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Interview – Ricky Warwick, Thin Lizzy /Black Star Riders – April 2013

| 1 May 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Ricky Warwick has led a colourful musical life, to say the least. From a brief stint as guitarist with cult post-punks New Model Army through to leading his own biker metal band The Almighty through 7 studio albums, and a couple of highly respected acoustic singer/songwriter albums as a solo artist which got him more in touch with his Irish roots, he has been for more than a few laps around the ride.

For the past three years Warwick has been touring as lead singer of the reformed Thin Lizzy, a prestigious gig in anyone’s books, and in that time the band have wrested control of their band (and brand) name back after some years not knowing where they stood in the musical landscape.

Thin Lizzy started writing a new album late last year, but for a variety of reasons the band decided to continue as a different entity – enter BLACK STAR RIDERS.

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks Loose CD

Featuring Warwick and Thin Lizzy stalwart Scott Gorham, bassist Mark Mendoza and guitarist Damon Johnson, all of whom have been in the Thin Lizzy line-up in recent times. With drummer Brian Downey and keyboard player Darren Wharton opting out of the new band, Jimmy DeGrasso has been recruited to occupy the drum stool, whilst it appears BSR won’t have a full time keyboard player.

Debut album All Hell Breaks Loose drops on May 24th, and while Thin Lizzy were in Australia touring with KISS and Motley Crue Monster Tour we got Ricky on the phone to find out more…
100% ROCK MAG: Hey Ricky, thanks for your time today, how’s it going?

Ricky: I’m good thank you mate, no problem at all.

100% ROCK MAG: How’s the tour been going so far?

Ricky: We’ve actually done three shows so far, we’ve done two with the Monster Tour, and a headline show. It’s been good fun, it’s all been really good.

Black Star Riders - Ricky Warwick 02

100% ROCK MAG: Yeah, the Perth show was fantastic. The band were on fire. If the goal is to deliver these classic songs respectfully but not imitate them, whilst still carrying the gravitas, then you totally hit the bulls eye, it was fantastic.

Ricky: Thanks very much.

100% ROCK MAG: Everyone really enjoyed it. You probably don’t remember but we did an email interview back in 2010 (Read it HERE) when you’d first announced you were joining Thin Lizzy, and at that time you were very adamant that you wouldn’t be ‘stepping into anyone’s shoes’, do you feel now that people can respect Thin Lizzy as more than just a cover band?

Ricky: I think we’ve proved that. All the shows have been packed. People vote with their feet, if they didn’t like it they wouldn’t come to the shows. I think people have seen the intent and passion, and the respect we give the songs and it’s a kick ass band. It’s a great show, I think, and people have come to realise that.

100% ROCK MAG: Absolutely. Now, future plans: that’s the reason we’re talking today. New record, band shuffle and a new name, Black Star Riders, so firstly, where did the name come from?

Ricky: The name came from myself, [and] coming up with a name is the hardest thing in the world. The guys who are in the band, we’re all great lovers of westerns and stuff like that, so we thought of Black Star, we thought of Riders… I kind of went through a lot of westerns, wrote down a lot of names from westerns and stuff like that, and threw the names down all over the floor, and Black Star Riders landed together, it seemed kind of cool, it’s [like] the last gang in town, it kinda reflects what we do… the music and what we’re trying to do. We came up with it and now we’ve been with it for a couple of months and it’s hard to remember being called anything else.

Black Star Riders 01

100% ROCK MAG: Excellent. Was it a conscious decision to not reference Thin Lizzy in any way with the name?

Ricky: Yeah it was. It isn’t really a tribute band or anything, playing Thin Lizzy songs. We play under that moniker [anyway] and we just saw [the new name] as an opportunity for the band to stand on its own. There’ll always be that connection there, but we wanted a band that could stand on it’s own as well, so that’s the reason we did that.

100% ROCK MAG: So I believe the recording part of the album is finished, how would you describe the sound?

Ricky: You know it’s… We’re obviously influenced by Lizzy, and stuff like that, but we wanted to put our own mark on it as well. The diehard Lizzy fans won’t be disappointed at all, but I think they will be surprised by the freshness and the sort of things taking a little bit of a different direction, which I think is really cool. I think people will be very happy when they hear it.

100% ROCK MAG: I think that when it was announced earlier last year that you were doing demos for a new album and you were going to release it under the name Thin Lizzy, it was probably a 50/50 split as to whether people were comfortable with that or not.

Ricky: There probably was, and it might have been a step too far, you know, and I think I’m really glad that it worked the way it worked. It just didn’t feel right – and Scott and Brian felt, as we all do, that it just felt it wasn’t the right thing to do. And [there was] a lot of soul searching, it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I’m absolutely convinced that it was the right decision and when we made it we almost felt like there was a weight been lifted off our shoulders. You know, it felt like… Phil Lynott’s been gone since 1986, Lizzy hasn’t had a new album since 1983, that’s a hell of a long time, it’s not like it’s just four or five years apart. And in that time the legend of the band and of Phil kind’ve built up, and I think it might have been a little bit facetious to turn around and release this under a similar moniker. Which is why I’m glad we didn’t. I think it’s all worked out for the best.

Black Star Riders 02

100% ROCK MAG: Cool. So going out under a different name, when you’re going to be playing live, does that give you the leeway to play not only some Lizzy songs, but also some of your solo stuff, or The Almighty? Or is the plan ‘new band, new songs only’?

Ricky: Oh no, no, the plan is new band, but we’re playing Lizzy songs in the set and Black Star Rider’s stuff, that’s it. Black Star Riders are our band now and you know, we’re pushing this album and we’re already thinking about the next one next year, and what we want to move forward quickly, and want to establish this band as Black Star Riders and make sure we get that point across, but there will always be Lizzy songs in the set, always.

100% ROCK MAG: Yeah cool. So why did Brian Downey and Darren Wharton [drums and keyboards, respectively] decide not to be involved?

Ricky: Well basically, well this is something that, we all sat down and had a heart to heart meeting, we do almost 150 shows a year, and Brian & Darren just didn’t want to be away from home that much, on the road for that length of time anymore. And we completely respect that decision too… You know, the amount of promo we’re doing for the new record, and the months of touring we’re going to do as Black Star Riders, they just didn’t want to do it… they just felt it wasn’t for them and that’s purely the only reason. The four of us, we will play every night if you let us, you know what I mean! And we respect their decision but it’s a shame. But there’s no hidden agenda, they just didn’t want to do the 100 odd shows that we’re going to be doing every year as Black Star Riders. So you know, we got Jimmy DeGrasso [on drums, they have not replaced Wharton as yet], who’s a great guy that we all knew as a friend, and he sounds fantastic.

Black Star Riders 03

100% ROCK MAG: Now, in closing your set in Perth, you stated that you would be back in our town. Does that mean with the positive response you’re getting around the country that you’re looking for an Australian headlining tour?

Ricky: Absolutely. I mean, I like to think we’ll certainly come back as Black Star Riders as soon as possible and it’s something we’ve talked about, when we get the record out we want to try and tour everywhere and anywhere we can. We’re a great live band obviously, and that’s what it’s all about for us.

100% ROCK MAG: Well when you do, make sure you try and get Perth in the schedule, we get miss out a lot being over here in the west.

Ricky: I know. You know, I’ve never been to Perth before, it was my first time, and I really enjoyed it. It was a beautiful city and we had a good time. I’d love to come back.

100% ROCK MAG: So is your solo career still active?

Ricky: No, it’s not. It’s something that’s just… you know, with Black Star Riders and Thin Lizzy, I’m one of these people that I don’t like doing fifty things at the same time. I like to go straight on one thing and do it very well, and Lizzy and Black Star Riders, they take up my whole time, my song writing energies are concentrated on that. I just don’t have the time to work on my solo stuff, and I don’t really have the inclination to do it to be honest with you, so we’ll see what the future of Black Star Riders is, when we’re gonna be on the road, when I’m going to be working? So I mean, whenever I get a break, if I get a break, I may look into some solo songs, but right now I’m more than happy with the way everything is going. I’m delighted to put all my energy and efforts into Black Star Riders.

100% ROCK MAG: Cool. Now, if you could go magically back in time and be a part of the recording of any album in history, which would you choose?

Ricky: That’s a great question. Wow… erm… wow… you know, I don’t know. There are so many. Maybe the MC5’s first record, maybe The Who. You know, that’s impossible to answer, there are so many great albums. Maybe some of the first Beatles records in Abbey Road, where they recorded a whole album in, like, 2 days – y’know we did the Black Star Riders album fast too.

Black Star Riders - Ricky Warwick 01

100% ROCK MAG: I know, I read that… a song a day or something crazy. That was just insane.

Ricky: Yeah you know, if you have your shit together and you know your songs, I just… it’s very doable. It’s very good. We just got in a room and we all played together, and we all had the energy and the vibe, and we had a great laugh doing it. You know, it just worked very well for us.

100% ROCK MAG: I was just going to say, with the record industry the way it is, with record sales so far down, you kind of almost have to go in and make it as quick as possible, and keep the bills down nowadays, to make it justifiable financially.

Ricky: You know, you can’t fuck around [in the studio] anymore like you did in the old days. If you rehearse and know your stuff, there’s no reason to spend two months making a record.

100% ROCK MAG: Yeah.

Ricky: I really enjoyed it, yeah we would have liked a few extra days to do some other stuff, but we didn’t want to lose the vibe and the spontaneity of what we are about, and what we’ve come out with is something very exciting and you know, I think that the first record has worked very well for us.

100% ROCK MAG: Great stuff. Well look, enjoy the rest of your time in Australia, and good luck with the final gigs and album, and I’m absolutely dying to hear it, and when you come back make sure you come to Perth!

Ricky: We will indeed. Thanks Shane, appreciate it.


Category: Featured Articles, Interviews

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