Episode 183: Ricky Warwick

Episode 183: Ricky Warwick
Pat sits down with singer-songwriter Ricky Warwick to discuss his career as a solo artist, his years fronting Thin Lizzy and his current project Black Star Riders.
From January 15, 2014

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat welcomes us to the show. Today's special guest has TWO brand new solo albums, along with a new album by his band Black Star Riders. Coming to us from Belfast, Northern Ireland, it's singer, songwriter, and musician Ricky Warwick!
Ricky was recently back in Belfast for Christmas. He played a gig in support of his favorite soccer team Glentoran. Ricky has been a professional singer/songwriter and musician since he was 20-years-old. His first significant band, New Model Army, are still kicking around. Ricky got into the band when he was opening for them. The band offered him a gig for their first world tour and Ricky spent his 21st birthday on the Staten Island Ferry. It was the first time he saw America.
00:05:00 Growing up in Belfast, things were going down for Ricky and his friends, but he didn't know any different: Playing in bomb sites, soldiers on the streets, bombs, gun shots, being searched, no big bands, shutting down the town at night. It was all normal. Ricky has two older sisters and grew up on a farm. They got used to the issues that The Troubles brought. Ricky's kids have no idea what that kind of life is like. Belfast is cool now, it's got a McDonalds. Once those golden arches are planted, peace reigns across the land for a millennium.
Because of The Troubles, a lot of the big bands wouldn't play Belfast. The bands that did play included Thin Lizzy, Stiff Little Fingers, Boomtown Rats, and Rory Gallagher. Ricky saw Stiff Little Fingers play at 14 and it changed his life. Ricky got his first electric guitar afterwards. He always wanted to write songs.
00:10:00 At 15, Ricky moved to Scotland. Word got around to his guitar and soon a bass player and drummer came sniffing about. Until they could find a singer, Ricky had to sing the songs. It turns out Ricky could actually sing! This band became The Almighty. Pat plays a song from their first album Blood, Fire and Love called "Destroyed". Ricky's kids are not really into the whole "musician dad" thing. His youngest daughter likes it, but his older kids could care less.
The second Almighty album, Soul Destruction, was produced by Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. Andy produced another band on the same label called Thunder. Ricky and Andy met up and became friends. They still hang out from time to time. Pat plays a song called "Free 'N' Easy".
00:15:00 Pat asks Ricky if he still takes to the guys in The Almighty. Ricky still talks with Stump Monroe, but not the other guys. He wants to do more shows with them, but he was met with an unenthusiastic response. He says it's best to let The Almighty go. The Almighty wanted to be big in the US, but they just couldn't make it work. So many bands just fall through the cracks. The first big tour for The Almighty was when they opened for The Ramones in 1989. It was CJ Ramone's first tour. Then they went out with Motorhead. The Almighty toured with Iron Maiden, Megadeth, and Metallica.
The Almighty
00:20:00 How did Ricky meet Joe Elliott? The Almighty had split up and Ricky was playing in a band called (sic). They were rehearsing in the same building at the same time as David Bowie. Bowie invited everyone in the building to a showcase show. Standing at the bar was Joe Elliott, who said he was a fan of The Almighty. They got drunk and partied. Joe said he would call Ricky and invite him over to watch soccer and eat Chinese food. And by god, Joe called Ricky and they watched soccer and ate Chinese food. Ricky ended up being the best man at Joe's wedding. Joe was the one who motivated Ricky to get back on track and get a solo career going. He instilled his confidence back. Pat saw Ricky open for Def Leppard on the X Tour with just an acoustic guitar. Ricky never thought of himself as a solo act. He played a few club shows to start, then Joe brought him aboard to play in front of 12,000 people. He was very nervous that people would hate him.
00:25:00 Ricky was drenched hin sweat, but he got through it. Then Joe brought him on for the X Tour. Ricky says that there is greater freedom with solo tours. Pat says that Ricky sounds totally different solo than his Almighty stuff. He plays a song from his Ricky's first solo album Tattoos & Alibis. The song is called "Mysterioso". Scott Gorham from Thin Lizzy does the guitar solo. They first met in The Almighty days. Ricky's ex-wife and Scott's wife worked together at MTV Europe. At Donnington Festival, Scott gave Ricky a ride. Ricky tried desperately to play it cool that he's sitting next to one of his idols. They hit it off. Joe ran into Scott, played Ricky's solo stuff for him, and that's how Ricky later got the gig with Thin Lizzy. Ricky never got to see Thin Lizzy in concert, but he did see Phil Lynott play with his band Grand Slam.
00:30:00 Pat wants to know once and for all how to pronounce Phil's last name. It's pronounced lie-not. Pat met Scott and got his Renegade album signed. Scott was very nice. All of the Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders guys are nice. Ricky says that that is the way it should be.
Pat notes that Ricky has a distinct singing style for his solo work. Pat plays another album off of Tattoos & Alibis called "Enemies".
00:35:00 Who are Ricky's musical influences: Phil Lynott, Rory Gallagher, Motorhead, Ramones, AC/DC, Joe Strummer, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, and Steve Earle. Pat says that Ricky sounds a bit like Bruce. Ricky compliments Bruce for aging well and doing 3 hour shows a night. There's brief AC/DC talk, including sad chat about Malcolm Young. Ricky says the guys look out for Scott Gorham because he's getting up there in age. But dammit, the man has a full head of hair.
Ricky has a guitar handy, so let's hear something live. Ricky financed his two brand new solo albums, When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) and Hearts on Trees on the crowd funding website Pledge Music. The albums are coming out soon. When Patsy Cline… is the rock album and Hearts on Trees is the acoustic album.
00:40:00 The song is inspired by Billy "Tank" McCullough, an Irish soccer player from the 60s and 70s. Ricky went to school with his son. Off the album Hearts on Trees, it's a song called "Tank McCullough Saturdays". Ricky's music is on iTunes. Most of the money he gets is in touring and merchandising. A lot of artists don't get the luxury of quitting their job.
00:45:00 Ricky has a lot of tattoos. He got his first one on his shoulder and then he got the bug. He's about done because he's running out of skin. Pat doesn't care if his daughters get a tattoo, he just doesn't want them getting those big disc earrings.
Pat plays a song from Ricky's second solo album Love Many, Trust Few. The song is called "Johnny or Elvis?".
00:50:00 The song is co-produced by Joe Elliott and has Vivian Campbell on guitar. Ricky says that Vivian was a good fit for Def Leppard after Steve Clarke died. Def Leppard has been through a lot, but they keep going. They're good guys. After Rick Allen's arm was unceremoniously given the boot, they gave him time to adapt. When Ricky was traveling with Def Lep, he did an African drum circle with Rick. Rick was playing maracas with his feet, had bongos and tambourines. He was very coordinated. Pat met Rick once and he was very unselfconscious about his arm… or lack thereof.
00:55:00 Pat plays a song from Ricky's third solo album Belfast Confetti called "Can't Wait for Tomorrow".
The conversation turns to Ricky fronting Thin Lizzy. Music doc guy Alan Parker called Ricky's manager and said Thin Lizzy was getting back together after John Sykes left the band. Ricky's name was in the running. Joe Elliott called, he was working with Scott Gorham and Brian Downey on the Lizzy remasters at the time. Joe mentioned Ricky's name and Scott thought that he was the one. Scott's manager was hesitant that Ricky could sing the Thin Lizzy songs because of his Almighty work. Ricky invited him to a show he did opening for Cheap Trick. Ricky figured he would either get the gig or not. The manager saw the show, said that he was wrong, and Ricky was the new lead singer of Thin Lizzy. Scott called Ricky and popped him the question. Ricky said yes immediately. It took Ricky a few minutes to realize that he was about to fill in for Phil Lynott.
01:00:00 Ricky told his wife that if it didn't feel right for one minute, he would quit. He called his friend and his friend encouraged him to do it. Ricky knew that he could be the lead singer of Thin Lizzy without tainting Phil's legacy.
"I never wanted to stand in those shoes. All I ever wanted was to stand beside them. And that's what I try to do every night, is stand beside them."
- Ricky, with the line of the episode.
Ricky doesn't want to be Phil. Pat says Ricky doesn't sound exactly like Phil, but when he closes his eyes, it sounds like Thin Lizzy. To get ready, Ricky read Phil's poetry. Ricky didn't listen to anything but Thin Lizzy for six months. He learned the lyrics forwards and backwards. He watched videos of Phil performing on stage. The lineup of this version of Thin Lizzy was Ricky on vocals, Brian Downey (original member) on drums, Scott Gorham on guitar, Darren Wharton on keyboards, Marco Mendoza on bass, and Vivian Campbell on guitar.
01:05:00 There was only supposed to be one tour. They opened for Judas Priest in 2011. Ricky's favorite Thin Lizzy album is Black Rose: A Rock Legend. Ricky had an input as to the setlist. There's those one or two songs that you have to play every show. Otherwise, people get annoyed. Ricky straps the guitar back on to play a little Thin Lizzy for us. It's "Jailbreak".
01:10:00 They toured as Thin Lizzy and they wanted to make new music. Everything was clicking. Some people wanted new Thin Lizzy music, other people did not want new Thin Lizzy music. If they did it, it would be the first Thin Lizzy album without Phil. Brian and Darren were initially down for it. There was a lot of interest because of the Thin Lizzy name. And Ricky was excited to be on a Thin Lizzy album. But then nagging doubts started to creep in. It's one thing to sing in Phil's place, it's another to write in Phil's place. No one wanted to admit that this could upset a lot of people.
01:15:00 Scott and Brian eventually decided to let the past be the past and it was a big relief. They were on the road a lot longer than they thought they would be. Brian wanted to take a break from touring. Ricky and Darren wanted to change the name and carry on. Thus, the band became Black Star Riders. Because they changed the name, labels lost interest, but they did get signed to a label called Nuclear Blast. The guy that signed them, Monty, was an adamant "No Phil, No Lizzy" guy. Then he heard the demos and realized they were really good. Brian and Darren left the band and they got Jimmy DeGrasso on drums. In the producer's chair was Kevin Shirley, who also produced Rush, Journey, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, and Black Country Communion. They recorded the first album in 12 days.
Black Star Riders
01:20:00 Ricky didn't want to be Phil, but to capture Phil's spirit. Pat plays a song from BSR's first album All Hell Breaks Loose called "Bound for Glory". Pat says when he and Mike Schmidt were going to see Black Star Riders live, Mike had his doubts. But then he saw the show and was blown away. Pat plays another song off the first album called "Hey Judas". Pat asks Ricky about the album cover. Ricky was watching a documenter about WWII and saw a pin up girl on a bomber that said "All Hell Breaks Loose."
01:25:00 Pat turns the attention to Ricky's two new solo albums. Ricky recorded Hearts on Trees in four days. The Patsy Cline album took two weeks. Ricky knew he couldn't get the budget from the record company for his albums so he turned to the fans on Pledge Music. The fans gave him the luxury of doing the albums right. He had greater freedom.
01:30:00 Pat plays a song from When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) called "Celebrating Sinking". Pat asks Ricky how he knows the difference between a Black Star Riders song and a solo song. Ricky says it depends on the subject. Pat plays another song, the title track "When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues)".
Pat plays a song from the other new solo album Hearts on Trees called "Psycho".
01:35:00 Then Pat plays another song from Hearts on Trees called "82". Black Star Riders are putting some shows together in the States. Like Thin Lizzy, they're more popular in Europe. They have a new album out soon called The Killer Instinct. There was talk of Joe Elliott producing it, but he was busy with the Kiss/Def Leppard tour. Instead they got Nick Raskulinecz, who has produced Rush, Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson, Mastodon, Alice in Chains, Velvet Revolver, and more. They didn't think they could afford him, but their guitarist Damon Johnson's wife met Nick's wife and they got his number. He saw them perform and agreed to produce their album.
01:40:00 This has been a great podcast. Pat just tweeted Ricky to do the show and he agreed, easy as that. The new albums are coming out soon. You can find Ricky on Twitter @RickyWarwick or go to his website at RickyWarwick.com. Will there be new Thin Lizzy shows? Maybe, but it's Brian and Scott's call and it would most likely be one-off shows and not a full tour.
The show ends with Pat playing the title track off of the new Black Star Riders album called "The Killer Instinct".
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:10:00 Destroyed Blood, Fire and Love The Almighty N/A
00:10:00 Free 'N' Easy Soul Destruction The Almighty N/A
00:25:00 Mysterioso Tattoos & Alibis Ricky Warwick N/A
00:30:00 Enemies Tattoos & Alibis Ricky Warwick N/A
00:40:00 Tank McCullough Saturdays Hearts on Trees Ricky Warwick Ricky (Live in Studio)
00:45:00 Johnny or Elvis? Love Many, Trust Few Ricky Warwick N/A
00:55:00 Can't Wait for Tomorrow Belfast Confetti Ricky Warwick N/A
01:05:00 Jailbreak Ricky Warwick Jailbreak Ricky (Live in Studio)
01:20:00 Bound for Glory All Hell Breaks Loose Black Star Riders N/A
01:20:00 Hey Judas All Hell Breaks Loose Black Star Riders N/A
01:30:00 Celebrating Sinking When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) Ricky Warwick N/A
01:30:00 When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues) Ricky Warwick N/A
01:30:00 Psycho Hearts on Trees Ricky Warwick N/A
01:35:00 82 Hearts on Trees Ricky Warwick N/A
01:40:00 The Killer Instinct The Killer Instinct Black Star Riders N/A