MARCH 2nd 2015

“The Almighty were born out of anger and aggression. When we formed the band right out of high school; we were big lovers of punk rock, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and UFO,” recalls Irish singer/guitarist Ricky Warwick.
Warwick burst onto the rock scene in 1989 when he and his band The Almighty issued their critically acclaimed debut Blood, Fire and Love. The Almighty was the U.K.’s answer to North America’s grunge rock assault. Warwick’s gritty vocal complimented the band’s groove heavy rock ‘n’ roll sound. After The Almighty disbanded Warwick reinvented himself; he dug deep into his influences and stripped things down. Armed with an acoustic guitar with some help from some friends he issued solo albums; ‘Tattoos and Alibis’ in 2003 and ‘Love Many and Trust Few’ in 2005 both of which were issued in the United States via Sanctuary Records. There was a third effort; Belfast Confetti which was issued via DR2 Records in 2009. Unfortunately, the latter went virtually unnoticed in North America. Warwick’s acoustic work did receive some high profile exposure as he went on the road opening for Def Leppard in support of their (then) new album X in 2002. “As you get older you evolve and you mature; I discovered Bob Dylan who can be just as angry. Bob Dylan’s music helped me develop as a songwriter. I want grow– I don’t want to be known for one particular thing,” proclaims Warwick.

In 2007 Warwick was ready to plug in and rock again; he was part of a super group of sorts called Circus Diablo which featured; The Cult’s Billy Duffy, Fuel’s Brett Scallions, and Velvet Revolver’s Matt Sorum. Circus Diablo issued their self-titled debut album the result was a forced and poor effort. The band hit the road after a shift in the line-up eventually the band dissolved and Warwick was once again left weighing his options.

Warwick was asked to join Thin Lizzy as vocalist. “(Thin) Lizzy has always been my favorite band; going far back to when I was a kid growing up in Belfast. They were the soundtrack of my youth. I was always a huge fan of Phil Lynott; as a performer, as a songwriter. I think he just had it all,” says Warwick ecstatically. As you might already know Thin Lizzy evolved in December of 2012 into Black Star Riders the band features; Warwick on vocals, guitarists Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy), Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy, Brother Cane, bassist Marco Mendoza (Blue Murder, Thin Lizzy Whitesnake, Ted Nugent) and drummer Jimmy Degrasso (Megadeth, Y&T, Alice Cooper). The band recorded their debut album titled ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ which was produced by renowned producer Kevin Shirley. Fast forward to 2015 where Black Star Riders are set to issued their sophomore album ‘The Killer Instinct’ produced by Nick Raskulinecz.  The departure of Marco Mendoza in 2014 led the band enlist Robbie Crane (Ratt, Vince Neil Band, Lynch Mob) who makes his recording debut with Black Star Riders on ‘The Killer Instinct.’

MetalTitans: You originally had Joe Elliot to produce the album. Then he stepped aside at one point. What exactly took place?

Ricky Warwick: Joe approached us about producing the new record in January of 2014.  He told us that he really loved ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ and that he’d really love to produce the follow up album.  As you know Joe is a really close friend of mine; he’s worked on my solo albums and worked with Scott (Gorham) on the (Thin) Lizzy remasters. It was ideal for us we love the idea of making a record with Joe. As the year progressed Def Leppard was offered the opportunity to do the KISS tour. Def Leppard also began to write new material so Joe after thinking he was going to have a year of down time got really busy. Around the end of May Joe called us up and told us that he was very sorry that he couldn’t give us the commitment and time that we needed to record this record and he bowed out. That was huge blow to us and we were very disappointed but we had to press forward. 

MetalTitans: So how soon thereafter Joe stepped aside did you begin to look and another producer?

Ricky Warwick: A couple of name came to mind to us and one was Nick Raskulinecz. To be honest we that than Nick was a little bit out of our league budget wise. He’s one of the top guys in the genre at the moment; everything Nick does is just massive.
It’s funny how life has these twists.  Damon’s wife who ran into Nick’s wife at an event and she told Damon about the meeting. Damon then asked his wife if she could get Nick’ number the next time she ran into her. So Nick and Damon had a conversation; we were on tour and we came through Nashville and Nick came out to the show. Nick came backstage afterward said he loved the band, he love the show and said “I really want to make a record with you guys.” The really cool thing was when he said “Don’t worry about the budget. I’ll do it for whatever your budget is.”

MetalTitans: Nick has worked with a list of great bands in the past some very melodic other that are very heavy.

Ricky Warwick: No doubt when we looked at Nick we went down the list and checked all the boxes when it came to him. He’s worked with Mastodon, Food Fighters, RUSH, Alice In Chains and so many other great bands.  Nick’s passion and enthusiasm can’t be touched. It was a pleasure working with him in Nashville making ‘The Killer Instinct.’

MetalTitans: What was it like for you to reconvene in Nashville? I know Damon lives there as does Nick. What was it like to knockout this record in Nashville?

Ricky Warwick:  Well you know Ruben I’ve been to Nashville a lot. I’ve done some co-writing sessions there in the past and have worked on solo material there as well. We didn’t get too much time to go out and to see friends because the priority was to record this album. It’s an absolutely great environment for making music. The drive from the hotel to the studio was beautiful; it was fall and the leaves were turning and we drove alongside the country side---it was wonderful.

MetalTitans: I can’t say enough about your storytelling and your songwriting. When we spoke last we went deep into the solo material and the songs on ‘All Hell Breaks Loose.’ 

Ricky Warwick: Thank you. I remember that.

MetalTitans: I reluctantly downloaded the advance. I’m huge on having the physical product in hand so I can tear it open. Look at the liners, lyrics, artwork and photography.  What I hear on ‘The Killer Instinct’ is a continuation of your stellar story telling. I can sit here and pick your brain about all the tracks but it’s simply no possible with the time we have. Right now the songs that I’m really digging are “Finest Hour” and “Soldierstown.” Can you tell us about those two tracks?

Ricky Warwick: Yeah absolutely.  “Finest Hour” is a feel good song it’s uplifting and has a great story behind it. We were rehearsing in Cambridge and I started playing there chords which are that guitar rift that you hear at the beginning.  Scott came into the studio after going out to get some coffee. He comes in and said “What’s that?! What’s that?! We have to get start working on that! That’s making me smile!”  When something is making Scott Gorham smile I think we’re on to something. (laughs) I wanted to keep the song simple, I wanted to keep it direct and I wanted it to have a big chorus.  That’s what Damon and I set out to do when we were writing “Finest Hour.” The song is about when I was 17 years old going out to shows and getting into all that crazy stuff that we used to get into.  It’s a nod to that time and the friends that you had at the time.  That’s really what it’s all about.

With “Soldierstown” again Scott walked into the dressing room prior to a show and I was just playing that riff. Again we were all floored by that riff Scott said “We have to work on that! That’s the chorus of the song.” The song is loosely based on the idea that you have to lose a finger to save the hand. It’s a deep, dark lyric. The melody really wrote itself because it’s got this really strong Celtic influence to it.
Metal Titans: It’s amazing to think that in less than a month you recorded ‘The Killer Instinct.’
Ricky Warwick: That’s where technology helps. We’re spread out all over the place; Damon and I use Skype to write and share ideas. We’re always writing so we don’t go into the studio with a lack of material. When we went into the studio to record ‘The Killer Instinct’ we went in with 19 songs.

MetalTitans: I have to squeeze this one in because there’s been a new addition to Black Star Riders for the recording of the new album. Marco Mendoza has departed and you have enlisted Robbie Crane. The transition seems to be rather seamless at least on the record.

Ricky Warwick: I agree with you it’s been seamless. Jimmy Degrasso knew Robbie. Marco was gracious enough to let us now that he’d be leaving so we did have some time to look for a replacement. Marco was also active in searching for his replacement but as I said it was Jimmy who suggested Robbie. Again like with Nick we checked off all the boxes when we looked at Robbie. I personally had never met Robbie but I was aware that he was in Ratt. Robbie wasn’t doing anything at the time so we called him and sent him the first album. He called us back and said “I love it and this is certainly something that I’d be very interested in doing.”  We were playing at the Canyon Club in California and Robbie came down to see us. We invited him on stage to play “The Boys Are Back In Town” at sound check. Scott looked at me and said “I haven’t heard anyone play that song like that since Phil (Lynott) played it.”  Not taking anything away from Marco (Mendoza) but Robbie has a more aggressive way of playing. It also helped that Robbie fit right in with the rest of the guys in the band; personality wise, look wise, musicianship wise—he’s been the perfect fit.

MetalTitans: Before I let you go I have to ask you about the bonus content of the deluxe edition of ‘The Killer Instinct.’ There’s some acoustic material featured in the second disc. Are those tracks recorded live in studio?

Ricky Warwick: That’s pretty much Damon and I. Damon and I writer everything on acoustic guitars.  That’s how we write. It was us playing live on acoustic guitars and then we went back and threw a vocal over top of it. We tried to keep it as live as possible.