BLACK STAR RIDERS: Intervju med Scott Gorham

Scott är gammal i gamet och en riktigt gentleman. Han har levt det hårda livet, men av det märks det inget idag. Rocksverige mötte upp honom i baren på Scandic Malmen strax före giget i Stockholm. Vi drack Pepsi och pratade bl a om tankarna på ett tredje album med BSR och hur den “nya” basisten Robbie Crane fungerar i bandet. Men roligast var ändå att höra historier från den gamla goda tiden med Thin Lizzy, som den där gången han spelade pingis med Freddie Mercury:

We were in Olympic Studios and they were doing one of their albums. We were in the cafeteria and there was a ping pong table and Freddie said “I used to be captain of my a team ping pong team in college.” and I was like “You had a team in ping pong? You know, I´m pretty good at it too.” We had a tournament, best of five, and I did win but I kinda squeaked it and barely won. He was fucking good, man.” He was a coordinated guy.


You´ve been playing live a lot for this album, haven´t you

Scott: Yes, we have, but we took like a three month break and that´s the longest break I´ve had in years. I didn´t know what to do with myself. I didn´t have an itinerary to tell me what to do. (laughs) There´s only so much golf you can play and then it´s like “We gotta get back to work.”

I recently talked to the drummer in Obituary, who said that being on tour is like “jail with beer”. There´s always someone telling you when to go eat, when to get on the bus and so on.

Scott: Your whole day is kinda regiment. When people say it´s not a real job, well, it kinda is. You got your lunch break, you got your dinner break and you gotta go to work for an hour and a half and then you go back to the hotel and then back into the bus by 2 am.


Does it take a week or two before you get into your regular day to day life, when you´re at home?

Scott: If you´ve got a long tour, like three months, when you´ve got a week left, you start to give up and you realize how tired you really are. When you do get home, it takes about a week to getting rid of the road and getting back into civilian life.

After all these years, do you find yourself enjoying it all more now than when you were younger?

Scott: I do. Playing wise on stage, just because you know the instrument so much better than you did back then. I have a policy in the band – No assholes. All the guys in the band, you love travelling with them, you love being on stage with them, because you trust each and every guy up there. Years pass and maybe there were a couple of people you didn´t quite trust, like “Are we gonna be able to pull this off?”. With this band, I know that every night, we pull it off. You walk on stage full of confidence and that´s a big deal in the music industry, confidence. It´s not all about complete talent. If you walk on that stage and have a ton of confidence, you´re gonna pull this thing off, and that´s what we have in this band. It feels good and it feels really safe.

How´s the new kid, Robbi Crane, doing?

Scott: Great. People were wondering how long it was gonna take this new guy Robbie, to fit in? What we did is, that when Marco (Mendoza) was still with us, we had Robbie come to three or four different cities with us, so at soundcheck Marco would go off and do something else and we would exclusively soundcheck with Robbie. We did like three different songs every day, so when Marco was leaving, Robbie just slipped in seamlessly and it wasn´t a problem.

Robbie´s been in a lot of bands (Ratt, Adler´s Appetite, Vince Neil), but not as many as Marco. I remember interviewing Ricky and Damon and them jokingly saying he´s been in about “700 bands”.

Scott: Yeah, he´s a bit of a whore. (laughs) “You´re gonna pay me? I´m there.” Robbie is a different animal and he´d even gotten to a point where he was saying “I don´t need to do this anymore.” and he´s made enough money and all that. Then when we gave him a call, he said “That was a whole other thing.” and he jumped straight on board. I can´t imagine Robbie not doing it anymore. That was all talk. When you watch him on stage, he literally loves being up there and he´s such a talented guy. That´s why so many people want him to be in their band.

Have you been writing and thinking of ideas for a third album?

Scott: Well, we just kinda got through the second one, but knowing Ricky and he´s actually told me he has “reams of lyrics” all ready to go. It´s down to the rest of us and Ricky to start coming up with the different chord sequences and riffs. We started, but we´re probably not gonna be doing this album until probably September or something. Maybe a little bit sooner, so we´ve got quite a bit of time to think about it, which we didn´t have on the last album. When you make these albums, and I know because of the whole Lizzy thing, once that thing is out it´s there for the rest of your life. You can´t take it back. You wanna make sure that everything is in place when you record these things. So to do an album in 12 days or trying to learn 17 songs in six days in rehearsal hall, it´s a push. We discussed that and we´re gonna do it in a different way this time.


Things are so different today. Back in the Lizzy days you had to change tape and cut tape. These days you just push a button. You could work on a song for a long time.

Scott: Yeah, you had to be able to use a razor blade really well. I never got that. “Are you sure you´re cutting it in the right place?” The budgets were a hell of a lot bigger back then too. There was one album and I won´t say which one it is, but we had been on the road for six months or something and it was time to do an album, Phil says to me “Right, you got any songs?” and I went “I thought you had some songs?” and we both went “Shit!”. We actually wrote this fucking album in the studio. These days you can´t do that. The budgets aren´t big enough and time is money. Before you could just throw it out the window and it wasn´t a problem. Now it´s a whole other ball game, plus the producers all wanna work quicker too, because they´re on to the next job. That´s kinda the big difference right there. But yeah, the technology is completely different. When you´re working on Pro Tools it´s just the press of a button.

I wanna go back a bit and talk about Glendale, where you grew up.

Scott: Glendale is like 72% Armenian. I have a theory about this. I went to school with a friend of mine and when you walked into his house, it was Armenian. His mother and father were Armenian and I think they had a little grandmother there too. My friend Dennis became a lawyer, an immigration lawyer, so at 72%, he´s probably stinking rich now. (laughs) I might be wrong, but all the pieces fit.

What was Glendale like when you grew up? What radio were you listening to and were there a lot of bands around?

Scott: There weren´t like a whole lot of bands or a whole lot of musicians. There were a lot of FM stations filled with anything from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to The Who and all that. You were being bombarded by all this all the time, in a good way. It really inspired all of us to do what we do now. There was so much music being played on the radio and dedicated just to those kinda bands and we were all sponges back then. We were these average little white kids, living in average homes. I´m not really sure that any of us could do it, but some of us did do it. The first one to come to England was my sister. She went over on a school trip and never came back. Me and my friend Bob Siebenberg (Supertramp), we both went “What the fuck, man? My sister was the first one to go? My sister was the first adventurous one?” We felt that if she could do it, we could get on a goddamn plane and do it. So it was actually my sister that gave us all a kick in the nuts.

I´m reading the book “Van Halen rising” (Greg Renoff) at the moment and they played a lot of so called backyard parties when they started out. Was it like that for you too?

Scott: Sure. You were too young to play in the bars, because the drinking law is 21, so where are you gonna play? You literally played anywhere you possibly could and the backyard party is a classic example. We probably weren´t very good at all back then, but man, we all thought we were fucking bad ass. It´s what gave you the experience of actually putting on an instrument and playing in front of people. I know people today, that when you hand them a guitar, they turn their back to the audience and go “Shit!”, so you can really separate the boys from the men at these kind of smaller events. If you can´t do it in the back yard, you definitely can´t do it at Madison Square Garden. You´d crumble into a heap of jelly.

What was your first band?

Scott: The first band I was in, was The Jesters and I was 13 years old. We played surf songs and our claim to fame was that we knew 101 surf songs. It was just a three chord progression and you´d call it something. My mother did the most embarrassing fucking thing. She had these business cards printed out that said “The Jesters, surf music with a fresh young sound.” I was like “God mom, really?” and these cards kept showing up at places, like “What the fuck?”

Were your parents supportive?

Scott: My mother was, obviously. My father not so much. He didn´t get the whole music thing. He was a right wing, WWII veteran and a racist. Being in the construction business, all this music stuff was like a passing fad for him and he thought I´d grow out of it. When he saw that it wasn´t, he and I just could not get along, until he saw us (Thin Lizzy) at the Santa Monica Civic. He saw everybody rise out of their seat and he went “Yeah, that´s my boy up there!” and he was signing autographs and all that. I looked down at one point and there´s my mom, in the mosh pit, “Mom, what are you doing there?” (laughs)

I read that the first single you recorded was “The 3rd prophecy” with The Ilford Subway in 1967. That must´ve been a cool experience?

Scott: What is more interesting is that the guy that produced it, was a guy called Terry Melcher (1942-2004). That was the guy Charlie Manson was after. That was all around that time and we were doing this song called “The 3rd prophecy” and Charlie Manson was trying to kill him. I don´t think he lasted that long after that, because that shit scared the fuck out of him. He kinda disappeared up to his mom´s (Doris Day) house, which was kinda crazy if you think about it. You got this fucking mass murderer/serial killer and you go “I´m gonna go up to my mom´s house. I hope he doesn´t kill my mom.” I think the flipside on that single was a song called “Officer Stanley”. Officer Stanley was this policeman in Glendale who was forever pulling us over for any reason he could muster up. We gave him a single and said “We wrote this about you.” And after that he never pulled us over again. (laughs) But it was a shit song. (laughs) It was my first experience of being in the studio. I was 15, so that was pretty cool, to be able to record your first single. I think we only did those two songs. We had these two Beverly Hills rich guys and we were their play thing. We rehearsed in a big room and we just sat there for fucking months and never played a gig. I kept complaining about it and finally we played, at some girls school in Pasadena and it went down ok, but most of the people just sat there looking until the DJ went “Alright, we´re gonna put some real music on.” (laughs)


You were supposed to audition for Supertramp when you came to England, but it never happened. Later on though, you played on the song “Brother where you bound”.

Scott: Yes and so did David Gilmour. Do you remember the tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis? Well, I met him at this tournament that was right before Wimbledon, called Queen´s and it´s the warm up to Wimbledon. I asked the promotor if I could come down and he said “I´ve got somebody that wants to meet you.”, so I met the promotor and he drags me along and puts me right at the end on the court with Vitas and he comes up “Oh, I love your shit, man! I just gotta finish this, ok?” He and I became really good friends and we started this tennis jam. I said “I´ll rent the studio and call up different musicians.” And he said “I´ll bring the chicks and the coke.” And I went “Coke? Really? You?” (laughs) I called up Mick Ralphs (Mott the Hoople, Bad Company), Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company) and my Pink Floyd friends and they all came. We were in this rehearsal place in Shepherd´s Bush and it was amazing. Then John McEnroe walked in and I thought “Holy shit, I didn´t know he played.” I said to him “Hey John, why don´t you take your guitar out.” and he had this camouflaged Stratocaster. He gets up on stage and Vitas takes a solo and Mick takes a solo and then Dave and I take a solo and I turn around to John and go “Ok man, let it rip! Make it sing!” and John just went “Ooohh!” and he´s one of these guys that turns his back to the audience. (laughs) I immediately felt terrible. I should´ve said “Do you wanna just sit here and play chords?”, but I didn´t and I still feel bad about that to this day. I should´ve asked him, but he carried on. When I stopped doing it with Vitas, Pat Cash took over and they turned it into a charity.

A song like “Brother where you bound”, was that a day´s work?

Scott: I think I was there for a couple of hours. It was at Rick´s (Davies) studio at home. A great studio next to a pool and a tennis court. It was a real comfortable atmosphere and I knew everybody, so it wasn´t problem. It was a really easy thing to do. It didn´t take very long and probably sounds like it too. (laughs) I got up on stage with them one night and sang background vocals way before they were ever a big deal band. Be the number one regret

How do you feel about getting older?

Scott: There´s not much I can do about it. It seems like it´s pretty legal these days. The Rolling Stones kinda led the way in that and you´ve got the Led Zeps. When I was a kid, there was no way anybody was gonna make it past 30, but now it´s like all bets are off. If you still wanna get out there and you wanna play and you´re pretty good at it, then why not?

Do you have any regrets?

Scott: Yeah, taking drugs. That´s the big one. I wished to God we´d never started, because everybody would be alive and healthy and we´d probably be out there playing to some degree. I miss Phil (Lynott) and I wish he was still alive, but that´s not gonna happen. That´s got to be the number one regret, that we even went down that road.

While you were doing drugs, was there anything positive that came out of it? A lot of people claim that it opens their mind and they become more creative smoking pot and so on.

Scott: I think Phil thought that, because he did write a couple of really cool songs, being blasted out of his head. I think one of the reasons he got so caught up in it was because “Hell, I can do this again. I´ll just take a little bit more and I´ll get even more fucking creative.”, but the more you take, the worse you get. It´s this downward spiral. With me it was just boredom. There´s a lot of downtime being in a band, “What the fuck do you do with yourself?” You´re out there and you don´t know anybody there, so you sit there in your hotel room and just get high. Everything on TV looks good, even if it´s in a foreign language. (laughs) Talk about a time waster.

Was that one of the major reasons for doing drugs, because of all the downtime?

Scott: Well, I think there are a lot of mitigating factors that kinda led us down that path, like Phil trying to be more creative, downtime, boredom and also the fact that we never seemed to get any bigger as a band. We got to a plateau and plateaud off. I think that was kind of a little bit depressing for us. Not really realizing how much the fans actually really loved us. I kinda wish somebody would´ve said something about that. I get it now, but back then you were so into the mix, so a lot of things kinda bounce off of you and you can´t really take it in. I think those factors were the mitigating parts of why you did these things. Or just being an asshole? (laughs) Might throw that one in there too. (laughs)

Back then, are there any shows that stand out where you felt electrified, like you got a huge ego boost, standing in front of thousands of people?

Scott: There were whole tours of that. We did the Rush tour for three months, we were out with Queen for three months and Journey when they were huge. All arena tours and every night you´re walking out to a sold out audience. How much can your ego take? Even though they´re not our shows, you´re still on it and you hope everybody sells a lot of tickets. People are standing up and applauding, it´s hard not to get your ego get away a little bit. I always tried to keep mine in check, but you could see other people where it kinda got to them, “I am a god!” (laughs) Which is bullshit. You just happen to be in a really lucky situation and you gotta keep telling yourself that it´s not gonna last forever, but enjoy it while you can.


Standing in front of 10.000 people has to make you feel invincible?

Scott: No, you have to have your shit together. I know what you mean. The singer can go “Everybody get up!” and everybody gets up from their seat. Sure, that´s a great feeling when everybody´s following you, but you have to be pretty fucking good to be able to do that. It´s not something you just walk up and do. You practice and rehearse for a long time to get to that stage.

Queen then, what was Freddie like?

Scott: Freddie was fucking great! A really amazing guy. A lot of times on that tour A day at the races tour 1977), I would go out and just sit on the side of that stage and just watch him perform. I don´t think I ever heard him drop a note in those three months. Everybody in that band were great. They pulled it off every single night. Truly a great band. I had a ping pong tournament with Freddie. We were in Olympic Studios and they were doing one of their albums. We were in the cafeteria and there was a ping pong table and Freddie said “I used to be captain of my a team ping pong team in college.” and I was like “You had a team in ping pong? You know, I´m pretty good at it too.” We had a tournament, best of five, and I did win but I kinda squeaked it and barely won. He was fucking good, man.” He was a coordinated guy.

They don´t make them like Freddie Mercury anymore.

Scott: No, I´m afraid they don´t. Great lyricist, great singer and a really good piano player. He kinda had it all and you gotta admire a guy like Freddie Mercury.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

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