BLACK STAR RIDERS (Live at O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, U.K., March 10, 2017)
Photo: Mick Burgess

With their third album, Heavy Fire hot of the press and cracking the UK Top 10, Black Star Riders are heading out on the road starting with a 16 date tour across the UK. Mick Burgess caught up with lead guitarist and Thin Lizzy legend, Scott Gorham, to talk about the tour, the album and a forthcoming Thin Lizzy box set containing a host of unreleased rarities.

Your tour kicks off in Cardiff on 2nd March. Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road again?

Much more than that. We decided that 2016 was going to be a year off the road as we’d spent almost five years constantly on tour. We thought we’d take the year off but we’d play 5 Thin Lizzy shows as it was the 40th anniversary of the Jailbreak album and 30 years since Phil Lynott passed on and I wanted to do a tribute to Phil to mark that. It’s been a pretty lean year as far as touring goes but my golf handicap is getting much better. I think we are well and truly ready to get back into that tour bus and play some great Rock music for everybody.

You’re playing 16 shows on this tour. That’s like the size of tours bands did in the ’70’s and 80’s not these 3 day tours we seem to get now. Is it important to you to get out and play to as many people in as many places as possible?

It is very important to us. In the old days we played every single nook and cranny around England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and I think we’d die now if we played as much as we did back then but I do think it’s really important to play as many places as possible. You can’t play just 3 or 4 shows and expect everybody to come to you. It’s our responsibility to go out to the audience and play. It’s the way we planned it and I’m looking forward to playing so many shows.

You’ve played Newcastle many times over the years. What does a show up in Newcastle mean to you?

Playing Newcastle City Hall back then was like an annual event for us. We came nearly every single year for 10 or 11 years. It was a no brainer for us. We always wanted to come and play at the Newcastle City Hall. Newcastle is a real Rock city and one that you can’t afford to leave out. The fans are so into their Rock music so why wouldn’t you want to play in Newcastle? A band must be mad to not play in Newcastle.

You have a new album out, Heavy Fire. Have you decided how many songs from that album you’ll do at your shows?

We might do 5 or 6 from the new album across the tour but not necessarily all in one night but we’ll play a fair few over the course of the tour. We’ll see which ones work live and which ones don’t but we are all looking forward to playing these songs live.

With your long standing membership of Thin Lizzy you’ve always played a fair few songs in your set. Do you intend to put more Black Star Riders songs into the set and gradually drop the Lizzy songs as you release more albums or will there always be a place for a few Lizzy songs?

There’s always a place for a few Thin Lizzy songs in the set. There’s a fair few favourites in that catalogue and we really enjoy playing those but so much of our energy is going into Black Star Riders that we also need to be focussing on those songs. The set will mainly be the BSR stuff with a couple of Lizzy songs for good measure. We’ll draw up a list of 6 or 7 Thin Lizzy songs and play different songs each night.

Will there be a spot for Renegade in your show. Will that time come on this tour?

Jimmy DeGrasso, our drummer, really loves that song. He’s always asking if we can play that and I’ve always refused. I told him that we never played it live on stage and he said, “yes you did” and I was “no, no, we never did it”. He immediately went to YouTube and played it for me and made me eat my words. So you never know.

On the tour you are joined by Gun on all the dates and also the Backyard Babies and The Amorettes will be added to the bill on different dates. That’s a great bill. What did you make of that when that idea was presented to you?

I loved it. These are really great bands with quality music. These guys are great musicians and it makes for a great show. There’s no point in getting a support band that can’t cut it. We wanted to make the whole show a kick ass show. When those names were mentioned I thought Hell yeah, let’s do it.

Your new album, Heavy Fire is out and has just been released. Are you excited now that it’s out?

I think what is amazing is that we’ve been able to do three albums already. After we did the first one we wondered if we’d ever be able to do a second one and we did and now we’re here talking about the third one which we are all very excited about. We are going back to the old ways of not waiting too long between releasing albums like we did in the ’70’s.

Do you feel that you are now 3 albums into your career that you are finding your own identity as a band that’s not so closely associated with Thin Lizzy as when you put your first album out?

With the first album we were all fresh off the Thin Lizzy tour and we’d been doing it for years so to be able to come off that playing style it was a tough thing to do so there was always going to be some sort of bleed over from Thin Lizzy. We couldn’t change our style straight off the bat. We had to grow into this new style gradually over a period of time. It’s been a gradual thing but we are now creating our own separate style and identity to what we had as Thin Lizzy.

The first song Heavy Fire sees the band at its heaviest and most aggressive, yet retains that melodic element that’s so important. This will be a great opener for your show. Is that the plan to have a big bombastic number to get things off to an explosive start?

You got it in one. You need to grab people straight off the bat and open up with your heavy guns.

Ticket To Rise sees you breaking new ground. Is that a Gospel choir providing the backing vocals?

I’ve heard that from people a lot. The riff is one of Damon Johnson’s and as soon as I heard it I knew it had to be on the album. Nick, our producer wasn’t sure if it should be on there but I lobbied to death for it to be on the album. I think I’ve been proven right. Nick actually suggested the background singers which I think worked really well and they have given the song this great Gospel backing.

You worked again with Nick Raskulinecz. What does he bring to the Black Star Riders sound?

He’s a musician himself. The first album we did we tended to bring some of our own stuff with us so we’d feel comfortable. When we got to his studio he’s probably got maybe 20-25 amps there and he knows exactly how to dial them in to get just the right sound. When we did the second album we left all our stuff at home and used his. He has a great guitar collection that we used. He’s the kind of guy that can listen to a track for the first time and immediately get a production idea. He always has an idea for an arrangement or a timing for every song that we do. It’s like having a safety net working with Nick.

There’s 10 songs on the regular edition and the album lasts around 40 minutes. Was your intention to put out something that was punchy like an old vinyl record?

I’m glad you said that as that was kind of the idea. You don’t want to bludgeon people to death by putting over 15 songs on the album. We had 20 songs and it got whittled down to 14 which we recorded and 10 made the regular album with a bonus track on the deluxe version.

There’s a bonus track, Fade, on the deluxe version. What’s that like?

That’s a really cool ballad. It’s an acoustic type of song. When Ricky first played it for me I thought it was great. It has such a great melodic feel to it. It’s a job well done on that one.

You’re doing a pre-sale for the album through Pledgemusic. Why did you decide to do that when you have the backing of a record label?

That’s what I wondered at first. What we are actually trying to do is offer something personal for our fans and give the fans the chance to buy a couple of our guitars and other equipment and offer signed stuff too. We weren’t going to ask extravagant prices for anything as that’d just be unfair. It’s something else to do to get closer to the band so we just wanted to offer the fans something just a little different.

People can get to play with the band for £250. Have you had many takers yet?

That seems to have been quite popular. I’m looking forward to getting up on stage during sound check to see their take on a couple of our songs.

You’re primarily a live act. Have you had any thoughts about putting out a live album at some point?

It’s something we haven’t really discussed yet but I’m sure we have a live album in us somewhere as we can reproduce these songs live on stage rather well like we did with Thin Lizzy. That’s a good idea and it’s really easy to do these days so we may well just do that. We’ll have to give you an executive producer credit for that idea!!

Talking of Thin Lizzy. From time to time you do play occasional shows as Thin Lizzy and in the summer you were at the Ramblin’ Man Festival. How was that?

It’s always a pleasure to play Thin Lizzy songs and a Thin Lizzy set and there’s always plenty of musicians who want to get up and play with us. It’s great seeing people’s faces when we play those songs. I have lived with those songs for a major part of my life and it is something I am so grateful for and I hope I never lose my love for Thin Lizzy and the guys who have played with us.

You were joined by Darren Wharton but Brian Downey couldn’t make it. What happened there?

Brian had a health issue that we knew of sometime before so he couldn’t join us. We really missed him up on stage but we brought in Scott Travis of Judas Priest. We played with them a few years ago in America and I’ve always admired his drumming. I always thought it’d be really cool to play with him and when management asked us who we’d like to play with us he was right at the top of the list. When we contacted him, he just said, “hell yeah”!!

Midge Ure from Ultravox popped on stage for a special guest appearance on Cowboy Song. It must be a while since he last played with you?

It must be 1979 since we last played together when he joined us right in the middle of a US tour after Gary Moore left us. Midge flew out, learning the set on the go. He thought he’d have 9 hours to learn the set coming over but in fact he only had 3 as we put him on Concorde. That was a bit of a shock but he did great for us. It was great to play with him again.

Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton joined you on bass for the show too?

It was great to see him too as I hadn’t seen him since sometime in the 1970’s. He’s spent his whole career playing with one band only but he came out and it was a great challenge for him but he rose to the challenge.

Is the plan now to focus on the Black Star Riders but occasionally play as Thin Lizzy on special occasions?

We’re concentrating on Black Star Riders now. We’re not ending Thin Lizzy and we will play more shows in the future but we won’t be doing 6 month tours any more just occasional shows. For now Black Star Riders is our priority.

It’s been a while since we had any Lizzy material and last time we talked there was mention of a boxed set containing demos, live shows and unreleased songs. Is that still in the pipeline?

When that was first mentioned someone had said they’d found 700 old Thin Lizzy songs on cassette in a box. I thought, 700?? The Beatles didn’t even write that many. It turned out it was closer to 70 unreleased bits of material including rehearsal tapes and outtakes. There are a few that are finished Thin Lizzy tracks that have never been released. A box set is planned and the label has been talking to us about it. There’s no release date but we hope to be able to confirm something soon.

Is 2017 going to be a year dedicated to touring or do you have some other plans too?

We have a new album out so we’re pretty much playing anywhere and everywhere so we’ll be on the road for most of the year and we can’t wait to get started.

Heavy Fire is out now on Nuclear Blast Records

Black Star Riders are currently on a 16 date UK tour. Check for details


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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