Last week I had the chance to speak to Ricky Warwick. Starting out as a rhythm guitarist in New Model Army, Ricky formed The Almighty in 1988. Three successful solo albums, many successful side projects and currently fronting the mighty Thin Lizzy on tour – is there any stopping this man? Always a confident musician, Ricky talks about how this line up came to life, working with Nathan Connelly, his love of his family and how life couldn’t be better for the Northern Irish legend.
First congratulations on the current Thin Lizzy tour.
Thank you very very much. I’m having a great time and it is going really well.
Is there any shows that really stick out for you as being special?
Every night to be honest with you without trying to sound cheesey was amazing. It was playing at a cup final. Every night that we are on stage it is just electric. Obviously the highlights for me were when Phil’s widow Caroline, and his daughter Kathleen came to the show in Bristol. They really loved it, and came back and hung out and said how proud they thought Phil would of been. Then on top of that support, meeting Phil’s mother, Philomena in Dublin was incredible. She loved it and said we did Phil proud and that really blew my mind. That is the validation that I was hoping to get. I wanted them to like it so much and when they did – it just made it for me.
I knew the shows would be good as we had worked hard getting ready, and the fans are incredible and they seemed to enjoy it but getting the validation from his family was just the icing on the cake.
Were you intimidated at all with fronting Lizzy?
Yeah, absolutely but not in a bad way. I think what I said to everyone when it happened is that it never felt wrong! It never for one minute felt uncomfortable. When Scott offered me the gig I said to myself, if this doesn’t feel right or if something wasn’t to sit well – then I won’t do it. It never once felt like that. It always felt very comfortable and the right thing to do.
I also believed in myself that I could do a good job and I wouldn’t of taken it on if I didn’t feel like that. Being a huge Lizzy fan myself, all I wanted to do was do justice to Phil, do justice to the songs, and do justice to the name. At the same time I was also very aware that I wasn’t just going to stand up there and try and be a clone of Phil! I think that is the most insulting thing that you can do. At the end of the day it is Ricky Warwick singing those songs and I am an artist myself, I am not trying to be anyone else. I wanted to take the energy and passion that Phil put into his music and sing them as myself. Were not a tribute band – we are actually continuing on with the band.
Have you talked about writing new songs and doing a new album?
Yes we have, I think we would all quite like to do something in the studio. I think judging by the success of the tour it is something that we would like to do but we are not going to rush into anything. We would like to get more touring under our belts and then start work on a track and see how that goes – if we all feel good about it then we will continue. If not then we will keep what we are doing. There is already an incredible amount of material to keep picking set lists from! It would have to be amazing and stand up to everything that has come before and nothing less will do so the benchmark is really high but I think it would be great.
Your known Scott for a long time – was this something that you had both talked about for awhile or was this put to you from out of the blue?
It came out of nowhere! I was not expecting it at all. Scott has been a friend of mine for ages but it completely came out of the blue. About this time last year I got the phone call and I wasn’t expecting it. I think it was Joe (Joe Elliott – the Def Leppard frontman and Ricky are great friends) that was planting seeds.
The upcoming tour dates with Def Leppard, Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy – was this line-up something that you had discussed among yourselves or was it more promoter lead?
I think it was a bit of both really. Def Leppard wanted to do some shows as warm up’s for Download and also the upcoming USA tour. Ourselves and Alice Cooper were approached and I think it is amazing. I think it is just such a shame that we can’t do a full tour with that line-up – that would be fantastic!
In your career you have worked with such a long list of incredible artists – is there anyone in particular that sticks out in your mind?
I am now in one of my all time favourite bands and I have played with the guys from Stiff Little Fingers and I am at the stage where nearly all my dreams have come true. I am really really blessed in that fact and I have worked with such incredible people but I have never been intimidated by who I have worked with. I have been honoured to work with them and in awe of the work but I don’t think I am the kind of guy that falls to pieces when working with other musicians.
The only time I can think of coming close to a moment like that was meeting Lemmy for the first time when I was really young. That was back in The Almighty days when we were on tour with them. It was probably the closet I have come to being overwhelmed.
Do you think that yourself and Joe Elliott will ever do an album together?
We have always talked about it but at the moment who knows. We usually end up drinking beer and watching football! I would love to work on something with him and I am sure further down the road that we will do something.
How did working with Nathan Connelly (Snow Patrol) come about?
That is a really cool sweet story. Nathan is really good friends with a good friend of mine called Chris McCormack that used to play in a band called ’3 Colours Red’. He called me up one night and he had a few drinks and said there is somebody that wants to talk to you. He put this kid on the phone and he was talking to me about The Almighty and how much we influenced his guitar playing and what a fan of the band he was. He then said to me – my name is Nathan and I play in a band that you may of heard of, we are from east Belfast like you are and were called Snow Patrol. I think I literally spat my beer out across the table and tried to act cool by saying – yeah I think I have heard of you!
It was really cool though as Nathan is quite a bit younger than me and he grew up listening to The Almighty and it influenced him and after all that success, when he found out that Chris knew me – he wanted to pick up the phone and tell me that. That was fantastic and it is the same way I would of been with Lizzy and Stiff Little Fingers. After that we got to meet and became really good friends and obviously I think Snow Patrol are a really awesome band and we hang out as much as we can.
Do you prefer being in a band or being a solo artist?
Nothing beats being in Thin Lizzy – that’ the ultimate gig at the end of the day. The high from playing with the guys is incredible. I will never be able to replicate that and it is a dream come true. The solo work I love doing and I will be back to work on new material when I get the chance. They are both very different things and a different head set needed to work in either. Lizzy is the priority at the moment and my heart is completely 100% in it. When I have time I will start working on a new solo record.
When you start writing songs, do you prefer to isolate yourself and write alone or do you work better while bouncing ideas off people?
Everything really works for me. I am not one of these people that has to be in a certain place or shut myself away from the world to work. If you are a writer and you have idea’s you should be able to adapt to any situation. I find now when I am at home with my family, I have a window from 8am to 3.30pm which is when my children get home from school, that is my time to write and to some people that can be very restricting, but I have done more writing in the last couple of years in that time than ever before.
If you’ve got something to say – you’ll find time to say it anywhere. It doesn’t sit right with me when some musicians say ‘Oh I have to get away and write’. Bullshit! Your an artist, you have a comfortable life, it’s not hard – sit down and get over yourself! Having said that everyone is different and what works for some people may not work for others but I certainly don’t work like that. Your a product of your environment so you should be able to get on with it no matter where you are.
I have tried to go off to the desert to write and don’t get me wrong it was great. Did I wrote more or any better songs while there – No!
What music are you currently listening to at the moment?
Obviously I have been listening to alot of Thin Lizzy to research all the words and make sure I have everything right. Today I am listening to the new Gaslight Anthem album. I have it awhile but I finally got a chance to sit down and listen to it. I don’t really go out to clubs anymore as I am dedicated to my family and I prefer spending time with them, but I find myself going back to listen to music that I have always loved. Also I am loving the new Social Distortion album.
Check out Thin Lizzy live this summer with dates at Slane Castle, The O2 Dublin and Belfast Odessey Arena.