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Dream Evil    
Dream Evil
Dream Evil is part Europe's latest wave of power metal acts that are carrying the sword of "true" or traditional heavy metal into the twenty-first century. Appropriately enough, this Swedish troupe is comprised of veteran talent, whether it's Studio Fredman knob-turner Fredrik Nordstrom on guitar, Hammerfall backing vocalist Niklas Isfeldt, King Diamond / Memento Mori skinsman Snowy Shaw or Jericho Brothers bassist Peter Stalfors. Lead guitarist Gus G. is the "baby" of the band, but at just twenty-two years of age, he has already built a resume that eclipses that of players twice his age. Not only does he hold down a spot in Dream Evil, but he is currently or recently involved in a number of other bands, including Mystic Prophecy, Firewind, Old Man's Child, Raise Hell and Nightrage. Gus took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the new Dream Evil album 'DragonSlayer' and everything else an inquiring metal mind might want to know.

METAL UPDATE: 'DragonSlayer' is a very modern metal record, but it's also very traditional, very 80's-sounding. There's somewhat of a gap in your ages. I mean, you're like twenty-two, and the other guys are in their early to mid-thirties. As far as influences and bands you guys listen to, are you all on the same page? Do you listen to the same music?

GG: Yes and no. (laughs) All of us like all the classic hard rock and classic heavy metal bands. . . I mean, everybody likes Dio, Saxon, Judas Priest, Accept, Iron Maiden - everybody likes that stuff. I could say that Fredrik also is more into the 70's hard rock bands, like Thin Lizzy and AC/DC. I'm also into that stuff, but I also listen to other, you know, heavier stuff as well. Yeah, and Niklas and Peter are also very traditional metal fans, you know? I guess it's kinda cool because everybody brought a little bit of their own in the band and contributed to the sound. You know, Eric Peters, he's into a lot of Queensryche and I like a lot of Scorpions and Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Schenker - stuff like that. So, I guess that's how the result came out.

MU: Do you play all the guitar leads on this record, or does Fredrik do some of that, too?

GG: I played the most. Freddy did two or three, I think. Freddy did the first solo on "Heavy Metal In The Night" and the first solo on "Hail To The King" and the intro for "The Chosen Ones" and the rest I played.

Dream Evil

MU: Now, Fred used the Gothenburg Philharmonic before, like for the last Dimmu record. Did they actually come into his studio and do parts or were those recorded separately at a different location?

GG: They came with like fourteen people, and they came into the studio. . . big recording room and it's fit for an orchestra. So, they came down there, and we brought this conductor from Norway, Gaute, who wrote the string parts, and he also did the same thing with Dimmu Borgir. Yeah, I was there, and it was a very quick thing, I guess. Fredrik, he had done it before we used them for our album, you know? Fredrik was more comfortable. He knew what to do this time, and it came out very, very good.

MU: Did the players in this group like metal, too? Was it kind of weird for them or was this something they were into?

GG: If you play on a Dimmu Borgir satanic black metal album, okay, it's not so weird to play on the Dream Evil album. (laughs) But, they were not really into heavy metal. I mean, they like our music. They were enjoying it, you know? When they came back to the control room to listen to the result they were enjoying it, but I don't think they're like metalheads, or something like that. They're mostly classical people. I'm pretty sure that most of them might have the idea that classical and rock don't fit together, but they're pretty open. On the other hand, they're pretty open-minded people if they came down to play. I'm not sure. I mean, I didn't really discuss with them. . . They just came. They did their job in two hours, and they went home. They're very professional. They just get the charts. They do a couple takes, and that's it.

MU: Besides the festivals, do you plan on doing any extensive touring?

GG: Not at this point, no, because there's not. . . Our album was released when most of those big power metal package tours were already arranged and those bands were already on the road. So, right now, there's nothing going out for the fall. There's no big metal package or something that would be close to our style. However, we are gonna do a couple of gigs here in Sweden supporting Blind Guardian, and we will go to tour Japan in October. So, yeah, we have some gigs, but it is not gonna be like a full month tour - not for now.

MU: The gigs you've played so far, how have they gone? Is everything "gelling" live? Have you had a good time playing live?

GG: Yeah, sure. I mean, it's a very cool thing. We've been getting a very great response from the crowd. Like when we played. . . people were singing all the choruses - "Heavy Metal In The Night" and stuff like that or "The Chosen Ones". It was a shock for us because the album has been out only for a couple of months now. So, it was a very cool experience and we really have a lot of fun on stage.

MU: Do you guys plan on recording any of your live performances and releasing them on video?

GG: Yeah, that would be a good idea but, you know, we're pretty much a newcomer band. . .

MU: You've done some guest work on some other albums. What did that entail?

GG: I've done some guest solos on bands like Raise Hell, and I played on the new Old Man's Child, which should be released in a few months, with a couple of guys from Dimmu Borgir, and I played on this other band called Dragonland. I did a guest solo, but I'm also a member of two other bands. I have my own little project called Firewind, which is released this month in America, I think, through Leviathan Records. I also have another side project with this German power metal band called Mystic Prophecy and we've already released an album with them. That was last year.

MU: I know you're from Greece. How big is metal in that country? Is that a big part of the music scene there?

GG: I don't think so, no. Everybody that has been to Greece - all those bands - say that the fans are crazed there and they love heavy metal - which is true. But there's probably around fifteen to twenty thousand people that buy metal CD's and Greece is a country that has ten million people. So, the rest of the people are listening to Greek music and mainstream music mainly. So, it's a pretty close-minded market over there, for heavy metal at least. Okay, there's a couple of bands there that sell some standard high amount of records there, like Iced Earth and Iron Maiden, but it's about it.

MU: Are there a lot of local metal bands?

GG: Yeah, there are some very good local acts. I guess there are a lot of bands that are trying to come out to the surface, or something, and I wish them the best of luck, because we have some very talented musicians there.

MU: You spent some time at a conservatory in Greece, is that correct?

GG: Yes, and I also went to Berklee in Boston.

Dream Evil

MU: Now, I know you spent like, what, two weeks at the Berklee school (GG laughs in background)? I know you decided to jump start your musical career. Did you just want to put school behind you, or was there something particular about the Berklee College that you were not impressed with?

GG: Yeah, it was both, actually. You know, I had formal training for like four or five years in Greece with some very good teachers and, you know, first I went to Berklee for a summer program for five weeks, and I met this really cool guitarist, Joe Stump. That was the only thing that I got impressed from, you know? Joe impressed me because I was really into his style and the type of music he was doing. After I finished high school, I went to Berklee to study full-time and soon as I went to the first class and I saw those people coming in and giving us homework to do and stuff. . . "Okay, fuck this." You know? I wanna form a band and go on the road and make an album, you know? I didn't come to America for to learn how to be a studio musician and get paid a hundred thousand dollars a year for it, you know? So, I quit after two weeks. I guess everybody there was shocked. All my teachers and everything were like, "Why, why?" I said, "I'm not interested in this."

MU: As far as your training in Greece goes, did you spend most of your time with the guitar, or did you learn general music stuff? Did you go through theory and all that?

GG: Yeah, yeah, I did theory, harmony, ear training, a lot of stuff.

MU: So, in retrospect, for the amount of schooling you've had, are you glad you did it? Did that help your playing?

GG: Yes, it did - not the harmony and, you know, the theory - it's the very basic stuff. I think it's good to know the theory and the notes and how to read and stuff like that. I cannot say that I use the jazz harmony in my playing because I don't really like jazz music. But the ear training and stuff like that helped me to be able to hear in my mind some things - some sound - and be able to translate it on the guitar right away. So, I learned how to be quick and it helped me a lot with different technique stuff. Okay, you know, school is good up to a point - to get the basic stuff down - but, on the other hand, you have a great musician like Jimi Hendrix that didn't even know where the "C" note was on the guitar. I don't know, it depends on the person. I mean, it helped me up to a certain extent. I learned good sight-reading - how to read charts and music and stuff - but now I never use it in my life. I never became a studio musician. I never played on jingles or anything. So, I haven't read a chart for like five years and I don't think I will ever do it. So, it was useless for me, but, on the other hand, it was a good discipline. You sit down there and practice what your teacher tells you.

MU: In your biography, you cite Michael Schenker, Uli Roth and Yngwie Malmsteen as players who influenced you. What is it about their playing that you found particularly attractive?

GG: Well, different things - a lot of things. I mean, their playing, apart from being totally out of this world. . . a guy like Yngwie's so extreme, and the stuff he was doing and he's doing is incredible, you know? It sounded awesome to my ears, at least, and I had to master those techniques. And Michael Schenker, I mean, he really knows how to play a great solo. He knows where to put the right notes, and I tried to pick that up from him. Uli Roth, his playing is so passionate and his melodies - the way he creates melodies when he's improvising - is also incredible. Apart from that, those guys are also good songwriters. I mean, they are the masters of contemporary rock guitar. So, how can I not be attracted to those guys?

MU: How did you discover those players?

GG: I had a very good teacher that turned me on to these guitar players, and there were a couple of very good guitar players in my town that were really heavily into Gary Moore, John Norum and Uli Roth and all those people. I got a lot of records from them, and, basically, they introduced those guys to me and I was shocked. I started practicing their licks and their songs day and night. That's how I was introduced to those players. In the beginning, I was getting a lot of CDs from Mike Varney's guitarists - you know, from his label, Shrapnel. Later on, I went back and I saw where those guys got their techniques and their sound. I looked back in history and discovered Schenker and Uli Roth, you know?

MU: With Dream Evil, how did having Fredrik, who is writing, playing and producing, affect the outcome of the record? Was there anything different about that?

GG: Well, actually, it was not planned that Fredrik would produce this album because he has produced so much. For once in his life he wanted to be a band member and a guitarist, and just play guitar. He didn't wanna be there and be anxious about how this is gonna sound. It was very hard for him, but, at the end, there was nobody else around that could do it. So, he did it. We will see what we'll do for the future - if he's gonna produce or we're gonna get somebody else. The original idea was for Fredrik to be the guitarist - just go to the studio and record it - have some other guy produce. But, you know, sometimes things don't come out as you plan it.

MU: There's a label called Diginet that has a series of CDs called the "Guitar Master" series. They basically give you some backing tracks and they get a bunch of guitar players in and they do their own stuff over the top of that. Have you already completed that?

GG: Yeah, that was done like last summer, or something. It's only released through and the Diginet site, you know? It's not a commercial release. It's just an internet thing.

MU: I haven't heard that. Did you get several takes, or was it a one-take deal?

GG: I recorded the guitar track in my home studio. I didn't really try to get the best guitar tone. It was just like a thing I did for fun mostly, you know? I didn't really. . . First of all, I have to tell you that we were allowed to do only one guitar track. We couldn't lay down rhythm and lead and clean rhythm. You couldn't do that. So, you know, everybody just did one guitar track. So, I mean, it was just a fun thing for me. I was mainly improvising. I didn't really sit down and make melodies and stuff. I just jammed, you know? It was more like a jam CD for me. I did it for the fun of it. It took me a couple of days. Then I mixed it, and I sent it down to Diginet music and there it is. I cannot say that it's some of my best playing in there or something, but it's definitely a fun thing. I play a little bluesier stuff, and then I play a little more faster stuff and more rock stuff. Yeah, it's a good jam CD.

MU: You also have a death metal band, Nightrage, is that right? That's coming out later this year?

GG: Yeah, it's a side project with this friend of mine, Marios, from this Greek band called Exhumation. They've split up now, but Marios is starting this new band, and I'm sharing the guitars with him. I'm also taking care of the brutal vocals. So, this will be a totally different world for me now, but I also like a lot of death metal and black metal. We're probably gonna record our debut sometime this fall.

MU: Have you ever done death metal vocals before?

GG: Yeah, I started doing death vocals a couple of years ago when we first started doing the demos with Marios. You know, we couldn't find anybody to sing properly, so I said, "Yeah, fuck it." I mean, I'm gonna try. So, I played it for a lot of people, and everybody told me, "Woah, this is really, really cool." Everybody encouraged me to continue being the singer, but I don't feel like a frontman or anything like that. I'm the guitarist, you know? But, this is gonna be a very cool experience for me.

MU: You've got three or four bands, and they're all very much within the style of heavy metal. Would you ever want to branch off and do something outside of metal?

GG: Yeah, of course. I mean, I was always having ideas of different projects with other types of music. Like, I had this idea of making an acousitc guitar album one day. You know, playing softer music, or even a keyboard album, you know? A new-age album or something, or, I don't know, maybe play with some orchestra - some weird, or some classical stuff would interest me. I also really like classical music and Bach. So, I don't know. I mean, this is just thoughts. Maybe I will record some stuff for myself someday. You never know, but right now I'm so busy with Dream Evil, I don't have the time for that stuff.

MU: Have you ever thought about becoming a producer? Fredrik's been doing it his whole life. After being exposed to what he's doing, has that sparked any interest?

GG: Yeah. I mean, I don't see myself as a producer or anything. I don't think I'm anything close to that, but I've helped a couple of my friends to arrange their music and record them at home and stuff. I guess when you're from the outside - when you're not in the band - it's easier to look at somebody else's music and come up with some cool idea that will help the song to build up or make it even cooler. So, that's also cool, but, I don't know. . . Who knows what I'm going to be doing in ten years. Maybe I will have my own studio. Maybe I will work in a magazine or in a record label.

MU: You're in several bands now, and you're an accomplished player in your own right. Since you joined Dream Evil, is there anything that you've learned from being in this band that's advanced you as a musician?

GG: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, the recording environment and being in the studio a lot has been a very big school to me. That's where my sound and style was built because I took a lot of time to work on my rhythm playing - that improved. Also, my lead playing improved because I couldn't - obviously - come up with some shitty solo and leave it on the album. So, I was thinking about it many, many times before I let it out the door. I also learned a lot of things from Fredrik. I learned how to think fast, because he thinks very fast, and I learned how to keep my brain awake. I've also learned a lot of things about the music business - working with great people like Fredrik or David Chastain with Leviathan. It all has been a big school to me. Right now, I'm just getting into the live performance thing. This is also a totally different thing from the studio. You have to be able to reproduce what you do on the album, and that's very, very hard if you wanna headbang and put on a good show at the same time. So, I'm trying to become better and better and better.


review of Dream Evil 'DragonSlayer'

"The Prophecy" from 'DragonSlayer'








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