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Amazing Grace: An Exclusive Interview With RICKY WARWICK Of BLACK STAR RIDERS

By Cynthia Fields-Jalil, Writer/Photographer
Sunday, October 20, 2019 @ 9:57 AM

"We don’t sit down on go “we need to sound like THIN LIZZY”. That’s never been on the agenda. We sounded the way we do because we have a guy called Scott Gorham in the band."

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Live Photos By Larry Petro/Petrofyed Photography
Band Photo Credit Robert John

Hey there all, it’s Cynthia here with another KNAC.COM exclusive interview! This time around I had an opportunity to chat with BLACK STAR RIDERS lead vocalist Ricky Warwick about BSR’s 4th and latest studio release Another State of Grace, released on September 6, 2019. We discussed the guys’ new release, THIN LIZZY, and a few things in between! Ricky is not just an amazing vocalist, he is also one of the nicest, family-oriented, down to earth musicians that I have ever had the pleasure of chatting with! I hope y’all enjoy reading this chat as much I enjoyed conducting it!

Read On!

KNAC.COM: I had the pleasure of seeing and shooting you, Scott (Gorham, guitarist ), Damon (Johnson, guitarist), Marco (Mendoza, bassist) & Jimmy (DeGrasso, drummer) here in Houston, TX at The Concert Pub North when y'all first started BLACK STAR RIDERS aka “The New THIN LIZZY”.

WARWICK: Oh, I remember that! Yeah, it was one of our first tours in the states!

KNAC.COM: It was! It was truly a magical evening for all of us Houston fans that were there. Watching you nail all of those THIN LIZZY songs with so much passion & energy left me completely blown away!

WARWICK: Awww, well that makes me feel great, thank you so much!

KNAC.COM: Now that BLACK STAR RIDERS has 4 album credits (All Hell Breaks Loose ’13, Killer Instinct ’15, Heavy Fire ’17 and Another State of Grace ’19) under your belts, can you please share with us how you & Scott came together to birth this band?

WARWICK: Well, I think it’s been well documented. The band was formed out of the version of THIN LIZZY that was touring in 2012. And there was talk of writing a new THIN LIZZY record and so we started writing some songs and we decided that wasn’t a good idea - that it was disrespectful to write a new LIZZY record without Phil (Lynott, original THIN LIZZY singer), the great man not being here and rightly so! So when we decided that we’d do that, we were obviously left with all of these songs and I said to Scott Gorham, “These songs are great, people need to hear them, let’s put a band together, and change the name!” BLACK STAR RIDERS was born - here we are four albums and seven years later!

KNAC.COM: Was BSR a side project during the band members' downtime from their other bands & projects, or was it something that you all hoped would turn into what it is today?

WARWICK: No, I mean it WAS born out of myself, Scott, Damon, and Marco that were in that touring version of THIN LIZZY that’s when we played on that first album. Jimmy DeGrasso came in and played on drums and we made the record. We didn’t know if the record was going to be successful. We didn’t know if people would take to the idea of this band coming from where it did, but you know thankfully they did! And we got behind the band and now BLACK STAR RIDERS morphed into…it's a stand-alone band. Like I said we're four albums into this thing and we're very much our own band. You know we don't really play any more THIN LIZZY songs anymore, we're a full-on functioning BLACK STAR RIDERS.

KNAC.COM: Since I first saw BSR, bassist Marco Mendoza has been replaced by Robbie Crane - formerly of RATT, ADLER’S APPETITE & LYNCH MOB, Jimmy DeGrasso ultimately by drummer Chad Szeliga - formerly BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, BREAKING BENJAMIN & Scott Stapp and Damon Johnson recently by guitarist Christian Martucci - formerly STONE SOUR, Cory Hart & Dee Dee Ramone making you & Scott Gorham the only original BSR members today.

WARWICK: (Laughing). Yeah, me and Scott must be really hard to get along with!

KNAC.COM: (Laughing). So, what led to all of those changes?

WARWICK: Hmmm, well Marco went off and joined THE DEAD DAISIES and so that was Marco. Jimmy left and went back to RATT very briefly so that was Jimmy. And Damon wanted to concentrate on his solo career and really kind of tour under his own schedule. We would do long tours in Europe, and I think Damon was finding that increasingly difficult. He has a young family and he just decided he wanted to be more in control of his own destiny and so he went off to concentrate on his own career, and so that was Damon.

KNAC.COM: Well ya know Marco is no longer in THE DEAD DAISIES either.

WARWICK: I do, yep!

KNAC.COM: We’re kinda bummed because he was amazing with y’all and with every other thing he’s done. He’s just a great guy overall!

WARWICK: You know Marco’s a fantastic guy and an amazing musician but you know with no disrespect to Marco, for us getting Robbie Crane in the band was amazing! Robbie is unbelievable and such a great fit for BLACK STAR RIDERS and he’s brought so much! He’s been in the band for five years believe or not! He’s brought so much to BLACK STAR RIDERS. Yeah, we lost Marco which was a real shame but we found Robbie which was amazing.

KNAC.COM: So, here's my next question which kinda leads into that. So, what are some of the character and musician traits that helped you & Scott decide if Robbie, Chad & Chris would be a good match for BSR?

WARWICK: You have to have a certain sort of swagger and attitude. I mean anybody can play but, I guess you've got to play in the right way. Obviously, if you're a guitar player, you're playing a lot of gelled songs with Scott Gorham and so you have to be able to adapt to that and be in harmony with Scott which is not an easy thing to do. And then I'd say honestly fifty percent of it is about the hang! Are you a good person? Can you hang? Are you polite? Are you respectful? Do you want to be apart of "the band?" I think fifty percent of that IS really personality and being able to hang, to be honest with you.

KNAC.COM: Wow, okay - it makes sense. Many congrats to you and the guys of BSR for your recently released fourth album titled Another State of Grace. Can you please share with us what the writing and recording process for the new album was like considering the band is now made-up of musicians with backgrounds in heavy metal, classic rock, alternative rock, grunge, punk-rock, jazz and several other genres of music?

WARWICK: Well, that's the great thing about music - is that we're made up of so many diversified musicians who all listen to so much stuff! But when we come together as BLACK STAR RIDERS we have a defining sound that I believe is very unique about BLACK STAR RIDERS. I don’t think anybody sounds like BLACK STAR RIDERS and I’m very proud of that! The writing process was really easy. We start working on ideas, we send them back and forwards to each other, I do the majority of the writing. I did a lot of time with Christian working on demos. Scott and Robbie would bring in their guitar ideas and once we put like sixteen/seventeen songs together we did about a week of pre-production in Los Angeles and then we got together with our producer Jay Ruston, went into a studio in LA and recorded very quickly in about two and a half weeks! And recorded it as live as we possibly could. And yeah, great process - had a lot of fun in the studio! We recorded it in a studio called Sphere Studios in Burbank in Los Angeles - a great studio, a beautiful studio in fact! And we just had a blast, we just had a really good time! We knew the songs were strong and we felt good going into it. The new guys in the band brought a lot of positive energy to the band, and they played their asses off on the record, and all around it was just a wonderful experience!

KNAC.COM: So, I’ve noticed that BSR’s latest release has stepped even further away than the last album from the classic THIN LIZZY sound. Was that intentional?

WARWICK: Well, we’ve never really tried to sound like the classic THIN LIZZY like ever…maybe on the first album when we were writing some songs and like I explained and we thought that they might come out on a LIZZY record. We don’t try to sound like THIN LIZZY at all. We don’t sit down on go “we need to sound like THIN LIZZY”. That’s never been on the agenda. We sounded the way we do because we have a guy called Scott Gorham in the band. He was a huge part of that THIN LIZZY side and the way he plays guitar is unmistakable because of that! So, we've got that guy in our band so that's going to give us that sound - that's just the way it is, that's just a fact (laughing) and we love that and it's great! But, we're very much BLACK STAR RIDERS. We don’t sit and go “we’ve gotta recapture the sound that LIZZY had". We just try and write uplifting good rock and roll songs that we like and then we just hope that when we put them out there, everybody else likes them!

KNAC.COM: So, will BSR continue to play THIN LIZZY classic songs like ”Whiskey In The Jar” or ”The Boys Are Back In Town” live or do you plan on gradually eliminating those from your live performances altogether?

WARWICK: We already have! On the last tour, we were just playing one…one THIN LIZZY song live. This time around there won’t be any. I mean we’re four albums into this now and seven years!

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I think so…I think it’ a great idea! I mean you guys are definitely a solid band and you’re on your way!

WARWICK: Well you know like I said we’re BLACK STAR RIDERS, we’re not THIN LIZZY.

KNAC.COM: Yes! Well, I just remember on the posters and things you were promoted as “The New THIN LIZZY” is what the catch was…

WARWICK: You know promoters go for that to sell tickets and I totally understand why they do that. They want to try and get as many people as they can through the door as possible and I’m totally fine with that! Ya know when we did our first tours we didn’t have enough material to play a full BLACK STAR RIDERS set (laughing)! And so we kinda had to play THIN LIZZY songs. On one record you’ve only got eleven songs - you need to play for an hour and thirty minutes and so you need another six songs. So, you know you dip into that THIN LIZZY catalogue. But, gradually over the years, anybody will tell you that gradually that's gotten less and less as we've made more albums. And now that we're four albums into this and out of respect for ourselves, and I think out of respect for THIN LIZZY as well, it’s time to sort of close that door and concentrate on being BLACK STAR RIDERS.

KNAC.COM: So, according to Scott, the THIN LIZZY band will never die and will continue to perform in the future, will you continue as the lead singer as well?

WARWICK: As long as Scott Gorham wants me to!

KNAC.COM: What do you do to maintain your vocal ranges and things like that? Do you have any kind of special thing that you do with your voice?

WARWICK: Nope (laughing)! Listen, my vocal range is pretty limited. You know I don’t have a great vocal range I have a baritone voice and I know what my limitations are. I try extremely hard to stay within those limitations because I know what I’m good at doing. I’m not going to be able to hit those notes like say Robert Plant (LED ZEPPELIN) or Chris Cornell (SOUNDGARDEN, AUDIOSLAVE) or any of those amazing singers can hit. I just can't do that you know, it's not in my DNA! But, I know that I'm good within my limitations and I work on that and I sing and play as much as I can just around the house basically you know. But really, there's no real regimen. I mean I look after myself. I'm fit, I go to the gym four or five times a week. I run, I don't smoke and I don't really drink, I don't do any drugs you know so... I'm fifty three years old and I feel like I'm twenty-three! And that's really all I can say and it works for me! It might not work for anybody else, but it works for me!

KNAC.COM: There are so many different messages in the makeup of each new song on Another State of Grace and so I thought it would be fun if you could please give the BSR fans a quick summary of what each song is about?

WARWICK: Alright, well that’s never easy! (Laughing) All ten of them? I can’t even remember what order they’re in!

KNAC.COM: (Laughing) You don’t have to necessarily do it in order, I just would like to know.

WARWICK: I can tell you basically what I write about, I think that's easier. I hate to sort of go into that because if somebody listens to it, and they think it's about something different to them, then that's what it's about!

KNAC.COM: Oh, okay gotcha!

WARWICK: You know what I mean? I kinda like that idea. I mean I wrote it about something but if they hear it and they go "Oh, he's singing about this" and I'm not, but if they think I am and it means something to them - then I've connected with them so that's okay! I mean I'll write about politics. I write about friends. I write about family. I write about what I think. I write about what's going on in the world. It's really…it's my opinion's on life and this crazy world that we live in. And that's all I'm doing, I'm not preaching, I'm not saying "this is the way it should be", cause I don't have the answers - far from it! I'm just giving an observation and what I see that affects my family, my friends and where I live and where I'm from you know. I'm very much a prophet of my culture. I write a lot about Ireland. I write a lot about growing up in Ireland. I write about the effect that it had on me growing up as a kid there and you know, it's almost like a therapy for me the songwriting. I'm not very good at explaining myself to people when I'm talking and I'd rather put it in a song. And for me, that's what they are. They're almost little 3 1/2 minute therapy sessions.

KNAC.COM: So, which of those songs is your favorite & why?

WARWICK: (Pauses) It's hard to pick one, it's like choosing your favorite kid. It changes every day you know. I love the song “Why Do You Love Your Guns” a lot. That’s a very personal song to me. And I really love “Another State of Grace”, the album’s title track. It’s just such a great uplifting bombastic Celtic rock tune and it always puts a smile on my face when I play - when I hear it! So, those are the two this week, it’ll change next week!

KNAC.COM: So, here are a couple of fun questions for your fans. When you're not on the road with the guys what is your favorite thing to do?

WARWICK: We’re on the road so much! And when I’m home…I have 4 children and so I just want to spend as much time as I can with them and my wife obviously. And I’m just a home bird I don’t really go out. I like to go out to eat at restaurants with my wife. I live in a beautiful part of the world. I’m in Beverly Hills (CA), not far from Santa Monica (CA), so I’ll go to the beach with my kids. And you know just stuff like that.

KNAC.COM: Very nice!

WARWICK: Oh and I'm a big soccer fan and so I watch a lot of soccer as well.

KNAC.COM: Oh, very cool! So if you can share, what are your weekend plans? It's Friday, woohoo!

WARWICK: It's Friday! I mean we've been fairly busy. We've been out a lot and there's been a lot of stuff going on recently and I just got back from the UK (United Kingdom) about 10 days ago. I'm leaving again in less than 2 weeks for about 7 weeks and so again, I'll just be quite at home with the family maybe for the barbecue and do something like that - but a pretty chilled weekend.

KNAC.COM: What’s your favorite thing to barbecue?

WARWICK: Well I don’t eat red meat anymore. So, I guess fish and stuff like that so, I eat a lot of fish. Sorry fishes (laughing)!

KNAC.COM: So, do you cook some of your traditional meals?

WARWICK: No, I’m terrible at cooking! I’m awful at cooking, I’m an embarrassment to cooking (both laughing), but my wife is AMAZING! My wife is from El Paso (Texas), so she does Tex-Mex.

KNAC.COM: Oh wowww, she’s a Texan!

WARWICK: Yes, she’s a Texas gal! She’s a wonderful cook, and I just can’t even compete and so I don’t. And you know she loves to cook as well - she’s all about it!

KNAC.COM: Oh, that’s AWESOME! And so you get a lot of Tex-Mex at the house?

WARWICK: We get a lot of Mexican, a lot of Tex-Mex, but she can cook anything! She’s very passionate about it. There’s a lot of cooking shows on TV all of the time, and it’s definitely her passion and I’m alright with that!

KNAC.COM: What type of musical and personal legacy do you hope to leave for your loved ones and fans?

WARWICK: You know the great thing about making music is that it never dies. And what I can’t understand about people is that when people pass on, is that you shouldn’t be….you write music to leave a legacy you know, let’s why you write it. You write it so that it’s timeless and so that people can listen to it 500 years from now! And enjoy it and that’s…for me as an artist, that’s what I’d want! I would be thrilled after I’m gone if somebody would go and play my songs. I would love it, that’s why I’m writing them! I’m writing them as a legacy. I don’t want them to die with me. God no, I mean I want them to live on forever so, to me the songs are the legacy.

KNAC.COM: And then your personal legacy would be your family, your children.

WARWICK: Yeah! Of course, you want to make sure that they're well provided for and that when you do pass on that they're looked after. You know I'd hate to burden my kids with anything. I want them to enjoy what I did and if it helps pay for some stuff after I'm gone, isn't that great!

KNAC.COM: Do they enjoy your music?

WARWICK: No, God no they hate it!

KNAC.COM: (Laughing). How old are your children if you don’t mind me asking?

WARWICK: My oldest is 22 years old and she’s into different music. And my other one is 21 but he’s more into hardcore like real hardcore stuff! My other daughter’s 19 and she’s got a real eclectic taste. She listens from everything to current stuff to THE WHO, HENDRIX, and then my 12-year-old is just obsessed with Billie Eilish right now.

KNAC.COM: Ahhhh, that’s cool! So, you know we just recently had two musicians pass - Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek (THE CARS). Did you have the opportunity to meet either one of them? And did they have an impact on the type of music and the way that you play?

WARWICK: No, I've never met them, Cynthia. Eddie Money - I wasn’t too aware of because “Two Tickets To Paradise” you know was not a hit in the UK or Ireland when I was growing up, and so I wasn't really aware of that song till I started coming to the states. I'm very sorry for him and for his family's loss. Obviously, he seemed like a great guy - obviously, it was a great song! Just THE CARS. I mean I loved THE CARS! It was growing up sort of in the early eighties and loving new wave and punk. THE CARS were definitely a band that anytime I heard them on the radio, I would turn it up!

KNAC.COM: Did the music of THE CARS inspire you in any way within your writing?

WARWICK: (Pausing) Not so directly no! I mean I love a good pop song, I love a good new wave pop song as well! It's a bit edgy and so I think the inspiration is there for that more than anything!

KNAC.COM: Very cool! So, do you have any parting words for your fans?

WARWICK: THANK YOU! Thank you for everything that you do for me and for the band because without you none of this would happen. And I wouldn’t be here to leave any parting words because if you didn’t support what I do, I wouldn’t get to do what I do!

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