When historians look back on
the impact that Ozzy Osbourne has had
on the world of guitar, it’s going to be
pretty damn impressive for a guy who
doesn’t even play. Whether by default or
by design, his Ozzness has always been
associated with a totally badass—if not
completely game-changing—ax slinger.
In the beginning there was Tony Iommi
and Black Sabbath, who basically invented
heavy metal, and then Randy Rhoads,
who was one of the most influential guitarists
of his generation. The other
6-stringers who have drifted through
Ozzy’s transom include Brad Gillis, Jake
E. Lee, and Zakk Wylde, all of whom have
managed to bring their own unique trip
to the party. Add to that list Gus G, whose
playing is all over the latest Ozzy offering,
Scream [Epic]. Gus gets huge tones and
shreds through clever, memorable solos
on the 11 tunes. Metal fans may recognize
the Greek guitarist from his work with
Firewind, but it seems certain that he’ll
soon be known to a much larger audience.
What was the audition like for the Ozzy gig?
There was an audition last summer.
I learned a bunch of songs and went
down to L.A. Obviously I was very excited
and stressed about it, but it wasn’t as
bad as I thought it would be. I figured it
was going to be a bunch of guys in there
and you get your 15 minutes and that’s
it. But I actually had a couple of hours
to spend with the band. We just jammed
and went through all the parts in all the
songs and fixed parts that I may have had
questions about. A couple of hours later
Ozzy came down and we jammed and it
went pretty good. We did “Bark at the
Moon,” “Crazy Train,” “I Don’t Know,”
“Paranoid,” and “I Don’t Want to Change
How big an influence was Ozzy’s music on
Very big. I’m a huge Black Sabbath
fan. I’m a bigger Sabbath fan than Ozzy
fan to be honest, not to put any of
Ozzy’s music down because I grew up
with his solo records as well and I studied
all the guitar players that have played
in his band. But I have a certain love for
Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi. I think
I totally come from that school of guitar—
that traditional, heavy, hard rock
Ozzy wrote this record with the producer,
Kevin Churko. How complete were these tunes
when you heard them for the first time?
They were written already so they just
needed someone to play the riffs. I play
all the main riffs and solos, but I didn’t
really have much to do with all the weird
intros and stuff like that. The intro to
“Fearless,” the sounds at the beginning
of “Let It Die,” that’s all Kevin.
Do you feel like you still got to put enough
of your personality into the songs coming into
it at that stage?
Well, as much as I could. Actually it’s
the first record that I’ve done that I
haven’t written anything on it. Usually I
write the records that I play on or cowrite
with other people. But this one was
all done. They told me, “Be you and do
your thing.” I was just happy that I had
the chance to even play some leads. That
was my mentality. It was a big learning
experience for me. Just the fact that they
asked me to redo all the guitars was a big
honor. I went in there and Kevin definitely
had some stuff that in my opinion
didn’t sound like how a guitar player
would do it, so he was open to my ideas.
A good example of that is the riff on “Soul
Sucker.” When I heard it I thought it was
a good riff but it was pretty generic. It
was just like a slow heavy riff. So I said,
“Why don’t we do a talk box thing here?”
There were a lot of those good chemistry
moments in the studio where you come
up with stuff. I came up with all the leads. I changed a couple of riffs here and there,
but nothing major.
What was your rig?
My rig for the whole record was a
combination of two amps. One was a
Blackstar Series One 200 head through
a Blackstar cab with Celestion Vintage
30s. I did two rhythm tracks with that.
Then I did another two rhythm tracks
with a Marshall JCM800 through a Marshall
cab with EV speakers. Those two
tones complemented each other and they
produced this really massive sound. I
played my signature model ESP Random
Star guitar with Seymour Duncan Blackouts.
Usually I’m a passive pickup guy,
but for the last year I’ve been using these
active Blackouts and they’re the best I’ve
ever played. They’re really loud and very
heavy with a lot of distortion. It makes
it almost effortless to play. I was never
really an active guy because I hated the
fact that you kind of lose the harmonics
and a little bit of the sound of the wood
of the guitar. But somehow they managed
to come up with this pickup that
lets you hear all the harmonics in the
guitar—you can hear the classic sweet
Your tone is really heavy. Is the gain fully
cranked on your amps?
I don’t use too much distortion. It’s
usually around 12:00 or so. For the leads
I use this BBE Green Screamer. It’s kind
of like a replica of an Ibanez Tube Screamer
pedal and I just step on it for a boost on
Let’s talk about a couple of the solos. I
noticed that both in “Let It Die” and “Let Me
Hear You Scream,” you play solos that have these
really wide intervals, where you’re sliding
around and jumping as much as an octave.
What’s going on there?
It’s not actually octaves. Those intervals
are actually fourths, fifths, and sixths
but I’m skipping positions back and forth
so it almost sounds like octaves even
though it’s not. To get that sound I might
go from, say, the 22nd position, down to
the 17th, then back up to the 20th, then
down to the 15th, and so on.
Was it hard to get that technique so smooth?
I practiced for many years with a metronome in my room for stuff like that
when I was a teenager. When I went to the
conservatory, the first thing my teacher said
was, “Buy a metronome and anything you
practice, practice it slowly first and gradually
raise the BPM.” Later on, when I was
giving lessons, I saw that everybody wanted
to play fast right away and that’s not the way
to go. If you practice everything to a
metronome, you get great rhythm from that.
You get tight, you build your precision, and
you become accurate with your playing. I
think you should play everything—from riffs
to clean chords to strumming to shredding
licks—with a metronome.
What’s the tuning on “Soul Sucker”?
It’s in dropped-B. The guitar is tuned
down to C# , then you drop the low E another
step to B. The big growling bends are actually
played with a slide on my ring finger.
I’m sliding from the 3rd to the 4th fret.
What are the challenges to playing parts that
were originally laid down by Tony Iommi, Randy
Rhoads, and the others?
For a Tony Iommi part, you need to sound
f**king heavy, that’s for sure. That’s what
Black Sabbath is all about—being heavy and
dark. As for Randy, Jake, and Zakk, they’re
all great players. I love them all and everybody
was different. I grew up with that stuff
so it’s great just being able to play these
songs. I stick to the originals the way they
were recorded. I feel that I have a very important
spotlight here next to Ozzy Osbourne
so I need to play this music accurately
because it’s all classics—the stuff that defined
heavy metal and hard rock. There’s always
a little bit of space to do your own thing obviously,
but “Crazy Train” is “Crazy Train.”
You don’t f**k with that.
How does Firewind’s music differ from Ozzy’s?
It’s more of a band environment in the
sense that we’re playing our own songs and
not backing a solo artist. The Ozzy gig is the
coolest job on earth, but Firewind is a different
scenario. We’ve been around for a
while. We have five albums. We have a keyboard
player who also plays guitar. The music
has some power metal influences, as well as
Priest kind of thing.
Who did you listen to growing up and who do
you like these days?
Early on it was Tony Iommi. Later, Yngwie
Malmsteen was a big influence. The
first record I heard from him was Trilogy,
and that’s what really got me into the
whole shredding thing. The ’80s shredders
like Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, and
Marty Friedman—I love all those guys. I
also love European players from the ’70s
like Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, and
Gary Moore. As for newer guys, Jeff Loomis
is great. The guys from DragonForce are
very good. Michael Amott from Arch
Enemy is a great player and he’s definitely
from the ’70s school of guitar. I’m glad to
see newer guitar players bring in that element.
If young players do some digging
and find out who Ritchie Blackmore and
Gary Moore are and listen to Thin Lizzy
and great bands like that, they can find a
lot of amazing guitar stuff there. Hopefully
we can be the new generation that
carries that torch.