem for the band no more. But I hope this day never comes!
 
 
What prompted you to do a concept album? And why did you choose the particular theme? Which were those things that inspired you to write the music and the lyrics in general?
 
B: Well… the idea of a concept album existed since our very early days. But the way that the songwriting was happening all these years, never gave us this opportunity. Our singers lived far away, they worked everyone at his own different style and pace and it would be impossible to communicate to complete such a difficult task. Working with Dennis Ward made the whole thing possible since he organized our thoughts and ideas and helped finalize the whole thing!
 
 
Previously you have done tours with HB, KSC and even Mats Leven’s name was strongly touted, with Gus saying how cool his performances on his solo albums were and all that... what led you to settling with Basse?
 
B: Henning was always by our side, a friend and a person we always trusted and always felt close as a band mate. It was just our different priorities and schedules that never matched. When Gus made his new offer for the slot we were all like “Yes man, that’s the one” and Henning became a part of the family and we all feel very comfortable with him in the band. Well… maybe it’s not always so cool for him hanging out all day with 3 loud Greeks, but everything is a matter of getting used to it hahaha!
 
 
Hence, where does the album title “Immortals” refer to?
 
B: Simply to those great ancient Greek heroes who gave their blood to defend our land against the “Persian Beast” just like our lyrics say. Europe would be really different if the Greeks back then didn’t fight that hard.
 
 
I’d like you to give us a hint for each track…
 
B: “Hands of Time”: The first song that Gus played to all of us, marking the New Era for Firewind…
 
“We Defy”: This one is a pure “Early-Firewind” tune, for those romantic Early-Days lovers of the band!
 
“Ode to Leonidas”: Lots to say about this one, so I would just mention that moment in Serbia where we had to choose from three men provided by the casting crew for which one of them would be Leonidas... it was really funny!
 
“Back on the Throne”: When Gus played this song to me, I thought that it’s really cool that we have a reference to his relationship with the great Ozzy, that’s why I decided to play that “Mr.Crowley-ish” keyboard intro to emphasize this fact!
 
“Live and Die By the Sword”: One of the greatest Firewind songs ever… imnsho!
 
“Wars of Ages”: This song refers to the battle of Salamis and its original title was “Salamis” but unfortunately we had to change it for obvious reasons...
 
“Lady of 1000 Sorrows”: A song which comes out really great on live shows and in some cases brings even tears in the eyes of some people in the crowd!
 
“Immortals”: An instrumental simply because... we can!
 
“Warriors and Saints”: Another early-days Firewind song that we plan on playing live in the future as well!
 
“Rise From the Ashes”: The most symphonic and “rich” composition of the album, perfect closure for this album…
 
“Vision of Tomorrow” (Bonus Track): This one was one of my favorites; I never really understood how it ended up as a bonus, hahaha! It’s a definitely “Burning Earth” sounding tune which also includes the fastest keyboard solo ever recorded in every genre anytime!
 
 
How did you choose to work with Dennis Ward (Unisonic, Pink Cream 69)? As far as I know he also contributed on the songwriting part as well, right?
 
B: Gus was approached some 7-8 years ago by Dennis in order to make a power metal project. So some of the songs of this album had been written back then from Gus. That project never saw the light of day and when the time came to make a new Firewind album that was also epic-based lyric-wise, these songs were perfect. And since Gus needed some help in the production of this album, Dennis was the right person. He did a great work on the vocal melodies and the lyrics as well but, if we want to be precise and just, all the music was written by the band.
 
 
Since you’re touring as we speak, do tell us how the current tour is progressing so far?
 
B: This tour went just great! Also after the main European leg we did 2 extra shows in Cyprus and Patras, a city in Greece and people there were really crazy, reminding us how great is to play in this band and how devoted our fans are. The tour was pure fun, also with Greek fellows Scar Of The Sun on board and Swedish maniacs Manimal every night was a blast!
 
 
What are the expectations from “Immortals” and what are your long-term plans for Firewind?
 
B: Firewind is here to stay! If something different happens we will be accept it and move on accordingly. But the truth is that we have a new management, maybe a new label soon, we are a band with 5 friends who never backstab or talk shit to each other and they all know where they are and what they want from music so everything is good. We might never be as big as Iron Maiden, even not as big as Sabaton. But we enjoy this journey, we get experiences and we have fun. And that’s what it’s all about in the very end.
 
 
Since there’s a rumor that Gus’ involve with Ozzy might be trimmed down (maybe - maybe not) is this something that affects Firewind? A New hiatus? Or will the band go on no matter what?
 
B: First of all Firewind is Gus G’s band, baby, you call it. Cannot go on without him. Gus is a professional and knows the best way to handle each situation. A new hiatus could be possible but also a new era has begun as well so... either situation is just fine for me personally. I have faith in Gus’ managing abilities and that’s the reason I’m still here.
 
 
You’ve been in the band and in the scene for a number of years, what’s your overall opinion about where it’s all heading...
 
B: I think that once all our idols are dead we’re gonna have a serious problem. Internet and freedom of expression is fine but no new legends will be born simply because now with the social media everyone has the same page on FB, on YT everywhere. If you want to say “fuck off” to Steve Vai you can just go and do it on his page. Some years ago, it would be impossible even to be able to scream it from distance. The Legends became legendary because there was a veil of secrecy around them. How is Tony Iommi, how was Jim Morrisson in his personal life etc. Now you get a nice update on Instagram daily on each and every one of their activities so the mystery is gone. A delusion of grandeur can be sold but it’s not even close to the real deal.
 
Firewind band pic
 
Time for our “weird questions”!!! If you found a genie in a bottle and you only had 3 wishes what would they be?
 
B: Nothing... I just want a happy life with my woman, play music and find some time to play some Playstation with friends.
 
 
What do you think about funding platforms like Kicksatrter, Indiegogo etc.? Can bands/artists only be supported by their fans in order to make music?
 
B: I think it’s a cool idea in overall. Saw it working with some projects and I’m thinking of doing it in the future for my solo works as well. Complete hand in hand with the laws of “Demand & Supply”.
 
 
If you could “erase” one thing from modern music, what would it be?
 
B: Autotune. Then there would be almost NO modern music hahaha!
 
 
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
 
B: Stratovarius at the “Episode” years!
 
 
Has the internet changed the ways music should be played and released or not? Is it a “divine gift” or a curse?
 
B: Now it’s easier to get out there and be a small fish in the ocean and swim with any power you have to go as far as you can.
 
 
Top 3 epic movies of any era?
 
B: The Green Mile, Robocop, Midnight Express.
 
 
Best 3 heavy metal albums of all time?
 
B: Judas Priest – “Painkiller”, Megadeth – “Rust in Peace”, Iron Maiden – “Seventh Son”. I’m an early 90s guy, I’m sorry!
 
 
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
 
B: It would be something from Vangelis.
 
 
Fill in the phrase… “Heavy Metal music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
 
B: ... that accident on Tony Iommi’s fingers.
 
 
Who is the sexiest female Rock Star of all time?
 
B: I don’t find Rock women sexy at all, I think they kinda smell on stage. Katy Perry works fine for me if it’s OK with you!
 
 
Which do you consider to be the best female & male vocalist in metal history?
 
B: I would say my favourite cause the term “best” is very relative. Well my favourite singer seems to be Bruce Dickinson and from female… I would just say my girlfriend…
 
 
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
 
B: Definitely in the 70s… the best era of pretty much everything!
 
 
If you could be any historical person, which one would you be and why?
 
B: I’m happy being Bob Katsionis with the small history he might be able to create during his time on Earth.
 
 
Which character from the “Game of Thrones” would you have been – if you lived in the Seven Kingdoms?
 
B: I have complete ignorance on the matter!
 
 
That’s all for now Bob. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Have a great time on the road. Take care, dude!
 
B: Thanx a lot cya in Greece later on this year! smiley

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