Interview conducted November 1 2019
Interview published January 8 2020
"I don't bitch, I don't complain."
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 bassist Robbie Crane.
An interview with frontman Ricky Warwick containing
some of the same questions was done on the same evening and was published
on November 17th. Read
it here -->
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
Robbie: Yeah. I mean, for sure. It seems a bit
archaic to have the expectation of, like, you know, actual physical
sales. But, you know, we see physical sales as well. I think we're one
of the few bands that still has a solid fanbase that actually goes out
and does the physical thing and wants to pick up an LP, the old-school
records, or even a CD. You know, I don't have a CD player anymore.
So, it's nice to see that people actually do
find value in the physical copies. But, you know, it's the trend of
life. If everything travels with the speed of light you can either buck
the trend or get onboard and try to make it as great of an experience
for the purchaser as well as for us.
that's, I think, what we've tried to do. We try to find and have a meaning
between the two. You know, we still wanna offer physical copies 'cause
we love physical copies. I love having an LP, which is cool to me.
But still, I like to click too. I've downloaded
a record. [Laughs] I did, you know what I mean? To work on it. To work
on the record, because, you know, we recorded it pretty much live, so
to work on the record I downloaded it. [Laughs]
Tobbe: But it must be kind of disappointing
for established artists like yourselves to see record sales keep diminishing?
Robbie: Okay, so let's be truthful. I mean, in
the height of it, you know, where we making millions of dollars? We
were doing good, you know what I mean? But the reality is if you're
eager enough and you have the dedication to wanna go out and tour the
records and invest in it, you know, as a company and as a group, then
you still can do well at it.
And diminishing record sales or not; you know,
it's a matter of creativity and I hate to sound like the old cliché
"Oh, we're artists and we do it 'cause we love it.", but we
generally love it. And as long as people wanna hear what we have to
say we're gonna keep put it out. As long as we have a record label
You know, Nuclear Blast has been behind us the
whole time. They encourage us the make records and they wanna hear what
we have to say. We're willing to do it. They're partners with us in
it and we're excited to do it. So, diminishing or not; we've not seen
it terribly diminished too much. We've managed to be one of the few
bands that recoups our records, which is pretty rare nowadays. And we're
appreciative, man, so it's exciting, yeah.
Tobbe: I'm thinking about what artwork for
albums will look like in 10 years. Will there even be artwork?
Robbie: Yeah. I mean, there's the whole creative
aspect of it that is, you know, lost on this generation, or even generations
prior to us. I mean, remember the '70s and the '80s when you'd get a
record and you'd open it up. Or a CD booklet and you'd dig through it.
And I always took joy in, like, "Who's Martin Birch? He's a producer
guy. Isn't his name on the...? Wait a minute!" and you'd dig through
your records and you'd find "Oh, he did Deep Purple.". You
know what I mean?
find these names of people and you realize that there's all of these
things going on behind. I think that's what made me, as a young musician
kid, wanna get involved; just seeing all these names behind the record.
You know, they were as famous as the musicians to me, 'cause they had
a hand in making this great piece of music that I found joy in.
Tobbe: When I read Martin Birch's name the
first time, that was on a Maiden record, and I didn't realize until later
that he was very active in the '70s as well.
Robbie: Me neither. My introduction to Martin
Birch was Piece Of Mind . Well, actually The Number Of The Beast
 and then Piece Of Mind, but it was on Piece Of Mind that I actually
said "Hey, wait a minute, man! That's the same guy that
he did their last record.". But nowadays you just hit "Click"
on Martin Birch and you get the whole enchilada. Which is great, and
it can be a useful tool, but it can also be a stifling tool for some
generation, you know what I mean?
Tobbe: Even if record sales aren't as good
as they used to be, recording is cheaper than it ever was.
Robbie: It can be. So, I've been lucky enough
to be in different aspects of that. You know, I've been in bands where
you get an advance of money and everyone wants to keep the money and
record the record for as cheap as possible, and it sounds like it! And
I've been in bands, like in Black Star Riders, where we get a nominal
amount of money, and we spend it. We spend it and we try to get the
best producers we can. You know, we did two records with Nick Raskulinecz,
who did the Foo Fighters and Rush and Alice In Chains.
And our most recent record we just did with Jay
Ruston, who has done Anthrax, and you know, everybody else. So we tend
to be willing to put our money where our mouth is, in the hopes that
what we put out is quality and that people will appreciate it and, you
know, they'll invest in it. And so far it has worked out well for us,
so we have no plan of changing that; that way of how we do business.
Tobbe: Don't misunderstand me now, but why
isn't this 4th record of Black Star Riders just the 4th record? Why is
it something special instead?
Robbie: I think it was a change in a number of
things that we did in the approach of this record. I think the last
two records we did with Nick Raskulinecz: Number 1: Were created a certain
way. We had a certain path that we followed, that, you know, is still
with us, which is great. And we changed guitar players and drummers,
you know. Although Chad [Szeliga, drums] joined the band in 2017, his
first record is Another State Of Grace. Damon Johnson's [guitar] departure
allowed Christian Martucci to come in.
I think the energy, and the chemistry, that synergy of the 5 guys, completely
changed our process, as of how we wrote songs; the direction of the
songs. Anyone can take a chord progression and interpret it different
ways, and Christian took Ricky's [Warwick, vocals/guitar] chord progressions
and lyrics and transposed or interpreted them in different ways. So
that immediately changed the dynamic of the music for which we were
about to put out. And then we brought in Jay Ruston, which is a completely
different dynamic, as the way Jay records records. Jay put us in the
room together, the 5 of us, and said "Have at it! Let's record
these songs live and try to get them in the first or second take."
and we quite literally were able to. Definitely for the most part.
Most of the songs are first and second takes
of just Chad and I. Some of the guitars we kept. But that energy of
5 dudes in a room having a jam is captured. I just think that you can
feel the energy in the room with some of these takes. I feel it. And
I think that people capture the energy of that and they're feeling that
we were having a blast making this record. And it's not to say that
we didn't have a good time making the other records and I think it was
a little bit more traditional style, or stale, where you would record
the drums by themselves, and then you'd record some guitars, and the
And to be honest with you I did the bass at the
end, which I thought was cool, because I had the benefit of a semi-painted
canvas to lay my parts on, but it also created a little bit of a staler
you know what I mean? And it's not
Again, through the process
I loved it, but something may be said about playing in a room with your
mates and just having a jam and capturing what you did and keeping it.
And Jay did a great job capturing that band, and the moment, and snapshotting
what we were doing at that moment, you know. We just did a different
thing on this record, and I think it comes off.
And again, it's not to say that it wasn't great
before; it was awesome. But it's just a different approach, with different
players, and although Scott [Gorham, guitar], Ricky and I are all the
same from those last 3 records, and Scott and Ricky from the last 4,
it's just something new, and we just captured it. Chad brought an immense
amount in the studio. Different playing style. More of a songsmith,
as opposed to a basher. Jimmy DeGrasso, amazing drummer, but Chad is
It's just a different style of drumming that fits more of what we were
Tobbe: And Damon quitting must have meant
some trouble in the beginning there. He was one of the core writers. Even
though Ricky just told me that you kind of knew for a long time that he
was gonna quit.
Robbie: Damon is a solo artist. You know, we've
always known that. I've known him as that, first and foremost in America,
with Brother Cane and all that. He was very straight and honest with
us, that he wanted to follow his solo career. And we encouraged that
for him, because he's our friend and we love him, and to see him do
what he's doing now is great. He's so happy and content in what he's
doing. He did let us know. It was about two years in the making. He
was letting us know, so we knew that something was gonna happen. When
it finally came to be, we were ready for it.
musically, although we hadn't really written much
We had about
two songs written prior to his departure. Again, Christian coming into
the fold, through Jay Ruston, our producer, put us in a position to
win. The demos that Ricky and Christian did right out of the gate
Mind you, we had never even met Christian. I mean, I had met him one
time through our friend Stefan Adika. They were playing in Dee Dee Ramone's
band together, but I had never, liked, played with the guy.
And the first time we ever actually met him was
when we walked into the pre-production studio. He was standing there
with his guitar on. Scott, Ricky, Chad and I plugged in our instruments
and we just starting having a jam and literally in 3,5 days we had the
whole record done. And again, it's a testament to the energy, to the
chemistry and to the synergy that the band had, and has. And I was saying
this after we recorded the record; I was a little nervous that "Maybe
it was just a fluke. Maybe we were just in a good place at the time
when we were doing the recording.".
So when we got into the rehearsal studio in London
to start with this tour it just picked right back up from where we started
it and where we'd left off. It was great to see that. I think it comes
off live as well.
Tobbe: You guys are always replacing members
with already established artists, like yourself once. What would be the
risk in taking in someone that isn't so experienced yet?
Robbie: Well, with the dynamic of this band,
because of the players that are in the band, I think there's an expectation,
and there isn't any time in the way this band works, because we are
moving forward so quickly and we're two years down the road already,
like we already have dates and stuff planned for two years down the
road and a game plan and we're already mentally working on our next
And because of that forward momentum I don't
know that we actually have the energy or time to train somebody or to
get somebody in the position. Now that's not to say that if, God forbid,
anything happens to somebody in the band we wouldn't consider somebody
like that. But it's easier for us to envision somebody in the band
I'd seen Christian play with Dee Dee Ramone, but I'd never seen him
in Stone Sour, so I didn't wanna not envision him or envision him in
Like I said, we just got together and played
and it just worked out, by luck, by chance. We saw a video from playing
our songs and, like, "Oh, that's perfect. Great! He's the guy!".
And same thing with Chad. We saw a video and said "That's the guy!",
you know. Something told us that was the guy. It just so happened to
be that they were in other bands, you know what I mean? You know, I
don't think it's conscious, 'cause we auditioned a bunch of guys, and
they were great, but it's just "How do we gonna live with the guy?",
you know what I mean?
so many different aspects to it, you know. You live with these people.
You share with them, you comingle, and you know, you coexist, and can
you live with them? We're all alpha males, and we're all dudes, and
we all are the kings of our own castle, so it's kind of hard to find
some ponds in that little pond. [Laughs]
Tobbe: I remember asking Damon a couple
of years ago if you were trying to distance yourselves a little bit from
Thin Lizzy and he told me that will never happen, but now you play only
Black Star Riders songs live.
Robbie: I think for Damon it would be easy for
him to say that 'cause he's in Thin Lizzy, you know what I mean? I'm
not, and nor is Chad, and nor is Christian. You know, Scott Gorham's
in our band and Scott Gorham had a pretty big hand in the writing of
the Thin Lizzy songs with Phil [Lynott], so our music is gonna sound
like that, 'cause Scott's a predominant writer in our band.
Usually we don't give Scott enough credit regarding
the Black Star Riders catalogue. You know, he's the one who penned all
the riffs from, like, All Hell Breaks Lose to Kingdom Of The Lost to
Soldierstown. I mean, those are Scott Gorham riffs. Ain't The End Of
The World and Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down on the new record; those
are Scott Gorham riffs. Scott is a very dominating player in our band
and he's a dominating writer.
So in that, it's up to Scott. If Scott said "Hey
man! I wanna do some Lizzy songs.", by all means we would do Lizzy
songs. We love playing Lizzy songs. When I joined the band we were doing
70 percent Lizzy songs 'cause we only had one record worth of catalogue
to draw from. But at the end of the day that's Scott's call. You know,
he was the one who said "Hey guys! We have 4 records. We're taking
X amount of songs off of each record, that we kind of have to play 'cause
they're singles, and they're fan-requested.
And that puts us at 16 and, you know, we only
have a few more slots to fill and let's try it without doing some Lizzy.".
We had had aspiration of doing it prior too, and it's on all of us that
we kept them in; you know, the two songs that we did. I think in the
last 3 years we've only done two songs, and sometimes we just did one.
We did Whiskey In The Jar at the end and we would do either The Boys
Are Back In Town or Jailbreak. One of the two, but we never did them
both. For the last 3 or 4 years.
at the end of the day it has been great; very well-received, especially
in the UK. We were a little
You know, you never know what people
are gonna think. And I think people appreciated the fact that we were
willing to stand on the laurels of our own catalogue, as opposed to
resting on Scott's, you know what I mean?
Tobbe: I totally love it.
Robbie: Yeah, it's great. It's cool, man. So
Scott has asked me to play in Lizzy a few times and I've told him "I
love you, bro, but I don't wanna be in Thin Lizzy.". You know,
Phil was one of my heroes. So I wanna be in Black Star Riders; I don't
wanna be in Thin Lizzy, you know what I mean?
Tobbe: It's cool for Scott that they're
getting nominated for Hall Of Fame.
Robbie: Yeah, what a great experience. If you
would have told me when I was 15, or 25, or 35, that I would be sitting
in a band with Scott Gorham while he's getting nominated for the Rock
'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, I would have called you "Full of it
But what a great experience. He's such a humble, honest, cool cat. I
could think of no one other that I would want to receive that. Just
the nomination is, like, you know, winning an Oscar in itself. It's
cool to be recognized, man. And I'm proud of him, and it's cool to be
playing with him.
Tobbe: Some people claim that rock is dead,
and my question to you is: Who will be the next moron to say that rock
Robbie: Well, I mean, the people who tend to
say that are the ones who are a fan of a certain genre. As we all know
there are genres that, you know, killed themselves. You know, whether
it would be the '70s, the '80s, or disco, or punk, or whatever. They
kind of imploded on themselves because of the continued regeneration
of each other. It was, like, the 10th version of that. And growing up
in Hollywood, where I grew up, I saw a lot of the earlier bands; [Red
Hot] Chili Peppers, Guns N' Roses.
You know, in early forms, and bands that followed
that and became 7th, 8th, 10th generation, with expectations of, like,
you know, "We're the next Guns N' Roses.". - "No, you're
really not. You're, like, 10 years behind, bro.". [Laughs] And
so, they kind of ate themselves. You know, I played with a lot of '80s
band and I've been around a lot of those dudes, and they would blame
Nirvana or whatever and I was always like "No, you guys made crap
Everybody got sick of lickety-split and kiss
my chick and, you know, the hairspray thing. That's the truth. So their
version of rock may be dead, but there's so many great rock bands out
Tobbe: If we put music aside, what does
a regular day look like in your life at home?
Robbie: Oh, man. I have two kids. I own a business,
so I get up at 5.20 in the morning. I'm a big morning person. I go for
a run, walk my dogs, take my kids to school, call Jack Taylor in England
and laugh at him. I live in California, Los Angeles, so life is great.
Then I kind of go about my day. I have a business that I run and I just
kind of do my own thing. I just kind of enjoy my day, to be honest with
you. I'm not too overly crazy. I don't burden myself with anything.
Yeah, I just enjoy it, write music and enjoy myself.
Tobbe: Do you think that you have missed
out on a couple of things because of your choice of career?
Robbie: Like what?
Tobbe: Well, like family life, or friends.
Being a football player, or whatever.
Robbie: No, no, not at all. I'm 50, man. I don't
have time for friends. [Laughs] When I was, like, 15 maybe, you know
what I mean? You know, when you get to a certain part in your life,
you're just, like, "It is what it is.". You just get on with
it, and, you know, have a great family and a solid family life. And
I have my really good friends that I hang out with, and I've got my
band, and everything is cool.
I feel like I miss something? - No. We own a big diesel pusher, a coach,
like a 40-foot bus, and we travel, we go on vacation with our animals
and our kids, and we get to see America and whatnot, and we just kind
of enjoy our lives. So no, I feel very blessed that I'm able to
If anything, I go out and do what I do now and if I miss a birthday
or two, or a holiday, it's all good. I get home and make it up, you
know, 'cause I'm home for two months, you know what I mean? It's cool,
it's a great experience.
Tobbe: Let's hear some bragging now. What's
the greatest thing about being Robbie Crane?
Robbie: That I can walk to my own beat, I can
live my own life. I mean, I've been lucky, in that I've had a 30 some
odd year career, and I've been very fortunate to be put in a position
and play with the artists and musicians that I've played with. And to
be where I'm at right now in my life playing in the band that I'm in...
I mean, I'm very lucky and fortunate. I don't take it for granted at
all. I still appreciate what I do.
I don't bitch, I don't complain. We have a very
hectic and busy schedule out here and it's par for the course, you know
what I mean? I'm down to do whatever it is. Yeah, stay positive. That's
the most important thing, yeah. 'Cause the negative can eat you alive.
I've been in bands that were just negative. You know, like "Wow!".
We're lucky, 'cause we're able to wield a lot of that out of this band
and this is just such a positive group of guys.
Tobbe: You've had a 30+-year career and
you obviously had ups and downs. Every artist has that.
Robbie: I don't see it that way. I always say
that I've never been up here, you know what I mean? Like, I never was
a rock star. I was always just kind of in the middle. You know, just
kind of made a living out of it. And I can still go work a normal job
and have pride in it, or I can play in a band and be prideful of it
too. I own my home, I have a good life and I have nothing to complain
about. I was lucky though.
I was lucky that I, you know, was able to make
money early in my career and then my sister was able to help me invest
it. You know, buy the house that I'm in today. I mean, I would never
had bought the house I'm in today. I was 22 and I was like "I'm
not buying that; I'm going to a strip club.". [Laughs] And my sister
was like "No, you're gonna invest it and buy a house.". And
I did, so I'm appreciative 'cause, you know, it put me in the position
that I'm in today. Which is great, yeah. Things are good.
An interview with frontman Ricky Warwick containing
some of the same questions was done on the same evening and was published
on November 17th. Read
it here -->