Ozzy Osbourne and Firewind guitarist Gus G gave 150 lucky fans an up-close and personal blast of his incendiary chops and warm sense of humour at a Blackstar Amplification clinic at The Boileroom in Guildford on Thursday 8 September.
Gus, who is currently on tour with Firewind, ran through a bunch of instrumental tracks and answered questions on technique, gear and his high-profile sideman gig with the Prince Of Darkness. Before the show, we caught the guitarist backstage to talk about his ongoing love affair with Blackstar amplifiers and pedals.
"ESP Guitars vice president Jose Ferro told me, 'You gotta check these guys out. They've got the best amps out there.'" says Gus of his introduction to the Blackstar brand.
"It was around the time I started working on the Scream album with Ozzy. I asked them to bring down an amp for me to try out. They brought me the Series 1 S1-200 head. Before I knew it, half of the album was recorded with that amp."
The next step was basing his live rig around his new favourite amplifiers: "That was the big test," says Gus. "If they sound good in the studio... how will they sound live? We did a 14-month world tour, played everywhere, and I didn't have one single problem with my Blackstar amps. The front-of-house and monitor guys couldn't believe how consistent these amps were from the first song to the last."
Gus's association with Blackstar was cemented last year with the launch of his signature HT-Blackfire stompbox, a dual-channel, valve distortion unit. The limited edition pedal (all 1000 have since been snapped up apparently) wasn't stomped during the Guildford clinic. Gus uses the pedal as a tonal safety net on those occasions that he doesn't have access to his regular Blackstar rig: "I just plug it into the clean channel of any amp and I have my sound," he says.
While Gus, who is currently working on a signature humbucker with pickup gurus Seymour Duncan, blasted through a pair of Series One 200 Blackstar heads and 4 x 12 cabs at the clinic, we couldn't help noticing a third mystery head and cab tightly sandwiched between them. This top secret (we weren't allowed to snap it!) setup is an early sighting of Gus' forthcoming Blackstar signature amp.
"The next project for us was always going to be a signature head for Gus," explains Joel Richardson, Blackstar marketing and artist liaison Manager. "We're at that stage where we're happy with it and Gus is happy with it. We've just got some cosmetic stuff to sort out really. We'll be launching it at winter NAMM, next January."
"I'm using the prototype on the Firewind tour," adds Gus before commenting that he only grasped the importance of having a great amplifier in the last few years. "I always thought, all you need is a great guitar," he admits while cradling his signature ESP Gus G NT six-string. "But the amp is very important."