Black Star Riders new album “The Killer Instinct” (released this week) show’s a band that are energized and ready to prove just how much they have earned their place in today’s Rock history. Ricky is amped and ready to wax lyrical about how proud he is of the new material, as well as the pressure of playing in Dublin’s Olympia.
OD – The new album “The Killer Instinct” is finally out now, can you talk about the writing process for this album and the decision on the title?
Ricky – The title came from the song “The Killer Instinct” which was written last summer and we just thought the title would be a great follow on from the last album “All Hell Breaks Loose“. It’s a strong statement of intent you know. We just thought that it sounded really great. We actually had the album title before we recorded a note, which is unusual because choosing the title is something that is normally done at the end. The song itself is was written by myself and Damon and then Scott (Gorham) came in with his amazing guitar riffs and that was that.
OD – You seem to have embraced the theme of the pin up girl again for this album. Can we talk a little about the album artwork and how the concept came about for it this time around?
Ricky – Well, we just really like those type of images. We like the whole gang mentality with the bomber pilots having the girls painted on the side of the plane, giving them that unity. We really liked that idea and with the first album, everybody really liked it and people started to identify it with the band and we thought that it would be a bit of a shame to kill it off, so we just decided to go ahead with it and we are really glad we did. The cover of the album just really jumps out at you which is very cool.
OD – The album was recorded in Tennessee with Nick Raskulinecz, how was this experience and for you personally and what work of Nick’s had convinced you that he’s the man for the job?
Ricky – Firstly, Nashville is a great place to record because I love that place and we all have friends that live there, so it was a no brainer for me to go there and record. We recorded in a very small little idyllic town called Franklyn, which is about 10 miles out side of Nashville in the middle of the countryside. Nick has a fantastic little studio and it was just really conducive for recording and making music all day everyday, with no distractions to interruptions.
Working with Nick was just such a great experience as everything that he has done in the past is stellar. One of the last albums that Nick worked on before we started working with him was Mastodon which is a fantastic record. He also worked with another band that I really like called The Hold Steady and then there’s all the other stuff from Rush to Alice In Chains. When he agreed to work with us, we were delighted as we are all fans of his work and it just worked out great!
OD – Was there much material left over from the recording of “The Killer Instinct”and will we ever get to hear it anytime soon?
Ricky – Yea, there was about 8 or 9 songs that were left off the album. We did about a week of pre-production and we decided what was going to be put on the album. Some of the songs were great and for some reason they just didn’t make it on there. They were not just right for this album or for this time. Who knows they might surface in the future somewhere.
OD – Black Star Riders were one of the fist bands that Monte Conner had signed to Nuclear Blast, can you talk a little about the bands relationship with Monte and how the whole deal came about?
Ricky – Monte is such a legendary guy in the business and our story with him is kind of funny of how the whole deal came about. When we were going to make the first album we were thinking about doing the album under the Thin Lizzy name and just because of that there was like, ten labels that were interested in signing us up straight away! When we decided to change the name, people thought we were crazy and it was career suicide and all of a sudden five of those labels just walked away, so we thought “OK, screw you” as it was obvious that their interest was not based on the quality of our demos, but more for the Thin Lizzy name.
Nuclear Blast never wavered once during this time and told us “we want you because of the music on the demos, rather than the name” and that really did it for us you know. We really liked their attitude and they just seemed like a really good fit, if you know what I mean. The interesting and funny part of this story is that Monte was very much in the “no Phil, then no Lizzy” camp and another A&R member of Nuclear Blast UK, Mark Palmer was sitting in his office one day and he had the demo’s blasting. Monte is over from the US and he’s walking past Mark’s office and he said to Mark “what’s that your playing” and Mark responds “Oh that’s the new demo’s from Thin Lizzy” and Monte just goes “shit, that’s really, really good”! (laughs) That’s the way it all happened!
You had a situation where Monte was really against the idea of the band continuing on without Phil and suddenly had a complete 180 on it. After that, Monte was 100% behind the name change and totally supported us in every way. We are just so pleased that it all happened the way it did.
OD – Robbie Cane (Ratt,Vince Neil, Lynch Mob) joined the band last year, did you find that his inclusion in Black Star Riders invigorated the band and influenced the over all sound of the new record?
Ricky – No disrespect to Marko (Mendoza) as he’s a phenomenal bass player, but Robbie is more of a gritty player and with his Fender precision hanging down to his knees, he just brings a more aggressive sound that really fits well with what we are doing right now. He’s giving us a little bit more edge and drive if you know what I mean. When we were recording the album, Robbie would disappear into his hotel room for days and when he arrived in the studio, he wouldn’t just have one bass line! The guy would have four different options and would be like “which one do you guys like”? He has a great work ethic and is great to have around, I love having him in the band and he’s just a great bass player and a really great guy.
OD – You are starting off a string of European dates in The Olympia in Dublin, this must be a very special venue and gig for you especially with the bands connection to Phil Lynott and also due to the fact that you used to live here in Dublin?
Ricky – No pressure right? (laughs) Well, the first three shows are in Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow, which are very close to my heart, as I have lived in all of these places for a certain amount of time. This band will always have a very close and intimate connection to Dublin for obvious reasons and the shows that we have played there, have always been special for us. It’s just a very special place for me and it’s almost like a homecoming for us and no better venue as the Olympia is just such a magical venue. I can’t wait.
OD – What memories do you have of living here in Ireland that really stand out for you?
Ricky – I used to live in Ringsend and I really loved it there. Then I moved to Clonee and was there for a while before I moved to America. I loved my time in Ireland and the Punk rock band that I was in back then called SICK, which was just great fun. It was just a magical time for me and Dublin is such a vibrant city and every time that I get to go back, is very special for me personally.
OD – Can you give me any idea of what might be on the set list for the Dublin show, are there any surprises in there?
Ricky – Yea, we have been working on the set list and we have it together now. There will be some new songs from “The Killer Instinct” in there as well as some stuff off the fist album, along with a few Thin Lizzy songs. With this show,we have two Thin Lizzy songs that we are planning to play, which we have never done before as “The Black Star Riders” so it’s going to be a really good mixture of stuff.
OD – This tour will see you heading out with Europe who have also released a new album which is fantastic. Both you and Europe continue to produce quality music in an industry that has ultimately become very repetitive and stagnant in some ways. What is your take on today’s music business landscape and do you think it’s harder for bands to release music?
Ricky – I think it’s always been tough. People are always saying that “things are much harder today”, but it’s just always been a tough industry to survive in. You have to adapt and go with the changes and keep moving forward. With us, you know we love doing things like releasing the vinyl and stuff like that, because that’s what we grew up on. At the same time, we have embraced the digital age and have our music available for download and uploading YouTube videos etc. It’s certainly tough and with people stealing music, it sucks that it’s happening and musicians are not getting paid, but the other side of this is that at least people are getting to hear the music. I’m just trying to look on the positive side of this situation, if you know what I mean.
With reference to bands that are emerging today, I find that the majority of them don’t really have much to say. There does not seem to be much meaning or substance behind their music and if they are not feeling it, I don’t really know how they expect for anyone else to feel it.
OD – You have spoken in the past of meeting Lemmy and we all know that anything with Lemmy involved always makes for a good story. Do you have any funny memories of hanging out with the guy?
Ricky – Yea, one of the times that met him was back in LA and he invited me up to his room to hear a mix of a new Motorhead album, now don’t ask me which one as it was about 20 years ago, but anyway when Lemmy summons you, there is no question or debate, you just go! (laughs)
So, anyway there I am in Lemmy’s hotel room and he’s pouring me a pint of Jack Daniels with literally a drop of coke and I have these headphones on with the volume on blasting my ears off! There were loads of people in the room, like Phil Campbell was there and some others all hanging out and partying. I’m trying to knock back this JD and Coke as quick as possible to fit in and before I know it, Lemmy pours me another one and I just sat there and pounded the second one down.
When the album was finished, I stood up and was telling Lemmy what I thought of the album and suddenly I just fell over drunk, smashed my head on a glass table which shattered and went everywhere. So, I’m just lying there thinking, “fuuuuuck” and over my shoulder I just heard Lemmy saying “Warwick, your a light weight”! (laughs)
OD – What do you think about Gene Simmons claiming that “Rock is Dead”?
Ricky – I thinks it’s ridicules and I guess Gene can say what he want’s because he’s Gene Simmons, but really c’mon? What a crass statement to make, if he just takes a look around him, he will see that Rock is very much alive and well. I put it this way, if he thinks Rock is dead, then why is his band still touring?
OD – Are there any plans for any sneaky tours of shows for The Almighty?
Ricky – Well, you know the re-issues just came out last week, which was great. But there is just no desire there at the moment for this to happen and if we did, it would be for all the wrong reasons. I am certainly open to it somewhere down the road. Never say never, let’s just see what happens.
The Killer Instinct is out now via Nuclear Blast.
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Photography – Nuclear Blast stock.