Black Star Riders – HEAVY FIRE
By MARK SNEDDEN
On February the 3rd Black Star Riders release their third studio album, Heavy Fire. For the uninitiated, Black Star Riders was born out of a Thin Lizzy reunion in 2012; after original guitarist, Scott Gorham, reformed the band in 2010 and then decided to record new material. The band has gone through some tumultuous line-up changes but essentially has solidified between Gorham, Damon Johnson, Jimmy Degrasso (Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies and Alice Cooper) and Ricky Warwick (The Almighty). Heavy Fire, as stated, will be the bands third studio release, on the back of All Hell Breaks Loose (2013) and The Killer Instinct (2015).
The hard rock scene has seen numerous releases over the last ten to fifteen years, however, most releases, in my opinion, lack sole and sincerity, particularly in the age of digital recording and mastering where recorded material “can appear to be,” too perfect. The Black Star Riders essentially are an anomaly to this, as they are a hark back to analogue recording and the passion and grit of a bygone scene. I was lucky to catch up with front man Ricky Warwick to discuss all things Black Star Riders and a little The Almighty.
Ricky where do you see Heavy Fire fitting within the hard rock scene of 2017?
“Hopefully it is sitting right up there at the top! The great thing with it is that we are a relevant band and we are not just making music for the sake of it. We treat it with respect and with soul and heart. We are here for the right reasons and we are really enjoying what we do.”
What stands out for you on the album, now that you are looking back on it on completion?
“I am really happy with it but it is our third album and I think that we are coming together as a unit and a creative band. We have grown rapidly over the last three years and it is the most complete album we have done, without a doubt. It has given us our own identity So you know that is what actually stands out for me.”
Can you talk us through the track “When the Night Comes In?” Is this a little autobiographical?
“I think there is a bit of that in every song you know. I just wanted to write a direct in your face rock song. I wanted that traditional energy. I sat down with Damon (Johnson) and I had some initial ideas for the verses and a chorus. Lyrically it is about realising we are all mortal and for people to try and make a difference in life and be free. We aren’t here for long and we need to realise that and make the most of it.”
How did you actually get the gig in the reformation of Thin Lizzy?
“I got a phone call from Scott Gorham, I had known him for years. He actually played on my first solo album in 2002. My name was put in to the mix as a singer and he called me up out of the blue and asked me the question. That simple really! How could you say no?”
So how did the transformation from Thin Lizzy to Black Star Riders come about?
“We wrote some songs but we didn’t feel it being okay to record without Phil and call it Thin Lizzy. It felt disrespectful; we were all uncomfortable about it. After touring for a couple of years as Thin Lizzy, Scott, Damon and myself were left with these songs and we went from there. We really wanted to get them out and so we branded it all as a different band and this has worked out well for us. We have sincerely created something new and upheld the integrity of Thin Lizzy”
I would like to focus a little now on The Almighty, how did the band come about?
“I moved to Scotland when I was Fifteen and I met the drummer, Stumpy, in school. We were all kids and we started rehearsing in front rooms of our houses. I got my first electric guitar and Stump had his drums so we were away. We actually learnt to play as we went along. Then I got the offer to play a tour with The New Model Army, I did the world tour with them and I learnt a lot. From this I focussed this energy and experience into The Almighty and the band was only too happy to jump on board and we were up and running and within a space of year we had some great songs and a label.”
What are your fondest memories of The Almighty?
“I think that it is everything that we achieved you know. From sitting in a pub in Scotland and just thinking through what we wanted and dreaming about recording music, playing in other countries and it all came true. It was a great time we were young and naïve and stupid and we were a great band live. This band pretty well took up my whole twenties and so it defined who I was and I grew up as a part of it.”
To focus on the bands Donnington gig in 1992, which is documented on the special edition version of Powertrippin’ (1993) with a live six track EP. What was this experience like for a young British rock musician?
“I think what hit me was that I had been there in 1988 as a punter. I got the overnight bus from Glasgow at the time with my girlfriend and we saw Iron Maiden and Guns N Roses and thinking that it was amazing. You know four years later I was on the stage, it came true so quickly and we were firing on all cylinders as a band at that point. I can actually tell you how we got on the bill. I became a friend of Steve Harris and he invited me to their launch party for Fear of The Dark and it had a sideshow feel. One of the things was a soccer goal set up and you had to kick a soccer ball through the whole and you got points for it. I got 100 points and Steve Harris said if you do that again you will get on the bill at Donnington, and I did it. I think we must have been in the mix for the bill anyway but this was a funny thing. But what an experience and a thrill it was. Amazing.”
Now The Almighty was a band that was always destined for bigger things but the band unfortunately, despite having the songs, good timing and musicianship, just didn’t seem to get to that next level. Do you see it this way?
“I don’t know, we achieved a lot of success in Europe, Japan and the UK. You know we were making a living for over ten years on the back of our music. We couldn’t crack the US and there was loads of business stuff going on in the back ground as there always is with labels and the business side of the industry. You know I don’t analyse it, as we did have success. We gave it a go and that is just the way it all panned out. You know you can beat yourself up about it but the dice didn’t roll for us in some markets and that is okay. I am very proud of our achievements in The Almighty.”
To come back now to Black Star Riders, where do you see the band heading is there a road map?
“We plan around every record and when we will be on the road. We want to keep going and we feel that we are only just coming in to our own as a band. There is plenty of gas in the tank and we have a great camaraderie, it is a great thing going on and I can’t see us stopping any time soon.”
Is there any chance of the band touring Australia?
“We are working on it at the moment. We really want to come down there so we will do whatever we can to make it happen. Hopefully this year.”
What parting words do you have for your Australian fans?
“The support is always appreciated and never taken for granted. We are just dying to get down there. Thank you all so much for your support and take care.”
Ricky is a stalwart of the hard rock/heavy metal scene and is someone who history will serve well and it was a privilege to speak with this amazing and sincere man. The Black Star Riders, as stated earlier, are an anomaly, their music transcends genre and trends with its pure sincerity and passion and I really can’t wait to hear the full album in February and hold out for a possible Australian tour! Heavy Fire is released through Nuclear Blast on the 3rd of February and I can assure, even in advance, that this album will not disappoint as the previous two offerings were killer!!
BLACK STAR RIDERS: Heavy Fire is release on February 3rd via Nuclear Blast Entertainment
Order here on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/heavy-fire/id1172532106