"Black Star Riders is bigger than the sum of its parts. There was no way we were going to stop..." - Ricky Warwick talks to hmv.com
Black Star Riders began life in 2012 when the members of Thin Lizzy decided that they wanted to do more than just tour their old hits with singer Ricky Warwick.
In the years since it has gone so well that the group have all but retired their old outfit and now focus on life as Black Star Riders.
The group, who now consist of Warwick, former Thin Lizzy axeman Scott Goreham, newly arrived Stone Sour guitarist Christian Martucci, bassist Robbie Crane and new drummer Chad Szeliga, return this week with a new LP, their fourth.
Titled Another State Of Grace, the album is another searing, good time journey into rock and roll.
With the album now on shelves, we spoke to Warwick about how it all came together...
When did you start putting the songs together for this?
"I write all the time, I'm doing it constantly. It's never a case of 'It's time to make a record', there's always stuff on the boil. We don't need to go home after touring and get to work. The other guys are the same, they're always coming up with new riffs and melodies, we're never stuck for material. The songs for this one started about two years ago."
Did you have a goal of doing anything differently from what you did on Heavy Fire?
"With the new blood coming in, that's going to affect the sound. They've brought their personalities and their style. It's good, you always want to push yourself to write that ultimate song. We always want to experiment and never make the same record twice."
Chad Szeliga toured with you last time, but this is his first time writing and recording, what did he bring to the party?
"Chad's an amazing drummer and so dedicated. Always practising, always does his homework and he's a proper metronome. He's an uplifting person and a really good guy to have around."
You've got Christian Martucci too, he's another new boy...
"He's a songwriter and a great guitar player. He brought a lot of riffs and ideas, which we knew he would when we asked him to be in the band. We embraced it and we embraced him. The chemistry between him and Scott is fantastic."
Does the line-up feel more settled now?
"It's tough being in a band. You're away so much and everyone's home life is different. Scott and I have been there since day one and we've always felt like that Black Star Riders is bigger than the sum of its parts. So when we lost Damon (Johnson, former guitarist) and Jimmy (DeGrasso, former drummer), there was no way we were going to stop. We're keeping this thing going, we're having too much fun and we've got too many songs still to write."
A couple of the guys from Thin Lizzy didn't follow you when the band first started because they didn't have the appetite to tour, but you still have the urge...
"It's too late to stop now. I don't know what else to do. I've been doing this for 32 years, I still love it. I love travelling, meeting people, being in the studio, I still love being in a gang and this lifestyle. It's a great way to live and I can't give it up."
You made the album with Jay Ruston, what did he give you as a producer?
"Jay mixed the last two Black Star Riders albums and we loved what he did. We'd done the Nashville thing twice and it was time to make a change. We wanted to record in Los Angeles. Jay was very keen to do the whole album rather than coming in at the end and it was a great move. He did a fantastic job."
Nashville always seems like an intense place to work...
"It was always tough on me. I write most of what we do and I have to stay there until the end. Being in Nashville I'd be away for six weeks. You can immerse yourself in the record. But I really felt like we'd taken that approach as far as we could. Nick Raskulinecz is a great producer, but it was time to try something different."
"I live in Los Angeles and I got to go home every night, Scott's from here, Robbie (Crane, bassist) lives here, Christian and Chad came to work. We worked at a killer studio in the Valley, it was a great vibe. We didn't want it to end."
What kind of album is it lyrically? Is there a theme?
"It's observations on life and what's going on in the world. I can only write what I know and how it affects my friends and family. I've got books full of lyrics and I'm scribbling all the time so it's lots of little snapshots."
When did you settle on the album title?
"We had the song written and Christian said to me 'That's a killer title'. It sums up where the band's heading, new members and a new vibe. Everybody loved it instantly. We flirted with In The Shadow Of The War Machine, but Another State Of Grace is such a strong title."
How will you decide what makes it in the set? You've got four records now...
"It's a good problem to have. I feel like a football manager deciding what good players to leave out. There are seven or eight people demand to hear and then we build the rest of the set around that. It'll be a good mixture of new and old."
Will you be playing Thin Lizzy songs?
"Not this time. We're four albums into this band now and we've over 50 to pick from. But if you want to see Thin Lizzy songs, you'll need to see them. We were only playing one song on the last run because this is Black Star Riders now. At some point, you have to cut the cord. We've worked very hard to establish this band. It's time to stand up on our own and be counted."
How are you live plans looking?
"It's going to be busy. We're booked until November and then we'll stop for Christmas. Then next year it'll be Japan and the States and down to South America. There might be some more UK dates and we'll be at plenty of festivals."
You and Scott have said that Thin Lizzy haven't retired, but it's not an active project. Do you have any plans for anything at the moment?
"It's something we'll do every couple of years. When we do, it's more of an event and a celebration. The focus is very music on Black Star Riders."
Could you have pictured that this band would have such longevity when you first decided to put an album out under the name Black Star Riders?
"No. When we were putting the first record out, I remember and Scott and I talking about the fact we hoped we might get to do a second record sometime. People have embraced us and responded to us. It's been so much fun. The thing I'm proudest of is how relevant we sound. We're not making records for the sake of it, we want to keep pushing."
Especially when a lot of your contemporaries are winding down or touring classic albums from beginning to end...
"To me, that's a cop-out. We make albums because we want to write that ultimate song. You'll never write that song, of course, but you'll always be chasing it..."