By now my worshipping of good friend and guitarist extraordinaire Gus Drax is well-documented. This Master of the Strings is having the busiest year I’ve ever seen! His band SUNBURST released Fragments of Creation in February and it’s fantastic, then SUICIDAL ANGELS just dropped Division of Blood at the end of May, which is also kickass, and we still have the new PARADOX album Pangea to look forward to on June 24. I think I just broke a sweat writing all of that. The guy just doesn’t stop. When we sat down a while ago, SUICIDAL ANGELS wasn’t out yet, but we still obviously had much to discuss, and as usual, we veered off topic a few times. So, have a seat and check it out:
Amps: OK…on this SUNBURST album. “Symbol of Life”…I think this opening part may be one of THE greatest guitar lines I’ve ever heard in my life and I’m 43, so I’ve heard a lot! How do you do this??
Gus: (Laughs) thank you, thank you. I don’t know, I just do it (grabs guitar, plays the part, Maestro nearly faints).
Amps: Vasilis (Georgiou, vocals) sings in this band as well as BLACK FATE, huh?
Gus: Yeah, we are common members of both. It was a coincidence we’re in both bands, but a happy one.
Amps: He’s got a great voice, but I really feel like it shows more on this SUNBURST album than anything I’ve heard him do. Everything fell into place on this album, it seems.
Gus: Let me say something about Vasilis, because I feel it has to be said. Vasilis has this reputation that he reminds people of (former KAMELOT singer) Roy Khan. But I think in SUNBURST he doesn’t sound like him so much. I think he has found more of his own voice, and I think that the music sounds nothing like KAMELOT.
Amps: We’ve talked about this. I never got the KAMELOT comparisons. I like them OK, but I’m not a big fan. I see more mid-90’s DREAM THEATER influences in SUNBURST than anything else. Did you hear The Astonishing?
Gus: Because of all my traveling I couldn’t do all of The Astonishing at one time. So I divided it in two. It’s definitely a statement from DREAM THEATER. This high-speed world we live in has everyone making what I call “fast food music.” And I feel like they created an epic that said, “We are different. If you want to hear us, then you sit down and listen to this record.” It is the epitome of progressive metal, I think. And no one but them could have done that.
Amps: I really think that Fragments of Creation is an absolute home run. What goes into writing a SUNBURST record with all your busy schedules?
Gus: I’m really glad that you like it, thank you. Actually most of the songs started as guitar riffs, we’re a very guitar and bass-oriented band. All metal music needs guitar as its primary instrument, no matter the genre. I was creating first structures of the songs and sending them to everyone so that they could create their own parts. Our drummer Kostas Milonas would then say, “Hey I’m thinking of this idea for the drums” or something, you know? After that I was working very, very closely with Vasilis because he creates his melodies. I don’t go into his field, I can’t write lyrics or anything, so I completely leave him alone. The only thing I do is when he sends me the final result I might say, “Maybe we try something different here” or something. That’s in a nutshell how it all happens.
But there were parts of the album where we were just jamming. “Break the Core”, that middle section came up during a studio meeting we had and Kostas said, “I think I have an idea here” and he did that thing with his legs. I think that having the best of both worlds is the best case.
Amps: What will happen as far as live shows?
Gus: At the moment we are open to every possible live show that we can get. We have a few shows booked in Europe and we are expecting some more. I guess we will have more opportunities, and we would like to play some shows here in Greece as well. We will chase every opportunity we are given to play live.
Amps: How do you find time to juggle all these bands you’re in?
Gus: I must admit, it’s a little bit tough. But that’s my life and I like it that way. BLACK FATE is not such a time consumer because it’s not the busiest live band. We don’t do many shows.
So I would say that the bands that are most time-consuming are SUICIDAL ANGELS and SUNBURST. SUICIDAL ANGELS have a full schedule, SUNBURST will be busy as well. I also still teach guitar, so my schedule is pretty full. It’s better to be busy than sitting around not doing anything.
Amps: Do you have any plans for another solo record?
Gus: Unfortunately there’s not much time for me to do something like that. I have said before that I will 100% release another solo record at some point. But right now I am so busy getting ready for live gigs with both bands that I can’t devote time to new ideas. When I come up with something new I am usually thinking about who’s gonna sing on it, and not an instrumental. I want to be different, I don’t want to do In Search of Perfection Part II. I want to create something different. I have some ideas, my computer is pretty full. (Laughing) I need to work on those!
Amps: Any favorite tracks on the SUNBURST record?
Gus: I would have to say “Remedy of the Heart.” But it changes all the time. I just think this song is very ambitious for us. It has a symphonic element to it and I love the vibe.
Amps: I also think the record sounds best when played through headphones. The ones that cover your ears so you can just tune the world out.
Gus: You know, we have a lot of elements in our music and things going on in the songs. With headphones or without them you definitely need to concentrate a little bit when you listen to this album, at least for the first time. It varies from person to person, but concentration is recommended. And headphones definitely help with that.
Amps: You still practicing a hundred hours a day?
Gus: Oh yes! I look for ways to improve every day. Three days of my week I am in Athens because SUICIDAL ANGELS practices there.
Amps: Who are three of your favorite guitarists right now?
Gus: John Petrucci, Jason Becker, and Steve Vai. I have too many great influences, but those three are at the top.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the fans of Gus Drax and his work in SUNBURST, SUICIDAL ANGELS, BLACK FATE, and PARADOX?
Gus: A big thank you, man. Thank you for all the support and for giving me the power to continue. Bless you all.
I always love talking to Gus because it’s just a fun conversation between two friends. At one point we went into a 20 minute discussion on what TV shows we’re both binge watching and discovered that we’re both HUGE fans of Gotham and Arrow, among others. If by now you haven’t picked up Fragments of Creation by SUNBURST or Division of Blood from SUICIDAL ANGELS, then shame on you. Go and rectify that immediately. And to all our international friends and readers, DO NOT miss these bands live if they’re playing by you!