Chris MacDermott of The Aquarian Weekly recently conducted an interview with BLACK STAR RIDERS and THIN LIZZY members Ricky Warwick (guitar, vocals) and Damon Johnson (guitar). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Aquarian Weekly: As a huge THIN LIZZY fan, I have to say that I really appreciate the fact that you decided to change the name of the band for this album. It made me more inclined to listen to it under the name BLACK STAR RIDERS than if it came out as THIN LIZZY. It must have been a difficult decision.
Ricky Warwick: We had every intention of putting it out under the name THIN LIZZY. We got the green light from Scott [Gorham, guitar] about a year ago that it was time to start writing. As musicians and artists, that’s what we’re put on this earth to do. So Scott says, “Let’s do this. Let’s write some new stuff and see how it goes.” Damon and I already knew this day was coming so we’d been beavering away behind the scenes. We brought them into the guys and they really loved them. We had seven songs demoed as THIN LIZZY and set a recording date. As it started getting closer and closer, you could tell Scott and Brian [Downey] were a little uncomfortable. The rest of us were, too. Personally, I would wake up one morning and go, “I wanna do a new THIN LIZZY record! We’re part of the legacy. It’s gonna be great!” The next morning I’d wake up and go, “We shouldn’t be doing this. It’s not right, it’s a step too far.” Finally, Scott and Brian came in and said, “Look guys, we’ve been wrestling with this. We don’t feel we should do this under the name THIN LIZZY. We should just let history be history.” It was a hard decision to make because we were torn. At that point, Brian said, “You guys should definitely make this record but I don’t want to be part of it. We’re already doing 120 shows a year, I don’t want to do 200 shows a year. I just want to be at home a little bit more and be with my family.” And Darren [Wharton] was feeling the same way. He’s been working on a movie for the last five years that he’s producing. The four of us — myself, Damon, Marco and Scotty — we’re road dogs. We’ll die on the stage with our boots on. You give us 250 shows a year and we’re happy. So we split, but with lots of love. We put THIN LIZZY on ice for the time being, but needed to come up with a band name and forge ahead. We got Jimmy DeGrasso in on drums and BLACK STAR RIDERS was born.
The Aquarian Weekly: What kind of input did [producer] Kevin Shirley have?
Ricky Warwick: Massive.
Damon Johnson: Kevin came in as a THIN LIZZY fan as well, which made it the perfect fit. He was committed to making it a classic rock record. And the only way you can make a classic rock record in 2013 is to put the band in one room, mic up everything and hit record. I’m sorry, but bands don’t do that now. Everything is to a click track. They lay the drums down first and then they start putting stuff on top of it. That’s all cool, man. My kids have grown up listening to those kinds of records and they dig it. But you know and I know that “Fireball” and “Jailbreak” and “British Steel” and “Number Of The Beast” gets you off way more than any of these new records and that’s the reason why. Look, I’m not gonna sit here and say we didn’t use Pro Tools — of course we did. It makes life so much easier.
The Aquarian Weekly: You’ve been playing so long you’ve earned the right to use Pro Tools.
Ricky Warwick: The overdubs were minimal. Just some lead guitars and backing vocals. All the lead vocals were done with the live takes. I was terrified. I said to Kevin, “So we’re going to do vocals for a couple of days at the end, right?” And he’d go, “No, I got it.” And he had! I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with vocals on an album I’ve ever made in my whole life.
Damon Johnson: Ricky relaxed immediately. He had his whole vibe going in there, with candles burning and the lights down. I had him in my headphones and he was killin’ it. I knew it was going to be great.
Read the entire interview from The Aquarian Weekly.
Performance (June 2 at the HiRock Festival in Loreley Freilichtbühne, Germany):