Les Paul legend Scott Gorham is currently playing the last ever Thin Lizzy tour. But he has plans – with his Les Paul Axcess guitar and a new band soon to record with his current touring colleagues.
Gorham – California-born but forever associated with Irish/U.K. band Thin Lizzy – is not slowing down, even at the age of 61. In Thin Lizzy 2012, Gorham is joined by original Lizzy drummer Brian Downey, singer/guitarist Ricky Warwick (ex-The Almighty), Damon Johnson (ex-Brother Cane), Marco Mendoza (with Lizzy since 1994) and Darren Wharton (Thin Lizzy since early ‘80s.)
Speaking at Gibson’s London HQ, Scott Gorham tells Gibson.com all about the past and the future…
How has touring been going?
Spectacular! We’ve just done three weeks across Europe, now another three weeks in the U.K. And it looks like it’s going to sell out. You always want to hear that. It’s a great way to bow out of a heavy touring schedule. It’s not the complete end of Thin Lizzy. It’s been labelled as a “farewell” tour, but it’s really just a farewell to the brutal scheduling we’ve had over the last three years.
With the new lineup, is it still satisfying?
Oh yeah. Ricky Warwick can sing it all. And Damon’s such a huge Thin Lizzy fan, practically his whole life, he helps choose what we play also. We can play pretty much any Lizzy song with our eyes closed now, it’s just choosing the set order run. We’re doing different songs in different places. In the U.K we’re playing “Emerald” which we didn’t do in Europe, for example.
Damon Johnson is the latest of your many guitar partners – what can you say about Damon?
He’s frigging amazing. I love him as a guy and I love him as a player. Over the last year and a half we’ve become really good friends, as is everybody in the band.
You’ve just published a memoir, The Boys are Back in Town (with Irish writer Harry Doherty) – why now?
I’d just seen too many unauthorized books about Thin Lizzy. The pictures were crap, the “interviews” were just cuttings from some library or peripheral people. So I said to Harry Doherty – who started a book about five years after Phil died, “we gotta do something.” At the time Harry started, it was too close in time to Phil’s death. But recently, it was the right time and a good time for more perspective. It tries to explain what Thin Lizzy was all about.
It’s been a tough job, at times. We had 20,000 pictures to choose from. It was funny. I can’t remember half the pictures being taken, but when you see it all you go, “Oh yeah, I remember that day now!” I’m proud of the book. It’s one for the fans.
If this is the end of big Thin Lizzy tours, there is the inevitable question on looking back – what are you favorite Thin Lizzy albums and tracks?
Tough question! But obviously Jailbreak, because it busted us out internationally. I don’t think the production was particularly fantastic, but it’s probably because of that album that you and I are talking today. I thought Chinatown was a great album, lots of good songs.
I thought Bad Reputation was great – mainly because I got to play most of the guitars! Phil and I became even closer on that album, because it was us working out what to do. It was a must-do situation. And Black Rose. And Live and Dangerous. That’s five albums. You asked me for one, right, hahah! I can’t pick out just one.
Live and Dangerous has long had rumors about extensive overdubbing. Producer Tony Visconti once said it was 75% overdubbed in the studio…
Well, I remember it all. Playing “Still in Love with You” at (London’s) Hammersmith Odeon, somebody grabbed my trouser leg at the front of stage and I make the most almighty clam. So, when mixing, we hear that – you can still hear it now! – Tony says we should overdub it. I gave it a go, but we could not recreate the live sound in the studio. So the live tracks got sliced or edited. I re-did one rhythm track and a few backing vocals. But that’s it. You can hear so many Lizzy live albums, even if they’re bootlegs, that sound the same! That’s all I’ll say.
What do you most like about your career in Thin Lizzy?
We weren’t afraid to try anything. For every “Emerald” there was a “Still in Love with You.” Both sides. You don’t have to smash everyone’s face in all the time. We’d like to make you cry, if we possibly could.
You are back playing Gibson Les Pauls on this tour, as you did in the 1970s. Does that feel good?
Absolutely. Right now, I’m playing a Les Paul Axcess that the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville built for me. It’s absolutely kick-ass. I’ve gotten so many compliments on the sound, I’m converting all my other Axcess Les Pauls to the same configuration. The Axcess is great. It’s got a thinner body and a flatter face to it which enables them to get the vibrato system on.
I walked into Gibson in London about two years ago and saw one. It’s extremely light compared to a Les Paul Standard, because it’s chambered. It’s got great access to the top frets, better than ever. And the carved body means it’s not digging into you ribs any longer. I told Gibson, I don’t want one of these, I need one of these! It’s become my number one guitar.
The newest one I’ve got is slightly different. The first ones I had had a mid-boost system in them – it gave more sustain, but it ultimately just compresses the sound. But the one I have with BurstBucker pickups, you don’t need that. My sound is now fatter and clearer – I’ve converting my other Axcess Les Pauls to be the same. My red Tiger Burst Axcess is the only one in the world – that’s what they told me! It’s a beautiful finish.
I played a Stratocaster for about 10 years and got attached to using a vibrato. But when I saw this Les Paul with the same, it was just the perfect fit for me.
Check back on 1 January 2013 for Part 2, when Gibson.com reveals what Gorham says about the new songs with lyrics and vocals by Ricky Warwick, and the name of the new band.