Contributor’s Note: Ricky Warwick (Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, The Almighty) has announced today that he will be releasing a brand new studio album, his first since 2015. The new album is titled ‘When Life Was Hard And Fast’ and will be released on the 19th February through Nuclear Blast. The album’s first single ‘Fighting Heart’ has also been released today and is available on all streaming services right now. You can also watch the video here: https://youtu.be/9g4YESLtSzs
Pre-order the album on various formats, including a 2CD Digipack which includes the bonus covers album ‘Stairwell Troubadour’, now from: https://www.musicglue.com/ricky-warwick/
Ricky comments “Fighting Heart” is a celebration of how music, literature, art and movies can inspire and motivate us on a daily basis. Can these things change the world? Who knows for sure. But I believe that loud guitars and rock n roll can save a little piece of us all”
For the process of recording the album, Ricky was joined by Robert Crane (Bass), Xavier Muriel (Drums) and Keith Nelson (Guitar) as well as a number of special guests including Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Andy Taylor formerly of Duran Duran, Thunder’s Luke Morley, Dizzy Reed of the mighty Guns ‘N Roses and even Ricky’s daughter Pepper. Keith also produced the new album, having previously worked with Buckcherry, Blackberry Smoke and Alice Cooper. Keith noted that “Ricky is a true Rock-n-Roll soul… he’s got incredible stories to tell and a unique way of telling them. It’s been an honor to be asked to partner and contribute to this record.”
Mark Dean was afforded the opportunity via Madness To Creation to speak with Ricky Warwick about his solo record, his music career, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Fans can find Ricky Warwick & The Fighting Hearts, along with Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders at the following locations:
Mark Dean:Good evening, how are you?
Ricky Warwick:Hi, Mark. How are you doing, mate? You all right?
Mark Dean: I’m not bad. How are you coping with all this extra time you have on your hands?
Ricky Warwick: Well, my family haven’t chucked me out yet, so I must be doing okay. It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Mark Dean: It is absolutely mad. Bet they’re glad to have you home though for an extended period.
Ricky Warwick: You know what? It’s been lovely. I’ve been home for a year, a year next week. We played our last show… The last show I played was 21st of November. So, that’s almost in a couple of days. And I’ve been home a year, and as much as it’s been great, I’m obviously really missing playing live. It’s been really nice. It’s been nice to be here for the birthdays and all that kind of stuff. I’ve been okay. I’ve sort of been dealing with it okay. You obviously know yourself. You get days where you’re just like, “Oh, man this is shit,” whatever, but on the whole, it’s been all right, mate. I can think of a lot worse places to be.
Mark Dean: Yeah. And like many bands, like many artists, you’ve had to think outside the box in terms of paying the bills, basically. I see you’ve done…
Ricky Warwick: I did.
Mark Dean:… some like some live streams.
Ricky Warwick: Well, that’s it. I mean, you have to. You have to adapt. I think when it hit, it was like, “Oh, shit, this is horrific. What are we going to do?” And I think once I sort of grasped the reality of this, it was bigger than any of us. We’re just going to have to adapt and try and get through it. I didn’t jump in too quickly. I’m kind of having a little look around and see what other artists were doing and then I decided to go through the StageIt Platform to do the live stream, because to me it just feels like you can buy a ticket there and you can get involved. It’s more like a gig, like a proper gig, even though it’s online. It just felt like it was a good platform to use. And I think I’ve done five and I’m probably doing my sixth in December. And mate, it’s been a godsend, it has, absolutely.
Mark Dean: Is there anything else that you’ve come across that you would like to try out in December in the same sort of vein?
Ricky Warwick: You know what, I think, even when we get back to normality, Mark, I think that I’ll keep doing the live stream stuff. I think it’s a case now you could do… We’re going to do a wee show from the dressing room backstage at blah-blah-blah. We’re going to do a wee acoustic set backstage or back of the tour bus, or… I think that’s the beauty of it. I think it’s something I’ll continue doing, because I actually find it quite fun and it’s quite easy to do
I mean, it’s given me a lot of time. It’s just like everything, a lot of time to be reflective, a lot of time to write, a lot of time to finish those books that you never got around to reading, movies you never got around to watch. Again, spending time with the family, maybe just getting some introspection in your own life. I think that’s the most sort of satisfying thing I’ve got out of all this.
Mark Dean: That leads me nicely onto the new album. In terms of marketing, I see, as usual, you’re doing the different bundles. I just wondered if marketing of a new album was something that you had a hands-on approach or is it something that management come up with, “Let’s do that, let’s do this?” Or is it a combination of the both of you or three of you getting together?
Ricky Warwick: Yeah, no, it’s both of us. Obviously, you know our managers, Adam and Ace, very well. And they’re very artistic people, which is great. So, when I have an idea, they’re very much for it. “Have you thought about doing this? Have you thought about doing that?” And they’re great at making those ideas happen. And also, I’m on a great label, Nuclear Blast, who really embrace vinyl. And I love vinyl, I’m a vinyl fan, always have been.
And I think most of the people out there that are into my music, a lot of them are the same. So, it’s always about trying to get value for money and doing something a bit different, putting excitement into a record coming out. It’s just not going, “Oh, you can download it or it’s on CD. That’s it.” You can get vinyl. You can get different coloured vinyl, different packages. There’s autographed stuff. I loved all that, and I still do. I mean, I love all that. So, it’s like, well, I’m into it, so I may as well see who else is out there digs it as well. But yeah, I’m absolutely involved in all that, Mark.
Mark Dean: Moving on then to the album itself, when was it created? Was all the songs on it created before the whole COVID situation kicked in?
Ricky Warwick: Yep, absolutely, Mark. Everything was done way before there was any hint of this coming around the bend. I started writing the album with Keith Nelson, this one demo in 2018. And then we recorded the thing in April of 2019, so April of last year. So it’ll almost be two years, almost two years before it sort of sees the light of day in February of next year.
Mark Dean: And of course you got a hell of a lot of guest musicians on there. How do you go about getting guests on? Is it simply a case of you getting the phone out and going through your little black book of contacts? Or how does it work?
Ricky Warwick: No, it’s pretty much that’s what it is. These are friends of mine that I speak to on a regular basis. They’re mates. And obviously Joe has produced two of my solo records. We’ve played a lot of shows with Def Leppard. I talk to Joe all the time, so that’s a no-brainer. Same with Andy Taylor. I’ve just spent, well Andy’s got a solo record coming out next year that I co-wrote five or six songs with him. So, he’s very much in my psyche, Luke Morley as well.
Luke played some shows with Black Star Riders standing in for Damon Johnson a couple of years ago. And Luke’s an old mate. So it’s as simple as that. They’re just people that I’m talking to. They’re my mates, but they just happen to be extremely talented mates. And again, I said, “Look, no big deal. Do you fancy playing on this track?” And all of them said yes. And that’s the good thing about the internet now is you can send a little file over, and next thing you know, you wake up the next morning there’s a great guitar solo on your song, waiting in your inbox.
Mark Dean: I was going to ask, actually, how did you work it? Did you submit files? Did you all get together? Obviously, they’ve all got their own schedules happening, so that would have been pretty difficult.
Ricky Warwick: Yeah. I mean, it’s all done through files, obviously, me being here and everybody else being all over the place. And it’s so easy to do that now. Although, saying that, obviously the album was recorded old school, four of us in a room, playing live. But when you’re getting guests, it’s just like you said mate, schedules are tough. And it’s so easy to do it now through… over the internet.
Mark Dean: What about then, album cover artwork is always something that’s fascinated me. When albums come out you always study the artwork. I just wondered, for this one, did you actually source photo ideas yourself? Or was it something you just threw the album title to the record company and they come back to you with ideas, images? How do you decide on an album cover?
Ricky Warwick: It’s actually something I’ve been waiting to do for a long, long time. The whole concept behind this, Mark, is I wrote the track When Life Was Hard and Fast with Sam Robinson. You know Sam who obviously I wrote a lot with him, When Patsy Cline, my previous album. And I’m a big fan. The cover photograph that you see… You’ll probably know about this, obviously being from the same place as me. It’s actually a scene from the famous Ards TT Races. Were you aware of those back in the thirties?
Mark Dean: I wasn’t, no.
Ricky Warwick: So, around Dundonald and Comber and Newtownards, from about 1926 up til about, I think ’36, ’37.
Yearly there was a race called the Ards TT and it was a road race and it was massive. You’re talking about three, four hundred thousand spectators watching this race every year. And these guys were the, you know, the rock stars of the Formula 1 of the day, there’s a guy called Nuvolari. He was an Italian. He’d win every year and he drove a Ferrari. And that front cover is actually a scene, a crash scene, I think from a race from about 1933. And it’s my great-grandfather’s farm. So, the people standing on that embankment is a field in my great-grandfather’s farm that he used to rent it to people to watch the race. And that’s an actual photograph from Quarry Corner, just outside Dundonald, of that sort of family farm, where that crash has taken place.
So, it all just tied in and, just tied in with the title and the whole imagery and everything like that. And then I went to a designer called Karen Kronecker, who did the album cover for Another State of Grace, Black Star Riders. And, Karen’s a friend. She’s a great designer. And she’s just really, really cool. Told her the concept, gave her the photograph and, and she came back with that and just knocked it out of the park, just came up with a super cover for me.
Mark Dean: I was going to ask you about the title track itself. It sounds like it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Black Star album.
Ricky Warwick: Don’t let Scott Gorham hear you tell that, it’ll get me in trouble.
Mark Dean: How do you decide what goes to Black Star Riders? What goes to the Ricky Warwick album? Do you have to… or maybe you have to adopt a different mindset when you’re writing songs for each?
Ricky Warwick: You do. I think when I’m writing a song and I decide that I’m going to take it to Black Star Riders, I know in my mind what Scott, Christian, Robbie and Chad, what they’re going to bring to it. So, I don’t tend to finish it totally because I want them to have their input.
And put their mark on it. And then obviously solo, I’ll take it a bit further. Sometimes I’ll just find a solo thing. In this case, obviously I wrote with Keith Nelson quite a lot. So I take him in a verse in the chorus and the melody and we put the song together from there. But I just kind of know. Also it depends what, where I’m at and in this sort of process. If Black Star Riders are touring and I’m out on the road with them a lot, something that I’ll write will no doubtedly end up becoming a Black Star Rider’s song, just because that’s what I’m busy doing at that moment in time.
Or if we’re off the road and I’m just writing. I’m like, “Oh, well, you know, I’ll maybe just keep this one from myself.” And it’s been a couple of songs where I’ve got the raised eyebrow from Scott, when I’ve played him the stuff he’s kind of gone “You sure about that? You’re not giving that to us?” But that’s really it, you just instinctively know, but there’s always going to be a couple of, would probably work well both ways. I mean I’m the main writer for both obviously the Black Star Riders and myself. So, it’s hard. You’re never going to get that much distinction sometimes on some of the songs. It’s just the way it is.
Mark Dean: You find songwriting has become easier or more difficult over the years?
Ricky Warwick: I think it’s become easier just like everything else, you get more confident in your own skin and your own ability. I think you stopped giving a fuck what other people think as well. That’s one of the main things. I think you just go, “You know what, I’m going to write what I want to write and what I feel and what I think. And if people like it that’s tremendous. You know, if they don’t, at least I’m still writing from the heart.” So I think it’s acceptance of that and just having confidence in your ability, and I think that maybe just comes through age and just through, like everything else, the more you write, the more you play, the better you get.
Mark Dean: You mentioned earlier, we were talking about the live sessions. You’ve got this Almighty one coming up. Has that caused you to go and check out your albums and maybe relearn, relearn or reinvent, maybe some of those songs that you might not have played in a while?
Ricky Warwick: God, man, it’s the bane of my existence. I mean that in a really lovely way. Absolutely. I’m so happy that the Almighty is so revered and the legacy that we’ve left. I’m so proud of the people. I mean, I get asked every day when the Almighty are getting back together, without fail. People think it pisses me off and it doesn’t, I love it. I think it’s great that people still have a connection with a band and it still means so much to them. But it’s funny because some of those songs were never, ever intended to be played on an acoustic guitar. I find myself going like, “How the fuck am I going to play these?” And it’s a challenge and it’s good fun. You end up, like you said Mark, you end up doing different arrangements to try and make it work. And usually you can, usually you’ll get something, you’ll get something out of it. But I love playing those songs. I’ll never tyre playing those songs. It’s great. But yeah, I find myself going back going, “How did I play that riff? How does that go again?” You know?
Really “What was the thinking when I wrote that?” You know, and that’s lovely. I really enjoy that.
Mark Dean: Looking forward, you’ve got a Fighting Hearts scheduled for April, May. … Is it difficult to have several musical hats? I mean, obviously you’ve got the solo album, Black Star, Fighting Hearts. Is it difficult to juggle all these musical projects.
Ricky Warwick: It keeps you busy. I mean, it keeps me very busy and that’s good for me. I like to be busy. I like to be creative as much as I can and I’m not good when I’m bored. I just don’t function very well when I’ve got nothing to do. So, I think it keeps me focused and I just enjoy it. I just love writing music. I just love writing different styles of music. I think I love pushing myself as a musician, as a writer, as a singer to try and maybe do things that were maybe a bit of a reach earlier, that I can maybe think of going for now. I just, I’m just very blessed to be able to get up every morning and be able to do that for a living. You know?
Mark Dean: What about in the latter part of next year? Obviously we don’t know how things are going to pan out. What had you scheduled? Was it more Black Star Riders stuff?
Ricky Warwick: We had a bunch… I mean, this year was all about Black Star Riders, Mark.
Obviously we started touring Another State of Grace and that was curtailed when the pandemic hit. We’re supposed to be doing all the festivals this summer. Some States shows, South American shows, all that obviously got canned sadly. So, you know, next year will be really just, I’m really just going to, hopefully we get back to playing. I’ll be promoting the solo record. New Black Star Riders album is written, it’s demoed, it’s done. It’s ready to go.
Mark Dean: Already?
Ricky Warwick: Already, we’re just waiting for the chance to get in and record it. And we’re supposed to be in the studio actually, as we speak now doing it, but obviously with the pandemic still as bad as it ever was, that’s not going to happen. So, we’re sitting on the demos. We’ve demoed 12 songs and maybe by the time it comes around and we do get in, there might be a couple more, but I’m very happy with how it sounds. And as soon as we get the all clear, we’ll get in the studio and we’ll get it recorded.
Mark Dean: What about Thin Lizzy then? Is it just put on the back burner for now? Or, you’ve any plans moving ahead or looking ahead?
Ricky Warwick: I think Scott always gets plans. I mean he loves and rightly so, playing those songs. And I think… I’m sure there’s more down the line. I’m sure Scott, obviously with the box set coming out, the great movie that’s out about Phil, I’m sure Scott’s keen to get out and play some of those songs. I mean, I kind of let Scott… That’s Scott’s thing. It’s one of those things where it’s such an honour for me to sing them. If Scott wants me to sing, he wants to do some shows. I’ll always be there as long as he wants me to do that. So, I’m sure down the road there will definitely be a few more Lizzie shows at some point.
Mark Dean: What’s next for you? I mean, obviously you’ve been in this whole music business quite a while now, do you still have goals to achieve ? Career targets?
Ricky Warwick: Yeah. Just keep doing what I’m doing. You know, I just love what I’m doing Mark. I love to write. I love to play. I’ve been obviously writing for a few other people, which I’ve been enjoying recently, and I just keep continuing being able to do what I do, you know? It keeps me focused and it keeps my spirits up. It’s certainly been my salvation this last year with everything that’s going on. And it’s really keep on keeping on.
Mark Dean: You mentioned there, I mean the writing for other people, is that difficult? .. Do they tell you what they want, what style they want or do they just leave it totally in your hands and you bring stuff to them?
Ricky Warwick: It’s a bit of both. It’s obviously easier when you can get together with the people, like Andy Taylor, I’m just telling you about some tracks on his new album. Andy and I were together when we wrote and that was great. When I was working with them I was up in Glasgow working. So you get to know what they want and you get to get their vibe. Obviously when you’re doing it over the internet, you don’t really have that luxury.
Mark Dean: Sure.
Ricky Warwick: So it’s a case of just sending ideas backwards and forwards and “Yep, like that. Don’t like that.” Or, “Like this, don’t like this.” Usually with me, a lot of the time it’s the lyrics. So I’m just sending lyrics to people for ideas that they’ve sent me. They’ll maybe send me finished music and go “Hey, we need some lyrics for this.” And you know, I’ll just fire them back to them over the internet, but I just enjoy doing it. It’s something a wee bit different. You think outside sort of your own kind of constraints or maybe what you would do for your own stuff. It gives you that wee bit more freedom. It’s just fun, you know?
Mark Dean: Right, I’ll let you get on.
Ricky Warwick: No problem, mate.
Mark Dean: It’s great to talk to you. Hopefully get to see you out on the road. Whenever that may be.
Ricky Warwick: Absolutely be safe brother, look after yourself.
And there you have it! Be sure to pick up Ricky Warwick’s album “When Life Was Hard & Fast” on February 19th via Nuclear Blast Records. Fans can check out Mark Dean at the following locations, along with Antihero and The Spill Magazine: