BLACK STAR RIDERS FRONTMAN RICKY WARWICK ON SINGING THIN LIZZY MATERIAL LIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME: ” I STUDIED PHIL LYNOTT AND HOW HE SANG..I WANTED TO KNOW THE SONGS BACKWARDS”
OMN: There was a little bit of a bug planted in [guitarists] Scott’s [Gorham] ear by Joe Elliot [Def Leppard] to call you up wasn’t there?
RW: Yeah, I think that was pretty much where it came about. Joe has been a huge supporter and champion of my work. Joe was in the studio with Scott remastering some of the Thin Lizzy albums a couple of years or so ago. Scott mentioned to Joe that he wanted to put Thin Lizzy back together he asked Joe if he had any ideas on a singer. Joe said that he should talk to me about it. We had worked together before and he liked the way I sang. I got a call from Scott I thought nothing of it. Scott and I have been friends for a while, I’d speak with Scott every 6 months or so. We talked about life and family as we typically do and then he asked if I wanted to sing for Thin Lizzy? I immediately said yes! [laughs].
OMN: Anyone who knows rock music knows that Def Leppard are a high energy, electrifying rock ‘n’ roll band. You came out to support them with just an acoustic guitar? That sounds terrifying. Was it?
RW: [Laughs] Oh you could just hear the groans from the crowd as I walked on stage with my acoustic guitar! [laughs] Here we go another singer/songwriter! [laughs] Listen, anyone that knows me knows that I’m a diehard rocker. I took the stage with my guitar slung low and I beat the hell out of the guitar. I’m there to entertain, I want to entertain; I’m not there to wallow in self pity and stuff like that. I have a fantastic life and a fantastic job. I’m very lucky. When I’m on stage I want to enjoy myself and I want those who came out to see the show to enjoy themselves as well. The [Def] Leppard fans were truly great to me and accepted me; it was one of the best experiences of my life.
OMN: I asked you earlier about being scared coming out in front of an audience of Def Leppard fans with an acoustic guitar. I would have to believe that going out in front of a Thin Lizzy audience must have been even scarier than that? What was going through your head when you stepped on stage to sing these classic songs?
RW: [long pause] You know without a doubt that was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. The first show I did with the band was in Aberdeen, Scotland the show was sold out. We started out the show behind this huge curtain that would then drop and we’d kick into Are You Ready. I remember standing on the riser behind the curtain and being able to smell the anticipation of the crowd. My knees went, my mouth dried and I said to myself “What did you get yourself into? What am I doing?” I remember talking to a friend prior to the show and he said “After tonight no matter what happens your life will never be the same again.” He was right. Leading up to the first show we had done countless rehearsals. I recall that I have from May to December to get my stuff together. We all know the Thin Lizzy choruses but the hard part was learning the third verse to this song or that song. I had 25 [Thin] Lizzy songs that I learned inside out and I really do mean inside out. For a period of six months I didn’t listen to anything other than Thin Lizzy. I listened to a lot of [Thin] Lizzy anyway but this more than usual. My wife works for a record label and she’d say “You have to check this band out.” I would reply “Nope I’m not doing it!” [laughs] It went beyond listening to the music I studied Phil Lynott and how he sang and how he wrote. I was fully immersed for that six months and I do believe that by having done that it allowed me to do a respectful job when singing his songs. I wanted to know the songs backwards! I worked my ass off, I really did. I know there will never be another Phil Lynott and he can never be replaced; but if people can leave the venue thinking that’s as close as it’s ever going to get. Then that’s a great honor.
We were prepared but ever on the first tour Ruben it took 3-4 songs before the crowd settled down. It was like they didn’t know what I was going to sound like, if I was going to screw things up, was it going to be any good–all that. Let’s be honest I would be thinking the same thing if I was out there with them! [laughs] So it certainly took those 3-4 songs before you started looking out into the crowd and seeing in their faces “You know what? This guy is pretty good!”
OMN: So you toured for three years then you reconvened to write some new music. What inspired the change from Thin Lizzy toStar Riders? was it due to the departure of of Brian Downey and Darren Wharton?
RW: Well we had been on the road for a long time and one of the things that kept coming up was if we were going to write new material. I started writing with Damon [Johnson] and demoing songs for a new album. It was at that juncture that a couple of things happened Brian Downey expressed that he didn’t want to be on the road that much. You have to keep in mind we were doing something like 150 shows a year since Scott [Gorham] launched this version of Thin Lizzy. Shortly after we noticed that Darren [Wharton] was feeling the same. They didn’t want to be on the road anymore where Scott, Damon, Marco and I are the road dogs–we’ll do that 150 shows per year, no problem. As time went on in the songwriting process Darren, Brian, and Scott all reflected on what would be the new Thin Lizzy album in 30 years. It was without Phil Lynott and it was really weird. I think Marco and I as long time Thin Lizzy fans were thrilled to be getting our names on a new Thin Lizzy album but it felt like we were taking things a step too far. Phil’s not here and maybe we should let the legacy be the legacy. So all that came to a head; we had a band meeting and we all let it pour out. We decided right there and then that we would record a new album, that Brian and Darren would step aside. We brought in drummer Jimmy Degrasso and we carried on as Black Star Riders. We can still play the Thin Lizzy songs in the Black Star Rider set—it’s the best of both worlds I think.
OMN: Ricky I believe you’re the man responsible for naming the band correct?
RW: Yeah that’s right. You know they left it up to me. Scott said “You come up with the lyrics, you come up with the name!” [laughs].
OMN: As a fan of Thin Lizzy I’m curious what your thought was on the John Sykes and Scott Gorham re-launch of Thin Lizzy?
RW: I never saw it live for whatever reason I was working really hard on the solo stuff at the time. I was touring hard and never managed to get to a show. John is a great guitar player and a great singer too. He was a part of Thin Lizzy…they had every right to go out [as Thin Lizzy]. Who am I to criticize them for doing that? What I have hear it was great. John came in at the tail end of Thin Lizzy’s career and they went for this harder and more metal kind of sound. That’s fine. I think the difference between John and I is that I’m a ‘dirty rock ‘n’ roller.’ I’d like to think that I kept Lizzy more in the same vibe that it was; more rock ‘n’ roll. That’s certainly no slight on John; two different people, two different takes.
Read more at the Oregon Music News.