BLACK STAR RIDERS Drummer Says Band Didn’t Intentionally Try To Sound Like THIN LIZZY

Roger Scales of recently conducted an interview with BLACK STAR RIDERS drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. Your new band BLACK STAR RIDERS was born from the last incarnation of THIN LIZZY. With the amount of talent contained in BLACK STAR RIDERS, does it feel like a brand new band for you with something to prove?

DeGrasso: Boy, that’s an interesting question. In some ways, I think so. A lot of people were curious what we were going to do. The band had a solid foundation, so I do think there was an expectation for something solid. The last lineup of THIN LIZZY did really well. It did so well that Scott [Gorham, guitar] felt he needed to create a musical entity outside of the LIZZY legacy. He started to create some new material with Damon [Johnson, guitar] and Ricky [Warwick, vocals/guitar] and that’s how BLACK STAR RIDERS was born. There were a lot of people that wanted it released as THIN LIZZY and others that were vehemently opposed it being released as THIN LIZZY. It’s been a very unusual situation (not in a negative way) of what are we going to do with this great music? At the end of the day, after much debate, we ultimately decided to just change the name. Honestly, not much has really changed other than, with no disrespect to [THIN LIZZY drummer] Brian [Downey], the drummers have changed because Brian decided that he didn’t want another round of a heavy touring cycle this year. Something I totally understand, because it’s really hard to be away from home. When we decided not to continue on with the name THIN LIZZY, something that we really could have done, the record label [Nuclear Blast], after considering it for a day or so, still wanted to release this because they felt so strongly about the material. It wasn’t the name THIN LIZZY that had attracted them to the project but the strength of the songs themselves. Were all five of you actively involved in the writing process for you debut album, “All Hell Breaks Loose”?

DeGrasso: No, not for the most part. A few things here and there. They [Scott, Damon and Ricky] had been working on these songs for the better part of two years, and there were a few things that I had listened to initially in demo format that was in acoustic guitar with Ricky singing, so I had to then make something out of it. The funny thing about the song “Bound For Glory”, it was never demoed in any format. It was something that Damon and I had been messing around with in an L.A. rehearsal room the day before we went to the recording studio. Damon was, like, “I’ve got these chords and I have this idea. Let’s just jam on this.” We started messing around with it, and within about thirty minutes, we had this thing pieced together. We did a little changing here and changing there and I thought it had some potential for a cool song and didn’t really think much of it because we already had a lot of material all ready to go. We took it and tracked it a couple of days later with Kevin [Shirley, producer] and I thought it was really starting to sound good. Then Scott came in and he added a guitar lead. I was in the control room with Kevin and we both started laughing and then we both said, “OK, now it sounds like THIN LIZZY!” As soon as you put Gorham on it, it sounds like THIN LIZZY. Another funny story along with this one, there was a band right next to us in the studio in L.A., and one of their assistants told me this he was right outside our room while we were tracking and he’s, like, “These guys have really copped the whole THIN LIZZY vibe. Whoever these guys are, they owe a lot to THIN LIZZY.” When I told him who we were, he was, like, “Oh, never mind!” I’ve heard a lot of different takes on the record so far. Somebody said to me it really could have been the next THIN LIZZY record. Couple of people at the label have also said that also and I take it as a compliment. It wasn’t premediated with that sole intent. I know these guys well and I know how they create and they didn’t just sit down and say, “Let’s write a THIN LIZZY-type song.” It’s just the way they write. Damon has been a huge THIN LIZZY fan since he was a little kid and Ricky has the whole LIZZY legacy in his bloodline as well, so working with Scott, the songs just flowed naturally. I hear hints and traces of that here and there throughout each track. It’s not intentional. Really, it just happened. The creative process has been really interesting to watch, because it’s been really organic — no premeditated notions to do one thing over another. I’ve been in bands where the whole focus of the song is, “OK, we are going to cop this vibe, we are going to sound like this, I got this idea from this other single I heard,” and so on. There is no discussion like that in this band. We just come up with licks and ideas and just sort of piece them all together. We are still writing even now, even though the record is done. We had 24 songs for this record. As soon I said I would do this back in October [2012], they sent me demos. Then they sent me more demos. Then they sent me demos that weren’t even demos they were just Ricky and Damon singing some ideas on acoustic guitars. So then they were like make a drum thing out of this. OK… all right. That’s still going on now. They have all still been writing and I know that there are plans to write when we go to Europe in early June. Right now all of the creative juices are really flowing so we want to take advantage of it. I’ve been in bands were there were no creative juices flowing, because they have all dried up. It’s a really exciting time for all of us. There is quite a buzz about your first single, “Bound For Glory”. Was it tough to pick a first single?

DeGrasso: Yes, it really was. Working with Nuclear Blast, we don’t have the traditional label/band relationship. Like, back in the day, you [used to] have an AR guy who says, “You need a couple of songs like this.” “Oh, I don’t hear a single.” “Go back and write a couple more songs like this.” Then suddenly he says, “OK, that’s your single.” Then you focus everything on that one song because that’s the one that’s going to radio first. Radio is a lot different now, so that methodology is outdated. We basically had the record completed, and we were all listening to it and I had a couple of thoughts, and I think based on that, everybody was pretty much on the same thought process, and the label had their point of view. It pretty much could have gone a couple of different ways for me, and that was the one that came up and I said, “Yes, OK.” Ultimately, at the end of the day, it really is the band’s say for the final decision, but we want to be working with the label and forge that lasting relationship. I thought it was a good pick. I think it’s a good representation of the band, along with a strong song.

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