Black Star Riders Biography
Black Star Riders is a hard rock band formed in December 2012, when members of the most recent line-up of Thin Lizzy decided to record new material, but chose not to release it under the Thin Lizzy name. While Thin Lizzy will continue on an occasional basis, Black Star Riders is a full-time band, described as “the next step in the evolution of the Thin Lizzy story”. The band’s first album, All Hell Breaks Loose, was released on May 21, 2013, and the follow-up album, The Killer Instinct was released on February 20, 2015. The band’s third album, Heavy Fire, was released on February 3, 2017, and reached #6 in the UK album charts.
The band is fronted by Ricky Warwick, and features guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson and bass guitarist Robbie Crane. Drummer and founding member Jimmy DeGrasso left the band in March 2017, and was replaced a few weeks later by Chad Szeliga.
In May 2010, Thin Lizzy lead guitarist Scott Gorham announced the latest incarnation of the group, which had toured sporadically with various line-ups since 1996, after the death of band leader Phil Lynott in 1986. This marked the return of the original drummer Brian Downey and longtime keyboard player Darren Wharton, joining Gorham, bass guitarist Marco Mendoza, and vocalist and occasional guitarist Ricky Warwick. The other lead guitarist role was initially filled by Vivian Campbell, then by Richard Fortus, before Damon Johnson joined the band in August 2011. As the band toured throughout 2011 and 2012, they composed new material for possible release as a Thin Lizzy studio album, and demos were recorded in June 2012.
In October 2012, it was announced that the new material would not be recorded under the Thin Lizzy name, and that a new band name would be used for the new songs. According to Gorham, this was “out of respect to Phil Lynott and the legacy he created”, though he confirmed that the new material would feature the classic Thin Lizzy sound. He later confirmed that the decision was taken by himself and Downey, with the support of the other members of the band, and that the Thin Lizzy estate (controlled by Lynott’s widow Caroline) had also been uncomfortable about new Thin Lizzy studio recordings. Warwick has acknowledged that a significant portion of Thin Lizzy fans were also against the idea of Thin Lizzy studio recordings without Lynott. He later confirmed that he had been troubled by the idea of using the Thin Lizzy name, and that as a fan, had the band recorded an album under the Thin Lizzy name with another singer, he would have been against it.
As the new material was being written, it became clear that Downey and Wharton would not be involved when the final recordings were made. Downey required a break from the heavy touring schedule, and Wharton wanted to return to his own band Dare, and to work on a film project. Warwick confirmed, “Brian and Darren just don’t want to be on the road 150 days a year, and that’s completely understandable. But we do.”
Gorham has stated that Thin Lizzy will still perform as a band in the future: “Thin Lizzy isn’t gonna die,” he said. With reference to the much-publicised Lizzy “farewell” tour in late 2012, Warwick confirmed, “All that ‘farewell’ meant is that we’re not going to do 150 Lizzy shows a year… those were just the last shows for a while.” Thin Lizzy completed a short tour of Australia in March 2013, with Downey and Wharton as part of the line-up.
Damon Johnson has revealed that Gorham was against any name for the new band that was related to Thin Lizzy, “because this band has to stand on its own”. Warwick named the band after a gang of outlaws in the 1993 western film Tombstone, and the new name was announced on 20 December 2012.
The band initially consisted of Gorham and Johnson on lead guitar, Mendoza on bass guitar, with Warwick acting as vocalist and occasional guitarist. The band brought in Jimmy DeGrasso on drums, but no keyboard player has been recruited, with Gorham stating, “I don’t think we are actually going to have keyboards in Black Star Riders. You never know what’s going to happen down the road but that is the set-up right now with that.”
All the founding members are American with the exception of Warwick who is from Northern Ireland. Each had previously achieved success with other acts – Gorham with all incarnations of Thin Lizzy since 1974 and with 21 Guns; Warwick with The Almighty; Johnson with Brother Cane and Alice Cooper; Mendoza with Blue Murder, fronted by another ex-Thin Lizzy member, John Sykes; and DeGrasso with several acts including Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, White Lion and Alice Cooper. Gorham is the only member of Black Star Riders to have been a member of Thin Lizzy while Phil Lynott led the band and thus the only one to have appeared on a Thin Lizzy studio album.
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