The new Black Star Riders album, “The Killer Instinct” comes out on Monday. How do you think the album compares to the first one (All hell breaks loose)?
I think its an evolution. I think it’s an evolution sonically and an evolution in song writing. I think the difference is that when we went in to make this record we knew we were doing a Black Star Riders album as opposed to when we were writing for the last one you know there was still confusion as to whether it was going to come out under the Thin Lizzy monicker or not, so I think that was the major difference. The pressure was different, probably a lot more confidence going into this record, and we’d toured together for almost two years as well.
The lineup has changed since the first album. Did that make a difference?
Most of the songs were written before Robbie Crane joined the band, so we’d pretty much got everything down, but obviously what made a difference was what Robbie brought to the band – his style of bass playing and his attitude which is just amazing. He’s a great bass player, he’s probably a little bit more of an aggressive bass player than Marco and I think that suits the band much better and brings another edge to the band which is really cool. So I think actually in the recording, in the studio then yes it made a difference.
What’s the song writing process in the band – is it a collaborative thing or are there one or two main song writers?
Myself and Damon Johnson would be the two main songwriters. Scott Gorham brings in some amazing Scott Gorham riffs which he’ll hand to me and Damon and we’ll take them away and kick them into songs, but the bulk of it’s done by myself and Damon.
What are your inspirations for writing the lyrics?
Everything and everywhere. Memories, friends, family, stories that people tell me, things I see going on around me – just life, my take on life and what I see.
Looking at the albums coming out at the moment, your name keeps cropping up. As well as the Black Star Riders album, the first two reissues of The Almighty’s albums are also being coming out and you’ve also got your two solo albums released via a Pledgemusic campaign.
It’s what I do. It’s obviously something that I love dearly, and I’m lucky enough that it is my job, and I like to think I’ve got a good work ethic. I feel it isn’t a privilege, it doesn’t just give me the chance to goof off and be lazy, and I like to make music. I’ve got the chance to make music every day so why wouldn’t you want to embrace that and be as creative as you can be, as much as you can be.
Doing two solo albums in one go is pretty ambitious – and even more so when you had the Black Star Riders one to do as well. How did you find the time?
Those have been four years in the writing. I wrote them together with a really good friend, Sam Robinson from Belfast and we came up with the idea four years ago at Christmas. We were sitting in the pub and came up with the concept of two albums and over the course of the four years on and off when I’ve not been busy doing other stuff, we’ve been able to work on these albums and the whole concept was to do one acoustic and one electric and have a theme for each record.
It must be hard to fit it in around the touring as Black Star Riders do tour a lot.
I write a lot on tour in the down time when we’re on the road – sitting in the back of the bus, or hotel rooms, I keep myself busy. To be honest I actually write more when I’m on the road than at home because when you’re at home after touring a lot, that’s when you do want to put the family first.
Black Star Riders are about to start a UK and Ireland tour with Europe co-headlining.
Yeah I’m looking forward to it. They’re good friends of ours and it’s always good to go on the road with your buddies and we can’t wait to get out there and start playing some of the new songs live.
Europe also have a new album and of course both bands have a large back catalogue of songs including plenty of well known songs so it should be a great double bill for fans.
It will be, I really think it’s going to be great and it’s good value for the ticket price, so it’ll be a great night.
The tour kicks off in Dublin. Given that Black Star Riders evolved out of Thin Lizzy then does that put extra pressure on you performing in their home town?
In a good way. Obviously Black Star Riders will always have an affinity with Dublin because of that but I also lived in Dublin myself for eight years, so it’s a city I know and love and have lots of great friends there and great memories of living there. It’ll always be special to us, a kind of homecoming of sorts. It’s a great place to start. I’m a little nervous it’s going to be the first one but in a good way.
After Dublin the tour moves on to Belfast and then Glasgow which could also be described as hometown shows for you.
The first three shows are nerve-wracking for me – Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow, right out of the gate. They’re three cities that are close to my heart, being born in Belfast, spent a lot of time in Glasgow and lived in Dublin, so yeah three hometown gigs in a row.
You’ve then got another 14 dates around the UK. It’s good to see bands do a proper tour rather than a handful of dates in big cities.
You’ll always disappoint some people – you’ll always get asked why did you play such and such a place instead of this other place. it doesnt mean we won’t get there the next time, but it’s always down to availability, promoters, routing and the cost of doing it, so all those things have to be taken into consideration. I think we’ve managed to cover most places though.
You’ll always get some people moaning – you could be playing somewhere ten miles from them and they’d moan you didnt play closer.
You could play in someone’s front room and they’d still moan that you didn’t play their kitchen.
After the UK tour you’ve got a cruise in Florida.
Yes we’re playing the Monsters of Rock Cruise which will be very nice and then we’re doing a few shows on the East coast with Europe, so that will be cool.
Have you played on any of these rock cruises before?
I have yes, not American but done a couple of Swedish ones and they’re really good fun – I enjoyed them.
Are there likely to be any appearances at festivals this summer ?
The dates are coming in all the time – we just confirmed some this week, and obviously we’re playing Download festival which we’re looking forward to. The plan is then to fill up the rest of the year with as much touring as we can.
What’s the one luxury that you couldn’t live without when you’re on tour?
Probably my running shoes. I like to go for runs. That’s how I get to see a lot of the cities now – when we get into town I’ll throw on my running shoes and go for a run. Not very rock and roll but it’s how I’m able to jump around on stage for two hours every night.
You certainly need to be fit and healthy to do shows like that.
I enjoy it more like that, when I’m not puffing and panting. I know that if I go on stage and I’m fit then the time flies by and I’ve got loads of energy so I can put on a better show for myself and for the people who’ve spent their money on tickets, so I don’t feel like I’m letting anyone down that way. I enjoy it more. I had plenty of drink and drugs back in my twenties, and that was all part of it back then and that was fine, but I’m done with that – I know what works for me now and staying fit and healthy when I’m on the road is what does it. Plus nobody wants to cancel shows – if you get ill or run down and start cancelling shows then you’re letting everybody down.
On a busy tour then it just takes one person to be ill and everyone gets it and that screws things up.
It does. It’s tough, if someone gets sick on a tour bus then it spreads like you wouldn’t believe and we’ve been fairly lucky with Black Star Riders that we haven’t had to cancel any shows so far and hopefully it will stay that way.
What are the chances of one or more shows from The Almighty to tie-in with the re-issues?
I don’t know, I don’t think they’re very likely in the near future. I’ll never rule out anything because I don’t think you can in this life but there’s definitely nothing on the horizon at the moment.
Any solo shows?
That’ll definitely happen but I need to arrange it round Black Star Rider schedule. Black Star Riders is the priority and I have to fit everything around that, which is a nice problem to have.