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Fireworks Magazine Online 41 - Thin Lizzy
19 August 2010
Five questions with Ricky Warwick and Viv Campbell - interviewed by Sue Ashcroft, about the reformed Thin Lizzy. Extracted from the full feature in Fireworks 41.
So Ricky, from being in the Almighty and recently playing in my home town at the Café Continental in Gourock, you’re now the lead singer in Thin Lizzy – how on earth did THAT happen?
RW: Basically, what happened was, there’s a friend of mine – an author and TV producer called Allan Parker, and he called me way back in January this year and said “I was talking to Adam Parsons (who’s the manager of Thin Lizzy) and Scott (Gorham) is wanting to put the band back together and your name has come up as a potential vocalist.” I was like “Wow, that’s amazing, I’m really honoured.” He said, “That’s all I can tell you now, that’s all I know, but can I pass your details on to Adam Parsons in the meantime?” and I said “Okay, by all means”. Lo and behold, Adam calls me about a week later and asked me if I was interested. I said I was. I said, “Look, there’s a couple of things – of course I’m interested, they’re one of my favourite bands of all time but my biggest concern is, what are you trying to do here? If you’re trying to do a Lizzy tribute, if you’re trying to clone Phil in any way, he was a one off, he’s irreplaceable, I just wouldn’t dream of going there.” He said “Well, Scott’s wanting to put the band back together with complete respect and homage to Lizzy’s past, but he wants to try and take it forward.” I said, “Well obviously, it would be something I’d be very interested in. Are you looking for me to play bass and sing?” and he said “No, not necessarily, we’re looking for a whole new look.” I said, “That’s great, but with all due respect, I’m not going to audition for this, I’m not going to put myself in a room with twenty other guys. I have a career, people know what I sound like. I’ve known Scott as a friend for over twenty years and he played on my first solo record, Scott knows I can sing, so why don’t you come and check me out – I was doing a solo show at the House Of Blues, opening for Cheap Trick? Come down and see me and you’re going to know within the first minute whether you think I’m the right guy for the job or not.” So he did and he obviously liked what he heard and what he saw and we arranged a rehearsal. We all knew that within a few minutes of walking in and playing at the rehearsal, if it was going to work or not. Nobody would have to tell me if it sucked and vice versa. We walked in and played ‘Cowboy Song’ and it sounded fucking incredible! We ran straight through it without stopping and it sounded huge and there were smiles all round.
I’m sure they were a huge influence on both of you when you were growing up?
RW: Oh god – absolutely! I mean, the Almighty would’ve stolen from Thin Lizzy when we were writing. Any of the albums we were listening to at the time we would’ve been like “Oh, we’ll nick that bit” or what have you. But originally being from Belfast and having two older sisters that were very into rock music, that’s how I got into Lizzy because they were into them and would bring the albums home. I was always freaked out by how they looked – Scott with his hair down to his ass, Phil looking the way he did, they were like these aliens to me. I used to see them on Top of the Pops and I was completely fascinated by them. I remember thinking “Who are these people? This is great!” It’s very, very, VERY surreal. I mean, I wake up in the morning and go “Oh my God – I’m singing for Thin Lizzy!” It’s just nuts! You have flashes of it throughout the day. It’s brilliant, I mean, I’m a fan – a fan who’s singing for one of his favourite bands.
What were your thoughts on the previous line-up?
RW: To be absolutely honest with you, I hadn’t seen it. For whatever reasons, whenever they played in LA I was always on the road, or I was away, otherwise I would’ve gone. I only know what people told me and okay, John Sykes was a great guitar player and I thought he sang brilliantly. From what I saw on Youtube, it looked great. But, for whatever reason, Scott and John just decided to call it quits.
To me, this incarnation will be far more back to the grass roots that Lizzy came from in the first place with not only three members who were in the band when Phil was alive, but with two Belfast boys coming in with the Celtic roots and having grown up with Thin Lizzy in your blood. I personally can’t see how you can go wrong. I know that since you and Viv have been such fans all your life that you’ll do the songs proud. When it comes down to it, these are feel good songs, aren’t they?
RW: I completely agree with you. I was saying this to somebody recently, they’re such beautiful songs to sing. Phil was such a fantastic songwriter, but he was also a really underrated lyricist. His lyrics are amazing and I don’t think he ever got the credit that he was due for his writing – it was pure poetry. I mean, some of the songs, he’s almost talking and he’s not a screamer. He had a fantastic voice. They’re such good songs to sing and they put a smile on your face when you’re singing them! I agree with everything you said, Sue. That’s the thing with Viv, with Lizzy being his favourite band, with him coming in, the vibe is just fantastic. People have to give us credit. If this hadn’t worked in any way whatsoever, we’d have been out of that rehearsal room in five minutes. Nobody would’ve needed to tell anybody – if they didn’t think I was up to singing the songs, I would’ve known and Scott would’ve told me straight away. The fact that it clicked straight away shows you that there’s good chemistry there.
VC: Thin Lizzy have always been a Celtic band, so I would think – even though Scott’s a Californian! That’s part of the heritage. The set-list issue though, I know how that works. We have the same issue with Def Leppard. We go on tour and, even if we have a brand spanking new album, 90% of our set is from the classic era of the band and you can’t really get away from that. Same goes for Lizzy. I mean, I totally understand. I’ve been going through the set-list with Ricky, Brian, Scott and everyone back and forth and it’s hard to avoid playing basically the ‘Live and Dangerous’ album, give or take a few songs. You kind of have to do that. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword and a bit of a burden at times, but you’ve got to enjoy playing them and try to bring a freshness to the songs and do your own adaptations. When we do the UK tour next January, our goal is to have core of about fifteen songs and then about seven floaters which we can pull from. I don’t know what Scott’s plan is, but I’d like to see a couple of different songs every night of the UK tour be just a little bit obscure.
Was there never a chance of Scott asking Brain Robertson to be a part of the band?
RW: Again, what I can gather from Scott – I know Brian and have done for years – Brian was asked. That was one of the first phone calls that was made once Brian Downey came back into the fold (I have to say – playing with that man on drums – my jaw just hit the floor, he’s such a good drummer) but Robbo was asked and he politely declined. He gave it his blessing and said that at the moment it’s not what he wants to do, but certainly the door has been left open for him. I know he’s just finished a solo album which I’ve heard a few tracks of and they’re absolutely brilliant. I was blown away by it and I told him so. I think that’s where his head’s at at the moment and that’s what he wants to do. Somewhere down the road – who knows? I mean, Viv has a day job, so who knows? [laughs)
VC: As a fan I would love to see that happening, I mean I would love to see them playing with Brian Robertson again, but if he’s not going to do it then that leaves a fantastic opportunity for me. He was a huge influence on me as a guitar player and, as a member of Sweet Savage – who I formed when I was sixteen – we did a lot of work with Lizzy and supported them on the Renegade tour and a bunch of other shows in Northern Ireland. I’m really, really excited about it and, as a guitar player, it’s reignited my passion for playing. I know I’ve been in Def Leppard a long time and I do love being in the band, but it doesn’t challenge me a lot as a guitarist. Leppard is much more challenging vocally and song-writing wise, but the main guitar duties are primarily with Phil Collen obviously, so being in Lizzy has just been really great, taking on Brian Robertson’s parts and stripping them back and learning from scratch. They’re such fun to play and I’m very excited about it.
Read the full three page interview in Fireworks 41, available in WHSmiths or right here in the shop at Rocktopia.