rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth caught up with frontman Ricky Warwick 12 months on from his baptism of fire with the classic rock legends.
rushonrock: When you joined Lizzy was there any expectation that it would become a full-time job?
Ricky Warwick: I don’t think any of us knew how it was going to turn out when we first got together. But it was one of those situations where we knew we had a great line-up and a great band. Once we got out there and did the first tour the reaction was so overwhelming that I think all of us hoped it would have some legs.
rushonrock: What was the initial aim when Scott put together the latest incarnation of Lizzy?
RW: First and foremost it was all about re-establishing the band as well the brand. We all agreed that we had to put together something that was hugely influenced by what Lizzy did in the past. But we had no idea it would work so well and I’m still not sure why it proved so successful. We were all blown away by the initial reaction to our shows and we still can’t quite believe it now.
rushonrock: So what was the crux of Scott’s rallying call 12 months ago
RW: He said to the rest of us that this new era for the band wasn’t just a case of going out there and doing a tour. It was a case of let’s get out there and remind people why Lizzy was so great in the first place. For me, at that point, I knew it was going to be a full-time gig. I couldn’t commit to something that important and only be a part-timer. After that it was simply a case of waiting to see whether people would come and see the show. Once the YouTube footage was posted and the reviews started to roll in it just snowballed from there. We did 111 gigs in 2011!
rushonrock: There must have been many highlghts but where did the UK festival appearances rank?
RW: Thanks to Download and High Voltage I can say last year was officially amazing! It’s been one of the greatest years I’ve ever had as a musician. It’s still very surreal looking back on 2011. I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed. It’s like winning the lottery and it’s mind-blowing.
rushonrock: Was playing more than 100 shows crucial to creating the chemistry we see on stage now?
RW: Of course it was. At the end of the day everyone knows Scott, Brian and Darren have played a load of shows together. But the other guys were new to the band and of course there have been a number of guitar changes – more than most bands make during their entire career! That side of the stage has always been a revolving door but there’s no substitute for playing gigs together, however talented you might be as a musician. The more we have played together the more it’s galvanised the band as a group and the more we’ve grown in confidence.
rushonrock: Was confidence a problem for you early on?
RW: I did go through a period where I asked myself ‘do I think people will hate me because I’m not Phil?’. But the shows just got better and better and that self-doubt slowly disappeared. At the same time we started to become incredibly tight as a band and that helped me as an individual.
rushonrock: So are you confident that there’s a hard core at the heart of Lizzy driving the band forward now?
RW: Yes and that’s very important. Right now, more than at any other time, Lizzy really feels like a band with six of us working together towards a common goal. After the Judas Priest tour in America at the end of last year I realised that I was thoroughly enjoying being in such a tight band again.
rushonrock: But how difficult has it been adapting to three different guitarists in a year?
RW: Of course it was tough. But on the other hand you can look at it from a positive point of view. I’ve had the chance to play alongside Vivian Campbell, Richard Fortus and Damon Johnson in 2011 and that’s pretty incredible! They are three incredibly talented musicians who are up there at the top of their game. And if you think about it in those terms then you realise you’ve been pretty spoiled as a member of Lizzy this last year.
rushonrock: Could the situation have been handled better?
RW: Well we always knew Vivian was committed to Def Leppard long-term and with Richard we always knew he could go back to Guns N Roses at any point. There came a point where we weren’t sure whether we could do the next tour because we couldn’t guarantee the availability of our guitarist but at that point we’d become victims of our own success. At that point we were going ‘we really need to get it sorted. We really need to nail that spot’. So when Damon came along at just the right time we thought it was fantastic. And for me it was a case of déjà vu – The Almighty stole Pete Freezin’ from Alice Cooper’s band in 1992 and now Lizzy have pinched Damon!
rushonrock: How did the link come about?
RW: Well we did a couple of shows with Leppard and Alice Cooper in Ireland last summer just before Download. It turned out Damon was an absolute Lizzy nut and he knew everything there is to know about the band. Anyway I thought we’d hang on to Richard for quite some time but when he got the call to go back to Guns it was Damon’s name that came up first. I wondered if it would come off but the phone call was made and he answered the question there and then. Alice, being the amazing guy that he is, told Damon that he had to go and do it. That was really big of Alice but it was no surprise to me.
rushonrock: So what’s the guitar sound like in the band right now?
RW: Damon came straight in and came up with an amazing sound right away. He’s gone for the classic Robertson/Gorham sound but with his own stamp. And that was always the essence of Lizzy – team work and individuality. When I watch Damon and Scott playing together I’m honestly in awe of them.
rushonrock: But you’re no bad guitarist yourself…
RW: I’d be the first to admit I’m no lead guitar player. I’ve just been a pretty mean rhythm guitar player for a number of years! When it was first put to me about playing with Lizzy, Scott said he wanted to do something a little bit different. I can’t do the whole frontman thing and so we agreed that we’d use three guitars. I’m just there to beef up the sound on certain songs but it works and I suppose it does give some of the classic songs a new edge. Having said that there are a few songs where I don’t play guitar and I get the best seat in the house to watch all of these other guys playing lead. I’m hoping I learn something in their company!