» Ricky Warwick - Black Star Riders
 
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Interview conducted November 1 2019
Interview published November 17 2019

"Thankfully I've never really picked up an English accent."

Black Star Riders put out their latest record Another State Of Grace on September 6th and as the band came to Stockholm on the following tour, Metal Covenant got some time to talk with the band's frontman Ricky Warwick.

Tobbe: Your new record was out in September and as an artist that has been around for quite some time now, does it still feel strange that record sales are counted in hits for streaming and stuff nowadays?

Ricky: The whole industry is so strange now; how everything works. It's not so black and white. There's so many parts to it now, that, like you say, are taken into account for it. But it's nice having chart places. It means something to me. Maybe 'cause I grew up with it as a kid. If your record gets in the top 20, or top 10, it's still a good feeling. I still like that, you know.

Tobbe: But still, as an established artist it must feel kind of disappointing to see record sales keep diminishing all the time?

Ricky: Yeah. I mean, it's terrible, but what can you do? I mean, life is gonna change and technology is gonna get better and better and better. But I'm not prepared to sit there and moan about it and talk about how good it used to be, 'cause I think that's terrible. I think you have to go "Okay, it's happening. How do we embrace it? How do we use it? How can we make it work to our advantage?". 'Cause it's happening. There's nothing you can do about it. You just gotta go forward, right?

Tobbe: Don't misunderstand me now, but why isn't Another State Of Grace just BSR's 4th record and instead something special?

Ricky: Well, there's been a lineup change. And not just Christian [Martucci, guitar], but it's also Chad's [Szeliga] first record he has played on. I think it has really established the band and it seems people have now cut that connection from Thin Lizzy. That we're very much our own band now. I personally felt that after the first record [All Hell Breaks Loose, 2013], but obviously for some people it takes longer.

But after 7 years and 4 albums I think we've earned that respect and earned that right and I think this is the album for me that has cemented that. I think it's the best album that we've made out of the 4.

Tobbe: When you start making a record nowadays, do you have kind of a path in your mind where you wanna go, or do things just happen?

Ricky: Things just happen, you know. You just wanna try and write songs that you like and make you feel good. And I think that's all you can do and then you're hoping that everybody else loves them as well and everybody else digs them too. But obviously this time there was a lot of changes, with just Christian coming in and Damon Johnson leaving, who was involved in the writing. But Christian just came in and Christian and I hit if off straight away.

You know, we started working together and we didn't really miss a beat. We just kept this whole thing rolling. But there's no real concept in mind. It's more of a "Let's just write the best songs we can possibly write, that we like.".

Tobbe: And Damon quitting must have meant some trouble in the beginning since he was one of the core writers.

Ricky: Well, yes and no. I mean, I knew Damon was gonna leave about a year before he left. I could just tell. I knew the guy really, really well. [Pause] I don't need anybody to write songs with. I can write a song on my own. And I have done many, many times. And I've done on this new record. I like writing with other people. So when Damon left it wasn't a case of me going "Oh, my God! I'm never gonna be able to write songs again.". That never even entered my head.

Even if we got somebody in the band, that wasn't a songwriter, I don't think it would have mattered that much. I still would have written songs. Scott [Gorham, guitar] would have still been throwing his riffs. But we got Christian who is a great songwriter, as well as a good guitar player. So, like a said, the transition was very smooth and I think I've even more in common with Christian 'cause we both come from a punk rock background.

So there was an instant chemistry there right away. And nothing really changed. You know, I still handle all the lyrics and I still write a lot of the guitar riffs. Christian did a lot of the guitar riffs as well and did a lot of the arrangements on this stuff too.

Scott brings in his ideas, and Robbie [Crane, bass] brought in a couple of killer ideas as well. So nothing really changed. It wasn't even a hiccup. We knew Damon was going, he gave us plenty of time to let us know that he was going, he went, and we just kind of went "Away. We go on.". And we did, and there was no, like, "Oh, man. What are we gonna do?". None of that. I mean, just the opposite, you know. Very positive.

Tobbe: You guys are always replacing members with already established artists. What would be the risk in taking in someone who isn't so experienced yet?

Ricky: Well, I mean, it wouldn't matter. I think the problem is in these days sometimes it's not enough just to be in one band to pay the bills. Sometimes guys need to be in a couple of bands and you find that more and more that there's people in more than one band. We just wanted to find the right person and the fact that Christian had an amazing pedigree and obviously came from a band as big as Stone Sour is amazing and obviously it's a bonus. But if he hadn't, and he'd still be the same guy, he'd still be in Black Star Riders.

Tobbe: Like you said, the more records you make, the less people are talking about Lizzy, right? And how does that make you feel within?

Ricky: I'm happy, and I'm really happy for Scott, because Scott was the first one to sort of go "You know, we're not playing any Lizzy anymore.". He's got this whole other career now, as well as Thin Lizzy, and I think it's brilliant for him to be doing it for as long as he has and be in another established band.

It's weird because we all love Thin Lizzy so much and they're an amazing band, but to not have to get back into that catalogue and stand alone as Black Star Riders and play… You know, there's 19 songs in the set tonight; 19 Black Star Riders songs. I'm just so happy we've reached that point. 'Cause I didn't know if we ever would. You just didn't know. You didn't know how people were gonna react. But, you know, we've got there, and, like I said, we haven't played a Lizzy song so far on this tour. The plan is not to, going forwards.

Tobbe: Do you have any Lizzy shows planned or scheduled at this point? Any thoughts about doing something next summer maybe?

Ricky: I mean, that's no, 'cause we're gonna be busy with Black Star Riders, doing all the festivals and obviously there's a conflict there. We did, obviously, a couple of shows last summer. That's really a Scott thing. You know, it's his thing. I don't know if there will ever be any more Thin Lizzy tours. There'll be maybe a couple of shows here and there down the road at some point, but, you know, next summer we're gonna hit it hard with Black Star Riders on all the festivals, so.

Tobbe: But still, it's still kind of nice to play those old songs.

Ricky: Of course it is. It's amazing. To sing those songs is a dream come true and it's such an honor for me to sing those great songs, you know.

Tobbe: I guess you have been talking to Scott about being a Hall Of Fame nominee. Maybe for me it's like "Well, anyone can start up a Hall Of Fame.", but still, is that really important or is it just a cool thing to you?

Ricky: I think it's a cool thing. For somebody like Scott, and the influence that Lizzy's had over so many bands for so many years, it's a recognition of all that work and all that time. I think it means a lot to him because Phil [Lynott] was his best friend and I think that's very close to his heart, you know. He's happy, I can tell. He's really honored and he's got a little spring in his step.

And he deserves it. He really, really deserves it, you know. And I think more than anything that's what it's all about. Scott's a good guy and he deserves to be recognized for what Thin Lizzy have done for generations and generations. You know, I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't for Thin Lizzy. You ask anybody, pretty much any hard rock band, and everybody loves Thin Lizzy, you know.

Tobbe: But you personally had great days there in the '90s. You were pretty popular for a couple of albums there with The Almighty.

Ricky: Sure, yeah, but I mean, Thin Lizzy were one of the bands that inspired me to pick up a guitar and be a musician, you know. Absolutely they were. So, it goes all the way back.

Tobbe: So when will I get to see an Almighty gig once again?

Ricky: Never! Never!

Tobbe: Or Ricky Warwick featuring The Almighty?

Ricky: You might see Ricky Warwick gigs when I put out a new solo record. But, you know, The Almighty is done. You know, we had our time and it was great. I'm in Black Star Riders now, who are bigger than The Almighty ever were, so why would I wanna go backwards? There's no point going backwards to go forwards. You know, you go forwards and you stay going forwards.

Tobbe: I get your point. But when I put on those albums, you know. Crank [1994] is my favorite Almighty album.

Ricky: It's my favorite Almighty album as well, but, you know, fuck, to sing like that now would kill me. And, you know, I'm not the same person I was when I was 27 when we made that record.

Tobbe: I understand, but I just got to ask.

Ricky: I don't mind that. People ask me about The Almighty every day and I'm happy that people want to ask about it and I think it's great. But nobody who was in The Almighty wants to reform The Almighty. Everybody is very happy. You know, it's cool the way it is. But I mean, you know, if somebody was really broke and needed the money or whatever, something like that, that's different. Of course it is.

But everybody's in a good place in their life. Nobody hates anybody in the band. I mean, I saw Stumpy [Monroe], the drummer, when we played Glasgow a few weeks ago. He was at the show, we hung out, we had a beer together. So, it's great. So let's just leave it down the road, you know what I mean?

Tobbe: Some people actually claim that rock is dead, and my question to you is: Who will be the next moron to say that rock is dead?

Ricky: Well, I don't know. It's not gonna be me. I mean, maybe I'm a moron in a lot of other ways, but I'm certainly never gonna say that. People will always want rock 'n' roll; no matter what happens. They need it, it's part of their life. Music changes the world, music changes how people feel, it changes their perception, it's an integral part of the human species. It will never die.

Tobbe: What does a regular day look like for you at home?

Ricky: A regular day at home looks like: I get up at 6 a.m., answer emails, make myself something to eat, have sort of 45 minutes to myself, get my youngest daughter up for school, make her something to eat, my wife goes up and goes to work, I drop my daughter off at school, I go to the gym for a couple of hours and come back home, and I write. I write for 2, 3 or 4 hours every day, even if I get nothing to save, 'cause to me it's a job.

So I write, play guitar, whatever. Pick my daughter up at school, make dinner, chill out, usually in bed by 9/9.30. It's as exciting as it gets. If there's a band that I wanna see, maybe we'll go see a show, or a dinner with my wife, a movie, or something like that. Pretty simple. It's a nice life. I like it that way. You know, I like it simple. I don't like being complicated.

Tobbe: Do you think that you have missed out on some stuff because of choice of career?

Ricky: Yeah, definitely. You know, certain things. Obviously the amount of time spent with family. But then I'm a great believer in quality of time over the quantity. I mean, you can be at home all the time and life can still pass you by, because you don't live it. And I think I appreciate the time that I'm at home so much because I do travel so much for what I do.

I don't have any regrets, you know. I've made a lot of mistakes, I've made a lot of bad choices, but I think they've led me to the place where I'm at now in my life and I really, really… Is this touch wood? [Knocks on the table.] I really, really like my life right now. I'm very happy with everything. You know, where I'm at and what's going on. You know, I like the simple things. I just like being home with my family chilling out, you know. And playing music.

Tobbe: Time for some bragging now. What's the best thing about being Ricky Warwick?

Ricky: The best thing with being Ricky Warwick is being Ricky Warwick. [Laughs] I think it's just nice that I've been able to live my dream for 30 years. You know, I've been allowed to do that. And I think that's the most special thing, that I've been able to live the dream that I always dreamt of when I was a kid. And, you know, I'm still living it, I'm still successful at it, and I think that's the nicest thing about it.

Tobbe: Like many other artists you've had some ups and some downs, and how have you personally been able to handle those situations?

Ricky: Some of them I've handled better than others. A lot of the downs have been my own fault of choices that I made. Or certain people that I'm associated with that have brought me down. Instead of walking away or not being involved with those people. And you learn from that. Well, that's what you do. You have to learn. Some people don't and sadly they keep making the same mistake.

I'm lucky that I've learnt quite quickly what works for me, who I need to surround myself with and what not to do. And I think once I figured that out, you know. That's not to say that I still don't have days when shit happens. We all do, you know. I just learn from my mistakes very, very quickly. I was brought up never to complain and that I have to work hard for everything that you get in life.

Tobbe: Is it sometimes starting to get a little bit rough now to be in good form vocally all the time? Both in recording sessions and when singing live?

Ricky: Put it this way: In UK we did 16 shows in 18 days and we did 11 acoustic in-stores where we were playing 3 songs every day. My voice has never been stronger. I've never smoked in my life, I work out 4-5 times a week, I look after myself. This is what works for me. Won't work for everybody. I don't drink very much anymore, I gave up dairy a year ago. Dairy was the biggest thing. The minute I gave up dairy I noticed a change. In about a month I noticed a change in my voice. It got stronger, I wasn't getting as many colds. [Knocks on the table again.] I'm very superstitious, I'm sorry.

That was a big game changer for me and I feel as I go older my voice is getting stronger. You know, I feel good. I feel good up on stage. I don't feel I need to do 2 shows / 1 day off. I can do 4-5 shows; no problem with it. I look after it. I do the warm-ups before I go on stage and all that kind of stuff. And it seems to help, you know. I haven't canceled a show in 10 years through illness. Not one show.

Tobbe: You better knock on wood again.

Ricky: Oh, good that you remind me. [Knocks on the table a third time.] That's the Irish guilt in me coming out there, you know.

Tobbe: But if your voice one day won't live up to your own requirements. What will you do?

Ricky: I'll stop. I would never do this if I thought I was selling myself short, 'cause if I'm selling myself short I'm selling the people short, and that's not fair. I wouldn't wanna be that guy, "Oh, we went and see Ricky Warwick last night, and it was good to see him, but he wasn't as good as he was 10 years ago.". I'd hate that. I don't wanna be that person. You know, [Bruce] Springsteen is 70 and still sounds fucking amazing. [Paul] McCartney, 74 [Actually 77.], still sounds amazing, still doing it.

Those are my heroes. That's what I'm inspired to be. I wanna be like those guys. You know, Mick Jagger, 75 [Actually 76.], still sounds amazing. I wanna be as good as those guys sound when I'm that age. Still be able to sing well, and play well, and perform well. And if I can't, I won't, because I don't think it's any point.

Tobbe: One final question: When you arrived out there in the catering you had kind of an American dialect, and now you're speaking with your, like, normal dialect. Do you listen to yourself sometimes and notice the changes?

Ricky: I'm such a mongrel, 'cause I've lived in so many places. You know, I left Northern Ireland when I was 14/15. I go back there all the time. I lived in Scotland for 5 years, I lived in England for 9 years, I lived in Dublin [Ireland] for 9 years, and I've lived in America for 15 years. I'm a mongrel. My accent is all over the place. You know, if I go back to Northern Ireland, within a day it's full-on. If I go back to Scotland, in a couple of days the Scottish words are coming out a bit more. Thankfully I've never really picked up an English accent. I'm okay with that.

But yeah, it changes, you know. In America, when I moved there, nobody could understand a fucking word I was saying. So you tend to speak slower so people can understand you. But I mean, I think I've held on to my Northern Irish accent pretty good considering I'm 53 now and I've moved about so much, you know.

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Another Black Star Riders interview, featuring bassist Robbie Crane, that was done on the same evening will be published in a couple of weeks.

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Related links:

www.blackstarriders.com
www.facebook.com/blackstarridersofficial
www.facebook.com/rickywarwickofficial