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IN CONVERSATION WITH: SCOTT GORHAM, Black Star Riders/Thin Lizzy – April 2015

| 29 April 2015 | Reply

IN CONVERSATION WITH: SCOTT GORHAM, Black Star Riders/Thin Lizzy – April 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

With a killer second Black Star Riders album under his belt, it’s a revitalised Scott Gorham who greets me down the phone line from London, where I’ve dragged him out of bed on a wet, grey morning at the un-rockstar hour of 9am.

Despite being a bit sleepy, he’s nothing but gracious and eager to talk about the band that he, singer Ricky Warwick (ex-The Almighty) and Damon Johnson evolved from their latter-day touring line-up of Thin Lizzy.

Scott Gorham 01

100% ROCK: Congratulations on the new Black Star Riders album, The Killer Instinct. It sounds like the band have really evolved into a musical style of its own, it sounds fantastic.

Scott: Thank you so much. For us we feel that The Killer Instinct is a notch above the last album, All Hell Breaks Loose. Obviously, you know, on the last album there was 12 songs [recorded] in 12 days which was a pretty shocking time, but this one we actually had 3 weeks in the studio so it shows what you can do when you’re given a bit more time to record some of your songs.

100% ROCK: Going back a couple of years, it seems like it was a pretty long and hard process for you to decide whether or not to release new original material under the Thin Lizzy banner. Did that cause you a few sleepless nights when debating that in your own head?

Scott: If there were sleepless nights it was the thought of doing it under the name of Thin Lizzy. You’ve got to remember that for a few years that was in the top three questions when I was doing an interview. When are you going to write new material? When are you going to record a new album? Obviously I would say, ‘oh, we’re working on material, it’s not a problem, we’ll be getting out there pretty soon.’

After a while it got to a point where I felt so uncomfortable about doing an album under the name of Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott being in the line-up, it got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore, I went to everybody else and I said, ‘listen guys, I’m feeling too uncomfortable about this.’ Thankfully they agreed, all the rest of the guys in the band said, ‘I think you’re absolutely right.’ It was at that point that we decided we won’t do it under the name of Thin Lizzy, what we were going to do is we just going to have to come up with another name and we’ll do it as a new band.

It was a good fit, it was a big task and I knew what I was getting into but I think it was the right move, I think it was the right thing to do at that time.

Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct cover

100% ROCK: I guess it must have been very freeing, especially going up into the studio for the second album knowing who you were and having played live as Black Star Riders and knowing you didn’t have to conform to any preconception this time round.

Scott: That’s absolutely right. There is a couple of songs on All Hell Breaks Loose where you can actually hear where we were trying to adhere to the Thin Lizzy way of writing things, but this one here – and obviously the next one after The Killer Instinct – now we’ve got a new path where we can record exactly what we want, we can forge out a new sound. To me I think, and the rest of the guys in the band, it’s been kind of uplifting, if you will.

Now we can go anywhere we want to and you really hear it on this album that it’s a brand new band. We’ve got a new pathway.

100% ROCK: You’ve played with some people over your career who are renowned to not been the easiest to work with, and there were times in Thin Lizzy when you and Phil, perhaps, weren’t the easiest people to work with. It must be a relief now to have band mates where you’re all sympatico with the direction you’re heading in?

Scott: You’re absolutely right. There were a few people that were tough to deal with, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s kind of a thing that we have in this band – if you’re an asshole you don’t get in! First and foremost you’ve got to be a great player, but personality-wise you really have to fit into this whole thing. You’ve got to figure that you spend a lot of time on the road with each other in tight circumstances, so personality-wise if you don’t fit in you don’t get in. So yeah, you’re absolutely right about that.

Scott Gorham 02

100% ROCK: When you reformed Thin Lizzy in ’96 and then again in 2009 after John Sykes quit, was finding someone who could hold down the bottom end so well a primary concern? Because Phil Lynott was such an under-rated bass player.

Scott: Are we talking bass player or are we talking frontman here?

100% ROCK: Specifically bass player. I’ve been a fan of Ricky’s work since The Almighty days and I know that you were involved in his first solo album as well.

Scott: I was. It was the first time I actually got to know Ricky Warwick. I got a call from… it’s so early in the morning I’m forgetting the name of the singer from Def Leppard. What’s his name?

100% ROCK: Joe Elliot.

Scott: Joe Elliot.

100% ROCK: He will kick your ass for forgetting that!

Scott: No kidding! He gave me a call one day and said, ‘I’ve got this guy in the studio here’, in his studio in Dublin, and he said, ‘as soon as I heard this guy’s material I thought of your guitar playing and would you come over and play on his track?’ I said, ‘what’s the guy’s name?’, and he says, ‘it’s Ricky Warwick’. I said, ‘my God, I know Ricky Warwick!’ I kind of did and I kind of didn’t – I just met Ricky a few years before that but I really liked him. So I said, ‘absolutely, I’ll fly over and play on the track.’

I flew over and Ricky and I got on so great that I not only played on one track, I ended up playing on five tracks on his album and it was great. I actually understood who this guy, Ricky Warwick, was, how he wrote songs, what he was writing about. It was funny, he really reminded me of somebody else that I’d worked with before – the way he approached the songs and he was a real storyteller and he was a real songs-man, he reminded me of Phil Lynott. It was ridiculous.

I went away from that and I still wasn’t doing the Thin Lizzy thing, but when I started to think about putting the band back together again that’s when Joe gave me a call and reminded me of Ricky Warwick and I said, ‘oh my God, you’re absolutely right’. I called Ricky and he turned out to be the actual perfect guy to front the whole thing. It was a good thing that Joe Elliot thankfully gave me that call that day.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Imagine if that had never happened.

Scott: No kidding.

100% ROCK: I imagine you would have fit right on in when you first joined Thin Lizzy and went over to Ireland, being born on St. Patrick’s Day?

Scott: Absolutely. The funny thing was back in ’74/ ’75 when I join the band, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t that big of a deal in Ireland but it was a huge deal in America. When it came to my birthday, I think it was my second birthday when I was in Thin Lizzy, and we were in America, Phil and the two Brians [Downey & Robertson] realised what a big deal St. Patrick’s Day was in America and not in their country!

100% ROCK: It’s big over here as well.

Scott: It’s bigger now. It’s expanding in Ireland. Now they actually celebrate it in Ireland but they didn’t do that in the ’70s, it was just not a date that was important to anybody at that point but now it is. So, cool, on my birthday everybody gets to celebrate – how cool is that?!

100% ROCK: I think Thunder And Lightning is one of the great Thin Lizzy albums, but after that you guys you went out on a farewell tour. Despite addictions and band trouble, that must have been quite an emotional time?

Scott: It was. We knew that it was the end. In fact, so much so that even John Sykes knew that that was the end of the band: Phil and I were pretty much too far gone with the whole [drugs] thing… When we got to the end, finally, of the Thunder And Lightning tour… at some point [on any tour] you always think there’s a point when you come to the end of the tour that you’ll be throwing streamers and have balloons and we’ll be talking about old times – and in actual fact what happened was everybody picked up their bags at the turnstyles at Heathrow and looked each other and went, ‘well, good luck’, and turned around and just walked out.

It was a pretty lousy ending. A year later we were all talking to each other, sorting things out, and it become a better thing. But yeah, it was a sad ending to the whole thing.

Scott Gorham with Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy's glory days

Scott Gorham with Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy’s glory days

100% ROCK: The demise of the band seems to have been marred by a lot of confusion and drug addiction and the lack of a strong manager to guide you through all those problems. Could anyone have stepped in and saved the band and possibly ultimately saved Phil’s life?

Scott: Well, you know, I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I think really what should have happened – and it seems like any decent management who had a brand name on their hands, for God’s sake – would have said to everybody, all right guys, why don’t you take a year off, take 18 months or take whatever it takes off and get yourself together or get some help, whatever it takes. At the end of that period we will reconvene and we’ll talk about gluing this thing back together again.

But that never happened. Even the management thought, ‘let’s just get rid of this thing, we can’t deal with it any longer’. You’re absolutely right. It seems like any good management would have gone down another path, for God’s sakes.

100% ROCK: Certainly that would happen now. But maybe in those times, in the early ’80s that just wasn’t the done thing and they couldn’t think out of the box – but very sad.

Gorham with Damon Johnson, Black Star Riders

Gorham with Damon Johnson, Black Star Riders

Scott: You might be right there, because at that point there weren’t great renowned rehabilitation centres and all that. I know for a fact, even if there was, that Phil still probably wouldn’t have done it. It wasn’t in his nature to ask for help. It wasn’t the manly thing to do, in his eyes. It could have gone down that way, that even if there was greater help that he might not have taken it, you never know.

100% ROCK: You obviously came out of that and you cleaned up and you’ve got healthy and all that. Are you passionately anti-hard drugs nowadays?

Scott: Absolutely, hard drugs… I’ve been down that path. I’ve seen up close and personal what it does to people. There’s no upsides to Class A drugs. I just can’t see [any]. There’s no upside. You think, in the beginning, that it’s helping you, that you’re a better songwriter, a better guitar player, a better person, blah, blah, blah – you’re just not. It just doesn’t work.

I’m not a heavy campaigner but if anybody asks me I will give them my opinion – and absolutely, I’m on the negative side of the whole thing, absolutely.

100% ROCK: Good on you getting better.

Scott: Oh hell yeah. It was either stay in Thin Lizzy and be the rock star guy and make tons of money, or get out and let’s try to stay alive here. So I took the latter. I wanted to stay alive and I wanted to get better, so that was my way of thinking.

100% ROCK: You are in your sixties now and you certainly don’t look it but do you feel the heavy touring more nowadays?

Scott: Yeah, of course – everybody does. But you felt that even when you were younger. Touring is not this easy thing, it’s not all confetti and balloons and bare titties out there – that’s not the way it is. It’s a tough business and you’ve got to be in shape, mentally and physically, to get out there and do this because you’re on the move all the time. It’s not like you’re out there sight-seeing and saying, ‘let’s go see the Leaning Tower Of Pisa today!’ It’s not like that, it’s a tough business.

It is hard, everybody feels it but it is a thing where you have to want to do this. If you love doing what you’re doing the rigours of touring are really not all that bad.

Scott Gorham 03

100% ROCK: Awesome. The album is fantastic, absolutely love it and we’re really hoping that we get to see Black Star Riders in Australia again.

Scott: Me too. We really want to come over to Australia, I love that place. I’ve been over there four times and I want to make it number five really soon.

100% ROCK: Excellent. That reminds me, I’ve actually got the DVD of Thin Lizzy playing on the Sydney Opera House steps – I’m going to go and put that on right now!

Scott: Wow! Okay man, it’s been great talking with you.

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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