Black Star Riders new studio album Another State Of Grace was released on the 6th September 2019. Another State Of Grace sees the band deliver another stunning collection of songs. The band will support the record with a full UK and Ireland tour in October 2019 with additional dates in other territories to be announced in the near future. Mark Millar caught up with Ricky Warwick for a chat at the Limelight, Belfast to talk about the new album and the upcoming show at the venue.
Black Star Riders recently released your fourth album Another State Of Grace. Did you go into the recording with any preconceived ideas how it should sound and the kind of songs you wanted to write about?
RW: Not really no - you try and write the best songs that you can. It’s songs that we all like and we all dig, and we were all feeling. I think you have to have to be happy with it first and foremost, which we all were. We went in with about sixteen songs, and we whittled those down to eleven that made the album. I felt we were in a perfect place with the material before we went into the studio - I knew personally that the stuff was very strong.
How long did the recording take from start to finish?
RW: It was very quick – we recorded in two and a half weeks, and then it took between ten and eleven days to mix, so the album was done very quickly.
The previous Black Star Riders records have been received very well. Do you feel pressure going into a new album to try and better the last?
RW: Even for selfish reasons, you are always trying to push yourself as a songwriter, but I'm so lucky I am in a band with such amazing musicians and players, that I always know that any of the ideas that I take in they will help me to turn them into something special. So it’s never really pressured, but if it is, it’s good pressure, and certainly not something to worry about.
Black Star Riders have two new members Chad Szeliga (Drums) and Christian Martucci (Lead Guitar) who make their debut on the new record. How have they fitted in?
RW: They are amazing – I can't say enough good things about those two. First and foremost, they are phenomenal musicians but great people. They are very positive, very engaged, and have a great work ethic - they brought so much to this record. Chad’s drumming on this record is phenomenal, while Christian as a guitar player and songwriter brings so much to this band and brings a great attitude and energy – it's just a joy have them in the band.
How did you find them where they mates or did they audition?
RW: It’s funny - we did auditions in LA for drummers, and couldn't find the right guy, and then our manager suggested Chad. Chad sent a video into us, of him playing along to some stuff, and we thought, "this guy is great.” The same thing happened when we auditioned in LA for guitar players - a lot of good people came down and played, but we felt we hadn't found the right guy, and then our producer Jay Ruston said, "I think that Christian Martucci is the right guy for the band." So he sent a video in, and we knew then that he was our guy – it was a very similar situation for both of them.
As well as having two new members the band brought in new producer Jay Ruston for the album. Why did you choose him?
RW: Again, we just wanted to make changes all around. We have two new guys coming in, and we have done the last two albums in Nashville with Nick Raskulinecz producing – which was great, but we felt we wanted to shake things up a bit. We wanted to record in a different setting, and different city and Los Angeles seemed to be the popular choice, and Jay Ruston is based there. We thought it was time for a change – it’s as simple as that.
Is the song protest song 'Why Do You Love Your Guns' informed by you living in LA and American gun culture?
RW: We have touched on it before, and it’s a subject I feel very strongly about. On the last album, we had a song called 'Who Rides the Tiger' which was basically about the gun legislation in America - we have had over two hundred and fifty mass shootings in America this year. 'Why Do You Love Your Guns' was inspired by the Sandy Hook tragedy - my daughter is the same age as those innocent little kids who were gunned down so brutally at Sandy Hook, and I felt I had to say something about it – it was eating me up inside, hence why I wrote the song 'Why Do You Love Your Guns' which I think is a self-explanatory title. The second amendment of freedom to bear arms seems to be their mantra, and none of these fuckers can recite you any other of the amendments. There is no common sense with it – why does anybody need a high-velocity rifle or an AK-47 as a member of the general public? There are no background checks – it’s easy to get a gun in America.
Anybody can walk in with any felonies or history of mental illness, and put down a driving license and walk out with a high powered rifle – it's ludicrous. And it's ludicrous there's nothing being done about it. So for me as a parent, it’s something I worry about. My daughter goes to school in the United States, and her school is like a fortress. There are metal detectors when you go in, and there are armed security guards and police outside. It's a school - it's supposed to be a fun, happy place, where kids go to learn. It's ridiculous - what is it going to take to do something about this?
Meat Loaf’s daughter Peral Aday returns on the track 'What Will it Take?' after sharing vocals with you on 'Testify Or Say Goodbye’ from Heavy Fire. Were you thinking of her voice when you were writing the song?
RW: That's a good question – that song was a real latecomer to the album. I wrote that song the day before we started recording the album, so we hadn't even demoed it - it was one of those songs where I wasn't sure if it was right for Black Star Riders. I was sitting on it, and I thought, "I'll play it to the boys to see what they think,” because the song is a bit different for us – it has a sort of Americana almost country feel to it. The band loved it and said, "This is great we want to record this." And as we were recording it, I was talking to Jay, and I said, "I think Peral would be great as a guest vocalist on this." Sure enough, she came down and knocked it out of the park again – she’s such a lovely woman and such a fantastic singer. She's a friend, so it's great to have her on the song.
Overall was it an enjoyable experience recording Another State Of Grace?
RW: In thirty years of recording albums, it was the most enjoyable experience I have ever had in the studio – I loved every second of it. I thought it was brilliant. It was one of those times where everything aligned – the vibe was great, the studio was great, and the people who ran the studio couldn't do enough for us. Working with Jay was fantastic – the two new boys coming in was brilliant – everything was just great.
Black Star Riders are on tour in October and will play Limelight, Belfast. Do you always look forward to playing to your home crowd?
RW: It’s magic - I love coming back. Any excuse to go back to Northern Ireland works for me. It's even better when you get to go back and play music for your friends and the people who are from here, so it’s always a special show, and it’s always a special night for me – I can't wait.
You are always on tour, and these days it seems to make a career bands and artists have to be always on the road. How have you adapted to this?
RW: We just have had to adapt to it – that's the way it is. There's no point bitching or moaning about it. Life is in constant flux - it's changing all of the time. It's just the way that the world evolves, so you have to adapt or get left behind. We have accepted that streaming seems to be the way that music is going, although a lot of people buy vinyl and CDs, which is excellent - you just get on with it.
I enjoyed the documentary Rock' n' Roll Highway you made with Ralph McClean. I learned a lot from watching it. How did you find the experience of making it?
RW: I loved it, and it's the same as you said, I learned so much from it – it was an excellent education for me. It was great meeting a lot of the musicians and people who have been influenced by the Ulster-Scots heritage, and it was a lot of fun tracing the early settlers, right the way up to rock’n’roll. Going to Tupelo and seeing where Elvis was born – I had never done that before, so that was a first for me, and Patsy Clines’ place in Winchester was amazing to visit too. The whole experience was wonderful and educational.
If you were taking the band out for a night out in Belfast where would you take them?
RW: (Laughs) What a great question. I would start with a Chinese at Mandarin City in East Belfast, then down to Katy Daly's bar. Back in the day, the Rosetta was a good rock bar to go to many years ago. We do socialize as a band quite a lot on our days off, which is good – we usually go and find a good curry place or restaurant.
Do you have a record(s) that you always return to?
RW: Black Rose by Thin Lizzy and Inflammable Material by Stiff Little Fingers. If you put me on a desert island and told me to bring two records, those albums would be the two.
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
RW: The last record I bought was 'Real' by an Americana singer called Lydia Loveless, and the new album by a UK band called The Heavy – it’s called 'Sons' and I really like it. Also, the new album by a group called Church of the Cosmic Skull - they are kind of heavy, and really good.
What are you most grateful for about being able to be a musician every day?
RW: That I'm still able to do it, and I'm still healthy, and making a living doing this for thirty years now, and to be successful, and to be able to get up every morning and get to do what I love, which is amazing.
After a lengthy period off the road, Black Star Riders are back with a 15 date UK & Ireland Tour with special guests Stone Broken and Wayward Sons. Dates for Black Star Riders 2019 UK & Ireland Tour are:
Thursday 10th October O2 Academy, Bristol
Friday 11th October Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Saturday 12th October O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Sunday 13th October William Aston Hall, Wrexham
Wednesday 16th October Academy, Dublin *
Thursday 17th October Limelight, Belfast *
Friday 18th October Braehead Arena, Glasgow §
Saturday 19th October O2 Academy, Newcastle
Sunday 20th October Rock City, Nottingham
Tuesday 22nd October De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Wednesday 23rd October O2 Academy, Bournemouth
Thursday 24th October University Great Hall, Cardiff
Friday 25th October Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
Saturday 26th October O2 Academy, Leeds
Sunday 27th October O2 Ritz, Manchester
* BSR and Stone Broken Only § BSR Only as Guests to Saxon
Tickets are on sale now.
For Ticket Info please visit www.blackstarriders.com