"I'm Northern Irish and living in Los Angeles, California and this is my fifth solo record, it's called "When Life Was Hard and Fast" and it came out February 19 on Nuclear Blast. I'm very excited about it,"stated guitarist Ricky Warwick as he discussed his new record, his childhood, growing up near Belfast during "The Troubles" and much more.
Warwick has had his share of commercial success; there was a brief stint in punk band,New Model Army, he formed The Almighty in which he enjoyed multiple top 40 singles and top 20 albums as well as opening for established acts such as Ramones, Megadeth, Motorhead and Iron Maiden.
So; how does a kid from Northern Ireland achieve these heights given the climate of his youth and limited opportunities?
"You pick up a guitar at 14, move to Scotland, you're the new kid from Belfast in the school, you've got a guitar and the guy in your year that has a drum kit gravitates toward you, the guy that has the bass guitar gravitates towards you, the other guy that owns a guitar in your year gravitates towards you; next thing you know you're in somebody's front room playing UFO, Motorhead, AC/DC, Clash; anything you consider to be un-authoritarian and noisy, melodic, fist in the air; you submerge yourself in that music and that was it, that's where it started. Two of those guys that approached me that first week of school I ended up being in The Almighty with; our drummer and our bass player. Various band name changes down the line, five or six years later we're in The Almighty playing all over the world. So, that's where it really started, we were very driven right from the start and when we decided to become The Almighty we certainly had a swagger and I think we had the songs to back it up and that's what really broke down all the doors for me and for us and then we got our first record deal and we were off to the races."
"I'm from Newtownards in County Down, a little town about eight miles east of Belfast; when I grew up it was at the height of the troubles. It was a very strange upbringing although you don't realize it when you're born into something and you don't know any different that's your normality. The fact that we had to be very careful where we went and who we talked to, there was a curfew and no bands would come and play; we were definitely very limited in our resources and in what we could do compared to other kids growing up in England or Scotland where none of this was going on. So, we gravitated to the Irish bands, they were our salvation. The Rory Gallaghers, the U2s,Thin Lizzy of course, the punk bands like Stiff Little Fingers,The Undertones; those bands would play regularly because they were Irish. They were starting to do well on a global scale and that gave us hope as kids; most of me and my friends dreamed of being professional soccer players or being musicians or being both. The dream was, I'll be in a band and I'll be a soccer player at the same time (laughs). So, that's what we grew up dreaming about and people like those artists inspired us because it showed that you could get away from the situation that we were in, that you could get out and see the world, you could do something that you loved and be successful at it because they're Irish and they're doing it and that was really inspirational for me as a kid growing up. Music was a salvation that brought everybody together; no matter what religion you were, when a band played Belfast it didn't matter whether you were Protestant or Catholic. All of the kids went together and all that bigotry was left outside the door where it should be and it was unifying; it was a real salvation for a lot of kids my age at that moment in time."
"It was this crazy time but when you're a kid, number one you have no fear; like I said, when you're born into it. I was born in '66 and the troubles; as we call them in Northern Ireland, that's how we describe them, they started in '69 and I left Belfast when I was 14 and moved to Glasgow in Scotland. So, all through the first part of my life it was going on around me and it was definitely having an effect on me; although you don't really realize it at the time. It was only when I moved away and suddenly I went, hang on a minute; there are soldiers at the bottom of our street every day and there was a bomb going off and that guy on the pavement that morning we went to school that we had to walk around was dead, he was shot and suddenly you go, wow that's not right. It wasn't until much later in life that actually the penny dropped that this wasn't a normal childhood per say to what most kids experienced. It was certainly eventful and it shaped me and many of the kids that came from there; it certainly shaped us as individuals. I always joked that when my dad moved us out of Northern Ireland it was to probably one of the toughest cities in the UK. I was like; really dad? You couldn't think of somewhere else? I've heard Spain is quite nice this time of year (laughs). There was a lot of bigotry in the west of Scotland as well; the only difference was there wasn't bombs and people shooting at each other. I remember my first day of high school in Scotland, the first question I was asked was whether I was Protestant or Catholic and I couldn't believe it. I thought, I just spent 15 years dealing with this and here I am in a new country thinking that was behind me and the first guy that comes up to me says, "What are you? Protestant or Catholic?" and I thought, God this is relentless."
The Year 2002 saw Warwick release his first solo disc titled "Tattoos & Alibis," which he recorded in the studio of Def Leppard's Joe Elliott; it was the first of five. Opportunity begets opportunity and in 2010 he was asked to front a reforming Thin Lizzy which eventually led to his fronting of Black Star Riders.
When asked why the kid from Belfast titled his new record "When Life was Hard and Fast,"considering he seems to have done pretty well for himself; he wasted little time responding.
"It is the title song on the record and we thought it would make a great album title; it's a song about growing up in Ireland, a song about when we were kids and dreaming about being rock and roll stars, or soccer players, about getting out and seeing the world. We thought being in a band would make all of the girls that always ignored us fall in love with us and all of that good stuff. When pressed if that worked, he laughed and said, "Yes! Eventually, it took a while for me so don't give up!"
"The album was finished and recorded in April of 2019 so I've been sitting on it for a while. Obviously it will be two years almost since it was recorded and released and then this awful pandemic came along but that song encapsulated the whole vibe of the record for me and I thought it was a great title; as soon as we wrote that song I said, that's the album title. There's lots of different colored vinyls for people who are into vinyl which I am, there's special box sets and all kinds of cool stuff to make it a blast."
Enthusiasm oozes from Warwick when he speaks of the new effort and his fan base is just as upbeat over its release; so much so that they inspired a "Bonus" disc aptly titled "Stairwell troubadour."
"There's a bonus disc; it's an album of acoustic cover versions. It kind of came about by accident. I did my last record through the crowd funding site Pledge and I do these weekly updates where I do an acoustic song on the stairwell in my living room. I do a cover song and it went down so well with the people that my manager suggested that I record these songs acoustically and just make them available as a limited edition through the Pledge and that's what we did. So, when "Life Was Hard and Fast" was finished my manager said, "Hey, let's put out the "Stairwell Troubadour" as a bonus disc" which had only been limited up until then; so, that's the reason that's there."
An additional bonus was the cast he assembled for this undertaking. Co-writer and producer Keith Nelson was an intricate piece to the puzzle but he also employed Joe Elliott, Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, Dizzy Reed of Guns n Roses fame and one very important contributor; his daughter Pepper.
"My daughter sings backing vocals on a track called "Time Don't Seem to Matter," she's got a great voice, she's a good little musician, she loves music and it was a real thrill to have her on the record; it was a real proud dad moment. The song is actually about her so I was like, hey kiddo, the song is about you, you're singing on it and she nailed it in two takes. It was great working with her; she's at that age, she's 13 so everything is like no big deal and whatever, it's cool. I was like hey you're gonna be on a record and she's like, "Yeah; can we go for pizza once I'm done?" So she's at that age where I think it'll mean more to her further down the road. I think secretly she's thrilled but she wants to be cool in front of her friends (laughs) and yeah it ain't no big deal dad and I'm like, well it kind of is but she's great, she's my little mate and it was nice to have her on there."
Warwick is optimistic that the COVID climate will slowly recede and as life returns to somewhat normal so will live music; so much so that he has already booked tentative tour dates in the UK for the spring of 2021.
"As much as we can plan anything; you've got to start looking at it somewhere," he explained as hespoke of the planning stages of a tour. "I'm going to start in the UK in the end of April, I'm hoping fingers crossed that we are out of the woods by then and I'm hoping to add a bunch more throughout the year and absolutely some U.S. dates as well. I think if we can get back out playing again; I'm ready to play anywhere, it's been so tough sitting at home and not being able to play. God bless the internet, it's the salvation here; much as there's a lot of negativity about it, without it during this pandemic it would have been horrific. I've been able to do online streaming shows once a month and that's provided me with valuable income and kept my head above water and kept me going and given me something to focus on and look forward to and that's what I'm going to continue to do with this new album. I've got a bunch of online stuff organized and I'll promote it; I've got lots of phone interviews and Zoom interviews and then hopefully come the end of April I'll be given the all clear and be able to start playing some live shows; that's all I can do. I'm pretty active on social media so everything is updated, the label is Nuclear Blast and you should be able to find me everywhere; I hope (laughs)."
To discover more about Ricky Warwick, please visit www.rickywarwick.com.
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