Trump and guns: Black Star Riders' track-by-track guide to Another State Of Grace

Black Star Riders' Ricky Warwick and Scott Gorham
Black Star Riders' Ricky Warwick and Scott Gorham (Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

"I never think about our legacy", says Scott Gorham. "If you thought about that, you'd never get out of your front door to get on the plane to go to LA."

Four albums into their career, Black Star Riders are still being compared to Thin Lizzy. But as our review of Another State Of Grace remarks, how can anyone possibly criticise Scott Gorham for sounding like Scott Gorham? 

While Gorham's past might open doors for his current act, it also presents a challenge. If you've repeatedly set a high standard with your past work, each new step is greeted with forensic levels of expectation.

"You just get into a frame of mind that this is going to be the best album we've ever done," says Gorham. "Because if you don't, it won't be."  

Below, Scott Gorham and singer Ricky Warwick take us through that album, Another State Of Grace

Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down

Ricky: "Scott brought the riff in and I fell in love with it straight away and came up with a melody. It's about having your heart broken for the first time, and remembering that. 

"For me it's a funny story. I had this little Jack Russell Terrier when I was a kid, and the dog went everywhere with me. And one day I came home from school and the dog wasn't there. It broke my heart. It was the first time I'd ever felt that sense of loss. 

"I just remember how awful I felt, and that feeling was really what sparked the song."

Another State of Grace

Scott: "We have a tradition in Black Star Riders of including some sort of a Celtic-feeling song. I know we did that a lot with Thin Lizzy, but with Ricky being full, flat-on Irish and myself half-Irish (my mother was Irish, so I consider myself part of the clan) we just love those kind of melodies. We love those lilting Irish riffs. They're beautiful to play, they're fun to play, and there's a lot of power in them at the same time.

"Ricky grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and he's going to take that with him for the rest of his life. You're a kid growing up, and people are dying around you, and there's poverty, and there's heavy, scary people. 

"This song is all about getting out of the situation that you've been born into, and trying to make yourself a better person. You don't let these things scar you for the rest of your life. So there's kind an uplifting message that goes with it."

Ain't the End of the World

Scott: "This is a bit of a strange song. It sounds like a war song, but it's actually a love song. It's about this guy who's broken up with his chick, and he's depressed. He's all fucked up. But hey, you know something? It's not the end of the world. Fuck you, bitch. I'm gonna go out and live my life, and I'm gonna make it a better life. I don't need you, because it ain't the end of the world."

Underneath the Afterglow

Scott: "I wrote the music for this, but I don't understand the lyrics! Ricky's got a great turn of phrase, where you can listen to it one way, and then you listen to it again and think, 'I had that wrong. It's this way!'

"This was the the last song on the album. I wrote it with my nephew, Jesse Siebenberg, who's the son of Bob Siebenberg, the drummer for Supertramp. Jesse is an ultra-talented guy, and I've always wanted to do something with him. I had two or three parts of the song, and he had the bridge that glued it all together. 

"We put it down on tape, sat back and listened to it, and thought, 'Man, that's pretty fucking cool!' But it was the 11th hour. Was there even time for Ricky to put lyrics on it? Everyone thought it had to go on the album, so Ricky sat there for the next two days working on the lyrics and the melody line until he had it done."

Soldier in the Ghetto

Ricky: "This was inspired by Curtis Mayfield. I'm a huge Curtis Mayfield fan. I just love his voice, I love his lyrics, and I love the sound of his band. And I wanted something that had a Move On Up soul feel to it.

"So I came up with a little guitar funky riff, and that was it: I was away. It's about this guy trying to stick up for his community, trying to get better living conditions, fighting to be be somebody and to be something for his family, and not having to worry about crime, and poverty, and unemployment, and health care, and all that kind of stuff." 

Why Do You Love Your Guns?

Scott: "This is probably one of my favourite songs on the album. It sounds like it's always about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and Ricky came from that era, but now he's living in Los Angeles and he's got a little girl, and there are mass school shootings everywhere in America. 

"It's everywhere. And he's looking at his daughter going, 'Shit, man. That could be my daughter in that situation.' And basically it's saying, 'Hey, America! Why the fuck do you love your guns so much when it's killing your children? Why does everybody in America need a gun?' 

"Fuck, man. I think America is the only nation on the planet where over half the population owns a gun. We're not even at war, but it feels like we're at war with ourselves sometimes!"

Standing in the Line of Fire

Ricky: "Robbie Crane [bass guitarist] brought the guitar riff in, so we wrote the song on based around that riff.

"Lyrically, it's about putting yourself out there and going, 'Come on! What have you got? You can't touch me!' It's about being strong, standing up, taking all the criticism on the chin and moving on, moving past it, being positive and seeing things in a positive light. Because positivity leads to good things. We all believe that in the band."

What Will It Take?

Ricky: "This was a latecomer. There were two songs that were written right before we started recording, at the 11th hour. One was What Will It Take?, and the other one was Underneath The Afterglow, which is a song that Scott brought in right at the death. 

"I was sitting at home playing these chords and the melody just started coming, and then the What Will It Take? chorus came along. It's one of those songs that was done in 15 minutes. I wish they were all that easy. I didn't even want to take it to the band, because I thought it was a little bit different for Black Star Riders.

"So the next day in pre-production I said, 'Look, guys. I've got this song I'm going to play it for you. I don't think it's right for us. And if you don't think it's right for us, no problem, we'll move on.' But they all loved it. Scott and Christian came up with some great guitar work on it, and we end up cutting it. 

"It's about trying to talk to somebody to make them see that the road they're going down isn't the right road. You're saying, 'Look. I love you. But you're making bad choices in your life. What can I do to help you? What's it going to take for you to get out of this quagmire?'."

In the Shadow of the War Machine

Ricky: "I wrote this the minute Donald Trump got elected. It's actually the first song I wrote for the for this record. I wanted a real Motown feel to it, almost like Edwin Starr, but it's obviously Black Star Riders so it's very heavy. 

"It's talking about life, and all the shit that's going on in the world right now. We've got insane politicians running our countries, and I just feel we're living in the shadow of the war machine. There's so much poverty and homelessness, and education costs so much, and nurses and farmers are underpaid, and there's so much turmoil. 

"We keep putting all this money into killing and weapons and guns and destroying each other. We never learn."

Poisoned Heart

Scott: "This is about a certain friend of ours. We were all great friends with him for a very long time and he just became too much. Every conversation he had was poisoning the atmosphere, taking the fun out of everything, to the point where you didn't want to hang around with them any more. 

"When you have somebody who's so negative all the time, that person's got to go, right? We're all trying to be as positive as we can. But there's always that one guy, Mr Negative, who says everything's going to crash and burn around you."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.