Vocalist Extraordinaire Ricky Warwick Interview10th May 2021
There can’t be many rock or metal fans who don’t know who Ricky Warwick is. Or not come across his music in some form or other in the last thirty plus years. From fronting UK rockers The Almighty, to solo work as well as fronting both Thin Lizzy, and more recently Black Star Riders, he’s always been a prolific performer.
This year has seen a trio of albums released bearing his name. His latest solo album When Life Was Hard And Fast came out in February. This was followed in March by two re-issues by The Almighty. Their 1993 album Powertrippin’ received the deluxe two CD treatment with a bonus disc included. The Welcome to Defiance Box Set is a seven disc collection, including four further studio albums and three bonus discs.
I certainly had plenty to talk to him about when I had the pleasure of chatting to him from his home in Los Angeles last week.
Hi Ricky, thanks for talking to us today. Its been a busy year so far, release wise. You’ve released a new solo album, and recently there’s been the re-issues from The Almighty, Powertrippin’ and the Welcome to Defiance Box Set. Starting with those two, they must have a lot of good memories for you?
Yeah, they always do. I have such amazing memories of The Almighty, it was phenomenal. We achieved such a lot in a relatively short space of time. Forming a band with a couple of guys you were in school with, seeing it go on and then realising your hopes and dreams is amazing.
Looking back at it, do certain instances come to mind both good and bad?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Like i said we achieved so much, and there’s so many special gigs, shows, records , memories and laughs. It’s always nice to remember the good times. There were bad times too, but you tend to only remember the good times, which is good.
As a fan, I loved the Powertrippin’ album. I bought it when it came out, and it was great to revisit it now. When it came out it seemed like a real step up from the first two albums. When I think of that period, I always think of the UK Tour you did with The Wildhearts and Kerbdog in 1993. It was a brilliant bill, I bet there’s some stories from that tour isn’t there?
Yeah, some of it is pretty foggy from that tour! There was a lot of partying going on that tour, and a lot going on in general with The Almighty! A lot of, ‘did that actually happen?’ from that time. That was a great tour with a strong bill, ourselves were on fire at the time, and obviously The Wildhearts were on the way up. Kerbdog were a really exciting young band at that point too. It was a killer bill, a killer tour.
At around that time there seemed to be an explosion of new young British rock bands appearing. There was yourselves, Little Angels, Thunder, The Wildhearts, Gun. It was a great time.
Yeah it was. It was a good time for hard rock music, there was a lot of energy around. There was a lot of attitude, and a lot of great bands coming out of the UK at that time. It was a good time to making music.
Listening to the Welcome to Defiance box set, I could hear a real development with each album in terms of sound, was this a natural thing for the band?
As individuals, we were all into different kinds of music. One of the mandates we had when we started the band was that we didn’t want to just keep making the same record over and over again. We wanted to try different styles, embrace different techniques and try and evolve and move forward as a band. Sometimes we got criticised for that, but to me that is what music is all really about, going down an unknown road and trying things that people wouldnt expect. It’s very easy to make the same record fifteen times, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a lot of bands that we all know and love that have done that, and are huge. But that wasn’t for us, we wanted to explore as many genre’s as we could.
Listening as a fan, you could hear that Powertrippin’ was a development, and Crank was from that, and Just Add Life from that…
Yeah, I think the integral energy at the core of it was still very much The Almighty, we were still unmistakeable. We just learned to layer things differently, with different sounds. If we’d kept our hair long all the way through our career, people maybe wouldn’t have noticed that much difference between the albums. But you change what you wear, cut your hair, and people automatically say the sound has changed. Maybe the sound hasn’t changed that much, but they’re looking at the big picture, rather than listening to the big picture.
Have you got a favourite album from that period?
I can think of different reasons for different albums. But if I was on a desert island and only had one Almighty record I could take, it would be Crank. I just feel the cohesiveness and chemistry of the band was at it’s best at that time. We were on fire live. Very much a unit and solidified. We had a great time writing that record, a great time making it and I loved playing those songs live. That period of 1993, 94 and into early 95 was my favourite period of being in The Almighty.
The live disc in the box set (A Japanese show recorded on the Crank tour) certainly shows what a tight unit you were live.
Yeah we were. We prided ourselves on how tight we were as a live band. Having a rhythm section like Stumpy (Monroe on drums) and Floyd (London on bass) who were phenomenal, was a huge part of that. They’d been playing together since they were 13 years old, so it’s going to be that way, Great musicians in their own right, but put them together as a rhythm section, and it was insane.
Moving on to your recent solo album, When Life Was Hard And Fast. After previously doing rock albums, and acoustic albums separately, it sounds like you’ve put it altogether into one album this time?
Yeah, I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, I just write and see how it comes out. Most of the stuff I write is on acoustic guitar, so is in its most basic form. It grows and goes through changes as the song evolves. Obviously i’ve done the solo acoustic thing quite a bit, so it’s a big part of what I do. It’s just about encompassing all the different influences that I have. I don’t really analyse it too much, it’s just about trying to write the best songs that I can.
When you are writing a song, do you think, ‘this one’s going to be a solo one’, ‘this one’s for Black Star Riders’? How do you decide which goes where?
You kind of have a gut instinct if it has a certain vibe to it. Suddenly I might hear in my head what would Scotty, Christian, Robbie or Chad (the rest of Black Star Riders) add to it. Would it work for BSR? Then other times, i’ll be thinking ‘you know what, I’m keeping this one for me, its not going to work for Black Star Riders‘. You just instinctively know. Of course, there’s always going to be a couple of songs that could’ve appeared on either album. I’m the main writer for both, and y’know I’m never going to be able to separate myself from myself! You’re always going to have that, It’s a good problem to have.
Your more recent song writing seems to have a much more narrative approach. An influence of Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, where you have a story to tell.
Yeah, just having gotten on in years and having experienced so much in my life, I’m very blessed that i’ve got so many stories to tell. For me it’s like writing a diary, of what’s happening in your life, your family’s lives and your friends lives. Writing about your opinions of what you see going on in the world. It’s your diary and you’re putting it out there for the world to see. You’re letting the world read them, and that’s how I’ve looked at lyrics, and have done for the last twenty to twenty five years.
There’s one song in particular on the new album that caught my attention, Time Don’t Seem To Matter. It’s a beautiful heartfelt song.
Thank you. That’s a song that I wrote about being away from my daughter. It’s a straight up song about missing someone you love very much. She also sings backing vocals on the track too which was amazing. It’s written from the heart, and most thing I write are too. If it doesn’t come from there it’s not really worth writing about for me.
I first encountered you as a solo artist in 2003, on the Def Leppard tour, when you appeared solo acoustically. I bet that was a nerve wracking experience, stepping out on your own with just a guitar in front of thousands of people?
Yeah, it was incredible. I ended up being on tour with Def Leppard for a year, and went all over the world with them. We did two huge US tours with together, then also the UK tour too. I learned so much from that tour, walking out on your own into an arena full of 15,000 rabid Def Leppard fans, and me just armed with an acoustic guitar. You certainly learn what you’re about very, very quickly that’s for sure.
I learned so much by being able to entertain an audience on my own. I wasn’t relying on the backing of a band. It made me a better guitar player, a better singer, and probably a better songwriter too. It certainly hardened my nerves. After that, nothing was going to phase me, it certainly gave me a lot of confidence. It went ok, and I certainly went down well, or the guys wouldn’t have had me out with them for a year. I really kicked on from that, it was a amazing experience. They gave me a wonderful opportunity. After that, I was able to pick up the ball, and just run with it.
The band have been so good to me, especially Joe (Elliott). He’s a really good friend and has been a real supporter of what i’ve done for so many years. I’m very indebted to him for that.
Following that tour you released my favourite of your solo albums, Love Many, Trust Few. I loved it’s variety.
I spent a lot of time in Nashville around that time, and wrote a lot with local musicians, and you can hear that on the album. That was an interesting time for me to go there and write with artists who you normally wouldn’t have paired me with. That was the beauty of it, and I ended up coming up with some quite unusual songs for me on that record. Everything’s a learning curve, you’re like a sponge, you soak it up and learn from it. That’s what I love about music, you learn something new every day.
I saw you doing one of your acoustic shows with Damon Johnson a few years ago . It was a great spontaneous show, are there any plans for another tour together?
Everything’s so chaotic right now. Damon’s obviously not a member of Black Star Riders anymore, and I’ve got a lot of things going on too at the moment. It’s down to timing. There’s nothing planned at the moment, but who’s to know what will happen further down the road.
I’ve got my solo stuff to take care of, and a new Black Star Riders album we’re working on. I’m busy doing that at the minute.
When Life Was Hard And Fast was recorded in 2019, do you have a stockpile of material lined up for these projects?
The new Black Star Riders album is written and ready to go, we start recording it in September. I’ve got most of the next solo album written too. I don’t know when I’ll get in to record that, I’m still very much in the process of promoting the current one. I’ve moved my tour dates into the start of 2022. But there’s always songs around, I’m very lucky in that regard, I’m ready to go at any time that we can get into the studio. I think the next thing will be the new Black Star Riders album though in September.
Will that be out after your solo dates next year?
Yeah, I can’t see that coming out until the tail end of 2022 if I’m being honest.
Is that the plan for the rest of the year for you? Are you able to play live over there yet?
Not yet, its slowly starting to open up here now too. We’re lucky in LA that we’re in a good place where we’re in the least restricted tier, practically everything is open to 50% now, stadiums are opening again now too. It’s still very early days, we’re still at the mercy of governments and the pandemic. It’s hard to plan anything. We don’t know what’s going to happen, there’s no clear cut path out of this yet. We’ve a lot of plans, a lot of ideas, but it’s up to the powers that be to decide when we can start playing again.
You’ve got your online streamed shows to look forward to though.
They’ve been a god send to be honest with you. They’re obviously not the same, but they’ve been a lot of fun to do. They’re a great way of keeping in touch, and the support I’ve had from everybody has been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed them as it’s given me something to look forward to. They’ve definitely helped make the best of a bad situation.
Ricky, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. It’s been a real pleasure. I hope it’s not long til we’re all out there again in the flesh!
You and me both! Thank you for talking to me. Stay safe.