The Black Star Riders are out on the road in the UK supporting their brand new album, Killer Instinct. Mick Burgess talked to Scott Gorham and Ricky Warwick about thetour with Europe and their new album.
You`ll be touring the UK in March. Are you looking forward to playing across the country again?
SG: Absolutely and a big reason for that is the new album, Killer Instinct that`s just come out. We all think that this is easily the best album we`ve done to date, even though it`s only our second but we feel that we`ve taken the whole thing up to another level. We just want to get out there and play these songs in front of an audience.
RW: We`re looking forward to getting out and playing the new songs for everyone. We`re very excited.
In terms of the setlist but what songs are you hoping to play on this tour?
SG: We are in a very lucky position to have a lot of material to draw on. We`ll be playing songs from both of our albums and we also draw from the Thin Lizzy catalogue.
RW: There`s certain songs from the new album we know will be great live like Soldierstown, Killer Instinct and Bullet Blues so I think we`ll play 4 or 5 of the new album and 3 or 4 from All Hell Breaks Loose and then 4 or 5 Lizzy ones. We`ll be changing the setlist completely from what we have being doing.so we won`t be ending with The Boys Are Back in Town this time.
Last year on your tour the Black Star Riders material sat really well with the older Thin Lizzy songs.
SG: A lot of people have said that. When people heard the new songs they didn`t seem out of place with the Lizzy songs. So it`ll be interesting to see how the new material stacks up against everything.
Adding Europe to the bill is an inspired choice. Who suggested them?
SG: Our management and agent suggested them and we agreed straight away. We`ve known those guys and long time and we all get on really well and that`s a big deal when you`re out on the road. It`s a co-headlining tour and many of the shows are already sold out.
RW: I know John Norum and Joey Tempest are massive Lizzy`s fans and both our bands have new albums out so it just made sense to do a co-headlining tour together. It`s a great bill and tickets are selling well.
For people that only know them for The Final Countdown they will be in for a big surprise as they are a killer live band?
RW: They are a great Rock band and people should not judge them on that one song. John Norum is an incredible guitarist. They are way more than that one song.
You will be playing 16 shows across the UK and Ireland. That`s a big tour by today`s standards. Do you want to get out and play to as many people as possible?
SG: It`s more than important, it`s essential. In today`s market where bands just don`t sell albums in the volume that we used to so now we have to go out and play as much as we can. A lot of bands can`t afford to or can`t sell enough tickets to play as many shows as they want to and we`re lucky to be able to do that. We all love being out on the road and we love touring. It`s just in our blood.
RW: It`s the only way. We`re a live band it`s what we do. We put on a Rock `n` Roll show and that`s how we win friends and influence people.
It`ll be a little different on this tour as Marco Mendoza has left and has been replaced by Robbie Crane. Why did Marco decide to leave?
SG: Marco is this floating musician; he always has been where he loves playing in so many different situations with different styles of music. Right now he`s out with his Jazz trio. He is a real diverse musician. He loved being in Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders but he wanted to get out and spread his wings. We`ve been together for 20 years and I said to him that it wasn`t a jail sentence and he had to go out there and do what you need to do.
RW: Marco is a great guy and he`s always moving and shaking and has 3 or 4 things on the go at once. He`s also involved with the Dead Daisies and that`s where his heart was and that`s what he wanted to do. It’s all been very amicable. Marco is one of the family, we love him and wish him the best.
Where did Robbie come into the equation?
SG: Robbie was the overall first choice. He was a really inspired choice. When he first got up and played with us at a sound check in America he fit in right away. Jimmy DeGrasso, our drummer and Damon our guitarist knew him and recommended him and he worked so well straight away. The other important thing is his personality. He fit in big time with the rest of the band.
RW: Robbie came in and blew us away. He`s a more aggressive bass player than Marco and I think that suits us perfectly. The timing was great, he`d been in Ratt for 12 years and he`d come off the road and he was free so we called him up. Robbie plays great and sings great and we`re delighted to have him aboard.
You`ve just released your second album, Killer Instinct. When did you start writing the material for the album?
RW: We write all the time. We`re not a band that goes away then gets back for a writing period. Ideas come to us constantly so we never really stop. We move it up a gear when it`s time to record and everyone will bring their ideas together and we`ll work them into finished songs. Myself and Damon did the bulk of the writing and then we would show it to the other guys and they`d put their input in and Scott came up with some great riffs.
How many songs did you write during the creative process?
SG: We wrote about 15 songs and we whittled that down to 12 to record. There`ll be 10 on the album and two bonus tracks.
RW: I`m a big believer in an album having no more than 11 or 12 songs. That`s plenty for people to get their head around. We actually sequenced the album like we would if it was a vinyl record so that it has that flow like in the days when you had to get up and flip the record over to play the other side.
Did Marco start work on the new album or had he left the band by that time?
SG: No, we started work on the album after Marco left. Robbie had a clean run at it and he was able to play how he wanted without having to follow what anyone else had done.
You toured pretty much everywhere since the release of your debut album. How has the touring shaped the songs and song writing?
SG: We`re on the road so much. We did 160 or 165 shows last year so we were writing songs in hotel rooms, in dressing rooms and soundchecks. That`s the main way that we worked and being out on the road so much with the last album certainly had an influence on how this record turned out. You have to grab writing time when you can as life is so busy so you need to find the inspiration when you can.
RW: When we first started writing for All Hells Breaks Loose it was going to be a Thin Lizzy record and that was a big thing not to have that in the equation this time certainly took some of the pressure off. I think this time we`ve been able to spread our wings. We`re still a new band but with an old history and we`re a lot more comfortable with who we are and what we are now. We still have that Lizzy vibe and with Scott in the band we`ll never lose that and that will always be part of who we are but the road is very open now and we can explore many of our different influences which is what we did with this record.
For All Hell Breaks Loose you spent some time up in Newcastle at Blast Studios. How did you end up working in Newcastle?
SG: We did a lot of work in Newcastle doing demos and finishing off writing. It was a great place to prepare us to go over to Los Angeles to actually record the album. Newcastle became a very important City to us for that first album. It was a great place to be and there was a great atmosphere which made creative thinking a lot easier.
RW: They are great studios and Ged and Eric Cook who run the studios also ran Demolition Records who put out my last solo record. They`re great boys and being the fine upstanding gentlemen that they are they cut us a great deal and we came up and recorded a load of demos. Newcastle is a great City and I love hanging out there.
For Killer Instinct you were originally going to be working with Def Leppard`s Joe Elliott as producer. Why did that not happen in the end?
RW: Joe got busy. When we first approached him to do the album he thought he had a year out and then the KISS tour came up and they also decided they needed to start work on their own record. So it was a scheduling conflict and he felt he just couldn`t give us the time we merited and deserved. One door closed and another opened and we ended up with Nick Raskulinecz, who has worked with Rush and the Foo Fighters. He was so inspiring and I think he pushed us and changed the band. He brought so much to the recording process and it was a great experience working with him.
As most people know, Black Star Riders was originally the final touring version of Thin Lizzy. How challenging was it for you to restart the band after the passing of Phil Lynott?
SG: I kept Lizzy going as I didn`t want those songs to be forgotten as Phil and I and the guys put so much work into that band and to have that blown away into the dust would have been a real shame.
Was it a challenge for you Ricky to come in and sing those songs originally performed by Phil Lynott?
RW: It was never my intention to stand in Phil Lynott`s shoes, all I could do was stand beside them. I was asked to come in and sing those songs and it was something I dreamed about doing as a kid. It was like winning the musical lottery. I never, ever wanted to be the new lead singer of Thin Lizzy; I was just singing those great songs. It was amazing as we played sold out shows and then kids who never got the chance to see Phil in Thin Lizzy would go out and buy those albums and see how great Phil was.
Has the name change taken a bit of pressure off the band now especially as you are about to release a second album of all new material as people now see you as an independent band in your own right?
SG: I`m sure it has. When we first mooted the idea of doing new music as Thin Lizzy we were immediately tied down to a certain way of writing which was always going to be hard because it`s different people in this band than it was in the Thin Lizzy of old and I`m a different guitar player than I was back then. I`m not quite sure how we could have recreated a Thin Lizzy sound but people say our sound is close to Thin Lizzy anyway and I guess we would have pulled it off but I`m glad we did decide to change the name and went the way we went so we didn`t have to worry about things like that. This way we can keep Thin Lizzy`s music alive while also being able to carve out this new thing.
RW: I was honoured to be part of Thin Lizzy but I`m glad we changed the name to record new material. It was the right thing to do and the respectful thing to do and it just wouldn`t have been right to call it a Thin Lizzy album without Phil Lynott in my opinion.
Are there any Thin Lizzy songs you`d like to do that haven`t been performed yet?
RW: I`d love to do Johnny The Fox as I haven`t done that one yet. People want to hear the classics though so the choice is kind of dictated to us but we did do It`s Only Money a while back which was a lot of fun. I`ll play any Lizzy song that I can.
Although your focus is on the Black Star Riders, is the door still open for some occasional shows as Thin Lizzy with Brian Downey and Darren Wharton?
SG: I`ve been thinking a little bit further down the road and maybe getting Brian back in and see how Brian Robertson is and do a big splash out reunion kind of thing and have some fun with it. There`s a 30 year anniversary about Phil next year so we might think about doing something at that point.
RW: It`s definitely been left open and we all parted on very good terms so we will do something together again at some point but there`ll be no big tour.
Ricky, you`ve just released two solo albums. How did you find the time to do that?
RW: If anyone asks me to record three albums in one year again, I`ll tell them where to go. I did the Pledgemusic campaign which has been very successful for me and I`ve been working on these two albums with Sam Robinson for four years now and they came to fruition last year. I recorded them between Black Star Riders tours last summer. One is electric and one is acoustic and both are completely different albums. There`s a co-write with Ginger Wildheart on the electric album too that was a lot of fun to do. The albums won`t actually be on general release until the end of the year but you can get them now if you pledge over at Pledgemusic.
Just a couple of random questions to finish off. Bearing in mind that you worked with Ultravox`s Midge Ure on the Black Rose Tour of The States in 1979 did he try to persuade you to reform for Live Aid in 1985?
SG: No he didn`t and I think there was a great bona fide reason for that. Both myself and Phil were too ill at that point and Phil was locked into the drugs nightmare then and I think Bob Geldof and Midge as good as friends as we all were, recognised that. You had to be on top of your game to get onto that world stage and we weren`t, so I hold absolutely nothing against Midge or Bob for not including us in on that.
Scott, a while back you’d been writing and recording with Pete Shoulder, a local Durham lad. What happened to that material?
SG: That was going to be material for a new 21 Guns album. I had Pete`s band out on the road with Lizzy. I specifically wanted his band out there so I could see how he handled himself on stage and he was great. I got him to come over to Oslo where we doing demos to get into the whole writing and recording of the third 21 Guns album. I love Pete`s voice, it is so soulful. He`s a great guy and also a great guitarist. Who wouldn`t want to team up with someone like Pete Shoulder. We may indeed work together again one day.
You mentioned a while back how you stumbled across a recording of Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977amongst boxes of tapes in a lock up. Did you find any other hidden gems that may be released one day?
SG: We have quite a few things that I`d forgotten about. Myself and Brian Downey went through a lot of the stuff and it`s going to be included in an all-encompassing Thin Lizzy box set. It`s going to be massive and will have lots of things I want people to hear and some things that I don`t really want them to hear but the fans will find interesting.
It looks like you have a busy year ahead with a new Black Star Riders album and European tour. Do you have any other plans for 2015 or is that you full up for the year?
SG: Black Star Riders has pretty much taken over our lives and we like that. After the UK tour we head to Europe and will be playing a lot in Europe this year then we`ll go to The States and maybe back to Japan too so there`s quite a bit of work on the table for us this year.
Black Star Riders and Europe are on a co-headlining of the UK now. Check out www.blackstarriders.com for more information.
Balck Star Riders new album Killer Instinct is out now.