Star Scene: Scott Gorham ~ Thin Lizzy, BLACK STAR RIDERS

When asked his scene, Scott Gorham laughs and says he is “going to have to go boring on [me]”. The legendary Thin Lizzy, now Black Star Riders’ guitarist, states: “I started playing golf 35 years ago.” He laughs again, explaining: “Yeah. I know. I know. But, I tell you what it did. Playing golf helped me get off drugs. I found that just by staring down at this little, tiny white ball with this little, tiny club in my hand, all I wanted to think about was hitting this damn ball on the ground. And by doing that, I stopped thinking about my real problems of the whole bad drug situation that I’d gotten myself into. And I realised that for two hours out there on the driving range, that that’s all I was thinking about. I wasn’t thinking about the depressing side of the drug thing. So I went again the next day. And then the next day. And it really did help me. It wasn’t all golf, but it really helped me rehab myself into getting back into society and doing something positive for myself. So, I fell in love with the game. What can I tell you? I know for a lot of people it’s really boring. But if you talk to a lot of people out there who play golf, they love it to death. So, I’ve appreciated that it was there to help me out. So that’s my scene.”

In contrast, Gorham has been busy touring, as well as recording new music with Black Star Riders, in the form of their fourth album, Another State of Grace, due for release on September 6th via Nuclear Blast. The new release is a step away from the previous recordings due to a few factors. Gorham explores the differences between the band’s previous three releases and their latest album, and states: “Well, I think there’s a couple of reasons for the [differences]. I think a big reason is the atmosphere that we actually created in the studio this time around. The two previous albums we did in Nashville. It’s a nice city and all that, but LA, at this point in time, just seemed to be a little bit more laid back. Jay Ruston, the producer, he was able to create an atmosphere in the studio that was just… It was fun. This guy, he loves what he does and he wants to make sure that everybody else is having a great time at the same time. So, the atmosphere was always really light. But it was definite work, and a lot of work, at the same time, but it wasn’t all hard work. We’re going to relax and have a great time with this. And he made sure that we all did that. Jay was also instrumental: we would have the songs written and arranged and all that. But you know, when making an album, you’re always going to run into that one or two or three roadblocks in a song where you listen back to it and you go, you know, geez, I thought that part was going to work, but it’s really not working and I’ve got a mental block about putting something else in there. And that’s when Jay would jump in and put the cape on and come to the rescue and go, ‘Well, I’ve got an idea for that’. And he would say it, and ‘You’d go, oh my God, I can’t believe we didn’t even think about that. Hell, yeah’. He did that three or four times on the album, which was good.”

Gorham continues: “The new guys that we have in the band, they are such good players, they were able to drag me and Ricky down [a different direction], instead of going to the southwest, now we’re going a little northeast on a couple of these songs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was cool to work a little differently. One of the different ways was in the writing of this album. Because we live thousands and thousands of miles apart, if we try to get together and rehearse – that’s just a non-starter right? So, Christian, who is very good with the pro tools he’s got on his laptop said, ‘Okay. Listen. I’m on the road with Stone Sour so why don’t we do this: you guys record all the ideas on your iPhones or iPads, send them over to me, and I will try to arrange them into song samplets.’”

Initially Gorham was reluctant. He states: “At first I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. What? Come on now, we’ve got to be in the same room for this stuff.’ And Christian goes, ‘No, no, no. I’ve done this a couple of times before and it’s worked out really well.’ And I’m thinking, well, okay. I’m up for it, I’ll give it a shot. I sent 20 ideas to him and Ricky sent another 25 ideas in. The same with Robbie, the bass player. And all of a sudden these songs started coming back and you can hear your bits in all these songs and you go, wow, this is actually kind of a cool way to do it.”

The arrangements relieved the pressure of time. Gorham explains: “We only had two weeks to get this album done and dusted, now we’ve got 16 song vehicles. We’re not starting from scratch now. We’ve got 16 song vehicles that we can hone in just a little bit more in rehearsals, so that saved us so much time. It was unbelievable. Christian arranged these songs in a certain way. He knew the style that Ricky, myself, and Robbie recorded with anyway. So he already had a direction to go into. But as far as writing a song at starting points and all that, it’s any number of ways that these things start out. It might be even a thing that you hear on TV, like, oh, I like the sound of that. By the time I’ve gone from my television set into my office with my amp, I’ve already forgotten the idea. But then you start on something a little bit different, and then it kind of steamrolls into a brand new part. Or it might be a guitar line that comes in your head and like, wow, that would be a good harmony section for whatever song we can get this in. With Another State Of Grace, it was the riff. It all starts with that feeling. There’s the Irish riff. Now we’re going to build a song around that riff, and then we’ll see what happens. And Ricky, lyrically, my God. I call him the lyric ATM machine. He’s probably got the next three albums already written lyrically. I’ll be playing a riff, like in the dressing room at some gig, and he’ll go, ‘Is that your riff?’ I’ll go, ‘Yeah.’ He’ll go ‘I’ve got a lyric for that.’ ‘Wow. Really? Cool.’ So it was a real great way, but a real different way, of writing an album.”

Gorham’s favourite song on the new album is Why Do You Love Your Guns So Much? He states: “I don’t usually boast about songs that I’m doing, but that one. When Jay first did sort of a mini mix of that song, it made me sit up. I thought, wow, that sounds so fucking cool, man. I love that. I don’t look at Black Star Riders as being a preachy band or this is the way you should think, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t look at it like that at all. I think what happens with Ricky’s lyric writing is, he grew up in kind of a war-torn Belfast. So, he kind of had to grow up with all this stuff and you know it’s kind of built into his DNA a little bit. So now he’s in Los Angeles and he’s seeing all these school deaths and people, with all the gun violence that’s in not only Los Angeles, but throughout America. And he’s got kids himself. And there was the question, why do you love your guns so much? You see what this is doing to your families and your loved ones, but still, you won’t let go of that gun. The NRA has really got a stranglehold on you. So, I think that was a lyric that he really needed to get out.  They can cut these deaths down by huge percentages. Somehow, because it’s in that silly ass Second Amendment in the American Constitution, everybody believes it’s their God given right to hang onto that gun of theirs. There’s more guns in America than there are people. How frightening is that? I don’t ever see a way that America will ever, ever get rid of their guns. It’s too big of a problem, which is sad. And Ricky can only, and I’ve talked to him about this several times, he literally can only sing things that he well and truly believes in and I really respect him for that. I mean, when you’re up there and you’re in the centre and you’ve got that spotlight on you, you better believe every single thing that’s coming out of your mouth or you’re just a hypocrite. So, when he writes, he writes about things that he believes very strongly. So, I love him for that. I think that’s really cool.”

The new video for Ain’t The End Of The World also brings to light the struggles of living in today’s society, and though it resonates heartbreak, there’s also hope. Scott states: “I talked to Ricky about that. I thought exactly that. I said, ‘Geez, Ricky, is this another war song?’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. It’s about a guy who his chick has broken up with him and kind of says to himself, well, that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. We’re broken up and it hurts right now, but it’s not the end of the world. Nobody died, so see you later.’”

As a whole, the album, Another State of Grace, highlights the progression of the band as a whole, yet the Thin Lizzy comparison, which is basically the Scott Gorham signature, is evident as well. Gorham states: “I’ve got two things: The first one is every Black Star Riders tour that we do, I sit down on my laptop and I put the albums on. I’ve got my amp and guitar set up in there, and I play along to them. The first album, yeah, okay. there’s definitely at least three songs that really do sound like Thin Lizzy and I will hold my hands up to that. It’s like, oh my God, that could have been on a Thin Lizzy album. But then I listen to the rest of it and I think, well, I don’t really hear the Thin Lizzy-ness, if I could say it like that, at all. When you get to the second album and, yeah, there are harmony guitars and I guess that does sound a little bit like Thin Lizzy because of that. But when I actually listened to the songs themselves, I don’t really hear it. The third album is even further away. And on this one, here, I don’t hear it at all. Yes, there are harmony guitars in there. So I guess people could say, well, you know, that sounds like Thin Lizzy. But, on the other side of it, I’ve spent a good glob of my career in Thin Lizzy, writing for Thin Lizzy, playing in Thin Lizzy, working out the guitar, harmony, and lines, coming up with them kind of thing. I’m really, really proud of that. My whole thing was I really wanted to be in a really cool band and to me, Thin Lizzy was a really cool band to be in. If people want to compare this in any way, shape, or form to Thin Lizzy, I’m good with that. I’m okay. If I’d come from a band that I thought was embarrassing and I didn’t want to play any of those songs any longer and people were saying bad things, then I probably would get a little upset with things. But because of my attitude towards Thin Lizzy, I’m good. I will talk about both bands in the same heartbeat and it’s not a problem so what I’m saying is I never get offended if people want to say it kind of sounds like Thin Lizzy, I’m fine with that.”

Thin Lizzy songs are part of who he is, and Gorham loves performing them live “every night”.  He explains: “We know that people know where we came from, I came from. I think part maybe, a small part of the percentage of ticket sales are people wanting to hear a couple of Thin Lizzy songs. And, hey, I like playing those songs, too. So every night we’ll carve out a couple of Thin Lizzy songs and the audience has a great time and we have a great time. And that’s fine and everybody’s happy, including me.”

Transparency of passion and love for the music played on stage is integral for Gorham and for the band. Gorham states: “I’ve said that for 45 years now. If you’re having a crap time on stage, people absolutely know it. Because I’ve seen things myself on YouTube where I’m desperately ill on stage and I don’t know why people want to film that. But here’s Scott being ill. Oh, great. Yeah. I think I’ll watch that one. Thanks. But they know. People are not stupid. Especially if they’re a big fan of the band, they know the vibe that’s going down. They can feel it. And if you’re not feeling it that night, they are going to feel it. So you try not to ever show anything like that, even if you are not feeling up to scratch. You don’t want to let anybody down at any point.”

As for touring Australia, Gorham states: “Well, I’ve been talking about that all afternoon. To me, if you say you’re going to go on a world tour and you don’t go to Australia, you’re not on a world tour. What you’re on is an extended European tour, that’s all it is. Right? Am I right? I’ve seen the lay out for the British and the European tours. So far right now, there hasn’t been any mention of Australia, which I find really, really disappointing. The last time that I was in Australia and with Ricky was six years ago. That’s way, way too long to be away from any country, let alone Australia. And not just because I’m talking to you, I think Melbourne is probably my favourite city in Australia. I don’t know if it’s the people or the atmosphere or something. But every time you kind of roll into Melbourne, it’s like, oh, this is cool. Yeah, I like this. So, great. And also, Melbourne is more of the artistic city. Australia is a major market with major rock fans in it. It’s why everybody wants to go to Australia, because the rock fans are so shit fucking crazy, but I love it. And they know your songs. It’s a really knowledgeable audience. Any time you go to Australia, you know you’re going to have a great time. Maybe with your help and a couple of the other people’s help, we can spread the word and get our butts over to Australia and have a great time.”

Hopefully an Australian tour will be announced very soon. For now, preorder Another State of Grace, released on September 6th via Nuclear Blast.

“Another State Of Grace” is available on CD, vinyl and vinyl picture disc, limited edition boxset and limited edition light green vinyl. Pre-order here: http://www.nuclearblast.com/blackstarriders-asog

Pre-save “Another State Of Grace” on Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music: http://nblast.de/BlackStarRidersPreSave
Order the album digitally to receive ‘Another State Of Grace’ instantly: http://nblast.de/BlackStarRidersASoGIT

About Mary Boukouvalas 1081 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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