February 5, 2015 Interview – Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders
They said it was career suicide and could not be done. Proving that statement was never more wrong, Black Star Riders arose from the legacy of Thin Lizzy to start something fresh in the Winter of 2012. After the passing of Thin Lizzy beloved vocalist/bassist Phi Lynott in 1986, the aforementioned Thin Lizzy recollected themselves a decade later, led by guitarist Scott Gorham. Adding accomplished vocalist Ricky Warwick of The Almighty to the mix in 2010, the band solidified their line-up that would eventually be three-fifths of what is now Black Star Riders. Releasing their debut album All Hell Breaks Loose in 2013 to critical acclaimed, the boys are back in 2015 with their highly anticipated new album The Killer Instinct. Recently we sat down with the passionate vocalist Warwick for a personal look at the decision to become Black Star Riders, their new album, love for Rock-n-Roll, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music for nearly three decades now, starting when you began with Rock band The Almighty. Now you are seeing a great deal of success with newer project, Black Star Riders. Tell us about how Black Star Riders came to life?
Ricky Warwick – Black Star Riders grew out of Thin Lizzy. I was fronting Thin Lizzy for three and a half years, and we were setting out to record new material. We decided it would not be a good idea to put it out under the guise of Thin Lizzy out of respect for Phil Lynott and the legacy. It has been such a long time in between records, and it would have been the first Thin Lizzy album in thirty years. I think Scott Gorman, one of the original guys from Thin Lizzy, thought it was pushing it a bit too far. We decided that we still wanted to put out these songs, as we really believed in them, but we would change the name and move forward as Black Star Riders. Myself, Damon Johnson, Scott Gorman, and Marco Mendoza formed Black Star Riders and we forged ahead with that. Then we were joined by Robbie Crane and Jimmy DeGrasso, we then put our first album out in 2013, and now, here we are.
CrypticRock.com – That is excellent. As you said, Black Star Riders did, in fact, release their debut album titled All Hell Breaks Loose, back in 2013. The album was received well by critics and fans alike. What was the level of comfort for yourself and the band going into that first album?
Ricky Warwick – Obviously, there was some trepidation, because we could have used Thin Lizzy and guarantee sales right off the bat, just out of curiosity, because of the name. You know, a lot of people asked, “What are you doing? You’re committing commercial suicide,” by changing the name. So we knew it was a risk, but we also knew it was the right thing to do. It felt like the right thing to do straight away once we decided to go with it. We believed that the band was big enough and the songs were big enough that we could carry it off. Thankfully, most of the Thin Lizzy faithful came with us, stayed with us, and supported the band, so when the record did come out, it did really well. There was a lot of support there for us. In the back of your mind, there is always a bit of trepidation. Are people actually going to want to hear this or come listen to us play? They did, and they got it. I think when they heard how strong the material was and the fact that we are still playing some Thin Lizzy songs live, I think fans felt fine, as did we.
CrypticRock.com – Now it is very obvious there is a lot of history here there in Black Star Riders with Scott of Thin Lizzy and the list of experienced musicians including yourself. A lot of times when “supergroups” come together, each member is individually great, but do not seem to produce that magic that make great songs. That does not seem to be the case with Black Star Riders, as the songs are very strong. With that said, do you feel there is a unique chemistry the band shares?
Ricky Warwick – You know, we definitely do. We all get along very well with each other. There is certainly a similar mentality there. We socialize, we hang out, we talk a lot. It is a very egoless band, there are no egos involved. It is all about the music with us, about writing good songs and playing great shows. That is what we concentrate on what we are into. So, that being said, we all have a really good understanding of what makes the band work. Damon Johnson and myself pretty much write the songs, and everyone else has pretty much entrusted with that. Then they play the hell out of the stuff that we give them. It just seems to work really well. We have got a lot of respect for each other and what they bring to the band.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and it has worked very well. The band will in fact be releasing your second record, The Killer Instinct, on February 24th in North America. The record continues with solid Rock songs. What was the writing and recording process for this album?
Ricky Warwick – The writing process is always the same. It is ongoing, at least for myself and Damon,. we are continually writing. It is something we do all the time, so we are always rehashing songs and ideas to play to the other guys. That was no different this time around. We just keep writing all the time. The recording process was quite different because we did it with Nick Raskulinecz. He has a completely different way of working from Kevin Shirley. We afforded ourselves a little more time in the studio and we recorded in Nashville, in Nick’s home studio. He is a very passionate and emotional guy. He got very involved with the band and with each of us, personally. We got a full commitment from him and I think that really schooled us all as musicians and as people, to be the best that it could be, when we were done. He is great working with other agents, and we spent a week working in pre-production with him, just working on songs and all that kind of stuff. That is something we did not do on the first album. The first time, we demoed the stuff before we even started. We gave the demos to Kevin Shirley and then we went in and pretty much did the album live. We set up live, Kevin had the whole thing set up and we were in and out of there in twelve days. That was great and certainly captured that vibe and energy. There was just not very much time to say I want to go in and maybe change that guitar solo or maybe sing that vocal better. What you hear is what you get. This time around, we could afford to be a little more time to think over certain things. We still did the whole album in three weeks.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly shows on the record. Working with Nick, it seems like he really captured where you wanted to go. The album is very textured, it has a lot of depth to it, as far as the songs go. You can hear that in the music.
Ricky Warwick – Absolutely! You know, all of that paid off. Taking our time, working with Nick. He made some pretty big calls on some of the songs. Dynamically, he changed the whole song. It was his idea to do the halftime and the chorus in the song “You Little Liar,” and that suddenly changed the dynamics of the whole song. Things like that is what you get a producer for, when they starts pulling that kind of stuff out of the bag.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of records and modern recording techniques, this record has a lot of depth to it, a lot of texture to it, like an old Classic Rock record. It seems like a lot of modern recordings these days have lost that atmosphere, sound overproduced, etc. What is your opinion on the modern Rock scene when it comes to recording? Do you feel that there has been a resurgence to getting back to the roots of Rock and stripping things down?
Ricky Warwick – Actually, I do not really listen too much to what is going on in modern Rock scene. It all just sounds very formulated to me. It is hard for me to distinguish one band from the other. It is often the same kind of melody and choruses, the same auto-tuned vocals, and stuff like that. That just kills any spontaneity or organics that a band would have. Music is not meant to be perfect, and it is not meant to be polished, as far as I am concerned, to that degree. If you put on some of those Stax Records or some of that old Motown stuff, you hear the groove and the plane and the soul in those songs, that is what it should be about. That is where I am coming from, and what I listen to. Things that groove and have a feel to it. You hear the stuff on the radio now, there is no groove to it. It is too formulated. That is not for me personally. If it is not perfectly in time, or the guitar is a bit out of tune, but so what. Leave it alone. That is part of it. We are human beings. We are making something that is supposed to come from the heart, and from the soul, not machines. (laughs)
CrypticRock.com – That human element is what it is all about. You guys did your first US tour last year in 2014. How did that tour go for you guys?
Ricky Warwick – It was good! We obviously wanted to try and get on a package, but we could not seem to get on one. So we made the decision to just go out and play the clubs. We will get out there and we will bring it to the people. It was a bold move. We went out for six weeks in the country, and it was great; a great reaction. People were checking it out, and people at every show were blown away. So that is what it is all about. We were very much of that idea, that you want to get out there and play and earn your crust and show people what you are about. The internet, that is great and all that, but, really, a band like ourselves you come and see the band live, people get it straight away.
CrypticRock.com – You are right. People just do not buy records anymore. The best place to get to the people is at the live shows. You guys are planning to start a tour in Europe in March. Are there any plans to come back to America this year, in support of the new record?
Ricky Warwick – Yeah, we are. We are doing the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and we are playing a few US dates during that in April. We are doing the European festivals over the summer. Then we will come back in the Fall and do some more US dates. That is the plan.
CrypticRock.com – That is great because to hear. Now you are obviously concentrating on Black Star Riders right now, but do you have any plans to revisit The Almighty any time in the future?
Ricky Warwick – I doubt it. That one is done and dusty for me. It was great. I am very proud of everything that we did and achieved, but I have no real desire to go and dig that back up. I am pretty much just looking forward. Well, I will never say never to anything, because you never know what is going to happen, but it is certainly not on my radar.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. You never know what is going to happen. The Almighty did have a great deal of success in their time as well.
Ricky Warwick – We had a good deal of success with The Almighty in Europe and Japan. We did never really did anything in America but that band defined my youth. We started the band really young and I spent ten amazing years with those guys. It was a really good time. It established me as a performer and an artist. It ran its course. People change, they move on. There is a lot of water under the bridge. I am happy the music is there so people can still hear the music and relive the memories.
CrypticRock.com – Now you have a great new band to work with, so everything worked out perfectly.
Ricky Warwick – Absolutely! I am just happy to be working, able to record with great music to play. That is all I want. If I have that, I am perfectly happy.
CrypticRock.com – My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a Rock/Metal and Horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of Horror films, and if so, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Ricky Warwick – You know what? That is going to be a real short answer. I am not a fan of Horror films (laughs). I am a big fan of Westerns and World War II movies and stuff, but I am not a fan of Horrors. Never have.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That is perfectly fine. Horror films are not for everyone. So you like more Historical movies?
Ricky Warwick – I definitely like the more Historical stuff. The stuff that has actually happened. I like movies like that. I love a good Western. I really love Tombstone (1993). That is one of my favorite Westerns. The one with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer in it. I absolutely love that movie.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting. There are a lot of great historical based films that are very stimulating to watch. Do you like Sci-Fi films at all?
Ricky Warwick – Yeah, I watch a little bit of Sci-Fi. I am not a really big fan of it or anything. I did not see Star Wars until, like, three years ago. I do read a lot; I read a lot of books. That is what I do with myself.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent! What type of literature do you enjoy reading?
Ricky Warwick – Anything! I love Americana culture. I am a big fan of Cormac McCarthy. I am a big fan of Steinbeck as well. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is my all-time favorite book. I also like poetry. I am actually reading a biography of Muhammad Ali right now. It is really cool. I will read anything. I love to read.
CrypticRock.com – Biographies, no matter who they are about, are interesting because you are learning about someone else’s experiences. Many find that very intriguing.
Ricky Warwick – I was brought up as a working class boy with a working family, with Uncles and all those people working from sunup to sundown. Once you have been in Belfast as a kid, or back in the day in Glasgow, it was a very interesting life. I met some very colorful people. There was always a great source of inspiration there.