“Being in a rock band there’s always going to be roadblocks, there’s always going to be hard times or somethings always going to happen and you’ve gotta be able to rise above it, and keep your head above ground and keep going.”
From Release: BLACK STAR RIDERS are back – with a new album, a new line-up, and what frontman Ricky Warwick calls “a new energy and chemistry”. In the seven years since Warwick and legendary guitarist Scott Gorham put BLACK STAR RIDERS together, they have made three of the finest hard rock albums of modern times. Scott Gorham and Ricky Warwick created BLACK STAR RIDERS out of the modern version of THIN LIZZY, the band in which Gorham had served in its golden age during the 1970s on classic albums including »Jailbreak, »Bad Reputation«, »Live And Dangerous« and »Black Rose«. For Warwick, it was and always will be a privilege to perform alongside Gorham in THIN LIZZY. Singing the songs of the band’s late, great frontman Phil Lynott is, Warwick says, “an honor and dream come true for me”. But as he states unequivocally: “BLACK STAR RIDERS has its own identity. The LIZZY connection is there but we’ve kind of distanced ourselves from it now. After four albums, the band is established. The songs stand on their own. The band stands on its own.”
We gave Scott Gorham a call while he was at home in London to catch up and talk about Black Star Riders new album ‘Another State of Grace’, its creation, its sound, new band members, touring, a great story about him joining Thin Lizzy, and much more…
For starters, it’s been just over four years since we last chatted, so let’s catch up, how have the last four years been for you?
Hectic, baby, hectic! I think we’ve done two albums since then, no I think gosh, this is the third album since then. One guy asked me is this a pattern? You do an album and then two years later you do another album then two years later you do another album *laughs* I guess when you say it like that it is a bit of a pattern, it’s not a premeditated pattern it’s just how it works out. There’s constant on the road, there’s a lot of touring involved, I know that’s the reason we lost two of our guys, Jimmy DeGrasso on drums and Damon Johnson on guitar, we were working so much and it always seemed to be in Europe a lot of thereabouts, they all live in America and they’ve got kids and wives, the whole thing and who they weren’t seeing at all for like three to four years, so you know it was time for them to go and luckily for us we got these two great guys in the band with a brand new album, so right now Troy it’s kickin’ ass.
I have to commend you on ‘Another State of Grace’ as this is one rockin’ album.
Thank you so much, man.
But I want to ask about the title track, that Irish influence and just that riff, can you tell us a bit about how this one came about and scored naming rights to the album?
Well it’s one of those things, it just seems like in all four corners of the Earth there’s some kind of fucking war going on and people just getting their asses ripped and there’s something in the constitution about war and the state of grace, I don’t know, that’s kind of a question for Ricky, Ricky comes from Belfast in Ireland and he grew up in war torn Belfast so it’s kind of in his DNA. He gets it, what these people are going through in other places on the planet where you look at the news and whole cities are crumbled and he understands all that, I think that’s what ‘State of Grace’ is all about. The Irish thing is something that we kind of put on every album and give a nod to Ireland because that’s for especially for me and Ricky it’s where it all began musically for us and so we always give an Irish nod so I quite like that Black Star Riders tradition of throwing in an Irish song. Not only do we love playing those kind of riffs but it’s a thank you to Ireland, thanks for sticking with us.
In the two years since ‘Heavy Fire’ what if anything did you do differently this time around?
We got a new producer that’s one thing in Jay Ruston, we recorded this one in LA rather than Nashville in a beautiful studio it’s called Spear Studios in Los Angeles and I think what Jay brought to the album was more of a sense of fun in the studio, he kept the atmosphere light and there was constant jokes going on we were just laughing the whole time and then he would bring it down and say OK it’s time to get serious. So Jay was a real general in the studio and not only atmospheric wise, musically also, I think any band will tell you that you can rehearse the song and write this and write that and there’s always going to be at one point a road block where you listen back and go my god that doesn’t work at all that sounds like shit, but I don’t have any ideas I don’t know where to go from there right? That’s where Jay would step in and say how about this? He would throw this ideas at you and you would say fuck yeah man, absolutely, and you try it and it works then the dam gets busted wide open and you’re off and running again. So to have a guy like Jay that’s able to get you out of that jail cell of mental blackness is a godsend. We all really love jay to death and I’m sure if we get to do another album he’s going to be the general again for the next Black Star Riders album.
You mentioned having some new blood on the record, what did having Chad and Christian in the studio bring to the band and this record?
Well you know something, let’s start with Chad, the previous three albums we kind of just walked in and the rhythm section and I’m saying this in a really blasé way and I don’t mean it right but you go into rehearsals and Jimmy and Marco or Robbie would do what they do, but on this album and with each song before we went into basic tracking these two guys would disappear into another room somewhere and they would have a tape and meticulously go from bar to bar to bar mapping out what they were going to do on this particular take and I hadn’t seen the rhythm, section work with that type of precision before and I thought what it did was lay down this really cool bed for me and Christian and Ricky to be able to work on. There wasn’t ever any time where the song felt a little flimsy or maybe we’ll fix that in the mix kind of bullshit right? It was already there because these two guys had sat there and done their roadwork a couple of hours beforehand so they know exactly what they were doing so it made it so much easier. No, Christian on the other side he’s a great sound guy, and parts guy, he would turn what would seem like a seemingly average sort of section in the song he would always have a really cool idea or a guitar sound or little line here or little line there that made that section kind of special so there’s a lot of moments like that that Christian came up with. It was very cool and I hate to use this word but it was kind of inspiring to see this whole thing go down in such a really cool atmospheric way, in a really cool music way that we hadn’t done before so you almost saw right in front of you the really band grow, take another leap higher than the last three albums, so when you can actually see that and you’re participating in it it’s a really cool thing.
What I’ve loved about BSR from the start is that true classic rock sound but with a modern twist, essentially, I can’t think of anyone else that sounds like you guys. It’s like you guys have your own secret eleven herbs and spices, without telling us the ingredients how has particularly you and Ricky coming together allowed this sound to emerge?
Well it’s actually more of like being on a river and letting the tides just take you, there’s nothing premeditated about it, I wish I was that good to like you say, say here’s a bunch of ingredients Ricky let’s use that, it just happens along the way, I wish I could be a little bit more descriptive or informative on that and I really appreciate what you said that makes me feel so good man. I don’t think there’s any magic ingredient except maybe the four or five guys that are right in front of you that are really gelling really well together and you’ve got a common purpose. I think it’s our attitude also, a friend of mine I was listening to an interview and the journalist said “what do you think is your best album?” and this guy says “My next album” and I thought that’s a really great attitude, because you’re gonna walk into that studio saying to yourself this is gonna be the best goddam album I’ve ever worked on and to me that’s the right attitude to have when you go on to do a project like this. So maybe all three of those things are the ingredients, I’m not sure but you know something, Troy, I really appreciate you saying that you made my day there, buddy.
In the seven years the band has been together it can be easy to say what can change but what would you say is the one thing that’s stayed the same in your time together so far?
Me and Ricky, Ricky and I have just had this thing that no matter what happens we just keep going. Being in a rock band there’s always going to be roadblocks, there’s always going to be hard times or somethings always going to happen and you’ve gotta be able to rise above it, and keep your head above ground and keep going. We’ve had a few personnel changes and all that and yeah sure this could be disaster this could be the end of the band for god’s sake, but we have big enough cojones to say no no no this isn’t the end, that’s not what this is all about and then you start to pick and choose the right guys that are gonna make this an even bigger and better thing than it was before. So there you have it, I don’t know how much further with that one.
What has being in Black Star Riders allowed you to do that you felt you weren’t able to do as part of Thin Lizzy or 21 Guns?
That’s a really good question, you know some of the things and I don’t want to use this word too heavily but forced maybe to do things that I maybe was uncomfortable with before and some of that was Ricky loves getting out and playing acoustic guitar, you throw an acoustic guitar on him and he’s out there doing it. I’m not the big acoustic guitar fan but there’s time when you do an in store appearance with acoustics and all that and I’m feeling kind of uncomfortable until we get into it and then I find myself having a great time with it, right? Whereas if it wouldn’t have been suggested I would’ve been fine not doing it but now you’re kind of like I say forced into this situation and you find yourself having a great time. So we never did anything like that in Thin Lizzy, any of these small personal types of appearances and I find myself enjoying those more and more, I was gonna say more than being in a giant stadium which is not actually true but it’s funny the things you think you’re not going to enjoy you end up enjoying it’s quite fun to realise that you really do like doing those things.
Of course I’ll continue to ask, any plans for Black Star Riders to head over to Australia?
Yeah you know that’s a really good question, it’s one of those countries, man that we always want to go back to, the last time we were there was obviously with Thin Lizzy I think it was the KISS tour that we were doing and we just had a great time, it just felt so good to be back in Australia finally making it back to Australia and now we’re going back four or five years, maybe even longer, six years and it’s one of those countries that its very, very far away but I don’t give a damn, we want to get there so if we can work up enough enthusiasm for the band to actually get us out of Heathrow and on our way to Australia we will be there in an absolute heartbeat.
What do you want to do with this band that you haven’t yet had the chance to?
Well, on the greedy side I would love to have a number one album, I don’t know if that’s possible, it’s probably a little harder these days to achieve that I don’t know, we never had one with Thin Lizzy, we got number two with ‘Live and Dangerous’, it was number two for like six weeks or something but The Bee Gees damn them, I think it was ‘Saturday Night Fever’ man, they were just kicking some butt left right and centre and we just could not get in that number one spot. If at sometime before I get shed of all this music stuff here if I can get a number one somewhere that would be great. That’s being greedy isn’t it?
Over the forty five years and across five decades you’ve been making and playing music, what for you has been the most defining moment for you in your time making music over the years?
Wow, well I absolutely number one is meeting Phil Lynott, that’s literally changed my life, I was on a six month visa in England here and by the time I got to Phil I had thirty days left and I was going home, I was going back to Los Angeles, but I met Phil thirty days before I was to get on the plane I had no idea what Thin Lizzy was, I’d never heard the name but I found myself standing on the stage with these three guys and listening to what they were doing and they were so supremely confident in themselves and in their musicians ship, I just looked around and thought damn I really want to be in this thing, how do I get in this thing? By the end of this jam session I thought I’d probably blown it, probably didn’t play very well, there goes my shot, but Phil said have you got a telephone number I can call you on and what are you doing tomorrow? *laughs* and Phil gave me a call that night and asked me to join the band and that was I would say for my life that’s a pretty defining corner right there.
Wow, things could’ve been very different…
yeah you kinda wonder that every once in a while, what if I’d actually gotten on the plane? How would your life… what would it be like now? You can kind of drive yourself crazy thinking things like that but you do end up thinking stuff like that, what if… what if?
Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, finish this sentence for me, in 2020 Black Star Riders want to…
Want to get to Australia basically, right now, in October we start our ‘State of Grace’ tour which starts off in the whole of Britain and then we shuffle over to Europe and we’ll be in Europe for about six weeks and I would love to actually carry that on and get on a plane and bang, land in Sydney, that would be my big what if, that would be so cool. Like we said, I haven’t been over there for six years now and it’s time to get back, so that will be my big what if moment if we could get back to Australia that would be so cool.
From: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Band members: Ricky Warwick – Vocals/Guitar, Scott Gorham – Guitars, Christian Martucci – Guitars, Robbie Crane – Bass, Chad Szeliga – Drums
Latest release: ‘Another State of Grace’ – (September 6 – Nuclear Blast)