Interview with Black Star Riders

“Angst, passion, power, glory, love, truth, lies, loyalty, questions that begged to be answered. There’s a guitar army coming…and it’s bringing the ” Heavy Fire”” – Ricky Warwick (vocals), Black Star Riders.

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Black Star Riders Vocalist and front man Ricky Warwick about their soon to be released new album “Heavy Fire”. The Album is to be released in February and the band kicks off on tour around the UK in March. With that classic rock sound and the iconic vocals, we all know so well from their earlier years as Thin Lizzy, let me just say; the boys are definitely back in town.

Having listened to the new album ‘Heavy Fire’ you still have a very similar sound to a lot of the other bands you’ve worked with in the past; what would you say were your biggest influences for this album particularly?

I Think ourselves to be honest with you. You know we’ve all been playing for a long time and we’ve all been in various bands and I think, you know, as musicians now we’re all fairly accomplished which is great and we have a great chemistry in the band and I don’t really think we need to rely on any kind of outside sources to fire us up and get us inspired. So I think the inspiration just comes, as cheesy as it sounds, from within; you know? There’s certainly still a drive to write songs and to keep the whole thing moving forward.

When listening to the album, I felt that a lot of the songs revolved around love or lovers of some kind, was there a meaning for that or is it more based off of things that have happened in life?

Really? I don’t think there’s a love song on there.

Well perhaps love/lovers isn’t the right word but it almost feels like you’re talking/singing to someone about a past experience?

I think, yeah. I think, you know, Cold War Love is where a woman that I love. I mean that’s you know, written on a personal experience. A friend of mine was going through a really hard time, and you know was written from our perspective as a friend, kinda going “Hey I see what you’re going through here “. Being a song writer, you know, here’s a song for you that might help you. But you know I think there’s a lot more political stuff, like with ‘Heavy Fire’. ‘When The Night Comes In’ is also quite political. But I mean there’s a lot of personal politics in there as well. There’s a lot of stuff just written about a lot of memories, a lot of friends, family, situations, experiences that they’ve been involved in that have inspired me to write about.

So basically a lot of your own personal views, thing’s you’ve experienced and people around you have experienced, things that you’ve witnessed; that kind of thing?  You’ve pulled from everything around you?

Totally. Me personally, I feel you have to write about what you know or certainly what, you know, I could write about being a soldier off fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq but I couldn’t write about that first hand because I’ve never done that.  I wouldn’t have the experience but I have friends who’ve been there and served and they’ve told me about their experiences and what they’ve told me I’ve been able to put that into songs from there; and my thoughts on what they’ve gone through from my perspective, if that makes sense to you.

That’s something as a writer I can really relate too, you do need to write about what you know or at least if you are writing from someone else’s perspective, I feel you do need to have that relationship where you can really feel and understand what they are saying to you.

Yeah you have to do your homework, you have to sort of, if you’re writing about a subject I feel you have to research it and you have to have an empathy with it and you have to connect with it. Maybe, listen – at the end of the day we’re all just writing nursery rhymes, that’s what we’re doing. Ten songs that we want to be catchy and stick in people’s heads but there’s certainly nothing wrong with those nursery rhymes having something deep and meaningful to say.

Oh Absolutely, back to what you were saying before about how you’ve all been around for so long, do you find that you work and collaborate really well together despite that you all obviously have so much experience behind you? There’s no issue with too many chiefs and not enough Indians, it all balances out well?

We’re a very ego free band and we’re very blessed, you know because everyone who’s in the band has been successful in their previous bands. Certainly that can cause a problem. Obviously we’re older and you know there’s a good bullshit detector and you know anyone gets too high and mighty we’re brought back down.

So you all kinda call each other out on any shit?

Yeah! You realize that life’s too short and we realize we’re very blessed that we’re still being able to be prolific, creative and be relevant, you know? At the age that we’re at and still making music and still playing sold out shows. That kinda thing. None of us take it for granted and it’s like “aint we lucky we’re still doing this after 30 years”.

That’s definitely something I was interested in discussing with you because I mean, in truth you’ve been famous longer than I myself have been alive and to –

Oh what age are you?

Oh I turn twenty-six in nine days

Oooh that’s a great age! Here’s Something that’s really cool and yes I have been, thirty years. Something that’s really cool is when I was twenty-six I did my first ever tour of Australia.

Oh and how did you find it?

I’m fifty, so I did it in 1991 with my band, a band I was in called The Almighty and I know you’ll know because they’re an institution in Australia, I toured six weeks around Australia with a band called The Screaming Jets.

Oh Absolutely! but to be fair I grew up; even just the genre of music itself. I grew up listening to you guys (Thin Lizzy) and also bands like Def Leppard, and that style, you know that was the music I was raised on.

You’ve got a great taste in music that’s what I love to hear! Yeah and I had a wonderful time and we got to tour with The Screaming Jets and you know we played extensively, you know, over Eastern Australia, Brisbane, Wagga Wagga, Broken Hill; all those kinds of places. It was just wonderful.

Do you reckon if you guys had the opportunity you’d try to come back?

I know that we’re working on it. I know that we’re working with the label and with some promoters and we’re definitely trying to get down there to you guys to play and tour this record; ‘cause we’d love too.

I did have a question I was going to sneak in that’s not entirely related but given what we have talked about; if you were to stumble across someone who looked like they really not doing to great, they need some advice, you know they look like they’re going through a rough time, what would you say to them that could possibly change their perspective?

Talk to somebody. I mean at first, talk to somebody. Don’t keep it inside. Find somebody to listen to you, if it’s not somebody in your family because you don’t have anyone in your family you can relate to or who can help, I mean find a counsellor, go to a counsellor, just talk to somebody. I mean, keeping things inside is one thing I’ve learned, I think, is very destructive. I think if you’ve got problems/issues, you know, share it with somebody.

Would you say, I mean everyone obviously has their different talents and different ways of expressing themselves, would you say for example song writing to be a very therapeutic and expressive way to deal with those(any) types of thoughts?

Oh Yeah. Everybody’s got to get it out there some way. If that’s going into a gym and beating the crap out of a punch bag for an hour, then that’s that. If it’s sitting down writing a song or like yourself being a writer, if it’s writing poetry, if it’s painting, if it’s going for long walks; whatever works! You know? If it’s all of those, great! You know? Even better. I think you have to find, you have to make ‘me time’ for yourself and you have to find a way of channeling your emotions and you know, any aggression you may have as well.

Speaking of ‘Me Time’ I have seen in other interviews that you yourself are quite the runner, that’s what you like to do in your down time. Obviously it’s been a little while since you were last here but was there anything you’ve see or experienced that you wouldn’t have expected because of that?

I do! Well spotted! Yeah I am. We were in Australia in 2013 with Thin Lizzy, that was the last time I was there and I remember we stayed in Melbourne and I remember going for a run along the water there; it was beautiful. It was a good time of year to be there, we were there in February so it was starting to cool down a little bit. I remember it was just great just running through the city. And that’s what I love to do when I’m on tour you know? That’s my thing you know? Back in my twenties I’d be like “where’s the best Irish Bar, let’s go!” now I like to get out and go for a run and sort of run through the city and it’s a great way to see the city and see interesting buildings and the architecture and all that kind of thing.  That’s what I like to do and I find it very therapeutic but I remember distinctly going for a very cool run in Melbourne when I was there.

Going from when you broke into the industry, what would you say out of your entire repertoire are you proudest of?

I think obviously being asked to front Thin Lizzy was a huge honor because of what it meant to me growing up with them, being Irish, being such a huge fan of Phil Lynott and his legacy and the band. I mean that was just an honor. I think probably my proudest moment is what we’ve achieved with Black Star Riders, coming out of Thin Lizzy and becoming BSR. I think that’s made me very proud.

So most of you were a part of Thin Lizzy, what really influenced you to change the name?

Three of us were, yes. Well we’d just decided that we’d been playing and touring as Thin Lizzy and it was great. But to actually go and record, we had written some songs and we wanted to record and we were going to record as Thin Lizzy but when it sort of came to the eleventh hour we kinda’ had a get together and said “look this will be the first record that Thin Lizzy would have made in 30 years, it’ll be the first record without the great Phil Lynott”. It just didn’t feel right; it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. It just felt wrong. It felt disrespectful to the legacy; it felt not the right thing to do.  But, we had these great songs so we’re like what are we going to do? We’ve got these killer songs, we want to record them, lets change the name. Let’s come up with a new name and let’s continue under a new name. That way we’ll be able to write and record music, which was a very brave thing to do to be honest with you but it worked and here I am talking to you three albums later.

You were saying that you wanted songs that are catchy and some of the songs are very political, but out of all the songs on the new album, why did you pick ‘Heavy Fire’ as the album title?

I just liked the idea of it. I mean, where we’re living right now obviously everything is so internet, media, and controlled and we are just bombarded every day by…everything. Money, power, Internet, media, War, Famine, clothes to buy, food to eat, what to watch, everything is now, now, now, now, instant, instant, instant, and it just feels like we’re coming under heavy deluge every day of this media complete overkill. I just felt, I wrote the lyrics for the song before the music was written and I was like “guys I think this would be a cool album title, never mind a cool song title” and they were like “yeah, no, we dig it” so that was it. So, it was kind of decided the album would be called ‘Heavy Fire’ even before we’d recorded it to be honest with you.

That’s really cool, especially when you see how technologically dependent we’ve become and how connected we all are; yet disconnected and it’s great to see bands really speaking up about that change in society. I have noticed you guy’s use pledge; how’d you find that?

We did go through pledge, though we didn’t use it to fund the album, we used it to offer special packages, initiatives, VIP stuff, that kind of thing.

Back on topic with our last question though, in regards to the new album what would you say was the most enjoyable part of creating it?

I think really it’s when you start hearing the songs, when you start putting them down and recording them and suddenly you realize that you’ve got something special and you’re hearing the song recorded back for the first time. You know, with the guitars and the vocals start going onto it and you’re starting to build it up, layering it.