Black Star Riders

Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham recently talked to Gibson.com about the legendary band’s final U.K. tour. Although Thin Lizzy as a band and brand will continue for a while, Gorham is prepping a new three-guitar group…

In a press statement in October 2012, Gorham said: “Out of respect to Phil [Lynott, Thin Lizzy bassist/singer and primary songwriter] and the legacy he created, we have decided we should not release a new album under the Thin Lizzy name.

“It was a very difficult decision as we put a lot of time and effort into rebuilding the brand over recent years. Releasing a new album was the only way to continue this success.

“We have written songs that we all feel do the band credit. We believe Phil would have been proud of them. We always knew a new record was a touchy subject with some people, and we really want the quality of these songs to be heard by everyone without any judgement or prejudice. We have decided not to release these songs under the name Thin Lizzy.”

So, how are these new songsgoing to be released? Scott Gorham tells Gibson.com all…

What can you say about the new band?

Firstly, Brian Downey [drums, and the sole original Thin Lizzy member in the current line-up - Editor] only wanted to play under the Thin Lizzy name. And that’s fine, I totally respect that. So we have a new drummer, Jimmy DeGrasso [Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Dokken] for the new band.

The new band is me, Damon Johnson (guitar), Ricky Warwick (vocals/guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass) and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums). Brian Downey is a little tired of the road. And Darren (Wharton, keyboards) has a movie soundtrack he wants to complete, and other stuff with his own band, Dare.

Does the new band have a name?

We are Black Star Riders. The plan is, we fly to L.A. second of January to start work on the album. But this is not the end of Thin Lizzy. In March 2013 we fly out to Australia to do the KISS tour as Thin Lizzy. But then, we go into rehearsal as Black Star Riders, finish the album, and we will then tour as Black Star Riders.

The producer is Kevin Shirley [Aerosmith, Joe Bonamassa, Iron Maiden] at his studio in Los Angeles. We have 17 songs, the scratchings of another three. And knowing Ricky and Damon, those three will get finished soon. So there’s 20 songs to pick from.

Will Black Star Riders sound very different to Thin Lizzy?

It’s tough to say how the new band will eventually sound. The songs are mostly in demo format, right now. So we need to electrify it, get Kevin Shirley’s input. But the harmony guitars, the twin solos — it’s all there, believe me!

You’ve spent a lot of your musical career with Philip Lynott, a legendary lyricist and writer. How is it working now with Ricky Warwick?

What Ricky brings to this band is amazing. He’s absolutely prolific with lyrics. Phil would come in with a few lyrics, some more a week later, little unfinished bits of others. With Ricky, you can play him a riff and he’s immediately going, “I’ve got lyrics for that.” Bang, they’re right in front of you.

It’s the hardest part of writing a song, to me. You’ve got four minutes to say what you want to say in a colorful and poignant way. Ricky does it on a consistent basis, song after song. I’ve never seen anyone do it like he does, not even Phil. Ricky’s doing an amazing job.

Tough question, but how do Phil and Ricky differ?

Well, Phil was obviously a great. He’d show me his lyric book and he never ceased to amaze me. He wrote about a lot of historical things without making it about fairies and dragons and all that crap. But he could write about war and history - he was a great visualizer. He knew how to rhyme everything just right, too.

I remember asking him about “Dancing in the Moonlight” and the lyric “I always get chocolate stains on my pants.” I was like, Phil, are you sure about that? But within the whole song it made sense.

Ricky has the same visualization skills as Phil. He can make you see a picture. He tells a story, as opposed to just some rhyming bullshit. Every song has a point, a story, just like Phil used to do. I played on one of Ricky’s own albums years back, and understood immediately what he could do.

It was Joe Elliott of Def Leppard who later suggested Ricky could be the frontman for this band and I said, abso-frigging-lutely! Is it an Irish thing? I don’t know. But they’re both such great storytellers. It’s hard to compare the two. Both deserve their own spot.

What is the difference in working from 1970s Thin Lizzy to now?

It’s a lot easier, to be honest, with this crew of people. There were a lot of times in Thin Lizzy when parts became precious. Y’know, someone would write a guitar part and insisted; “damn it, I want that part in the song.” Now, it’s more amenable to finding the best outcome for the whole song.

There are moments we debate, of course, but there are a lot more equal terms between everyone involved. It makes everyone more prolific. If people are easier about debating how to write the songs, they’ll also come up with more ideas for what is someone else’s song. More songs just keep coming forward, it’s working great.

In Thin Lizzy, writing songs was normally just two guys, one of us over at Phil’s place. Now, we all get together and we all write together. It’s a big difference, and it’s sounding great. It’s exciting.

Read part 1 of Gibson.com’s interview with Scott Gorham.

Read what Damon Johnson had to say in summer 2012.