BLACK STAR RIDERS: Interview with Ricky Warwick

photo: Ross Halfin

Ricky Warwick is the lead singer, guitar player, and main songwriter in Black Star Riders. BSR began as a reformed Thin Lizzy, but changed the name when they decided to move on to recording original material. The band’s brand new (and fifth) album is titled Wrong Side Of Paradise (Earache Records), and features the singles “Riding Out The Storm” and “Better Than Saturday Night” (featuring Joe Elliott).

I recently spoke to Ricky about the band’s new album, new line-up, and upcoming tour, among things. Check it out, and check out the links below!

What’s the current line-up of Black Star Riders? You’ve had more changes since making the album.

Yeah, Christian Martucci is no longer with us. He’s had to go back to Corey Taylor because Corey’s busy, working on a new solo record. So sadly Christian had to depart because that’s really Christian’s main gig and the pandemic kinda screwed with our time-line a little bit, and availability and stuff like that. So, right now the line-up of the band is myself, Robbie Crane on bass, Sam Wood on (the other) guitar, and Zak St John on drums. But, for the current 10th Anniversary tour we’re doing in the UK we have Jimmy DeGrasso back on drums, and Scott Gorham is rejoining for the tour – but this tour only!

On the new album you’ve handled most of the writing. How did that go because on previous albums you worked with Scott …

Well I’ve always done the majority of the writing on every Black Star Riders record. I split it with sorta Damon Johnson but i wrote most of the main guitar riffs, I’ve always done that. So it wasn’t really any different for me, I just continued doing what I was doing, and bounce some ideas off Christian. So it didn’t really phase me, I’m a songwriter that’s kinda what I do. You know, Scott didn’t bring in a lot of ideas but what he brought in was always amazing! He’d bring 3 or 4 ideas in on a record, and they were always just fantastic, as you can imagine. So, it wasn’t like suddenly it was all down to me to write it on my own because I’d been doing a bunch of that anyway. Just with the pandemic and not being able to get together I just felt I was able to finish more of the songs on my own before sending them to the guys this time. And in fairness – when I sent them to the guys they were like ‘These are done, let’s record them! We don’t really want to change anything.’ So that’s good on those guys for not tinkering with my vision of what the songs were and just getting it. And that’s just the way it worked out this time around, really.

You’ve got a lot of great riffs on the album. What is your process for coming up with ideas and that? Do you carry around a recorder?

Yeah, it’s old-school. It’s an I-phone, it’s as simple as that. Everything is sung and played in to my I-phone, and then i ‘garage-band’ it, very very basic, and send it to the others and get their input and see what they think. I’m a big believer in the song has to be something you can sit down and play and I’d say 90& of when we write is based around that in it’s purest form so you can pick up an acoustic guitar and play the song right through. And then you can start to embellish it, take it apart and start adding riffs and ideas and stuff like that.

Lyric-wise, what do you draw from?

Everything! Lyrics to me, you’re giving your opinion – your opinion on the world, and your life as you see it, and what effects you. Lyrics are like a diary, so that’s just really what it is – ‘this is what I think, and this is what’s going on around me, this is what’s happening to my friends, my family, and this is what I think is going on politically in the world.’ And you’re giving an opinion. I like to tell stories, I like to create a lot of images lyrically, as well, and bring the person in and have some narrative going on. That’s because the lyricists I admire tend to write that way as well.

Can you talk about a few of the songs here, like the title track, Riding Out The Storm, and Better Than Saturday Night – those all stand out.

Sure. ‘Wrong Side of Paradise’ came about out of sheer frustration with the fact that as a species in society, we have all this fantastic technology and all this wealth and instead of it making us better it seems to be dragging us backwards and making us worse. There’s more hunger and starvation and bigotry and hatred; it’s just complete craziness going on in the world – more than there ever seems to be, when we have the means at our disposal to make the world a better place. And growing up in Northern Ireland I saw what hatred and bigotry and guns and bombs did all throughout my childhood. And it solves nothing, we don’t seem to learn from it, we just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. And it’s people working 3 jobs just to keep a job over their heads, and people just can’t get a head in life, you can’t get that little bit of hope, and we’re all chasing that dream, you know just to get a little piece, and we’re just lied to by politicians, there’s people that are in power that I think should be locked up in jail, and lots of those people should not be anywhere near deciding what’s right for humanity. And it’s just sad. And it’s really directed at that and people that buy in to the whole myth and that whole lie that they have our best interests at heart – because they don’t. And we keep making the same mistakes. So that’s really where ‘Wrong Side Of Paradise’ is about.
‘Riding Out The Storm’ is quite a personal song. It’s quite a narrative of where I’m at in my own life, after losing my parents over the last couple of years and some close friends that passed away, and myself getting older, and the road ahead of me is definitely shorter than the road behind me, And just where I see the rest of my life and where I see what’s happened in the road that I’ve gone down, the choices that I’ve made, the friends that I’ve made And lost. It’s just a reflection of my own life. You know, I gave up drinking alcohol about a year ago and it’s mentioned in the lyrics that ‘the devil comes out when the whiskey goes in’ – I could trace a lot of bad decisions and things being associated with that. And when I stopped things got infintely better. It’s just a reflection on growing up where I grew up and the culture that I grew up in.
And ‘Better Than Saturday Night’ I wrote for my youngest daughter, because she’s such an inspiration – she’s so full of life, she’s so positive, she’s so great. I love her attitude, I love the way she deals with things, and I just find that really inspiring so I wrote that song for her. And that’s just a real upbeat, positive tune.

There’s a lot of great tunes here – As far as the live set, how much of it do you hope to play and put in to the live show?

Thank you. We’re playing a few; I think we’re playing 5 from the new record in a 20 song set. So plenty of old material, but you’re going to get 5 new songs as well.

Where did the idea to cover Crazy Horses come from?

(haha). You know, I’ve just always loved that song since I was a kid, and the guys dug it as well. And I said ‘we should just do it’, and we started messing around with it, and it sounded really good, and they said ‘just do it, let’s put it on the album.’ This is the first cover version that Black Star Riders have ever done. People wouldn’t think that would be an obvious choice for us, but it’s such a great riff and a great song. And great lyrics – there’s great meaning in those lyrics. They were way ahead of their time when they’re talking about the pollution of the planet back in the early ’70s. It just always resonated with me, and I thought let’s just do it, let’s have some fun with it, nothing other than that.

So Scott’s gone on to do the Thin Lizzy thing again, will you be involved with that?

Absolutely, yes!

Is there anything lined up with that?

I’m not sure. I really kinda let Scott that’s his thing, I’ll let him work on that. And if he’s ‘Hey we got some shows.’ Boom – I’m there! I know he’s working on some stuff for later in the year, so I’m sure when it’s all put in place I’ll get a call. So yeah, I’m very much still involved in that, which I’m very honored to be, of course!

The Live and Dangerous box came out, did you get it?

Not yet, it came out a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been in the UK for the last (almost) 3 weeks now, so I believe there’s one waiting for me when I get back to Los Angeles.

How much of an impact did that album have on you?

Huge! Thin Lizzy had a huge impact on me.. and still do to this day. It’s an honor and a privilege that I get to sing those songs, but take away and I’m a Thin Lizzy fanatic – I’m a nut! Phil, to me is the greatest frontman that there ever was. So yeah – huge impact, I can’t stress that enough!

So you have a UK tour coming up. With Scott being there, will that also include songs from the new album?

Oh yeah, we’re absolutely playing songs from the new album. Scott won’t be playing on those. What happens is we come out as a 4-piece and we do about a half dozen songs as a 4-piece and some songs from the new album, and then Scott comes out and rejoins us, and we do stuff from the back catalogue for the rest of the show.

Simon McBride is also from Northern Ireland, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on his being apart of Deep Purple(?)

Oh that’s great! I don’t know Simon, I’ve never met him. But that’s a fantastic opportunity for him, and he’s a great guitar player, so I’m sure he’ll do really really well.

I usually ask people for a Top 10, so I was wondering if you can give me a few albums, obviously the Thin Lizzy stuff….What other albums growing up..

Nevermind The Bollocks by the Sex Pistols, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith Motorhead, Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material , MC5 – Kick Out The Jams, London Calling by The Clash, Ogdens Nut Gone Flake by the Small Faces… yeah, stuff like that. It’s hard to pick 10 off the top of my head.

Are you familiar with any Canadian bands?

Yeah. I’m a big fan of Danko Jones. I love Danko, I think he’s brilliant, I think the band’s great, I think they’re an amazing band. Obviously so many greats like Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Can you give me a few words on the new album cover?

It just depicts me growing up in Northern Ireland where barricades and walls were everywhere because of the situation back then. You know as a kid I was always like ‘Why is our street barricaded off? Why is there a wall there? What’s on the other side of it? Is it better?’ You become fascinated with it. And sadly, I think as we’ve gone on we’re still erecting walls, we’re still erecting barricades to keep us segregated and separated instead of building bridges to unite us and bring us together and get a bit more empathy and understanding going on in the world.

With all the albums coming out, the variants and stuff – do you keep a collection yourself?

I do! I’m a big vinyl junkie myself. I’ve just done a huge in-store tour in the UK where I did 20 record stores in the last 13 days, And I played acoustically at every in-store as well. I love vinyl, and I love record stores. It’s a great way to meet people who have bought the new album. It was fantastic! So yeah, I’m full on when it comes to that.

Anything else you can tell me about the new album?

Well, obviously we’ve got Joe Elliott singing on ‘Better Than Saturday Night’, so that’s cool – if people want to check that out. Joe’s on there, and sounding great! It’s just a killer record! I’m really proud of it. I think it sounds huge, and it rocks very very hard, and people should check it out.

How did you get Joe on the album?

Joe has been a friend for many many years, and Joe produced 2 of my solo records. He’s a really good friend, and I’ve collaborated before with him on stuff. It’s just a no-brainer, I thought he’d be great on the track, and he’s only too happy to do it, which is just amazing.





KJ, 02/23

2 thoughts on “BLACK STAR RIDERS: Interview with Ricky Warwick”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.