Tag: Thin Lizzy

Interview: Black Star Riders’ Damon Johnson discusses new tour with Judas Priest

Photo by: Richard Stow

In the past five years, Black Star Riders has released three critically-acclaimed albums and toured regularly all across Europe. Although U.S. fans have long been clamoring to see guitar hero, Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy), as well as Damon Johnson (guitars), Ricky Warwick (vocals), Robert Crane (bass) and Chad Szeliga (drums), the band has been unable to gain a steady foothold of touring on American soil.

That is, until now.

Black Star Riders—which evolved out of Thin Lizzy after the band decided to record new music—is about to embark on an extensive North American tour with metal legends Judas Priest on their Firepower Tour along with veteran rockers, Saxon. The tour, which begins March 13 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. , will have the band traveling across the United States and into Canada.

Black Star Riders’ third album, Heavy Fire (released last year) was a monumental step forward. From the trademark, Lizzy-inspired, dual-guitar attack on songs like “Testify or Say Goodbye”, to the to the dirty bass groove on “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed”, Heavy Fire has firmly established the band as one of the world’s premier rock acts, and one not to be missed.

AXS recently spoke with Damon Johnson about the new Black Star Riders tour with Judas Priest and Saxon and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: The obvious first question to ask is, what can fans expect from Black Star Riders on this new tour?

Damon Johnson: You can expect to see a collection of guys who are energized about having an opportunity to be in North America playing our songs on some big stages. We have a huge following in Europe and the U.K. and have spent a majority of our time there. And even though we haven’t really toured in the United States to any great degree, we know that there’s a lot of interest in our band in the States. We’ve also done it right by having three albums to build our repertoire. Although there may be some people who don’t know who we are, we’re confident the songs will stand on their own and that people will want to check us out even more.

AXS: As a music fan, what thoughts come to mind being on tour with metal legends like Judas Priest and Saxon?

DJ: My thoughts immediately go back to when I was just out of high school. It was a magical time when I was really starting to branch out and listen to more hard rock players like Randy Rhoads. I remember I was in a band and our drummer had this insane album collection. He had all the [Judas] Priest, [Iron] Maiden and Saxon. I have such respect for that music and their legacy. Point of Entry is my favorite Priest album that I still listen to this very day. Being out with these guys is going to be incredible.

AXS: What can you tell me about your Signature Epiphone guitars you’ll be bringing with you on tour?

DJ: I’m so proud of my relationship with Epiphone, which actually dates all the way back to 1993, when the first Brother Cane album came out. They make a lot of great stuff and I’ve been playing their black Custom Pro Les Paul. I’ve also always been a big of fan of Korina wood but have never had a Korina V.  I thought, what better guitar to pull out on a Judas Priest tour than a Flying V? [laughs]. It’s a great partnership and I’m looking forward to continuing it while I’m out on tour.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Damon Johnson by Clicking Here.

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Damon Johnson Talks New Black Star Riders Album, ‘Heavy Fire’

Damon Johnson & Scott Gorham

While continuing to pay homage to their Thin Lizzy legacy, Black Star Riders’ third album, Heavy Fire, also represents a major turning point for the band.

From the immediate riffs of “When the Night Comes In” to the dirty bass groove of “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” and the familiar, trademark dual guitars of Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson on “Testify Or Say Goodbye,” Heavy Fire takes the band out of the past and further cements Black Star Riders as one of the world’s premiere rock acts.

Black Star Riders are Ricky Warwick (vocals/guitar), Scott Gorham (guitars), Damon Johnson (guitars) and Robert Crane (bass).

I recently caught up with Johnson and asked him about Heavy Fire, his gear and more.

How would you describe Heavy Fire in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of the band’s previous work?

I would describe Heavy Fire as the album where we feel we’ve musically made a statement. It’s the final chapter in our trying to find a way to stand on our own. We’ll always be grateful and respectful to our past history—certainly Scott’s history—and without a doubt, the Thin Lizzy fan base and the support they’ve given us to even try something like this.

We’ve been touring, writing and recording over the course of the last four years and this was our opportunity to show we’ve made real progress. We’ve been energized and rejuvenated as a band at how great this album turned out. It’s very special to us.

What led to the transition from Thin Lizzy to Black Star Riders?

Ricky had joined Thin Lizzy in 2010 and I joined in 2011. Over the course of the dates we did together right after I joined, it was the first time Scott had brought up the subject of possibly making some new music and maybe even recording. For Ricky and me as fans, it was a dream come true to even consider having our contributions on a Thin Lizzy album, but we all quickly realized that to give the music a chance and for people to evaluate it on an even scale, it would be impossible to call it Thin Lizzy.

There were multiple guitar players and periods of music the band captured and recorded and went out and played live over the years, but everyone knows the common thread in that band besides Brian Downey was Phil Lynott. So the idea that anyone would give thought to recording new music without Phil in the band seemed ridiculous. That’s when we said let’s not bail out on the idea of recording but instead call it something else.

It’s been very gratifying to get the feedback from fans, the media and even fellow musicians that respect that we would step away from an established name and record it under a different one, and that’s really what Heavy Fire represents to us. This is the one that pushed us up to the next level to where we can see ourselves as Black Star Riders.

How does the writing process work for Black Star Riders?

It comes from a multitude of things. Generally, it starts with a musical idea that’s quickly followed by a vocal melody. Sometimes Ricky will come to me with his guitar and will sing what might be a verse or chorus and we’ll throw it back and forth. Other times, Scott or I will have a riff and bring it to Ricky who will then look in his lyric notebook and, 19 out of 20 times, he’ll already have a cool lyric to go with it.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Damon Johnson by Clicking Here!

The Boys Are Back In Town

“Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven’t changed, haven’t much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy”

Phil Lynott – Thin Lizzy

One day, not too long ago, I woke up and they were gone. The friends I had known and loved since childhood had just up and left without so much as even saying goodbye.

Perhaps it’s my fault. I was the one who abandoned them. I’d always assumed they’d be there when ever the urge would strike me. Sure, I’d walk down their street quite often when out on grocery excursions but sometimes I was just too caught up in the task at hand to even stop by and say “Hello”. 

I’ll admit, when I heard the news of their flight I felt an empty feeling in my stomach. A churning sensation. And I knew my days would never start out properly anymore. I lamented the laughter. The good conversations we all had. The little plastic things made in their image that they used to bring me as presents. All those thoughts and feelings came rushing back.

Days turned into months without so much as a word from them. I considered posting their images on a milk carton (skim of course) but the dairy farmers all laughed me to scorn. They didn’t get it. So I did the next best thing to get the word out.

I took an image and had my picture taken with the band Night Ranger at a recent concert. My hope was to get the message out that my friends were missing and I needed them back more than anything.

That’s when the General Mills Gods must have heard me.

Last night around 10pm I received a call from a friend of mine who used to hang out with the boys too. I could hardly hear what she was saying through all the tears. She told me she had spotted the boys at the Wegmans supermarket. They were there and they were asking about me.

Even though the hour was late, I quickly grabbed my keys and made haste to the local Wegmans. As I rushed in the door I was greeted by the strong smell of cinnamon. I surmised that either the bakers had made rolls this morning or the Apple Jacks kids were firing one up in celebration. I chuckled assuming it was the latter.

I quickly went to the spot we always used to hang out in. Nothing. I saw nothing but frogs, rabbits, magicians, some crazy bird and a leprechaun. My friends were no where in sight. That empty feeling in my stomach was back and I assumed tomorrow would be no different then it has already been for so many months.

It was at that moment I had an epiphany. I noticed that the store had already begun putting out trick or treat candy some two months early. I wondered if they might possibly be hanging out in the Halloween aisle. Like me, they always liked that creepy stuff too and at this point it was worth a shot so off I went.

Trolling through piles of bite sized Snickers and Milky Ways the heaven’s parted and there they were. My friends. The ones that had gone on a long vacation were back.

We just stood there looking at each other not really knowing what to say.  Finally, my joy became too great and I shouted: “Hey Guys it’s me, Jimmy!!”. A tear rolled down my cheek and I noticed that one of the shopping cart boys who had witnessed this reunion was now fleeing from my vicinity.  

We finally embraced and I brought the boys home. I didn’t ask them why they left or how long they might be staying. I just wanted this moment to last forever. 

I’ve decided that after breakfast this morning I’m sending my testimony in to Maury. I think between all the “You ARE The Father” segments, this reunion would make a nice story.