“…I think and I know that everyone else in the band thinks it was the right thing to do is to change the name from Thin Lizzy and we’re gonna go Black Star Riders and come what may… we’ll see what happens and hopefully we’re good enough to cut the mustard here.”
From release: It was in 2012 that Black Star Riders was formed by four members of Thin Lizzy – Scott Gorham, lead vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick, co-lead guitarist Damon Johnson and bassist Marco Mendoza – plus former Megadeth and Alice Cooper drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. The band’s debut album ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ was released in 2013, and drew widespread acclaim. After the departure of Mendoza and having Robbie Crane taking up bass duties, with new album ‘The Killer Instinct’, Black Star Riders have taken it up another notch. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush, Mastodon, Alice In Chains), ‘The Killer Instinct’, is hard rock in the classic tradition…
It was great to catch up again with Scott Gorham and chat about the new Black Star Riders album ‘The Killer Instinct’, its creation, touring as well as essentially starting again…
For starters, just had to remind you that we spoke last time in 2013 you were here with Thin Lizzy, and you actually said I looked good enough to join the band, so first thing’s first, got any openings?
*laughs* Well very cool man, what do you play?
Well maybe I can still get you in… *laughs*
OK, onto the real stuff, now the title of the new album is ‘The Killer Instinct’ why was this the choice and what does it represent?
Well the actual title ‘Killer Instinct’ came from a documentary that Ricky was watching about Muhammad Ali and the journalist that was talking to Ali said ‘so, Ali, what would happen if you never became a boxer, what would happen with your life at that point?’ and Ali turned around and said ‘you know something? Even if I was bagging groceries or became a car mechanic I would’ve been the best at it because you know why, I’ve got The Killer Instinct’ that’s to get to the top and be the best that you can, right? Ricky heard this and thought it was so cool and such a positive thing to say and he sat down and started writing a song called ‘The Killer Instinct’ which became obviously the title track and the title of the album. So ‘The Killer Instinct’ is actually the positive angle of having the killer instinct, of getting out there and being the best you can at all times.
This is the bands second album; do you feel you’ve found your footing as to what you want Black Star Riders to now be?
Yeah absolutely, obviously with the first album, and you can hear it, it was leaning towards the whole Thin Lizzy sound and all that, but as soon as we kind of told everybody that we are not gonna be Thin Lizzy, we are gonna go out and do our own thing, you can feel even on that first album where we were taking off in different directions and the chains hadn’t come off. I think with this album The Killer Instinct, now the chains are off and they’ve been off for a while now and you can feel and hear the difference in that fact that now we’re able to go in any direction we man to. Man, we can go left, we can go right, we can do whatever the hell we want and it’s a great feeling you know. We do still have the twin guitars and the harmony guitars and people still have been saying ‘oh that sounds like Thin Lizzy’ because you’ve got the harmony guitars, it’s like well *laughs* I guess we can’t get away from that. If you’ve heard this album I’m hoping you can hear that there’s quite a bit of difference between the first album and the second album and from what we’ve been doing in Thin Lizzy, I mean can you hear that yourself?
I was actually going to say that you can hear how much you enjoy playing together, it comes across on this album, so is it something about Black Star Riders and the unity of you guys that just works?
Well that’s kind of the magic question, I think every band looks for that ultimate combination of people to get together and write and play and stomp around the world, it’s a tough thing to get that combination right, but it feels like to us we’re all really great friends and we love playing together and we like touring together and we like writing songs together. In this day and age when you hear so many negative things about other bands and where they can’t stand travelling with each other or they don’t want to be on the same stage and all that, we’re kind of the opposite… we love all aspects of this thing called being in a band and touring and all that, it makes it a hell of a lot easier *laughs* when you’re actually buddies, so it’s a very cool thing.
So what was the process like putting this album together compared to ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’?
Well on ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ it was absolutely live in the studio and the reason we got away with that is that we’d been on the road together as a band for the last two / two and half years. This one here we recorded in more of a traditional way where you would put down a skeletal basic track and then we were afforded the time this time around to be able to put overdubs on it, take tracks away to the hotel and listen to it and think about what you want to play on this particular track, Ricky was given a lot more time to think about his vocals, harmony bits and all that. It was a much more enjoyable process this time around of making an album and I think it really shows on the album that when given enough time even though it was only three weeks, but given enough time what you can actually come up with and I think you can hear this on the album.
In terms of the song writing, talk us through the creative process of writing a Black Star Riders song…
Well you know there’s no set pattern… I don’t think there is actually is, for myself I sit here in London and I’m just on my lone ranger over here, so I have to sit here and come up with the different riffs and hook lines and chord patterns on my own and then present them to everybody in the band. The guys in America are able to get together and work things out more in bulk if you will, but the way where it really comes together is when we’re on the road together, we’ll get together and we’ll have our bits or our melody lines or whatever and we’ll sit after sound checks or during sound checks, or hotel rooms or on the bus believe it or not. That’s kind of how things are worked out, individually, together and then when we get on the road, that’s how the writing process goes with Black Star Riders. Like I say, there’s no particular way or inspiration, it’s just when inspiration hits well you’re hitting the record button and getting it down as quick as possible, man.
It had been quite some time between new music for you and when Black Star Riders came along so did an album and now a second, and of course you love playing, but did the new band and new music light a new fire under you?
Sure it does, absolutely, you know I’ve had other bands, a group called ’21 Guns’ I made a couple of albums with that group with new music and all that but to be able to come out of the Thin Lizzy situation that we had been playing quite heavily for about three years to be able to afford to sit with these really creative guys and be able to create new music and a new album and all that, it’s really great. Over here right now it’s number one in a couple of charts with great reviews, it’s a pretty amazing thing for as long as I’ve been in the business to be able to see once again that a rock band can actually sit there at the top of the charts and do it… it’s not just a pop act or whatever, a rock band can actually do it and I’m hoping that this fact alone will inspire other musicians to get out there and say wow we can do that too, so I think that’s a really great thing that’s going on right now.
I hope so man, rock needs to come back in a big way…
Absolutely, not only that but we want to go over to Australia and play ‘The Killer Instinct’ to everyone over there.
And of course that was my next question, so I have to ask, when will we get to see Black Star Riders in Australia?
Well that is a really great question, the last time we were over it was with KISS and Motley Crue and we had such a great time, I hadn’t been over there for a while and I wasn’t sure if the Australian population was going to remember Thin Lizzy or not, but they did, you guys welcomed us with open arms and it was such a cool thing. Now we want to come over there with Black Star Riders, we want to come over there and show the Australian people what we can do, the new material and all that so we really want to make this happen. When and how I’m not sure right now, but boy we love playing over there so hopefully it’s not going to be too much longer before we get to Australian shores.
We need to get John onto that one and make it happen…
Yes *laughs* you’ve gotta do that…
In terms of the band as a live entity, did you find it was much easier going out as Black Star Riders with the experience you had from playing together for years or was it more of a hindrance in the fact you almost had to reintroduce yourself as a new band?
When you go out as a brand name as Thin Lizzy, it’s always going to be the easy option, right? To lose the brand name and come out as something brand new it’s always going to be tough, there’s a lot of hard work, there’s a lot of ground work that you have to cover and not everybody is going to know that you’ve come out of this brand name situation, so you have to be prepared for it, mentally and physically you have to say ‘oh well, in some ways were going to have to start all over again’ but you’ve got to believe in it and as soon as you say to yourself ‘ok I really believe in this situation’ it really makes things a lot easier. It is hard *laughs* I’ll admit that to you, and for everybody in the band they will say the exact same thing, but I think and I know that everyone else in the band thinks it was the right thing to do is to change the name from Thin Lizzy and we’re gonna go Black Star Riders and come what may… we’ll see what happens and hopefully we’re good enough to cut the mustard here. We’re still on that trail here, this is the great experiment to see if we’re good enough for people to like what we do and buy the tickets and come out and see us play and so far it’s working, so thank god for that.
Do you miss playing as Thin Lizzy?
Well you know, I thought I was going to, I thought there was going to be a giant hole because obviously the major bulk of my career has been through the whole Thin Lizzy thing, but as we’ve gone on for the last two and a half years, that has become less and less of a deal for me and you’re so concentrated on making Black Star Riders work and I really love playing this music so it’s not that much of a deal for me anymore. In saying that we still throw in three or four Thin Lizzy songs in the set and I think people expect that of us, and they want to hear it too, so we never really 100% totally lose the whole Thin Lizzy thing, but yeah, we’re having a great time doing the whole Black Star Riders thing now.
You can tell, and plus you’ve already made a second album so that alone means you’re doing something right…
*laughs* that’s absolutely right, there’s a lot of bands these days that you’ve got your one album shot, and if you make a crap album on your first time round it’s like c’est la vie buddy, nice try, but you know, thankfully the first album it was a good album and so many people liked it that the record company said absolutely we want a second album from you, and it looks like after this album here we’ve got a third on the way at some point, so it looks like we’re going to be around for a little while.
Lastly, let’s look to the future, so finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2015, Black Star Riders will…
Wow that’s a good question… will hopefully be on their second world tour…
Absolutely, it’s not a world tour unless you hit Australia… *laughs*
From: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Band members: Ricky Warwick – Vocals/Guitar, Scott Gorham – Guitars, Damon Johnson – Guitars, Robbie Crane – Bass, Jimmy DeGrasso – Drums
Latest release: The Killer Instinct – (Out Now – Nuclear Blast)