|Ricky Warwick - Exclusive Interview|
|Written by Dom Daley|
|Wednesday, 28 October 2009 22:49|
Über Röck has a lot of time for Ricky Warwick. The Almighty were one of the greatest bands that the UK has ever produced and his new solo career is held in high regard by the powers that be at ÜRHQ. Our man in the field, Dom Daley caught up with Ricky as he prepared to support Therapy? at their gig in Swansea........
Do you come from a musical family?
Not really, no. My mother liked to sing and had a nice voice and there were always records in the house - Dad liked Johnny Cash - but no, not really a musical family. It was always encouraged though and when I got interested the support was always there.
You've done this for a long time now, going from a band to solo and playing second guitar in someone else's band - do you have any regrets, maybe look back and wish you'd done some things differently?
No, definitely not. We all make mistakes and I'm no different. The trick is to learn from those mistakes but not to have any real regrets. Sure, there are times I've thought "I wish I'd not done this or said that" but that's life and doing it in music is no different, I don't suppose. With 20/20 maybe I wish I'd been a bit more business savvy, maybe, but fuck it, it'll destroy you looking back with regret and worrying as to why you didn't do this or that. Nope, I'm happy.
Before you started The Almighty you got the job touring with New Model Army - how did you get that gig?
I had a demo tape of a band I was in that I handed 'round to record companies and I was a fan of Justin Sullivan and New Model Army so it was suggested that I send a copy to their management company and it sort of went from there really. They took my band on and did some gigs with them and I was asked if I fancied getting up on stage for a few songs and I jumped at the chance. Then next thing I know I was asked if I had a passport and wanted to tour the world with them as a second guitarist...which was great. I knew all the songs anyways so it was easy. It was six months paid work and for a young lad it was great. It was my first rung on the ladder sort of, and a chance then to tour the world with a great rock band.
How did you find Justin (slade the leveller) to work with? He comes across as being very intense or at least he used to.
No, like you say he was just very intense or focused even. I suppose I can see how he might be perceived like that but nah, he was great. He's still a good friend to this day and we're still in touch. He's made some incredible records - his new one which came out recently is also quality.
You were also recently involved with Billy Duffy and the whole Circus Diablo project - what is happening with that these days?
It started out with my friend Billy Morrison and I hanging out and one thing leads to another and a guitar is picked up and a riff gets played which leads to a song and then some demos. Then it was like, management involved, a record company, soon tours are mentioned and so on, but it was really difficult because we all had our own things going on; Billy (Duffy) had commitments with Ian and The Cult and nobody could commit to anything, it was like, if I say yes here I'm gonna miss a three week UK tour that I want to do and The Cult were doing this and that, so it got a bit messy which was a real shame because it started out like a great idea and the band dynamics worked and there were no egos - it was just real fun. It's not always about making money, I don't think we get into it for that in the first place. It's all about the passion for music and if the money comes as a reward then fan-fuckin-tastic, but it's all about the music.
Did you play many gigs with Circus Diablo?
Yeah, we did three weeks on the Ozzfest - which was amazing - and some club gigs in LA. Really, the record company wanted more but nobody could really commit which was a shame, but then it fizzled out so that's that.
Is it something you think will be picked up again? Maybe more gigs? A UK tour would be nice or another album even.
Yeah, I think it might, but this is what I do now. Touring and recording on my own is what I do so giving up a big chunk of my time is difficult as this is how I make my living - it's my bread and butter, you know? We're all still friends though. One thing I've realised is to never say never.
Fuck yeah! God, I remember it was something like the second gig I did after I'd agreed to do the six months. Yeah, that was incredible. Every now and then I look at the photographs to prove it really happened because if I didn't have them I wouldn't believe it did happen. It was unbelievable, it was a mind blowing gig. It was so strange because you had the Wall right behind the building and you could hear all these fans who'd gathered on the other side listening to the music - it was most surreal. It's like they were trapped. You know, Bowie asked Justin to do the gig because he was a fan - it was a mad night.
You've mentioned there a gig that doesn't happen very often for musicians and is a chance of a lifetime. You've also been lucky enough to do some hugely iconic gigs as well, like Donington. Are there any that really stand out?
All of them really. I can honestly say I'm always grateful for what I have and look back fondly at those moments in time that are there forever. I mean opening up for Motorhead and playing Donington were amazing experiences but I'm just as excited to play with Therapy?. Andy is a great friend and they're a fantastic band - it's a real honour but it's very different touring with these guys as to doing it on my own, or with Love/Hate or playing arenas in the US with Def Leppard, but it's all good. It's what I do you know, I love it, this is where I'm happy.
A lot of bands who were around or started the same time as you are still out there doing it, like Tyla, The Wildhearts, The Quireboys - all British bands still 100% doing it after everything they've been through. What would you put that down to?
Yeah, I think it's like I said - it's what we do. We're passionate about our music and we still love it - it's in the blood. I've never wanted to go back to "normality" - after that first experience of going on the road, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I still feel the same now, maybe more so. I can remember going to Donington on the bus from Glasgow with a girl to watch Guns N' Roses as a fan, standing there thinking "This is amazing." Then four years later I'm stood on the side of the stage and the irony wasn't lost on me at all. I remember thinking I was out there only a short while ago and now here I am ready to go on - the feeling was amazing, fucking brilliant. All the saliva went from my mouth, then we got introduced - my stomach knotted and I can still remember the feeling. I'd dreamed of this moment and it was great. I remember saying to the others before we ran onstage that whatever happened we were not going to blow this and off we took. It was incredible looking back. It happens so fast.
I remember seeing you in the Hammersmith Odeon with Faster Pussycat and at that time you were the biggest band on the UK rock scene - how aware were you of the groundswell about the band?
Yeah, there was certainly the biggest buzz about us - it was all happening so fast.
Trying to break the States after getting so much coverage in the UK, was that difficult?
Yeah, it was. I know it's a bit of a cliché but we seemed to be cursed in the US. People who were on our side just seemed to be leaving the record companies or getting fired and every time we'd build up a relationship with someone they'd leave their job and it was all stop, start and go again. It would be back to square one. It was frustrating in as much as we couldn't seem to build any momentum before the rug was pulled out from under us. That was difficult but totally out of our hands.
That was me. I think I'd become a little disillusioned and pissed off with the whole thing. It had stopped being a band or a gang, it stopped being fun. You know, we were arguing all the time and it was really crazy because we were tearing ourselves apart and I couldn't wait to get out. It was me who ended it, which was a bit odd because I'd put so much into it and felt people were drifting away and there was nothing being done to stop the rot. Perhaps I was as guilty as the others at the time, I was like drifting off rather than sorting out any problems just to avoid more arguing. When I told the others that I was walking out of the band I was expecting them to all agree, you know, and be happy to be getting put out of their misery, but the feedback I had was they were as passionate about it as I was! But I couldn't go back on my decision - maybe the best thing to have done looking back was to have taken a year out of it all and recharge the batteries and get back to why we got into it in the first place, you know?
Looking back, do you feel that you were carrying the band being the frontman and songwriter and it was all a bit unfair?
I guess I did. Maybe I felt that I wasn't getting the credit I felt I deserved. Maybe now and again it might have been nice for someone to pat me on the back. In 95 - 96 I just wasn't enjoying it anymore - it just wasn't fun. The dynamics had gone and the arguing and fighting wasn't good. It was really unhealthy and the feeling was that we were cheating ourselves and the fans.
How did you then come to regroup for the 'Psycho Narco' album?
Yeah, that was strange. I think Stumpy got a call about playing some shows in Japan. I'd kept in touch with him and we were on the piss in Dublin when he put it to me about Japan; at the time I said OK and it snowballed from there. Before we knew it, it was tour then writing and then recording that album...but we weren't as committed as we should have been, which is why it fragmented again. The last time we played was different because of Floyd - the reason was different and it was not about getting back into 'it' - it was a lot more fun, maybe because there seemed less pressure.
Moving onto the solo material - when I first heard your solo album it really was quite a departure from The Almighty. Now having done three solo records it seems like a natural progression to get from where you were with The Almighty to 'Belfast Confetti' - what's your take on how you've got to where you are now?
It's just part of the journey; it's a type of music I've always liked so it was just a question of seeing what worked. And just writing the songs, it's more personal and a lot more autobiographical which seems easier to do being on my own and only having to please myself. You know, I'd done the band thing and all that goes with that.
Do you ever feel like taking a band out on the road to play the 'Belfast Confetti' material as you've been playing it acoustically on your own - is that a possibility?
The difficulty is, doing what I'm doing now, I can budget for it and know I don't have to worry about paying a band, the added expense of hotels, a roadcrew and everything that goes with that. It's just a whole lot easier and less stressful. Obviously, if I got a good money offer then, yes, I'd seriously consider it if it was for some festivals or something like that, but not a full time band. Rocking it up, you know the stuff on the solo albums, is great fun and is exciting for me to do but logistically and financially it's not something I can do all the time. I did a few shows in Ireland which were fantastic and a lot of fun but never say never to the odd band 'Belfast Confetti' shows.
Is this still a challenge for you then, going out there into the unknown on your own playing with a load of different bands? Being just you, your passport and guitar gives you massive freedom?
You know, I still get nervous which is great, but if I'm playing in front of twenty people in a bar or doing Donington with the band thing, I still get incredibly nervous....but it's a great sort of feeling as well, especially when it works then afterwards I can relax. A club tour with Therapy? or solo date anywhere and everywhere, to some gigs in Israel; it's all a journey and as I sing in the song "I'm fucking loving it!"
Ha ha ha but yeah, I have a freedom that I can just take up the offers put to me; it's that freedom that is great at the moment.