Black Star Riders leader Ricky Warwick on the hard rockers' new LP Another State of Grace and Irish dates
LA-based, Newtownards-born singer/guitarist/songwriter Ricky Warwick and his Black Star Riders are back with a new album and tour, including three Irish dates. David Roy spoke to the former Almighty and Thin Lizzy frontman about making the hard rock unit's fourth LP, Another State of Grace
HI RICKY, Another State of Grace came out last week. What's the reaction been to the fourth record since yourself and fellow Thin Lizzy guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson decided to start making new music as Black Star Riders?
It's been really good – but you know, you can't please everybody. I think after seven years and four albums, we've found our niche and we're stand-alone.
There's always people who will say 'ah, I like the last album better' and blah-blah-blah, but I think it's the best record we've made by far. I think it's the most complete record we've made and definitely the most fun I've had of the four records we've made too.
How did Damon leaving the band to concentrate on his solo career prior to making the album affect things?
We knew it was coming. Damon didn't just drop it on us and leave the next day, it was totally amicable. He told us and then played out the year (2018) so we could find somebody else [Christian Martucci] and deal with it.
Damon just didn't want to be on tour as much as we are. He wanted to spend more time with his family, which I totally respect. Damon didn't want to really want to go out for more than two or three weeks at a time, which wasn't what the rest of us wanted.
He wanted to tour on his terms, whereas if you're in a band and somebody says 'you've got a six week tour', you've gotta go and do it because there's four other guys in the band relying on you. But Damon's still one of my dearest friends and I wish him all the best.
How has Christian fitted in?
Christian is a brilliant guitar player and a really great person as well. He was a fan of Black Star Riders before he was in the band, so he knew the stuff before he came in. He's also a great songwriter too and comes up with great riffs. So we hit the ground running with him, we really never missed a beat.
You also have a solo career outside of Black Star Riders, how do you manage to balance that with the band's commitments?
My priority is always Black Star Riders – everything else I do has to fit around that, and that's just the way it is.
The title track Another State of Grace is also the album's lead single, what can you tell us about this thumping Celtic punk/classic metal tune?
It's a song that was actually kicking about since the Heavy Fire [BSR's 2017 LP] sessions. I loved the lyrics but I wasn't blown away by the music we'd written, so it never made the album.
I thought 'I've gotta do something with these lyrics', so this time around Christian and I came up with the music and suddenly it became the anthem that it is and the title track of the new record.
One of the key songs on the record, Why Do You Love Your Guns? was inspired by the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012: what can you tell us about this acoustic number, which has the powerful lyric 'why do you love your guns more than you love your kids?'?
It actually started as a poem, and I always wanted to do something with it. When we were writing for this record, obviously the mass shootings [in the US] were still sadly continuing. Nothing had changed and I just thought, 'I need to say something about this, because I feel very strongly about it.'
So I sat down, pulled the poem out and wrote the music. Sadly, that lyric is actually true of some of these people who are running about quoting the Second Amendment – which, by the way, is the only one they f***ing know – and it's like, 'at what point are you going to get that this gun violence thing isn't working?' When innocent kids are being massacred and nothing changes, you're kind of going 'for f***'s sake, what's wrong with you?'.
I've no problem with people who feel that they need a handgun for personal protection, but there should be thorough background checks and mandatory three-week gun training for anyone who does.
You live in the US and all your fellow bandmates are American. Do they share your views on gun control?
Well, there's one of the guys in the band who does own some guns and would go to the shooting range – and he feels the same way. We're not saying 'f*** you – everybody hand in your guns', we're just saying let's make it difficult to obtain one, not just that you walk into a store, throw down your driving licence and walk out with a high-velocity rifle or an AK-47.
It's just common sense – why does a member of the general public need an AK-47 in their private gun collection?! I now see that Walmart are banning the sale of certain ammunition and high powered rifles from their stores, which is a small step but it's great to see.
Are you looking forward to hitting the road again in October?
Absolutely, we're chomping at the bit. We haven't played any of the new songs live as a band yet, although I've been doing some of them acoustically for radio stations.
It's been almost a year since we did any Black Star Riders shows, which I think has been the longest hiatus we've had since the band started. Obviously we had the line-up change, the writing and recording of the album and then we decided to take a six month break before it came out, so now we're raring to go.
First show is in Bristol on October 10th and then we're in Limerick, Dublin and Belfast on the 15th, 16th and 17th.
Which new song are you looking forward to playing the most in Belfast?
I'm really looking forward to playing Another State of Grace. I just think it's going to be a killer song live, because it's so bombastic – and the Celtic kinda songs always go down really really well, especially here at home.
:: Black Star Riders, Dolan's Limerick (Oct 15), Dublin Academy (Oct 16), Limelight Belfast (Oct 17). Tickets via Ticketmaster.ie. Another State of Grace is out now on Nuclear Blast.