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Born in Newtonards, Northern Ireland, just ten miles from Belfast, Ricky Warwick started his musical career as rhythm guitarist in New Model Army, before forming The Almighty in 1988, who after thirteen successful years disbanded in 2001. He released solo albums, Tattoos and Alibis in 2003 and Love Many Trust Few in 2005, before a short stint in Circus Diablo with ex Cult member Billy Duffy in 2006. He recorded his last solo album Belfast Confetti in 2009.

Although having a wealth of experience in the world of rock ‘n’ roll there can be few roles with greater pressure than the one Warwick accepted in 2010 as lead singer in the newly reformed Thin Lizzy, following in the footsteps of a true legend, who has literally been worshipped by fans worldwide.  The band is currently touring to commemorate 25 years since Phil Lynotts death.  

Mudkiss caught up with a very relaxed and friendly Warwick, dressed for a typical grey and miserable Saturday afternoon in black jeans, T-shirt and beanie hat at the city’s Apollo Theatre, scene of many a triumphant Lizzy gig in the past.

ANDY: So Ricky, the 8th date of the tour tonight and how’s it been going so far?

RICKY: Yeah, 8th one on the tour tonight, absolutely, and it’s been wonderful thank you, really, really good.

ANDY: Have you been getting the response you wanted from the audiences?

RICKY: I think we’re getting an even better response than we expected, I think we knew it was going to be good, but I think we’ve just been blown away with how passionate and how exciting it’s been, you know.  I mean I put a thing on my Facebook page today that last night in sort of twenty odd years of being in bands and touring and playing some wonderful gigs, last night was probably the greatest gig I’ve ever played in my life. Just on every level, you know being a Thin Lizzy fan and now being in Thin Lizzy and its’s playing those songs and just seeing Wolves City go nuts last night.  I just came off there and I was overwhelmed you know it was just brilliant, it really was.

ANDY: That must have been really something, especially with the career that you’ve had. The Almighty were a great band and you must have had some great nights with them?

RICKY: Exactly, I know.  I didn’t use that lightly last night, I mean, I just came off and I just went you know what, it just really doesn’t get any better than this. And I think it was just where it just all hit me last night or whatever it was but it was a great gig, don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing gig.  I was just like this is just phenomenal, I’m just so proud that I’m in this band and I’m singing these brilliant songs.   

ANDY: Did you go into this with any trepidation at all - perhaps think you were making a mistake?

RICKY: Oh Yeah, but I never once thought I was making a mistake. I’m one of these people that I believe in a gut reaction and it never felt wrong. It never felt, I shouldn’t be doing this. I never once felt like that, because I think if I had felt that, I would have started questioning it. It just always felt right and I always felt comfortable with it and in a daft way I never felt like I was pissing Phil off, do you know what I mean. I can’t explain that, but that’s just how I felt.  The last three or four months at home have been interesting, because you know, I’ve been so single minded about this that my family’s had to take a back seat because I’ve got to learn this, I’ve got to do this, I can’t come to the park and play with you honey, I’m sorry I need to do this. Because I just knew if I was going to do it I had to be at the top of my game, I had to have it down, I  had to be, you know, on form. I just couldn’t go into it unprepared at all. I mean I had lyrics stuck all round the house. Taking me little girl to day care in the morning, she knows all the words to Boys are Back in Town, playing on the car on the way in. I threw myself into it and don’t get me wrong it was enjoyable, not a bad job to have but it took over my life and I think people are being the judge of that hopefully it’s paid off.

ANDY: How did that go down at home?

RICKY: Well my wife’s a wonderful woman, very, very understanding and she works in the music industry herself so she knows all about egotistic spoilt little git rock n rollers like me, so she puts up with a lot, she was wonderful, she was thrilled for me and she knew how much it meant to me and she gave me the space and time I needed to get it together you know, which has been great. Couldn’t have done it any other way.

ANDY: With any band reunion of this type, especially one with such a legendary front man, there’s always going to be perhaps criticism from some people about the line-up. How close do you think this is to what I’d call the classic Thin Lizzy of the mid to late 70’s era?

RICKY: Well you know, Phil’s irreplaceable and we all know that, I mean that goes without saying, although some people are, you’d be surprised, why didn’t they get the guy from such and such that looks like Phil and plays with such and such a tribute band. That’s the biggest insult you could give Phil, it’s just such an insult to everything he stands for and what he did. I think it’s never going to be the same without Phil, it just isn’t, you’re never going to get it the same as Phil, it’s impossible, the guy was genius, legendary front man, but I think this is as close as you’re going to get with the passion and intensity and the fire that’s in the band, with having Brian back on the drums, you know having Darren in there, having Scott in there, having Viv who’s a life-long Thin Lizzy fan like myself and I just think you’ve got people out there that just aren’t  going out and playing the songs, they’re living and breathing the songs, and they’re putting a fire and a passion back into them that hasn’t been in there, I think since Phil was alive and Phil was obviously doing that every night. So I think that’s as close as you’re going to get, I want people to come and go you know, people that maybe saw the band with Phil and go you know what, well it’s not the same without Phil but that was one hell of a show, that was absolutely amazing, that was, that moved me. And that’s what I want to do you know and I think that’s the biggest respect and honour that you could pay Phil. Cos I think Phil would be up there going, anything less is doing the man a disservice you know.

ANDY: I think you’re absolutely right, if they had brought in someone just because they looked or sounded like Phil Lynott or you went out on stage trying to be Phil Lynott, surely you just become a bloody good tribute band and surely that’s not what this is about.

RICKY: Well you do, it’s an insult. It’s not a tribute to Scott, it’s a new line-up of Thin Lizzy that wants to move forward into the future by paying homage to the past, yes of course, but very much being in the here and now and Scott will be the first one to say that you can’t really be a tribute of yourself and Scott and everybody in the band believes that’s what we’re doing, it’s a new line-up of the band and while not ever forgetting the legacy of Phil and the genius of Phil because that’s why those songs exist and that’s why the band exists, we all know that, we’re trying to move forward and trying not be a tribute band of a tribute band of Thin Lizzy.

ANDY: Personally, as someone who saw Thin Lizzy three times in the early 80’s, I think Brian Downey and Scott Gorham were as much an integral part of the Thin Lizzy sound as Phil Lynott. Do you also feel that was the case?

RICKY: Well I agree with you. And they wrote those songs with Phil. Yep, Phil wrote all the lyrics but Brian and Scott wrote a lot of the music with Robbo and Gary and all those guys in that band. You know to say that they don’t have the right to call themselves Thin Lizzy I find that hard to take. Scott and the guys have got as much right as anybody, more right than anybody to go out and play those songs. I don’t understand why people can’t see that, I mean, I don’t know, people are strange sometimes.

ANDY: I think at times people live in a bubble around bands and some fans from that era will always believe that Thin Lizzy can’t exist without Phil Lynott.

RICKY: Yeah, I mean it’s funny I got a message last night on Twitter or Facebook from last nights show with a guy going, absolutely amazing show, just can’t believe how good it was, congrats to you, you did a fine job singing, the band are on fire and it’s really good, one of the best rock n roll shows. Now it would be really, really great if you moved forward and record some new material and changed the name of the band.  And I was just like, you know what, you know....... you’re just gobsmacked, you’re just like, it’s unbelievable and that’s I think what you’re up against with some people, they just don’t want to let go. Because they’re afraid they’re going to lose something or somebody is going to forget about Phil and that’s never going to happen. You’ll see the show tonight, Phil is remembered fondly throughout the show and he always will be there’s nobody would ever for one second forget that Phil Lynott is Thin Lizzy and he started the band.

ANDY: Although the tour is to commemorate  25 years since Phil Lynott’s death and that’s why you are here, do you see this going forward, are there likely to be further tours and possibly even new material?

RICKY: I would like it to on a personal note because I mean I’m enjoying it so much, I mean that’s really down to Scott and the guys. I know this year is pretty full, I know that we have shows already booked in America, I know there’s talk of South America and there’s Japan and there’s festivals booked for the Summer, so this year, yeah it looks like it’s going to be a full year of Lizzy stuff.  I know Scott would like, I know we all want to keep it going, whether writing new material comes into the equation, again that would be Scott and Brian and Darren and the other guys involved in Phil’s estate, that would be their call to make. I think certainly with the wealth of talent you have in the band it could be quite cool to write a song and see how it goes and then if it goes well, write another couple, why not, why not. But not until the band I think has re-established itself and been out and toured for a year, a year and a half.

ANDY: As far as the band goes, taking away the Thin Lizzy name for a minute, how good a bunch of musicians is this?

RICKY: Unbelievable, you know not disrespecting all the good musicians I’ve played with over the years, but probably the best as a unit that I’ve ever been involved in. I mean Scott and Vivian are just guitar players, they’re in another fuckin universe, they’re just mind blowing and you know you’ve then got Marco on bass. Everybody’s a phenomenal musician in their own right, amazing, and just when it seems to come together. Sometimes you can have that in a band and it’s doesn’t quite work you know, but the chemistry and the space that everybody gives everybody else in the band is just wonderful, it’s really good.  I mean I’m standing up there, I’m singing away and look round and fuckin hell I’m on the stage with Scott Gorham you know. Then look behind me and I see the Thin Lizzy logo and there’s Brian sitting there, with this cool making it look so effortless and this shuffle going on, I’m just like, oh man, you know pinching myself.

ANDY: So you’re not in a position of feeling a bit blasé about being in Thin Lizzy yet?

RICKY: I never will, I never will, I’ll never take it for granted, you can’t, it’s just too wonderful.  Also I’m also very aware you’re only as good as your last gig, and every nights a challenge and every gig so far has been great and I want it to be that great every night, I want it to be brilliant every night, so that’s always in the back of my mind. No, I’m always aware that I’m up there and singing Phil’s words and his melodies and his lyrics and I want to do him justice every night.  So I’m pinching myself, I can’t believe it, I mean I wake up every morning and you know you sort of wake up and you’re like fuck I’m in Thin Lizzy  you know what I mean, you do and I’ve got a big smile on my face, I’m pinching myself you know, it’s just surreal. My sister came to see us in Glasgow, my sisters came and I kind of got into Thin Lizzy through them they’re a couple of years older than me you know so they got the albums and that’s what got me into it as a kid. My sister just says yeah, I remember sitting with you when you were like nine or ten and watching Scott and the boys on T.V and I used to love Scott because of his hair down to his arse, now here you fuckin are singing for them.  She goes how fucked up is this and I was like I know, you don’t need to tell me, it’s just beautiful, it’s great.

ANDY: It must be a fantastic experience?

RICKY: It’s great, but its nerve racking and I think that the enormity of the thing itself will always keep me grounded.

ANDY: There must be more pressure on you performing night after night with this band as you have to prove it to those Thin Lizzy fans out there you can cut it?

RICKY: Yeah, it’s huge, it’s a good pressure, it’s not a bad thing, it’s not like you’re going into a job that you hate or whatever, but there’s a lot of pressure and you know I’m very aware. The last thing I wanted to do was, I didn’t want to go up there with auto cues or cheat sheets or anything like that I think that’s just pure laziness when I see bands do that. I wanted to learn all the lyrics inside out and go up there and I’m very conscious what if I forget a word or stuff like that because everybody’s singing along and they know all the words. That’s preying on your mind and it is, you do get very nervous but usually when we get started you know and the first song kicks in, you’re fine. The problem is with Youtube, one night I forgot, I went blank in the Boys are back in Town, a song I’ve been singing since I was five years old and you just do, I forget my own words and I hate to break anybody’s bubble but Phil would forget the words sometimes too and I forgot it, and somebody puts it up on Youtube and blah, blah, blah. The other 21 songs that I sang flawlessly, you know, and that is annoying, because you can put on one show and anybody can forget a line or whatever, but I take it personally because to me that’s, fuck I shouldn’t have done that, even though nobody cared and the other two thousand people would sing along anyway, I’m like no, I shouldn’t have done that it has to be right. I think I’ve always felt through my career I’m probably my own worse critic, I’m very, very, very hard on myself and I just think you have to be. I was brought up in a family that it’s a quick pat on the back and that’s it, now get on with it, better it, that’s ok don’t bask in your glory or the fact you did something good it’s like well that was fine, but it’s gone now, onto the next thing. I just want to do those songs as much justice as I possibly can and even making the slightest mistake really pisses me off.

ANDY: Which is a great attitude to take but surely live music is about the fact that there could be the odd glitch? If you want to hear a gig like a CD, then you may as well stay at home and listen to the CD.

RICKY: I agree with you, exactly, which is another reason why I won’t have auto cues or stuff like that up there or whatever. I couldn’t have rehearsed anymore, I lived and breathed it for four months before we started and detached myself from my family, kids want to go to the park, no I need to listen to this. So yeah, it’s live, its rock n roll, everybody in one point in time in a band will make a mistake and that’s part of it, I agree with you.   

ANDY: Just jumping ahead in the tour, the last two dates are in Belfast and Dublin, how are you looking forward to those being in your back yard and then Phil’s home town?

RICKY: I can’t wait for them both, really excited. Belfast, is a home town gig with my family, and loads of friends will be there and Dublin because I can’t wait for people to see the band.  I think that’s where, and understandably so, maybe most of the critics will be and have come from, you know Phil was Dublin and Dublin was Phil and I think that’s where a lot of people will be very anxious to see what the band is like and I’m very anxious to go there and show them what  it’s like. You know what, that Dublin show doesn’t hold as much fear for me as I thought it would, I think I was more nervous in Glasgow, again because the family’s there and The Almighty being from there. I’m looking forward to Dublin and Belfast very much. I’m looking forward to getting there and playing and showing people the band and where we’re at.

ANDY: I guess the confidence you’re building up over the other dates is helping especially with the reaction you are receiving.

RICKY: Hopefully yeah, that’s it. I just want to go there to Dublin and put on a show and show people how sincere the band is and how much we love Phil, how much he’s still part of it and I want people to see that and I want them to get it. I’m saying that today but I’ll probably be fucking shitting my knickers, I’m alright  now sitting here as it’s fucking four weeks away, talk to me in four weeks and oh no.

ANDY: And what about your solo career is that on hold at the moment?

RICKY: Yeah, pretty much. The timing of it was actually quite sweet in that an album cycle had just come to an end, I’d just really finished touring Belfast Confetti for about two years and I was due to go in and start work on the new one when this came about so, it wasn’t like I was in the middle of promoting a solo record, I was kind of winding down. It worked out pretty well and I’ve just put that on the back burner for a while and I’ve pretty much got a new solo album together and I’m just going to sit on it until I get the time to do that. Thin Lizzy is just taking a priority right now which I’m ecstatic about, it’s not a problem. When I do get a break I’ll start work on the solo stuff, but yeah it’s something that’s obviously very dear to me and I love and I want to keep going. You know in all honesty this of course only helps the solo stuff you know.

ANDY: And tonight it’s the Manchester Apollo, how’s Manchester been in the past with The Almighty and also your solo tours.

RICKY: It’s always been really good, I’ve always had a good time here, always really enjoyed it. We’ve played quite a few different size venues here over the years as well you know, and this has always been really special The Apollo, but yeah it’s been a good city you know and obviously Darren’s from here.

ANDY: What I see in you is that you are passionate about this, you’re a genuine Thin Lizzy fan that isn’t just here to make up the numbers.

RICKY: Absolutely, I’m a genuine Thin Lizzy fan that got lucky, got very lucky, as lucky you can get being a Thin lizzy fan let’s be honest about it.  I know that but at the end of the day, I wish Phil was still here because if he was, I‘d be stood in the stalls watching the show it’s as simple as that. But unfortunately he’s not and you just have to get on with it.

ANDY: Ok Ricky, thank you for that, it was a pleasure to meet you.

RICKY: You too mate, thank you.

I left the dressing room area feeling quite pleased, as my first interview for Mudkiss appeared to have been relatively successful.  I was quickly returned to reality however as everything turned very Spinal Tap and I struggled to find my way out of the theatre through the maze of corridors, eventually crashing through a fire door into a darkened alley.  Sheepishly I made my way back to the car, thankfully unnoticed. 

Interview/photos by Andy Barnes 15.01.11

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