Heavy Load

Ricky War­wick

Classic Rock - - Contents - In­ter­view: Michael Hann

The Black Star Rid­ers front­man on the bands he’s been in, school, fight­ing, un­der­age drink­ing and un­com­fort­able clogs.

Ricky War­wick has spent 30 years at rock’s coal face, as front­man, side­man, solo artist and hired hand. He’s been a punk with New Model Army, a rocker with The Almighty and the des­ig­nated filler of some very big shoes as the man who stepped up to front the post-Phil Lynott Thin Lizzy. That Lizzy re­union evolved into Black Star Rid­ers, who tour the UK in Novem­ber. War­wick spoke to Clas­sic Rock at his home in Los An­ge­les.

What were you like at school?

There were two stages. When I was at school at North­ern Ire­land I was pretty quiet and with­drawn. Then when I turned fourteen or fif­teen I started get­ting a bit more ram­bunc­tious. And then we moved to Scot­land and it all went down­hill from there – start­ing fights, get­ting into fights, mess­ing around. A lot of un­der­age drink­ing.

Can you re­mem­ber the first time you drank your­self sick?

Ab­so­lutely. It was an un­der-eigh­teens disco, and we’d snuck in a litre bot­tle of vodka mixed with Coke. I re­mem­ber the hall start­ing to spin wildly. Next thing I knew I was on my hands and knees and there was vomit fly­ing ev­ery­where.

When you played guitar in New Model Army did they make you wear clogs? [Laughs] They didn’t make me wear them, but I wanted to. I wanted to fit in. I was so in awe of the whole New Model Army thing – the band and the fol­low­ing. I was so thrilled to be a part of that. But clogs were un­com­fort­able, so I didn’t wear them that much and went back to the mo­tor­cy­cle boots.

When did you first re­alise you could be a front­man?

See­ing Stiff Lit­tle Fin­gers in 1980 was the defin­ing mo­ment. I went to see them in Belfast and it lit­er­ally changed my life. I walked out of the con­cert go­ing: “That’s it. For­get about the foot­ball. For­get about school­work. I need to be up on that stage.”

In the late nineties you had a fraught time with The Almighty: in and out and in and out. Did those ex­pe­ri­ences make you ques­tion whether you should be in a band?

They ab­so­lutely did. When The Almighty split in 1996 I jumped straight into a three-piece. And we were do­ing re­ally well. We went to Ja­pan, recorded a record, we were get­ting great re­views, a lot of in­ter­est from la­bels. I don’t want to cry ‘poor me’, but we had one la­bel pull out the night be­fore we were about to sign a big deal. I was start­ing to get very dis­il­lu­sioned with the whole busi­ness. When that ended I was in Dublin, go­ing through a di­vorce. I’d put all the money I’d made into it, and I was think­ing maybe I shouldn’t be do­ing this any more. Af­ter that I don’t think I touched my guitar for a year, and I se­ri­ously ques­tioned whether I wanted to carry on mak­ing mu­sic. It was a re­ally shitty time.

Did The Almighty ful­fil their po­ten­tial?

That’s a re­ally good ques­tion. We def­i­nitely reached a peak around nine­ty­four/ninety-five, and then I think we weren’t get­ting along and that was the main prob­lem, more than the mu­sic. In hind­sight, maybe we should have taken a break for a year and a half in­stead of split­ting up. But I don’t have any re­grets.

And then into Thin Lizzy. Stand­ing in for Phil Lynott must have been dif­fi­cult. I knew how hard it was go­ing to be, and how cer­tain peo­ple would feel about it. But I felt I could do Phil, Thin Lizzy and the le­gacy jus­tice. At no point was I stupid enough to think I could stand in those shoes, all I can do is stand be­side them and try my best, with­out try­ing to be a clone of Phil.

Do you be­lieve in God?

I would call my­self a hu­man­ist – I be­lieve in a higher power, but I think it’s Mother Na­ture or karma.

What’s your big­gest re­gret?

I don’t have too many. I would have loved to have spent more time with my fa­ther be­fore he passed away.

And your big­gest waste of money?

I just bought a new car. It might be that. A Ford Mus­tang. The fam­ily’s get­ting older now, so I’ve in­dulged my­self. I’m not a very ma­te­ri­al­is­tic per­son.

A rock singer and a Mus­tang. What are your in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums like?

It’s okay in the USA for an old rock mu­si­cian and a Mus­tang. I’ve been driv­ing for thir­tythree years and my li­cence is clean, so it’s not that bad!

When death even­tu­ally comes, how would you like to go?

Quickly, in my sleep, and at a good old age. My fa­ther went out in the per­fect way. He was eighty-four. He had a heart at­tack and died in my mother’s arms, the woman he’d been with for sixty-five years. He just went. If you’re gonna go, that’s right up there – in peace and with as lit­tle fuss as pos­si­ble.

What words will be en­graved on your tomb­stone? “Here lies Ricky War­wick. Cum On Feel The Noize.”

Black Star Rid­ers’ U K tour runs from Novem­ber 8 to 19.

“See­ing Stiff Lit­tle Fin­gers in 1980 lit­er­ally changed my life.”

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