INTERVJU: Ricky Warwick från Black Star Riders

Ricky Warwick har snickrat ihop ett nytt soloalbum och på telefon från hemmet i Beverly Hills berättar han om livet som ung, vänskapen med Joe Elliott, att mima framför spegeln som barn, favoritlåten med Van Halen, Irlandspatriotismen och närheten till Thin Lizzy, även om det står klart att det bara finns en sångare i det legendariska bandet:

Everybody dreams about singing in their favorite band when they´re a kid. I´m no different and that came true. You´re right, it´s been amazing to get so close to it all, but I´m also very respectful and very aware not to get too close. Phil Lynott is the lead singer in Thin Lizzy. There was no other lead singer. There never will be, there never has been and that´s the way that it is. I have the privilege to sing his songs and that´s the privilege that´s been bestowed upon me and that´s the way that I look at it.

To start things off. When was life hard and fast?

(laughs) When we were kids, growing up pre internet, pre cell phones, that whole thing was such a different way of life, than it is when I look at my own kids and what their childhoods are like with all the technology that is available to them. When we were kids and I´m sure you did the same, we just went outside and played until it was dark. We were in the streets and we played with friends and we fell down and we got in trouble. There were no phones or checking in with your parents. If your mom said “You gotta be home by six o´clock, you were home by six o´clock. I think the whole thing was harking back to that time and growing up. Everything we did required effort. If you wanted to buy an album, it required getting up, walking into town or getting a bus into town, physically walking into the record store and physically buying a piece of art and then going home and listening to it. Now it´s like “Klick! Nah, I don´t like it. Next one. Klick!” It´s different today. I think today has its own challenges for kids and I would hate to be a kid today with the whole social media thing and all the craziness it brings for kids and the pressure it puts on them. It´s a long answer to your question, but it just was a time that I remember when you had to be tough and life was crazy. That´s when life was “hard and fast”

How have you handled the social media thing with your kids? I have two daughters myself, 15 and 18. Are you checking what they are doing on social media and so forth?

As much as you can. My daughters are pretty much the same age as yours Niclas. We both know what it´s like. You can´t be the thought police the whole time, that´s the trouble. My youngest is 13 and my other kids are in their 20´s, so they´re adults and can do what they want. But with the 13 year old there are certain platforms we don´t let her go on just yet, like Facebook and Twitter. We have talked to her and I´m sure you´ve had it with your own girls, but we have to trust. It´s just frightening with the access anybody can have to anything anytime, anyplace and it´s tough for kids. In a different way than it was for us.

How long have you been in LA now?

16 years now.

Do you feel like you´ve become more Irish in a way, over the years? More patriotic?

That´s a great question. Yes, absolutely. Very, very much so. I´m very proud of where I come from and I do miss it and I do intend to go back there one day. It´s just a huge part of me and I think I´ve been away from Ireland for so long that I miss it even more. I´m very, very proud of where I´m from and the culture. So to answer your question, absolutely yes.

You moved to Scotland with your family at a very young age. How Scottish are you?

You know, there´s a lot of Scotch in me. My mother´s side of the family is Scottish. Both my sisters live in Scotland and there both married to Scotch guys, so yes, a huge connection to Scotland. Being where I´m from in Northern Ireland, it´s right on the coast and we´re only 15 miles off the coast of Scotland, so there´s a lot of cultural identity between Western Scotland and the Northeast of Northern Ireland where I´m from. The accents are very similar, a lot of the same slang words, a lot of the same cultural connections over the centuries. Somebody from where I´m from would have more cultural identity with somebody from Western Scotland than they would somebody from Dublin. Culturally it´s quite hard just like Northern Ireland. I love them both.

It´s quite a leap for a Northern Ireland boy to end up in Beverly Hills?

It is. (laughs)You know, I´ve moved around a lot. I first lived in Bradford when I was in New Model Army for a little while, I lived in London for eight or nine years and then I moved back to Ireland and lived in Dublin for eight or nine years and then to Los Angeles. I was always fascinated with America when I was a kid. The detective shows that were always on TV – Starsky & Hutch, Kojak and all that type of stuff. And I loved the old westerns and I still do and I was always fascinated with the Americana culture. The first time I came here was when I was with New Model Army back in ´87. I landed in New York where we were playing and it didn´t disappoint, everything was big. I always felt for some reason that I would end up living in America. Then when I met my wife back in 2003 that just seemed to be the way everything was going and I ended up here.

Are you a bit of a vagabond, a bit of a restless soul?

I think I was. I think when I came here, got married and had my daughter I put and end to that. I´m happy and we live in a nice part of Los Angeles. We´re very lucky and I like it here and I feel safe here. As cheesy as it sounds, but if my family is happy and there´s an airport nearby, I´ll live anywhere.

Do you ever bump into any celebrities?

Not really. I´m a family guy so I take the kids to school, I´m tidying up around the house or I´m at home writing in the studio or preparing to go on the road, so I don´t really go out. I see Robbie (Crane) from Black Star Riders and I hook up with Billy Duffy sometimes and when Joe (Elliott) comes over here to play. Now it´s just like we´re mates, you know.

There´s a beautiful song on the album called “Time don´t seem to matter” which has your daughter on it. How did that one come about and it must be such a cool thing and a proud moment to sing a duet with your daughter?

Absolutely it was and way more for me than it was for her. (laughs) I wrote the song about being away and missing the birthdays, missing the graduation and that´s the one dark side of being in a band. Then when I am at home, I get to spend as much time with her as I want. It´s great. To me it´s not quantity, it´s quality of time. I´m here and I don´t have to get up for a 9-5 job which I´m grateful for. That´s the plus side of it, but I remember what really sparked that song was that I knew I was going to be away for her 10th birthday and that´s a big birthday for a little girl. About a month prior to her birthday right before I was about to leave, I said “The reason we´re here is that I´m sorry I´m going to be away for your birthday.” and she burst into tears and I was just crushed. She kept saying “It´s ok dad. I understand.” through the tears and it just broke my heart. I´ll never forget that. We went in and I played it for Keith (Nelson, producer). He loved it and we demoed it. I said “Pepper is a great singer, I got to get her to sing on it.” I talked her into doing it, she came down and did it in one take. She´s got a great voice and it was just such a proud moment. I did that demo in one take, sitting with a guitar in front of a mic and when we tried to rerecord it for the album, we couldn´t get a better version. What you hear on the album is actually the demo.

Are you constantly writing stuff?

Yes, religiously, five days a week. I get up and make sure everybody´s alright and then I´ll go up to a place in my house and get the guitar out and start working on stuff. Even if I come up with nothing that day, I still feel like I´ve done a day´s work.

Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) is on the album. What´s he up to these days?

Andy´s really busy. I got a call from him about three years ago. Black Star Riders had just put out “The killer instinct” and it was doing really well. His kids are growing up and he´s got a great studio and he said “I want to make a record!” so I flew to Ibiza and we hung out and we wrote ten songs. Andy´s recorded a solo album and I think five o..f the songs that I wrote with him are on that album. It´s going to come out 2021 and it sounds incredible. He put out a track (Love or liberation) that I wrote with him and the guy from Reef (Gary Stringer) is singing. It´s a great song. Andy´s always been busy in the studio, but I think he wants to get back out and start playing live.

When was the last time you chatted with Joe Elliott?

(laughs) Joe called me yesterday while I was watching Glasgow Rangers playing, so I didn´t take it. It was Thanksgiving as well so I didn´t take his call. I was completely immersed in the game, so when I get done today, he´s the first person I have to call back. We talk regularly, once or twice a month and sometimes more. Life, football, politics… I can´t really make a record without Joe being involved and I wouldn´t want it any other way. I admire Joe so much for what he´s achieved and for what he´s done and as a person and a human being. I really respect his advice, so when I´m doing something I will send it to Joe and he will give me a straight answer and tell me the truth and that´s great. It´s great to have somebody as experienced and successful as Joe has been. He´ll say “You can write a better chorus!” or “Change that!” I don´t always take his advice but it´s always great to have that. When I do a record Joe is always like “Do you want me to sing on anything?” He´s great!

Did you ever see Def Leppard back in the day?

I did. I saw them in 1987 on the “Hysteria” tour in Scotland. I bought a Gibson white Les Paul custom primarily because of Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols and Steve Clark from Def Leppard.

Joe had a great looking mullet back in the day.

Fuck, didn´t we all? (laughs) I don´t wanna cast stones when I´m guilty myself. (laughs)

We recently lost a real great one, Eddie Van Halen. Did he or the band mean anything to you?

Yeah, I wouldn´t say I was the biggest fan, but certainly a fan. I was certainly in awe of Eddie´s playing, style and sound. “D.O.A.” is one of the… every time I put that song on… it´s such a good song to run to or to work out to. I just fucking love that riff and that sound of his guitar and that song. That´s probably my go to Van Halen song the most. He was a trailblazer and he was unique. Those people don´t come along very often and when they do, they burn very, very brightly and everybody´s in awe of them as we should be. Eddie´s up there as a pioneer. He had a style and a sound that influenced hundreds and hundreds of guitar players.

Did you ever see them live? Did you meet anyone?

I´ve met Dave a couple of times back in the day when he was doing his solo stuff and I also had the privilege of hanging out with him and the band a couple of times. It was great fun. Like everything you´d want it to be and more. But I never got to see Van Halen sadly no.

Throughout the years, what band or which musician would you say has meant the most to you? Is it Lizzy?

Yeah! It´s so predictable, but yes. It´s Phil. Having gotten as close as I have to the whole Lizzy thing, it has changed how I feel about Thin Lizzy as a fan. I can still put on Lizzy all the time and listen to it as a fan. It hasn´t changed for me. I don´t really listen to my own records. Sometimes you go back and revisit them because I´m singing the songs and I wrote them. Obviously I didn´t write any of the Lizzy songs, but I most certainly put on a Lizzy album anytime and just still be the rabid Lizzy fan I always was. That hasn´t changed and I love the fact that it´s still that way for me.

Which is the best Lizzy album?

It´s hard, but “Black rose” probably, for me personally. It´s just something about that record that I love. I love the sound of it, the songs are incredible on it. We got to do that album in its entirety last year in the UK and it was just unbelievable to sing that whole record from start to finish. It´s just the genius of Phil. He was just such a great poet, performer, musician, he looked amazing. I think the guy had it all. It blew me away when I was a kid and it blows me away when I go on You Tube or watch the live stuff from back in the day. I feel the same.

It must´ve been amazing to be able to get that close to the whole mystery of Thin Lizzy?

It is. Everybody dreams about singing in their favorite band when they´re a kid. I´m no different and that came true. You´re right, it´s been amazing to get so close to it all, but I´m also very respectful and very aware not to get too close. Phil Lynott is the lead singer in Thin Lizzy. There was no other lead singer. There never will be, there never has been and that´s the way that it is. I have the privilege to sing his songs and that´s the privilege that´s been bestowed upon me and that´s the way that I look at it. I get to sing those songs and Scott (Gorham) gave me that privilege and it´s amazing and I try doing it the most justice that I can with as much power and love and passion as the songs deserve. I keep my distance from it. I´ve been doing a lot of online shows and I do BSR songs and covers and someone says “Hey, do a Lizzy song!”, but no, I´m not doing it. I´m very respectful of the band thing. When Scott called me up and said “Hey, we´re doing eight Thin Lizzy shows!”, boom, I´m there! Singing the songs like my life depend upon it, but I have no desire to glorify it or puff my chest. That´s not what it´s about at all. It´s about keeping a legacy alive, protecting the legacy and playing the songs so people that didn´t get to see Lizzy or the younger generation will go back and check out Phil and the boys and check out that great music.

Black Star Riders then? Are you writing for them as well? New album?

Yep, it´s done. It´s been written and we were supposed to be in the studio right now recording it, but obviously we can´t. The album´s done and it´s been written and we got all the demos done and we ´re just waiting to get the green light to record it. I think we´ll record it next year, but I don´t see it coming out until early 2022.

You had Jay Ruston as the producer last time. Will he be producing again?

Yeah, we will absolutely use Jay again, yes. It´s already been agreed.

What´s the biggest difference between making a solo album and making a BSRs´ album?

Well, I think narcissism. (laughs) I get to bae a total fucking ass when I´m making my own record. When Christian (Martucci, guitar) came in we just started working together, which has been great. I will write an idea and I know I don´t have to finish it. I will take it to Christian and I´m very aware of what the other guys are gonna cling to it. With the solo stuff I can do what I want and I can write what I want. There´s definitely been moments where I´ve played Scott (Gorham) a couple of the solo songs and he´s gone “Eeehh, why didn´t you bring that into BSRs?” It´s happened a couple of times, but I can´t really define what makes a Ricky Warwick song and what makes a BSR song. They´re both from the same guy, but obviously the personalities of the other guys in BSR, when I give them an idea, they put their mark all over it and I think that´s what makes it BSR. And I know there are certain things fans expect from BSR that I think we have to not lose. It´s important.

Being on stage as a front man, is that the greatest drug? It has to be the greatest ego boost, right?

It is. The adrenaline you get… From where I´m talking to you know, is where I write. To see something come to life, get recorded and get put out there and have people interact with it, singing the words, that´s hard to beat. That´s a real sense of accomplishment when that happens. I wish you could bottle it because it really is something special.

I always feel that with bands like The Rolling Stones, KISS or whatever, they´ve got more money than they can spend, so it has to be that feeling? Walking out on that stage.

Yeah! Again, like you said, it´s overblowing your ego and let´s be honest, who doesn´t like that? Who doesn´t like that sense of achievement or that sense of connection? It´s the reason why those artists that you mentioned are still doing it and the reason Joe Elliott´s still doing it and the reason Springsteen still loves it, because that never leaves you no matter how much money you´ve got in the bank. I tried to walk away from music once and it was the worst decision I ever made. I wasn´t aware how much I was giving up, how much a part of me I was giving up when I walked away for a brief time. I wasn´t the same person. I was miserable and I was incomplete. Luckily I have some kind of talent for it, so I´ve got to embrace that and be thankful for it.

Do you remember the first time you kind of felt “Well, I´m a rock star!”?

(laughs) All the time, from six or seven years old. Me with an acoustic guitar standing in front of a mirror pretending to be Slade, T-Rex and The Sweet on Top of the Pops on a Thursday night. There´s a track on the new record called “Gunslinger” which is a Mink DeVille cover and I bought “Spanish stroll” when it came out and the B-side was “Gunslinger” and I remember miming with an acoustic guitar to that song in front of the mirror when I was nine or ten. I thought “One day I´m gonna cover this song for real.”, so there you go.

How did you end up buying a single with DeVille?

Top of the Pops. I heard it and went and bought the song and as you know, back in the day, the B-side on those 45´s was even better than the A-side. I flipped it over and I just love the guitar playing and the chorus. I forgot about it and then I was in a record store a few years ago and I found a Mink DeVille album on vinyl and bought it and there was that song again and I went “Ah, man! I remember that song when I was a kid!” and now was the perfect time to cover it.

What do you do on a day off?

I pretty much run every day and work out. I spend time with my wife and if´she´s got a day off we´ll go see a show, chill out with family, watch soccer on TV. It´s hard, because I love what I do, I feel like every day is a day off. I´m my own boss and I can work when I want to and not when I want to and that´s a good thing to have.

Text:Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk, Björn Olsson