Home arrow News & Reviews arrow Stereoboard Talk To Black Star Riders About The Transition From Thin Lizzy & The New Debut Album

Stereoboard Talk To Black Star Riders About The Transition From Thin Lizzy & The New Debut Album

Friday, 24 May 2013 Written by Daniel Lynch

Black Star Riders release their debut album on Monday entitled ‘All Hell Breaks Loose.’ This first of a two-part interview with front man, Ricky Warwick and guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson will explore the transition from being Thin Lizzy to becoming the Black Star Riders, the new name and their reaction to fans’ opinions.

Thin Lizzy are a musical institution, known for dual guitars and Phil Lynott’s inimitable style of writing and performing music. When Scott Gorham reformed the band with original members Brian Downey (drums) and Darren Wharton (keyboards) he never imagined that a few years later he’d have recorded a brand new album under another band name.

SG: You know I don’t think I actually thought that far ahead, my whole thought process was being in the moment, making sure everything was as good as you could make it in that moment in time. I didn’t think I’d be doing this, we’d always thought about it and talked about it but then it became a reality.

Former Almighty singer Ricky Warwick had the unenviable task of performing the role of Lynott, but as he explains, fans were quickly won over, provoking talk of new material.

RW: I couldn’t see beyond the first tour and I think nobody knew, including the other guys in the band and the management, how Thin Lizzy would be the first year 150 the second and it went ballistic, it was brilliant. But, to be honest, when I got the call to join the band I couldn’t see past the first tour. If I’d got to play just one show with Thin Lizzy that would have been enough.

Looking back, it’s been surreal. It was a natural progression, as musicians we strive to write better stuff. As amazing as it was to play all those classic songs there was always going to be a point where we wanted to spread our wings and try to write some songs. I was always just waiting for the green light, Lizzy always influenced me and then being in the band meant I could begin to write stuff that suited the band. When Scott said, ‘yeah let’s start writing,’ Damon and I just had a stockpile of ideas ready to go.

Damon Johnson, formerly of Brother Cane and the Alice Cooper band, joined Thin Lizzy in 2011 after the departure of Def Leppard’s Vivien Campbell. By that time, the band were seriously considering taking the next step and he was more than ready to step up to the plate, respecting both the legacy of Thin Lizzy and the future of the current lineup.

DJ: When history is written and they reflect back on the origins of BSR they have to understand that the first 15 songs that we wrote we were thinking it was going to be a TL album. We had already talked about it in the press, we were already getting supporters and critics coming out. We just went about our work and obviously we wanted it to sound like Thin Lizzy. We even went so far as to focus on what was kinda the classic line up of the band with Brian Robertson through to the Black Rose era with Gary Moore. With that in mind, Ricky and I put in a lot of sweat. We would get together and write every day. We’d get some breakfast, maybe go to the gym for a while and then we’d go straight to the back of the bus or in the venue or wherever and get working on stuff. We just weren’t sure what Scott and Brian Downey were gonna think of these songs that we were working on. So it was such an amazing day when it was time for us to play the four or five things for Scott and he was blown away. The first things we played were Bound For Glory, Kingdom Of The Lost, Hoodoo Voodoo and Someday Salvation which Scott loved. Then everybody really got involved, Darren Wharton, Brian Downey, Marco Mendoza, everybody was contributing suggestions and arrangements and melodies and we were off and running then.

The key issue for the band, and many of the fans, was what name the new material would be released under. Thin Lizzy is a brand synonymous with Phil Lynott, but without the iconic frontman Warwick and Johnson particularly had to repress the desire of their inner fans to appear on a Thin Lizzy record. It was a divisive issue among fans and although turned out to be equally contentious among the band members, they’re convinced they made the right choice:

RW: I am very much. It was one of those things where it was weird. I’d wake up and be excited that I was going to make a Thin Lizzy record and that my name was going to be on it, thinking this was brilliant. The next day I’d wake up and think it was so wrong, it should only be Phil’s name on the record. It was like a pendulum going backwards and forwards for at least four months and it was getting to the point where it was starting to be a burden. It just didn’t sit right. As much as I hate to say it, my head was saying great and my heart was saying no. When Scott brought it up it was the elephant in the room, but it needed somebody to say, “we need to talk about this”. You have to listen to the vibe among the people that come to the gigs, and they were saying we love it live but we’re not sure about this (the name issue). The warning lights started flashing where we thought it might be the end. But we all prevailed and we were adamant that we wanted to make new music. It gave Brian Downey and Darren Wharton the chance to step aside from the heavy touring schedule. There’s no animosity at all, far from it and we’ll get back as Thin Lizzy if the offers are right. We (the current lineup) are the road dogs, we’re the guys that’ll die on stage with our boots on, we’re the guys with no sense. In hindsight changing the name was the best thing we could ever have done and I’m so happy that we changed the name and Black Star Riders is what we have today.

DJ: I am, I can tell you that now. Selfishly six to eight months ago I was excited to know I was going be on a Thin Lizzy album. The fan in me wanted that to happen. It was my wife who helped me realise I was already part of the Thin Lizzy history. It’s amazing to be a part of a band that changed your life, but if you’re an artist, you want to evolve, you want to grow and write better songs and make better recordings in the studio. you just wanna see what you create almost like a sculptor or a painter. Now we have the best possible scenario to do that as Black Star Riders.

Ultimately we decided that we were going to come up with a different name and put it out under that name. Whether the album was Thin Lizzy or Black Star Riders, there were still undeniable elements in the membership and ethos of the band that would remain constant. Warwick points to Gorham as integral to the sound of both bands, and insists that the camaraderie associated with Thin Lizzy has continued under the Black Star Riders name.

RW: The name hints at that gang mentality.There’s the whole wild west vibe and the Magnificent Seven thing. We are big kids, we’ve never grown up. We socialise on the road, there’s none of this retreating to hotel rooms, we all go to dinner together, we hang at the gigs together. It’s a good working and personal relationship. Problems do arise but there are no egos, nobody’s bringing any attitude or baggage or crap like that into it because we’re all just working class boys, there’s no room for that with this band. We’ve all been through it before, you’re more hedonistic when you’re younger, you fly off the handle and rationale goes out the window, as it should when you’re young but when you get older you don’t suffer fools as much and realise what you want and that what you put in to it is what you’ll get out.

SG: It’s always going to be a bit of a carry on. You’re taking the bulk of the Thin Lizzy guys and putting us in a new situation, but we’re still the same guys. You’re never really divorced from Thin Lizzy but it’s a nice clean break, there’s a demarkation line.

After all the discussions, debating and canvassing of opinions to fans, do Black Star Riders feel they have a point to prove and show that they can and should be viewed as musicians in their own right and not just as former members of Thin Lizzy?

SG: If you don’t have that attitude you’re probably in the wrong game. You’re always trying to prove to yourself and everyone that you’re the man.

RW: Of course we do. We’re taking the vast majority of the Thin Lizzy fan base with us. That has helped us establish this band and there’s no point trying to shy away from that or do something to turn those people off. Some people were expecting a new Thin Lizzy album under that name and they weren’t happy with it, some people didn’t care, some people thought we should have done it but we made the decision. It took the shackles off where we thought that we could try to experiment a little bit more. If we were going to record as Thin Lizzy there would have been one road we had to go down, and that would have been the Thin Lizzy sound the whole way but with this we’ve been able to take the side roads and experiment. We’ll still develop our own sound as well and whatever way you want to call it, we an old new band or a new old band, its a strange position to be in and we’re still finding our own sound. I think about that balance every day, and at some point you just have to say “I’m gonna write the best songs that I can and I’m gonna try and please myself first of all.” I want Lizzy fans to put the record on and get that glow they got when they were listening to Lizzy, but I also want new fans to check it out, or even people to say it’s a bit like Lizzy but different as well. It’s a hard tightrope to walk but life’s all about opinions and that’s what it comes down to. You can’t please everybody all the time and I think I got into the mindset of writing what I think a continuation of Thin Lizzy, i.e. Black Star Riders should sound like. We have to go out and show people that the band can stand on its own. We want to make people aware that this is a new band, obviously with a great heritage, but wanna live in the past, that not how any of us in the band operate at all. We’re all very much about now and the future and pushing forward. I’m as big a Lizzy fan as the next guy, I worship the band and I wish Phil was still with us but he’s not. People die but the music goes on and that’s just how it is. You have to roll with that.

You can check out part two of this interview here, focussing on the writing and recording of the album, more on the band members and plans for the band’s upcoming tour.

Black Star Riders release their debut album 'All Hell Breaks Loose' on Monday 27th May via Nuclear Blast, check out Stereoboard's review here. They band tour the UK in November and December.

Black Star Riders UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Fri November 22nd 2013 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Sat November 23rd 2013 - LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Sun November 24th 2013 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue November 26th 2013 - CAMBRIDGE The Junction
Wed November 27th 2013 - NORWICH Norwich Uea
Sat November 30th 2013 - WOLVERHAMPTON Wulfrun Hall
Sun December 1st 2013 - CARDIFF Cardiff Solus
Mon December 2nd 2013 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Thu December 5th 2013 - INVERNESS The Ironworks
Fri December 6th 2013 - EDINBURGH The Picture House
Sat December 7th 2013 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Sun December 8th 2013 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Tue December 10th 2013 - LEAMINGTON SPA Leamington Assembly
Thu December 12th 2013 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Fri December 13th 2013 - MANCHESTER The Ritz
Sat December 14th 2013 - DUBLIN Academy
Sun December 15th 2013 - BELFAST The Limelight

Click Here to Compare & Buy Black Star Riders Tickets at Stereoboard.com.





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