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In January 2011, a reformed Thin Lizzy took to the road with Ricky Warwick in the pivotal, lead singer role. Although a respected front man and solo performer in his own right, there could be no greater challenge, taking centre stage with a legendary band originally fronted by Phil Lynott, one of rock’s most iconic figures, from their inception in 1969  to 1986 and his untimely death.  Mudkiss interviewed Ricky at the start of his incredible journey, returning to Manchester Apollo today, with the added bonus of Mel on photographic duties, to meet the man once again and discover how the first year of the new Thin Lizzy has evolved. 

In true Lizzy style, the second guitar position alongside Scott Gorham, proves problematic, original choice Vivian Campbell returning to Def Leppard, replaced by Richard Fortus in turn reverting to the Guns ‘n’ Roses camp, before Damon Johnson from Alice Cooper’s band stepped forward.

ANDY: It’s been just over twelve months since I last met you in this very room. How would you sum up the last year in terms of the Thin Lizzy experience?

RICKY: Hopefully I’ve got the gig by now (laughing) ……… You know, it’s phenomenal…….it’s like I’ve won the lottery. Something great kinda happened every day last year, it was probably the best year of my life…….Lizzy just seemed to go from strength to strength, everybody seemed to really embrace the band as we came back……we did 111 shows last year, we played everywhere, all over the world and there was nothing but good vibes…..just mind blowing….and still now, I still can’t really get my head around the whole thing…….that I’m in actually the band and it has been going so well. And we’ve worked hard, we’ve put the work in and you reap what you sow…..but it’s just been phenomenal, it’s a dream come true……’s just great.

ANDY: So it still feels like livin the dream,

RICKY: Oh Yeah.

ANDY: You haven’t become complacent about being in Thin Lizzy?

RICKY: I don’t think it’ll ever stop being surreal… can it…..there’s so much history and so much legacy with this band and the band means so much to so many people, myself included……you just wake up every day and you’re like, “I’m in Thin Lizzy,”……. it’s brilliant.

ANDY: Have you been surprised in how well the fans have responded to the new line-up?

RICKY:  I’m delighted with the way they’ve responded…… know without sounding facetious, no,  because I always believed I could do a good job or I wouldn’t have said yes when Scott asked me, I had to have that belief or there was no point in doing it. And I knew we had a great band and I knew with obviously Scott, Brian and Darren on board, three of the original guys as it were… was going to be cool……but I think I’m definitely over whelmed with how it’s gone, I knew it was going to be good, but I think it’s gone beyond that and that’s what’s been really over whelming, it’s just blown me away.

ANDY: You’ve seen a couple of changes on guitar over the last twelve months, did that become disruptive to the band?

RICKY: Well it was starting to, to be honest with you, it was getting to that point…….first off it didn’t, because we knew Viv was going to go back to Def Leppard and that was fine, we knew we were going to have to find somebody……Richard we thought was going to stick around for a while because we thought Guns were going to be off the road but then Axl called and that’s his gig and so he had to split after Summer which was a shame as he’s fantastic……but it was getting to the point where the band were getting very popular again, a lot of offers for tours were coming in and were kinda having to go, “well who’s going to play guitar because Richard’s got to go back,” and that was starting to get annoying… we actually did get to the point where after Richard went we said “look, we’ve got to get somebody who wants to stay, that’s going to be  permanent.”  And Damon got the call and Damon was with Alice Cooper……and Damon just said, look I’ll leave Alice Cooper, no disrespect to Alice to join Thin Lizzy cos Thin Lizzy is my ultimate band, I’ve been a fan since being a kid…….You go to Damon’s house he’s got pictures of the guys around… it was his dream gig and the beauty of Alice Cooper…….Alice respected that and said you’ve got to go do this, I’m not going to stand in your way……’ve got to just go do this, this is your dream……so that was brilliant on Alice’s part. First of all we offered him the U.S tour and he said look, I want to stay……and he’s come in and with all due respect to Vivian and Richard who are phenomenal players, it feels like he’s always been here, which is brilliant…….it’s a band now, a unified band and it really feel’s great, the six of us can really go forward now as a unit…….and it’s nice…….. that side of the stage throughout the history of Lizzy has always been a revolving door……..there’s been many guitar players up there over the years, the likes of Gary, Snowy and even Midge Ure and people like that……just to have the band solidified now with this man (Damon briefly enters the room)…….is wonderful….. It’s a wonderful feeling and it’s a wonderful thing, now we can plan ahead you know.

ANDY: Talking about planning ahead, does that mean now you have a settled line-up you’ll be writing new material?

RICKY: Yes…….I kind of answer this in the way that, we’re musicians and we all write and that’s what we do so it’s part of our make up to want to do that, to want to write, that’s our job you know. So we’re all very aware of the enormity of the task and how high the benchmark is and what we have to live up to and it won’t be easy in anyway at all… we’re taking all that on board but we certainly want to try and move forward and do that. Now whether that is a fully blown album or whether it’s just one song, I don’t know……. we’ll just have to see, but I know we’re getting together in the break between this tour and going back out again…….we’re going to get together in a studio and start putting the ideas we’ve got into some kind of shape or form…….and we’ll see how it goes, I’m very excited about it and I think it could be really cool.     

ANDY:  In the meantime and in relation to the set this time round, compared to last year, have you included any slightly more obscure Lizzy tracks?      

RICKY: Well we are…….you know it’s funny, we’ve changed it slightly, changed the running order and stuff like that………..obviously there’s the songs you’ve got to play every time and that’s great, no problem…… but  it’s funny we put in “It’s only Money” from Night Life and we brought that in, in Cambridge because we all dig it and we love playing it………and maybe one hundred people knew it….it certainly was like, over their heads………the real die hards were like, “oh this is great,” but the other two thousand people were like……. “what ‘s this?”........So when you do that, you’ve got to be aware of….. well, you may dig it, a track from not one of the  more popular albums….a lot of the people aren’t going to get it you know……so we sort of did it and thought, that didn’t work… worked for us we had a great time playing it, we played it well (laughing)… we took it back out the next night and put something more recognisable back in.  We’ve got “Suicide” in the set which is going down great which we didn’t play last time……so there’s certain songs that will work but we’re certainly trying a bit more and seeing how it goes over with the reaction….we all believe you have to give the majority of the people what they want and if that’s the Lizzy hits, then you’ve gotta give them that.

ANDY: There’s nothing worse than going seeing one of your favourite bands……

RICKY: And they don’t play your favourite songs………it’s inexcusable.

ANDY:  I understand bands and artists must get cheesed off playing the same songs over and over again, but if you only play obscure and new material , people will stand there and say “What the hell’s all that about.”

RICKY: Well exactly….and that’s what it is and perhaps that will make the die hards night but they’re not in the majority and you’ve got to try and please everybody. You have people there and the only Lizzy song they’ve heard is “The Boys are Back in Town” to somebody that’s got everything the band ever released, right back to the start of 70’s…….I was talking to a guy last night that’s seen Lizzy in 1972 at the Oval in Kennington, he’s pretty much been to every tour since…….and he’s one of the guys if we’d have played “It’s only Money”  he’d have been going, love it, brilliant…….and then there’s a fifteen year old kid I was talking too, seeing Lizzy for the first time and the only album he’s got is Jailbreak but now he’s going to go out and work back now. You can’t please everybody but you’ve got to try.

ANDY: I never thought the early Thin Lizzy albums caught the power of the band and it needed “Live and Dangerous” to do that as it’s live they really came to life.      

RICKY:  I think that’s why “Live and Dangerous” is probably the biggest selling album Lizzy have had, it’s a fantastic live album and captured the power and the energy of the band and Phil’s on top form, singing his arse off…….it’s just great.

ANDY: So is 2012 looking as busy as last year?

RICKY:   It is, if not busier, they say make hay while the sun shines and that’s what we’re doing……it’s great, the offer’s keep coming in….we’re getting to go to Japan this year and I think South America, hopefully Australia…….we’re just breaking some new ground which is just fantastic……we all really enjoy it, we all get on brilliantly and it’s really good fun, long may it continue.        

ANDY: Absolutely…..are you going to be hitting the festivals again this year?

RICKY: I think so, that depends if  the Summer tour of America comes together which we’re working at as well…….but we’re also looking at festivals too, so it will be either / or…..or a bit of both.

ANDY: What was the reaction like at the festivals last Summer? If you’re doing your own headline tour, everybody is coming to watch Thin Lizzy, at festivals however, people are there to watch all kinds of different bands.

RICKY: It seemed to be really good across the board, seemed to be phenomenal…..I can’t recall there was one festival we thought that wasn’t really our bill or didn’t work, they were all pretty stella to be honest with you which was great………and we played some great, great festivals…….Sweden Rocks, Download obviously, High Voltage, Slane Castle with Kings of Leon……fantastic you know, it was quite a Summer.

ANDY: I suppose you’re starting from a great position though, if anyone’s into rock music they’ve heard of Thin Lizzy and a lot of the songs are already in their head.

RICKY: Yeah, well that’s it…….it’s an established band, everybody knows that logo, the brand it’s instantly recognisable…’re on a winner even before you play a note at a festival because as you said, everybody there is going to have heard of the band at least and that certainly makes it………you know when you step on the stage you’ve already got a step up as it were….. so it certainly does help.

ANDY: And have you got any further on the solo side or is that just on the back burner now?

RICKY: I’m working away at it…..I’ve got a lot of songs written, probably sitting on 40 or 50 new solo songs and I might try and do a little bit of recording in the break …….it’s one of those things were Lizzy’s my priority and it’s taking up so much………Like I’m a family man, when I’m home with the six weeks I have, do I want to go back out on the road again……. I don’t, because I want to spend  time with my family……I have a little girl who’s four and I’m very conscious of spending as much time with her as I can, my other kids are a bit older now so it’s bit easier……it’s just trying to balance it all and keep myself focused, I don’t really want to spread myself too thin and Lizzy’s a really full on, full time gig even when on the road you’re always learning new stuff  and like I say we’re thinking about writing, so that’s at the forefront……but you know, when the times right I’ll certainly do a few gigs and put some new music out there.     

ANDY: I noticed Lizzy have been involved with the Live Wire Youth Charity, can you tell us a bit about that?

RICKY: That’s a friend of our manager’s, Adam Parsons and he approached us and we’ve been  donating stuff to the charity, it’s a great cause and we’ve just been trying to help in any way that we can, it’s really cool.

ANDY: I guess it’s good to give something back to the grass roots and help kids become involved in music early?

RICKY: Yeah,…..absolutely and if it encourages kids to get into music and gives them a chance to play and get out there…..what Andy’s done down there is phenomenal, I think it’s rammed every night…..instead of hanging on the street the kids can go into this club and play music and see bands and be involved…’s just brilliant, wish I had that when I was a kid. (Laughing.)

ANDY: And has Marco had his watch returned.

RICKY: No…..and it’s really sad…..I think he’s more upset about it than he lets on, it’s real sentimental value to him, really sentimental…….it’s one of those things, he was wearing it all day and then took it off and put it somewhere and then it’s vanished…….As of yesterday, he still hadn’t heard a thing, I feel bad for him……you never know, maybe it’ll still turn up….who knows.

MEL: Did you put a message out on Facebook?

RICKY: Yeah……and a lot of people are really helpful but then you’ve got the wankers on there who go……Oh, maybe Phil’s got it……and you’re just like, really…really……is that the level that you’re at and you call yourself a Thin Lizzy fan and you go on there and post something like that……what’s wrong with these people you know…….beggars belief but there you go, it takes all sorts.

ANDY: That’s social networking, great in many ways, but gives the idiot a chance to voice their opinion too.

RICKY: It gives the arseholes access to the world wide web……. It gives them a platform to be even bigger arseholes than they already are. (Laughing)

ANDY: And what are you hoping for from Manchester Apollo tonight, fantastic gig here last year.

RICKY: Thank you….always excited…….really genuinely love this venue, love this city….. always been a great gig here and we’re kinda spoiled, cos we’d Wolverhampton last night and I love there too, it’s always great……so these two, I’m like, brilliant, Wolves and Manchester….I just love this place, love the old venue, big stage, love the way it sounds you know……I think it’ll even be up a notch from last time…..I think we’ll fire it up a notch and I can’t wait to get out there and play…’s the highlight of the day, the rest of it is kinda building up to that moment, it’s incidental…..hopefully one half won’t be too disappointed with the defeat today in the cup and we can cheer em up a bit. (Laughing)

ANDY: Last year you were absolutely bang on in how you described the gigs, in Manchester, first couple of songs people were watching and kind of waiting, saying, come on, show us what you’ve got, but after that, everybody really got into it and it was a great gig.

RICKY: Cool, Thanks…….our whole tour was like that, it was as it should be….. people were going, what this going to be like, what the fuck’s this guy selling, is this going to be great or is it going to be a train wreck……and you know 99.9% of people were there out of curiosity, so the fact we can come back now and I think we’ve sold even more tickets than we did last time across the board is really satisfying for me personally and for the band……that means people have accepted it and people go now, “it’s just a kick ass band……we’ve got over the emotional thing of obviously the big man not being there and we’ve moved on”…….and it’s really gratifying to have that.

ANDY: I think the key for me, your performance was purely that of Ricky Warwick, no trying to be Phil Lynott.

RICKY: You can’t be.

ANDY: That’s true but wouldn’t stop some people… just went out there and gave it your all and sang those classic songs in Ricky Warwick style and killed it.

RICKY:  Thank you very much man……..well you know, I’ve always been a front man in my own right and The Almighty were very successful and I think I’m a decent front man….I’m not trying to be somebody else, I never have been…. I have to give myself some kudos in some respects and say I’m Ricky Warwick….I’m not Phil Lynott, but I’m Ricky Warwick so that’s what you’re going to get.  I’m not going to try and be anybody else……for all of those reasons that Phil was an icon, he’s a legend and you can’t copy him, he’s a one off……but also in the fact I have to respect myself and just be me……but obviously I will try and sing the songs in the way we all know and love em and have a bit of Phil’s vibe in there as well, you have to……at the end of the day you’ve just got to be yourself and get out there and do it.

ANDY: Certainly  seems to be working.

RICKY: Thank you…….so far so good.   Never rest on your laurels, you’re only as good as your last gig.

ANDY: That’s true. It must be a relief now having a settled band and be moving forward.

RICKY : It’s brilliant, it’s lovely, it really is……It’s certainly something I was worrying about……who we’re going to get, are we going to find the right guy and like I said, Damon’s been a godsend…..just phenomenal .

ANDY: The chat we had last year, was the first time I’d interviewed anybody, not just for Mudkiss but literally my first ever, and it was a major relief to find you are so down to earth, it was basically like two Thin Lizzy fans sat having a beer talking about their favourite band.

RICKY: I remember talking to you last year, cheers mate……that’s all I am, I’m in it for the music and always have been….I don’t give a shit about egos and what have you and all the shit that goes with it, to me that’s not part of it…’s about playing great music and everybody enjoying it.

ANDY: There’s certainly a connection between Northern Ireland and the North West of England, most people tend to be very grounded and down to earth, tell it like it is.

RICKY: Sure……it’s a working class culture, you’re always brought up to be appreciative and to be honest and keep your feet on the ground…..cos like I say, you’re only as good as your last show (laughing)…….I keep on trying to improve and get better on the Lizzy stuff and what have you……people always say, you must have it down now, it must be easy…..and I’m like, no, I’ve got it down to where I’m relaxed a little bit more on stage…..but I’m still going, right, fuckin hell, how can I do this better, how can I sing this better.

ANDY: I guess there must be more pressure as someone can watch you and then go home and wack on “Live and Dangerous” saying, it didn’t sound like that (Laughing)

RICKY: Yeah, yeah….they have something to compare you too…..and at the end of the day you’re not singing your own songs as well……so if you do screw one of them up, it’s not like, oh it doesn’t matter I wrote it, I can fuckin screw it up (Laughing) it’s, “oh he got the words wrong”…….people can be very hard on you and what you’ve got to realise is that everybody forgets the words at some point and it can happen twenty five gigs into a tour……I’m not using any auto queues, I’m not using any cheat sheets as I think that would be disrespectful to Phil and sometimes it just happens you just go up to sing…… errrrrrrrrr……it’s only happened once with me and the song was “Whisky in the Jar”……and I think I had him shot and killed before he even left the house, you know how it tell’s the story (Laughing) you could see people going, “what the fuck’s he talking about.”……..And I’ve been playing that song since I was six years old and if you’d said to me what song is the hardest to remember that would’ve been the last one I’d have even said……but it just shows you know……and people were like “how dare he and then blah, blah, blah,” I’m like, I’m fuckin human.

ANDY: Absolutely and to be honest, that happens with live music and if people are getting worked up about that, they need to get a life as far as I’m concerned.

RICKY: Well exactly….. you’re probably right.

ANDY: OK….thank you for taking the time…..

RICKY: No worries man, thank you sir.

ANDY: And good to meet you again.

RICKY: You too.

It genuinely appears the majority of Thin Lizzy fans are moving on, embracing Ricky Warwick as lead singer of the legendary band. We all know there will never be another Phil Lynott, although as a vessel for Lynott’s songs, Warwick is certainly surpassing expectations, also finding time, even whilst suffering from a nagging cold, to challenge Dave Grohl for the title of nicest man in rock.

Interview by Andy Barnes
Interview photos by Mel   - thanks to the lovely Sakura for the live images, go check out her work here: