An interview with Scott Gorham from Thin Lizzy by Sheryl Willis

An interview with Scott Gorham from Thin Lizzy by Sheryl Willis

After deciding that it was time to leave the brand of Thin Lizzy behind and start new project Black Star Riders; guitarist Scott Gorham kicked back and had a chat with Louder Than War’s Sheryl Willis to talk about the new career move…

For years now you’ve carried on working under the name of Thin Lizzy what made you decide that it was perhaps time for a new start under a new act?

Well this was basically going to be the next Thin Lizzy album but when we started writing I started to feel more and more uncomfortable with that idea of recording an album under the name of Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott. Everything I have ever recorded under the name of Thin Lizzy he’d always been there on side and now we’re going to go out and do one without him? So I went to Brian Downey and he said that he was thinking the exact same thing about feeling uncomfortable with it, so we went to the others and they were uncomfortable with it also. So then the cat was out of the bag sort of thing and none of us wanted to get into recording this album under the name of Thin Lizzy, so it was like what do we do now? We had songs that we’d written but we didn’t want to leave that and we wanted to start recording. The whole we want to keep writing but what do we do and that’s when the management said the only way it’ll be possible to record these songs is to start under a new band….

So was it easy to come up with the name Black Star Riders?

It was really, Ricky and I were always sat at the back of the bus with a TV and all that and we’re really into westerns. Anyway Ricky was watching this one where they said ‘Oh we’ve got to catch up with the Black Star gang’ and that really stuck with Ricky, it was just the word ‘gang’ that didn’t stick, so he just started kicking it around and rolling ideas about… he came up with riders at the back and it seemed to work with what we do and how we travel. There were some others but we kinda mulled it over for a week and decided on that. Finding a name for a band is really tough because there are so many dumb things that you can come up with. There are so many bands with dumb names and it’s so easy to come up with a dumb name…

So many bands these days seem to have ‘The’ at the start these days too…

Yeah that’s such a bad idea don’t you think?

It’s not very original now anymore no…

Also years and years ago I read this article that said that bands that had a name that ended in ‘er’ never made it (laughs)

The band have been around since late last year was there any nervousness about launching Black Star Riders as there were always bound to be mixed views on the move?

Well course there was. I mean there were people out there who thought we were crazy, you know that were like with Thin Lizzy you have the brand name there, and life is good, and then all of a sudden you’re walking away from it…

But then I guess you also have the fans who would disagree if you had of carried on under the name of Thin Lizzy?

There’s always going to be that, and then there’s the small minority out there that didn’t want us to do it any way. You’re always going to live with the pros and cons of who you are and what band you are. There’s always going to be a positive side, there will always be a person who will be negative about you but that’s what you learn about this business…

But like you said all of you didn’t feel right about doing it, so it comes down to what you felt was right doesn’t it?

Yeah that’s absolutely correct. You have to go with what you can live with, what your heart tells you to do and in this case it was to walk away from Thin Lizzy… but I don’t mean to walk away from Thin Lizzy completely, because, not this year, but next year do a few shows under the name of Thin Lizzy. Brian wants to come back and play drums with the band…

I guess you’ll also always have like the younger audience that haven’t seen Thin Lizzy live that probably would quite like too?

Yes and of course those who already have but we will get back together as Thin Lizzy and do a few dates…

You were a large part of the song writing process within Thin Lizzy are you still apart of the song writing process with Black Star Riders?

Err yeah I do have writing credits on the new album. I mean, Ricky and Damon have wrote more of the album because those two guys do a lot of hanging out together, so y’know they write a lot of songs together, so they probably got a larger share of the writing. I still have five or six songs out of the twelve which isn’t bad.

Talking of the new album apparently you had difficulties on picking what the first single would be. So how come you had ‘Bound for Glory’ as your final choice?

That was the record company (laughs). The reason we went with Nuclear Blast was because those involved have had major success with other record labels and now they’ve come over to Nuclear Blast and that’s the reason why we went with them. We trusted them. Now there were a couple of arguments, like why are you choosing this one and why not this one…

 

I guess though if you let them pick that one and it didn’t go so well in the future you could say well we want to pick them…

You know what I’m saying! (Laughing)

Yeah, give them some leeway to start with and if that backfires put your foot down later on

Yeah exactly, you’re better off doing that…

So was it you or the record company that picked ‘Kingdom of The Lost’ (which is you’re new single) or is it good to be able to compromise?

Well everybody in the band went for it and it’s not like the record company don’t like ‘Kingdom of The Lost’ cos they love it. They just wanted to start out with ‘Bound for Glory’ and we wanted ‘Kingdom of The Lost’ for the second single and they agreed… Yeah it’s definitely good if you can compromise!

Talking of ‘Kingdom of The Lost’ it has a very Celtic like vibe in the introduction which remains with the track throughout, where did the inspiration for this come from?

That was mainly a Ricky driven idea cos obviously Ricky comes from Belfast – his blood is green, he bleeds Irish. He had this idea and he banged out the verse and it just became a very Celtic song. Daemon helped with the actual Celtic riff- which is really surprising because he’s from Alabama for god’s sake! I don’t think he’d ever been to Ireland before he joined the band (laughs).

 

What would you say is the most important song to you on ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’?

Wow, honestly I can’t think of it in that way, they’re all important. It would help if people would buy the whole album, instead of just one track here and one track there because I know that’s the trend these days; people just buy the one track…

Music downloads haven’t helped with all that…

No not at all. It is very difficult to think of one track as more important than
another…

So you consider them as all coming as a package?

Yeah that’s it absolutely…

For ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ you used artwork by Gil Elvgren for the cover who’s most famous for his pin up girl work, were you and the other guys previously a fan of his work or was it recommended by someone else?

These are images that you grew up with, the pin up girls were always on the front of the world war bombers. It was always cool; these models that were painted on the front of airplanes that would just be blown up and fall from the sky. The actual inspiration came from watching a documentary about the B17 bombers that were flying over Germany and all that, you actually saw that there was a bad girl, not that one specifically (the one on the album cover) but there was one. And over the top of it was written ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ and way off lyrically that really clocked with Ricky. He started to write a song called ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’. It just seemed like a good theme to carry on with all through the album and to the album cover. Unfortunately Gil Elvgren died a few years ago and we went to his estate, we negotiated using that particular pin up girl and they were more than happy to relinquish the rights to use it… and there we go.

It has been said that the new album has taken a slightly heavier turn than most of Thin Lizzy’s previous work, was that a reason for forming Black Star Riders so that you could work with a heavier drummer with a chance to experiment more musically?

Well you know something I’d been looking at all the live performances of what we’d been doing other the past few years because basically we did this album live in the studio, twelve songs in twelve days. We just took a live set up and screwed it down into the studio, we just wait to be counted in and then we begin baby! It meant doing solos live on the spot and Ricky sang every single song live as we were setting down these tracks. That’s just the way it kinda came out, yeah I guess it is heavier, but that’s because it was done live in the studio.

That’s a good way to do it though because in this day and age you get a lot of bands that release brilliant albums but can’t play them live…

That’s a good observation (laughs).

There are bands you see live and they can’t play certain sections of songs live so they just play a recording…

Yeah it’s like why did you make that song if you can’t reproduce it live on stage. The plus side for doing it this way is that we know we can do it, we know we can put it out there live every night. There is an advantage to doing it the way we did. The disadvantage is that you listen to the album now and you think ah man if only I’d spent an extra five minutes on that bit!

The new album was produced and mixed by Kevin Shirley who has worked with some major names over the years, was he your first choice for the job?

Yeah he kinda was. You send out your demos to two or three guys that you have in mind and you wait for a response through your management. Obviously you won’t hear from each and every one of them, but you’re waiting for a response. With Kevin he almost immediately got back to us and said ‘I really, really want to do this, I think these songs are great. I already have ideas’. You could see and hear the enthusiasm that he wanted to do this, after that it was like ‘this is our guy, he really wants to do this’. We knew about his track record that he could get the job done with the results and that’s pretty much how Kevin got the gig.

With one of the music industry’s finest producers on side for their debut album the future of Black Star Riders looks promising; although time will tell whether choosing a name which ends in ‘er’ will be the bands downfall. New album ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ is out Monday 27th May on Nuclear Blast records.

 

Black Star Riders can be found at their website and Facebook pages.

All words by Sheryl Willis. More work by Sheryl on Louder Than War can be found here.

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