Interview: Thin Lizzy Guitarist Looks Back On Band’s Legacy

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 The other day I had the pleasure of speaking to Damon Johnson of Black Star Riders, the new version of the legendary Thin Lizzy. We talked about the up coming Black Star Riders album Heavy Fire which comes out on February 3rd as well as Thin Lizzy’s enduring legacy.

How did the writing process for the upcoming Black Star Riders album go? How would you compare the style to the other two?

The process was similar to The Killer Instinct in that we worked again with Nick Raskulinecz, who we love. One of the biggest differences is that Ricky and I showed up with 22 completed songs: full lyrics and arrangements. We felt we wanted to give ourselves as many chances of delivering a quality album as possible. Our work ethic is very good, and we love the songwriting process.

I see that for Thin Lizzy you celebrated both the 40th anniversary of Jailbreak and 30 years since Phil passed. How did it go and what was the setlist like?
 

We indeed played half a dozen festival dates as Thin Lizzy in commemoration. The setlist was insane! All the hits and some album cuts that we knew the diehards would love, like “Emerald”, “Southbound”, and “Black Rose”.
   Besides the Florida show are there any planned Thin Lizzy dates and venues for this tour yet? Any Plans for the Black Star Riders tour to come to the US?
 
The Legends of Rock Cruise performances are the only Thin Lizzy dates planned for 2017. The remainder of the year is focused 100% on Black Star Riders. Plans for BSR dates in the U.S. are underway as we speak. Heavy Fire is without doubt our strongest album so far and we are energized to play for U.S. audiences especially.

 

Favorite none single track from Jailbreak? 
That’s easy! “Romeo And The Lonely Girl”. It’s got that badass Scott Gorham guitar solo.

 Thin Lizzy’s first two albums are normally considered to be bad albums by fans. Do you agree with this or feel they are mis judged and why?

Those albums showed a band in development. Phil was finding his way as a writer, a singer, a bandleader. They are still impressive recordings in my opinion as they show the band were fully committed to experimentation and not afraid to attempt a diversity of styles besides just hard rock. It’s ultimately the characteristic that would eventually separate Thin Lizzy from the other groups of the day.

 

On the last few Thin Lizzy albums the band took a heavier more metal sound. Has Scott said what inspired the band to go in this direction?

Scott and I have talked about this often. It was a dark time, as Phil and Scott both were deep in the grip of drug addiction. Yet Phil was still engaged with paying attention to new bands, new sounds, and new styles in pop music. Metal was starting to take over, and certainly ‘Thunder and Lightening’ (their final studio album) reflects the metal influence. Not ironically, it’s both Scott and Brian Downey’s least favorite studio album.

 

  • dakotablue

    I remember when there was talk of Phil Lynette playing Jimi Hendrix in a movie about Jimi’s life. He certainly had the look! Then sadly Phil was also dead from drugs. But he left us so much great Thin Lizzy music. “Romeo” is indeed a fantastic song, as is “Cowboy Song”–there are some fantastic live performances of that one, dual leads burning it up!