Between Heaven And Hell
Wow, what a way to kick off 2003! For fans of classic ‘80s European hard rock this is by far one of the best. Firewind combines the amazing talents of two Americans, vocalist Stephen Fredrick (x-Kenziner) and drummer Brian Harris with two Greeks, guitarist Gus G and bassist Konstantine. Like the countries they come from, each brings pride, talent and conviction to pour into metals molten gold chalice. The result is ferocious power-metal in the highest order. Those familiar with Fredrick’s voice claim he is the modern version of Graham Bonnett, which fuel the comparisons to classic Alcatrazz, Yngwie Malmsteen or Rainbow. True, the band pays tribute to their predecessors, yet they have a much toughen sound with not only well-crafted songs but a thicker punch. The 12-track disc deals with a myriad of emotions from the rapid-fire metal in ‘I Will Fight Alone’ to the heart-wrenching ballad of ‘Who Am I’. Even the Scorpions cover ‘Picture Life’ fits perfectly into the mix. Listen to ‘Warrior’, ‘Tomorrow Can Wait’ or the Maiden-esque ‘Firewind Raging’ and you will hear a giant awakening from its ‘90s slumber. This is a true return to the relicts of stadium rock with all the main ingredients a guitar God, a brilliant vocalist, a monster rhythm section and a superb production. Join us for our interview with producer David T. Chastain.
The Cutting Edge: So let’s kick this off - How did you get a hold of these guys? I know Stephen from Kenziner but how did the band come to your attention?
David T. Chastain: Gus had been sending me demos for a few years that were always pretty good. However we started working a little more closely a couple of years ago and I would suggest things and he would usually bring them to fruition. Then I set him up with Stephen and later Brian.
TCE: Was there an effort to combine a mixture of talent and see what came of it or did the band actually work for a while as a band?
DTC: Originally he had a full band in Europe but I just felt he needed a better vocalist and drummer and I thought I knew who to get. Hopefully on the next CD he will have a firm band that we can use. Of course we hope to still have Stephen do the vocals.
TCE: Gus is hot as hell. He does the Yngwie thing with amazing precision - but he goes one step better and actually writes songs with tremendous melody. As producer did you help in the song arranging?
DTC: A little, but pretty much Gus had everything under control. While he likes Yngwie I believe he is a bigger Uli Roth fan. Gus likes a very wide range of music so he has heaviness but still loves melody.
TCE: As a guitar player yourself how did you work with Gus when it came to sound and what you both wanted out of the recording?
DTC: I think both of us wanted the same thing so there really wasn't much to discuss. We both know what a good metal guitar sounds like. Of course it is easier said than done to get it to sound that way in recording.
TCE: By the way, I absolutely love the guitar sound - thick chunky and pristine. Did you use anything special to accomplish the dynamic sound quality on this CD?
DTC: Thanks! Actually Gus recorded those tracks in his studio in Greece. I just suggested the mic he should use. He gets the credit.
TCE: The press release says Stephen wrote most of the lyrics. Did you help at all with the formation of the songs lyrically? Or did you let the band hammer it out and see what comes of it? The lyrics do have a CJSS ring to them in spots.
DTC: I helped a lot on the first couple of tracks we recorded but then once I was confident that Stephen had it together I just stepped out of the way and let him go for it. Of course I helped arrange certain parts and beat him to death on getting certain parts perfect but he gets the credit in my book!
TCE: This band totally sounds well rehearsed and ready for the stage. Did they play out before recording? Have they played live since?
DTC: The band has never played together. The entire first CD was done thru the mail more or less. However with pros it usually works best that way.
TCE: Are you managing the band as well? What are your plans for the band? Are you attempting to book them alone or on a package tour?
DTC: The band really doesn't have a manager. I guess you could say Gus and I co-manage the band. After the second CD comes out we hope to get the band on some tours. Especially in Europe and Japan.
TCE: Nice job on the Scorpions ‘Picture Life’ - their idea or yours? I’ve been listening to Tokyo Tapes a lot lately. This one made my day - and so heavy!! Absolutely awesome!!!
DTC: Gus' favorite guitarist is Uli Roth. Originally he wanted to do the song "Firewind" from Uli Roth's band but it just didn't sound very good. So I asked him to come up with an old Scorpion track from the Uli era and it turned out great that he chose that one.
TCE: My choice for best original cuts are ‘Between Heaven and Hell’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘Fire’ but it’s tough because it’s all so good. Any comments on how these songs were developed?
DTC: Gus came up with all of the music and then he did a demo with vocals. Usually Stephen replaced most everything but it gave him a good idea were to start. Stephen's background comes from a pretty melodic place so mixing that with Gus' young aggression proved a great combination.
TCE: How did Fredrick Nordstrom become involved?
DTC: Gus plays in a band with Fredrik called Dream Evil. Originally I mixed the CD but we felt that Fredrik could take it to the next level. The problem was finding a whole in Fredrik's schedule.
TCE: Brian Harris has been around Ohio for some time, having played with his brother Michael and his own band. Is Firewind his primary project now or is he still able to move through other projects?
DTC: Brian plays with everyone it seems. He has been on CDs by Kenziner, Firewind, Zanister, Vainglory, My Own Victim, Michael Harris and I just heard a new band he played with called Seven Seraphim. He has no full time serious band as far as I know.
TCE: How did Konstaintine become involved? Did the two know each other in Greece? Where are they from in Greece?
DTC: Yes, Gus knew Konstantine for quite sometime. He plays in a band called IT most of the time. Gus's hometown is Thessaloniki.
TCE: Now that the CD has been finished what do you think it’s strengths are?
DTC: Great songs, vocals and guitar.
TCE: Will Firewind be a long-term project?
DTC: I believe there will be many future FIREWIND CDs. However, I would only say that Gus will be on every CD. The band is signed to a major label (EMI) in Japan and are quite successful.
Thank you David for taking the time to talk with us.
Buy this CD from Leviathan Records by clicking here.