Scott Gorham Interview: Black Star Riders’ Thin Lizzy Redux
It’s a long road from sunny Southern California, to foggy ol’ London town. it’s also been a long road from “The Boys Are Back” and “Jailbreak” to today’s rockin’ Thin Lizzy descendents, Black Star Riders. But that’s the road Black Star Riders founder and long-time Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham took, and it’s the road on which he’s still rollin’ along.
Gorham, born and raised in Glendale, California, just around the corner from Hollywood, grew up on the sounds of early rock, learned to play the guitar, and eventually made his way to England -- presumably to join his brother-in-law in Supertramp. When Supertramp founders Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies decided to go with a sax player instead of a second guitarist, however, Gorham started kicking around the U.K. until, in 1974, he landed a spot in a restructuring Thin Lizzy.
A bunch of classic hits, years of touring, and millions of albums sold followed. Unfortunately, the fun came to an end in 1983, when excess and misunderstanding finally felled the band. Then in 1996, 10 years after Thin Lizzy founder Phil Lynott’s death, Gorham -- the longest running member of the band -- joined John Sykes, Lizzy founding drummer Brian Downey, and long-time keyboardist Darren Wharton to resurrect the once hugely popular group. After several “tribute” tours, and several membership changes, eventually the time came to record new material.
Wary of using the name Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott’s presence, Gorham and company came up with the name Black Star Riders, releasing All Hell Breaks Loose in 2013, and embarking on a 2014 world tour that included 40 dates in the States, a handful of shows in Japan, and plenty of action in Europe, including nearly 70 shows and appearances at some of the continent’s biggest festivals.
The band’s new album, Killer Instinct, just released worldwide, features rock solid songs, and plenty of those familiar Thin Lizzy-style harmony guitar parts, courtesy of Gorham and fellow BSR guitarist Damon Johnson. In fact, at times the group sounds uncannily like the band diminutive Irishman Phil Lynott once fronted, particularly in the tone of singer Ricky Warwick’s voice.
In this exclusive Guitar.com interview, Editor in Chief Adam St. James talks to Gorham as they dig into Gorham’s history and back-story, recounting tales of his youth and upbringing never before publicised. He also talks in detail about his gear, the song-writing process that fueled both Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders, his recent memoir, and much, much more.
The Boys Are Back indeed.
Guitar.com: How you doin' today Scott?
Scott Gorham: Good, good. The weather's kind of holding up over here. It's not quite as depressing as probably it should be. So it's all good.
Guitar.com: You're in London, right?
Guitar.com: What is it normally like there in the winter?
Gorham: In winter it starts to get really cold, pretty wet, dark. The sun's going down. It starts to go down like three in the afternoon. So it's a little on the depressing side.
Guitar.com: What is cold?
Gorham: Well, cold, I guess would be, we're hittin' like 50 degrees. And sometimes a little colder. So where are you right now?
Guitar.com: Well, I'm in Chicago.
Gorham: Holy shit man! You know fucking cold!
Guitar.com: It's been in the teens the last few days.
Gorham: Oh my God. Chicago is actually the coldest place I've ever been to. I think it was 1976 or '77, it got down to 63 degrees below zero, man. And they were tellin' people on the TV and the radio, "Do not go outside, and if you do go outside, no exposed skin, and breathe through a scarf." And I'm thinkin' "Are you fuckin' kidding me, man?" (laughs). But I'm here to tell the story, so I didn't get injured (laughs).
Guitar.com: Was that a Thin Lizzy tour bringin' you through?
Gorham: Yeah. I can't remember which. It might have been with Queen. Yeah, I think it was with Queen. In fact I'm almost certain it was, it was on the Queen tour.
Guitar.com: Cool. So, I didn't always live in Chicago.
Gorham: Really, where did you come from?
Guitar.com: Well, Scott, you and I have met, one time, a long, long time ago...
Gorham: (laughs) OK...
Guitar.com: I am hoping you will tell me that your brother Tag is doing well.
Gorham: Wow! You know Tag?!
Guitar.com: We went to Glendale College and took music classes together and used to hang out a lot.
Gorham: Get out of here man! How amazing is that? Cool man!
Guitar.com: He brought me to a Santa Monica Civic Thin Lizzy show, around 1981 probably.
Gorham: Wow. Right. That was with... Snowy White was playing on the right-hand side.
Gorham: And I think we probably had two more years to go, and then it was the end. Wow. Were we headlining that, or what?
Guitar.com: Yeah, you were.
Gorham: OK, cool. Was it any good? (laughs)
Guitar.com: Yeah, it was real good man. You know, I'll tell you what, 'cause Tag came to me -- we used to hang out, we were taking classes. And I had just moved to that area, and I didn't know a whole lot of rock and roll people. I'm a guitar player though, and I came up to him and said, "Hey man..." I think I had gone to one rock and roll show in Los Angeles, and I had gone to, you know, you go to the store at like 6 in the morning and wait outside while they get ready to sell the tickets...
Guitar.com: And I was like the first of the one there, and I got tickets at the back of the L.A. Sports Arena.
Gorham: You're kidding!
Guitar.com: And I'm like, "I don't get this. How did that happen?"
Gorham: Yeah, how did you get so screwed man? (laughs)
Guitar.com: Right. So I went to Tag, and I go "Hey man, Thin Lizzy is coming to town, do you got a ticket you could sell to me man?" And a few days later he came to me and said, "You know what man? All kinds of people asked me for tickets, and you're the only one who offered to pay for it."
Gorham: (laughs) How cool is that?
Guitar.com: So your brother said, "I'm gonna take you to the show."
Gorham: Wow! Now that's a cool story.
Guitar.com: So I was very fortunate to sit with your brother, and your former brother-in-law Bob (Supertramp drummer Bob C. Benberg or Siebenberg) on the other side of me...
Guitar.com: ...and hang out in the second row. I knew your Dad.
Gorham: Wow, great man! Big Dad Bill.
Guitar.com: So how are things going with Black Star Riders?
Gorham: We finished the album. On the first album, All Hell Breaks Loose, we only got 12 days on it.
Guitar.com: I know...
Gorham: Yeah... Which was kind of weird because, we knew it was only gonna take 12 days, right. But then we heard rumors of, "Well, if it isn't quite done, and you want to do more overdubs, there's like a four or five day window in there." But after we were about a week into that album, we realized that the producer had booked in Joe Bonamassa, bang, on the 13th day.
Guitar.com: Oh wow.
Gorham: Yeah, so that sort of gave us a clue that we'd better get it done in 12 days. That's why this one was kind of a luxury. We call came to Nashville -- which is a great city. I'd never really spent any time in Nashville. Hooked up with Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Rush) who is the producer. And really right from day one, he sat in the rehearsals with us, listening to the sound, making tons of suggestions for different arrangements and all that.
He was like almost like the sixth member, on this album. It's probably the closest I, or anyone in the band, has ever worked with a producer. He's just into it. As soon as he heard the music, the demos, he was on board. Completely on board.
I remember the first night we met him, we were in Nashville playing on the last American tour. And he brought his wife down. You know, everybody has an excuse, right? A "get-out" clause, right? So we're talking and he goes, "Well listen guys, I've got a couple of kids at home, a babysitter, we might not be here when the show ends. But don't think anything of that because we've got unhook the babysitter."
But there he was, at the end of the show, and probably stayed like another hour afterwards, just jabberin' away. So he was really into the demos and the whole live thing. Great guy.
Guitar.com: Cool. Is he a guitar player?
Gorham: Well, he is. You go to his studio and he's got equipment up the ass. He's got Les Pauls, Stratocasters. He's got guitars that you never even heard of. Amp tops that you would die for -- kind of vintage amp tops, all the way up to brand new ones. So you were never in doubt that you were gonna get a good sound on this album, because he just had it all dialed in. He made everybody's life really easy.
Guitar.com: Right. So the album is out in February, right?
Gorham: Actually it's coming out February 24 in the States, and a day or two earlier everywhere else. About a week or 10 days before we start the U.K. tour.
Guitar.com: OK. And you don't currently have any U.S. tour dates other than the Monsters of Rock Cruise in April.
Gorham: Yeah, we're gonna wait on the U.S. thing. We're gonna let the album hopefully build up a little bit, and probably not do a headline tour. Hopefully we'll jump on somebody else's tour, and kind of grab a bigger audience that way. So we're just waiting for that to develop. The agents and the managers, they're all working on that stuff right now.
Guitar.com: Why didn’t I see you at NAMM?
Gorham: I'm endorsed by Engl amps, and they ask me every year. I've only ever been to one NAMM show, and that was in Frankfurt.
Guitar.com: Really? Wow!
Gorham: It was absolutely massive. All I did was sit in a booth, the Engl booth, and just sign autographs, and I literally sat there for three and a half hours signing autographs (laughs). So, it was nice. I got to meet a lot of people up close and personal. It was good fun. There's a lot of great people there. Do you go to the NAMM show a lot?
Guitar.com: We were there. We do a lot of video coverage of the NAMM show, and so I know a lot of players who sit down and talk with us for a few minutes. And then we go to the manufacturer booths and they give us a little video tour of their new gear. It's fun.
Gorham: Yeah, sure. Once I was at the NAMM show I had a great time. It was just getting me out the front door to go to it (laughs).
Guitar.com: Yeah. I've never been to MusikMesse in Frankfurt, but I've heard that NAMM is not as big as that. But it is quite a large convention. It's the largest American music manufacturer convention.
Gorham: Oh, the Frankfurt one is bigger?
Guitar.com: That's what I've always heard.
Gorham: Yeah, I think I've heard that too. Well, it's in a massive building, and it's on all three floors. So they've got every musical thing covered. If you can think about it, it's over there. Or you go down there and turn left and you'll find it, that kind of thing. It's pretty cool.
Guitar.com: Part of the cool thing about NAMM -- and I'm sure they do this in Frankfurt too -- is the after show parties and performances.
Gorham: Yeah, they fill big shows up and get a lot of well-known guys. And not-so-well-known. They get up there and jam out a few tunes. It's always actually pretty good. I think I heard a couple of the guys from Guns 'n' Roses, and Lemmy, and Jerry Cantrell -- they did a cover of a Thin Lizzy song one day at the NAMM show. I think it was last year or the year before.
Guitar.com: So what are you playing these days. I know you had switched over to Strats for awhile, a few years back. And then you came back to the Les Pauls, right?
Gorham: Yeah. I play the Axcess Les Paul, because... I got so used to having the whammy bar on the Strats, that I just kind of stayed with it. And then I walked into the Gibson headquarters here, in London. I just happened to walk by this room and I saw this Les Paul with a Floyd Rose on it, and I went "What the fuck is that, man?" And the guy there goes, "Oh that's the Axcess, it's brand new." And I said, "David, I don't want one of these, I fuckin' NEED one of these!" (laughs)
So he put it together and I'm now endorsed by Gibson and the Axcess guitars. I think I've got four of them now. I think they're great. They're a lot lighter than the old Les Pauls. I never understood that -- why you have to sit there with a 30-pound bag of cement over your shoulders for two and a half hours. That's a killer.
And I remember reading and talking to Billy Gibbons, and we were talking about the weight of guitars. And he was so right with what he was saying. He said, "You know, with all the stompboxes and the effects that guitarists have these days, you don't need to be wheelin' around that kind of weight, guitar-wise. You get any sound you want to now, without that density of wood."
And I thoroughly agree with him. So that's another reason, because it's just a lighter guitar. It just feels better. Like I said, when you're up there upwards of two hours, it's kind of a relief to have a lighter guitar that's gettin' your kick-ass sound.
Guitar.com: Do you ever bring out any of your vintage guitars?
Gorham: No. I find that's a little too dangerous these days. Anything can happen. They're really rare, and they're expensive, and there's kind of no point in doing that. Although, I would love to bring my '57 out, because it's got such a beautiful sound. And it's a lighter guitar also, with a really thin neck. I mean it's just fuckin' beautiful. But at the cost of anything happening to it, I don't think I'd get over that. I just recorded so many things with that particular guitar. So it's just like, "Aw, fuck it, I'll just keep it stored."
I go down every once in awhile and I'll open it up and I'll play with it for about a half-hour, just to remind myself. But that's about it.
Guitar.com: That's the guitar that you recorded all the hits with?
Gorham: That's right. Yeah, it's a '57 Les Paul Standard.
Guitar.com: Without the pickguard...
Gorham: Without the pickguard, yeah. I've always had no pickguards with my guitars. I always found that it just spoiled the shape of the guitar by having that pickguard on there. In one way, I kind of wish I would have kept a pickguard on it, because I've got a big pick scratch area on the guitar now. But, I never considered these guitars as collectibles, or anything like that. This was a working tool for me. It's got dings and scratches and all sorts of shit all over, but they're all there for a reason, so, there you go.
Guitar.com: Yeah. So with the Axcess guitar, it's got the Floyd Rose. What kind of pickups does it have?
Gorham: I've got the Burstbuckers on there. I don't know the number. I tried the EMGs on one of them -- it's the hot EMG, the 75, I think it's called. But it gets a little bit of a smoother sound, so I tend not to play that one as much. But it's the Burstbuckers that I've got on there.
Guitar.com: And you're using Engl amps...
Gorham: Yeah. It's the Blackmore model. For some reason that is the main model, for me, that Engl builds. It's got a lot of punch to it. It's got a lot of bite. It can pretty much give you anything you want and you've just got the one rack of controls. I know they've got several amps that have like the triple track of buttons and knobs and all that crap. But it doesn't really add anything for my sound that I'm trying to get. So the Blackmore just fits perfect with me.
I know that my guitar tech puts in different tubes in my amp. I couldn't tell you what they are, but we do tube it a little differently.
Guitar.com: Why is that?
Gorham: Really it gets a little bit more bite. I will get a little sustain out of it, although with those amps you don't really need it, because you've got all the sustain you want out of the Engl amp. It just gives it a little bit fatter kind of sound. It might be indiscernible to anybody who is actually listening to it, but I can actually feel it. So it just makes me feel a little bit better having these amps re-tubed slightly.
Guitar.com: And how many do you use on stage?
Gorham: I use two hundred watt amps, with just two 4x12s. It's run in a stereo configuration. My pedalboard is really pretty light. I used to have the big refrigerator full of blinking lights and flashing, and all sorts of shit going on. But these days I've got a vintage chorus, a Dunlop wah, and a little delay unit -- oh hell, what's that called man? It starts with an S, I know that...
And that's really kind of it. I'm trying not to get too many effects going on the guitar these days. Not like a Joe Satriani or anything like that. (laughs).
Guitar.com: So in the studio on the new album, did you just use the producer's gear, or did you bring your own?
Gorham: I brought my own guitars, absolutely. I brought two of 'em. And I did have Engl send me one amp up to the studio. And I ended up only using it on a couple of songs because he's got his stuff so dialed in, that as soon as you sat down and plugged your guitar into his shit, you just went "Fuck yeah, man! That's the sound. That's perfect."
So we ended up going with what Nick knew the best, if you know what I mean, because it was quick and it was easy and it just sounded great. Both Damon and I did that.
Guitar.com: Did you record live?
Gorham: No, we didn't this time. On the last album we did. Everything was absolutely totally live: solos, Ricky's vocals -- he was doing his vocals while we were doing the basic tracks for God's sakes, right? And that's something I've never heard of any singer doing. But this time we went totally the opposite way. We put a click track down. Then we had one of us get up there and just play the basic rhythm track. And then Jimmy would come in and put his drums on top of that. And then we started piling everything on top of that. So that's the way we worked it on this one.
Guitar.com: How did the songwriting come about?
Gorham: The bulk of the writing is really done with Ricky and Damon, and that's because they live on the same continent. They're in pretty close proximity -- just a short plane ride away, where I'm like an 11-hour flight away. But I still got my licks in there. I still got my name on four or five different songs on the album. So I felt pretty good about that.
Guitar.com: Do you have a home studio?
Gorham: No I don't. I just sit here, and I've got a little tape recorder, and I put all my ideas down on it. And life is simple, you know?
Guitar.com: And then you just bring tapes with you?
Gorham: Yeah, that's exactly what I did. And we'd sit down at rehearsal and I'd lay it out. I'd say, "All right, this is the idea I've got for here, bada bing, bada boom. Anybody got any ideas?" And that's the kind of way it works. Everybody brings in the bare bones of their songs, and then everybody just kind of bags on it, and throws their shit on there. And it works out pretty good that way.
Nobody is really too precious about, if a part doesn't work, because you know you'll get another part working on another song. So it's pretty democratic the way we do the writing. Everybody is encouraged in the band to write. It's not just down to two or three guys. Everybody wants everybody to throw what they've got into the pot. So it all seems to work out really nice that way.
Guitar.com: How do you work out the harmony solos?
Gorham: Well, it's whoever has got the line. Sometimes I'll have the line, and I'll put the harmony down myself. Or Damon will learn my line and he'll figure out the harmony for it. Or vice-versa. There isn't really one way that that gets done. It's kind of a hodge-podge of ways of doing these things. It's kind of in the moment. It's like, "Wow, I really dig that line you've got there. Why don't we put a harmony on that." And we sit down and we work it out. A lot of that goes on. A lot of times you say, "Wow, I didn't even think about putting a harmony there, that's a great idea." It's those kind of things.
Guitar.com: When you're doing that kind of stuff, are you thinking "third... fifth...." -- all that kind of stuff?
Gorham: Yes. Obviously you kind of have to. "Is this gonna be a third kind of harmony, or a fifth kind of thing?" And sometimes in your own head you think you've got it, and in reality it sounds like shit. (laughs) So then you've got to rethink the whole thing. But you're constantly thinking of stuff like that.
Guitar.com: How did you learn harmonizing? Did you learn it by trial and error? Did you have schooling?
Gorham: No, my whole thing was trial and error. I never took a guitar lesson in my life. I feel kind of cheated that way. I think it would have been better to have gone to some sort of schooling thing. I think I would have gotten there a lot quicker.
You know, in the old days, you used to think of guys that went to school and learned music, and charts, and dots, and all that -- that they were a bunch of pussies, man. You know, "Why can't you learn it on your own?"
And then I got hooked up with a couple of guys in 21 Guns who were Miami music majors. Graduates, right? And I remember sittin' down one day, and I'm trying to get the drummer to do a certain kick pattern, right? But musically I don't know how to tell him to do this. And after about 15 minutes -- I'm like miming the part (laughs), and the bass player is looking at me and he goes, "Oh OK, I think I know what Scott means." And he goes "yeah you want the kick on the and of e and the 1 of... blah, blah, blah..." And the drummer goes, "Oh, you mean like this?" And he plays it, and I go "Yeah! Like that!!!"
And it took me 15 minutes to get my point across, and it took them 10 seconds.
Gorham: So that -- just that little vignette there, that little scene -- really opened up my eyes to how advantageous it is to go to some sort of music school and get some sort of knowledge going on, man.
Guitar.com: What do you work on these days? You still like to keep pushing forward with the guitar skills, don't you?
Gorham: I do. And it's funny, when you talk to people who don't play a musical instrument, and they say, "So I guess you don't even really need to practice anymore, do ya?" (laughs) I say, "No, no, no man. It doesn't work like that. You have to practice all the time. Like a concert pianist, just because he's been doing it for awhile, doesn't just walk up to Carnegie Hall and start with a bit of Tchaikovsky or whatever. You've got to learn that shit. You've got to practice it.
So, yeah, I'm practicing all the time, I'm playing all the time. And just trying to work things out -- especially with the new album. Obviously I've got to get in there and I've got to learn the album. I've to get all my parts down, because the release and tour are coming up, and I've got to have my shit together.
Guitar.com: What do you practice on a typical day? So obviously now you've got to put on the new album and play with it, right?
Gorham: I'll play a lot of Thin Lizzy music, because we still throw a bit of that into the set. I'll throw some 21 Guns things on there. If the question is do I put on other people's albums and play to that: I don't really do that. I don't know why. I've never been in a Top 40 band kind of deal, so I've never been in that situation where I've actually had to work somebody's else's song out. So it's just kind of a pattern I've gotten into that when I practice I really work at it, and I work at it within my own little world, just to make sure that I absolutely have my shit together when I walk up on a stage to do our stuff.
Guitar.com: I saw an interview that you did on Youtube, largely regarding your book, which I'd love to talk to you about for a minute. But you had mentioned your first, main influence: Dick Dale.
Gorham: Yeah man! The Dick! (laughs)
Guitar.com: Did you see him a bunch of times in those days?
Gorham: I was too young to be able to go out and see him. But later on he was still playing and I remember he used to play in clubs in the Valley in Los Angeles [Editor's Note: Gorham is referring to the San Fernando Valley, north of Hollywood, where he grew up.] and I'd go to see him down there. And he was even better, even louder. He was a bit more outrageous, and he was really cool. He had the same sound, that Fender Reverb unit -- he's still using that.
I always thought Dick Dale was great. The East Coast had guys like Duane Eddy and all those guys, with the hair slicked back. But Dick Dale was our guy, 'cause we all surfed. We all lived on the West Coast. Those are the kind of songs he was writing and performing. It was our songs. That was our stuff man!
Guitar.com: The first time I saw him was at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
Gorham: All right! When was that?
Guitar.com: Early '80s, I think.
Gorham: Oh OK. Did you ever see that version of "Pipeline" he did with Stevie Ray Vaughan?
Guitar.com: I think I have.
Gorham: It's pretty cool isn't it? You ought to refresh your memory and just go on Youtube and just put both their names in. And I think the song is "Pipeline." It's not "Miserlou." I think it's "Pipeline." It's really a great version of it.
Guitar.com: Have you ever spoken with Dick?
Gorham: No. I haven't. I know Bobby, Siebenberg, from Supertramp, has talked with him several times. I think he's even got up and played with him. But I've never had a chance to talk to Dick Dale. I'd really love to though.
Guitar.com: He's still out there touring. I was just on his website today. The website's a little outdated, but he's got shows this month.
Gorham: No kidding. Where's he playing?
Guitar.com: Clubs in California, mostly. Like the Belly Up.
Gorham: I heard he was really ill for awhile.
Guitar.com: I don't know, I haven't kept in touch, but I did interview him once a few years back. He's a pretty interesting cat, that's for sure.
Gorham: I bet he is. (laughs). He's done a lot of shit, man.
Guitar.com: Were you into the Beach Boys?
Gorham: I was. See when I first started to play, I started off on bass. I was 13 years old, and the Beach Boys -- this was before they even kind of started to do the big singing thing -- even they were instrumentalists, and that's what we were. And their songs were just easy enough for all of us to catch on to. There were really only like three or four chords in every song that they played. So, yeah, I love the Beach Boys. Were you a Beach Boys fan at all?
Guitar.com: I'm a huge Beach Boys fan.
Gorham: All right. Pet Sounds is your album, right?
Guitar.com: I'm really more into the early stuff: "Surfer Girl" and all that.
Gorham: Really? Or "In My Room."
Guitar.com: Yeah, and up into "Good Vibrations," and that era. The Endless Summer CD, the greatest hits CD, all that stuff.
Gorham: Oh wow.
Guitar.com: Especially being stuck in Chicago these days, that stuff brings me back to California, you know?
Gorham: (laughs) Very cool! Yeah, on those really snowy nights man.
Guitar.com: Absolutely. So tell me about the book you wrote, “Thin Lizzy: The Boys Are Back In Town.” It came out about a year and a half ago, right...2013?
Gorham: Yeah, that's right. It's on Omnibus Books. What this was is, a buddy of mine, who is the journalist -- Harry Doherty -- he started to write a book about us, I think maybe it was about three years after Phil died. And he went around to all these people and interviewed them, and got stories, and he handed it to me and I started to read it, and it was really fucking depressing. Because it was too soon after Phil's death for everybody to talk about the fun stuff.
And I said, "Harry, this was a fun band to be in, but I'm about ready to slit my wrists after readin' this!" He goes, "Yeah, we'll put it away for awhile." And so 20 years later, or so, he calls up and says "Hey man, the book, what do you say we write the book?" And I said, "Yep, I think it's time. I think we should do this."
And that's when he and I started to go back into history. He had a great encyclopedic Thin Lizzy mind, right. There's no way that I could remember all of these things. But he kept bringing up subjects and scenes and things that we did, and I'd be going, "Oh yeah! Right!" Then I'd be off telling that story, or this other story that he'd bring up. Or I'd remember things on my own. It was very cool.
The hardest part to do with that book was the actual pictures. Because Phil liked to have his photograph taken so much, we were always in some sort of photo studio doin' some sort of session. And I think we uncovered something like -- literally -- 30,000 pictures.
Guitar.com: Oh my God!
Gorham: Yeah! It was unbelievable. And once I sort of realized this task in front of me, I thought, "I don't know if I can do this." And I really found myself going, "Oh, yeah I look great in that one, we'll use that one. And I look good in this one too." (laughs) Disregarding everybody else! (laughs) And that was the other reason that made me say, "You know somethin': we need to get somebody in here who's a fan, who has the objective view on this."
And we brought this guy in and he just sorted the whole thing out. And he caught the flavor of what was going on in the times with the different pictures and all that. And he did a great job. It was actually the publisher's biggest seller of the year.
Gorham: Yeah. I thought, "Well that's pretty fuckin' cool!"
Guitar.com: So do you have people coming up to you at shows to get autographs on the book?
Gorham: Oh yeah. Yeah, I get that every show. It's great. I'm an author, man! (laughs)
Guitar.com: Yes you are!
Gorham: A buddy of mine, a producer -- have you ever heard of Glyn Johns?
Gorham: Well I play golf with Glyn, or used to a lot. And he'd be out there telling stories about Jimmy Page or Mick Jagger or "this time I was with the Beatles," really interesting stories. And I'd say, "Glyn, you got to write a book man. You've got to write this stuff down." "Ahh no, no, nobody's gonna wanna hear that. I don't wanna do that."
Guitar.com: Oh come on!
Gorham: Yeah! And after about the tenth time of me saying this, he's like "Well yeah, I might do that..." So now he's written his book [Editor’s Note: Hall of Fame producer Glyn Johns’ memoir is titled, “Sound Man,” published by Blue Rider Press.] And we're gonna go down to the launch, at was used to be the studios down in Shepherds Bush, where he recorded a lot of his music, and I think they're going to do a little question and answer thing there. It's gonna be good.
Guitar.com: And you're going to go support him on that?
Gorham: Oh God yes! Absolutely.
Guitar.com: You know Scott, I can’t get enough of those kind of stories. And I think most rock and roll fans would feel similar.
Gorham: Right. Well you know the biggest compliment I kept getting was, "I never knew that about Thin Lizzy! I never knew you did that,” and “I didn't know that either!" That's actually pretty cool. A lot of times, even guys like yourself would say, "You know that story about the..." And they'd tell me the story, and it would be totally wrong. And I'd say, "No, no, no."
Like on one occasion, a guy comes up and says, "Well, I hear Phil died from AIDs, and he got it off the microphone." And I said, "Uh, no. That's not how it happened at all." So it's things like that that you're able to correct and put in the right light.
Guitar.com: Yeah. I saw a lesson video that you taught showing "Boys Are Back In Town," and it was very interesting in that you demonstrated on the guitar what Phil first came to you with, and it was very, very simple.
Guitar.com: Just single-note, root-note stuff for a chord progression.
Gorham: That's right, yeah.
Guitar.com: I know he's a bass player, was that typically what he came to you with?
Gorham: He says "Now check out this line" (mimics very simple bass line, then laughs) "What can you make of that?" "Uh...not sure yet Phil." (laughs) But then he would have some sort of a working semblance of the melody line, so that gave you a better clue of where this should go and why it should go and all that.
It wasn't all completely simplistic like that, but you know, quite a bit of it was, so you had to kind of dig in deep and make the song happen. So yeah, there was a lot of that that went on. On rare occasions he would bring out an acoustic guitar, and throw a couple of chords together. But it would be like (mimics strumming) "No that's not right..." (mimics more chords) "No that's not right either." (mimics more chords) "Oh there it is."
And you'd be like, "Jesus Phil, didn't you practice this before you came?" (laughs) But we all got there in the end, finally.
Guitar.com: Do you play much acoustic guitar?
Gorham: Yeah. I do. In fact I've already done, I think, five acoustic versions of some Lizzy songs. And everybody that's heard them has said, "Oh my God, man! You've got to do this for real!" So I think what we're gonna do, we're talking about it in real kind of serious tones right now, is at the end of 2015, we're thinking of actually putting together an acoustic tour. And kind of getting the small theaters, which is what they have over here. They're basically built for that purpose. So yeah, I think we're gonna do that. And out on the tour when we do the VIP packages, we all take the acoustics out and we play two or three songs, for the people who have bought the VIP passes, and all that. It's all part of the party.
Guitar.com: What kind of acoustics do you play?
Gorham: I've got a Gibson and a Yamaha. I think it's the J400, the Gibson. I don't know what the Yamaha is. Yamaha just gave it to me, and I quite liked it, so I'll bring that out every once in awhile. But it's mainly the Gibson that I play.
Guitar.com: OK. My main acoustic guitar, I bought it at a music store in Glendale, when I was at Glendale College with your brother.
Gorham: Wow, I know where you went too! It's a place called... Oh what's the name of that place? It's on Glen Oaks Boulevard?
Guitar.com: Yep. And I was gonna ask you if you knew the name of the store, because I've been trying to remember it for decades.
Gorham: His first name was Dick. He was literally the only music shop in town when we were growing up. So if he didn't have it, you didn't get it.
Guitar.com: So you were there a bunch?
Gorham: Oh God yeah! We used to hang out there all the time man! Lookin' at guitars and drooling over this guitar or that guitar. And "Oh my God I'd love to have that!" And of course you couldn't have it. (laughs). Damn, I almost had the name... It'll come to me...
Guitar.com: It's still my main acoustic guitar after all these years. It's a Martin copy, they had a sub-brand called Sigma.
Gorham: OK, I know that one, yeah.
Guitar.com: Sort of like Fender has Squier and Gibson has Epiphone. And it was Martin's lower priced version of their D-45. It's a beautiful guitar.
Gorham: Yeah, I bet it is. Yeah, my first guitar was a nylon-stringed Silvertone! (laughs). But you know it got you used to having a guitar in your hands. I was only 9 years old when my Dad gave it to me for Christmas. And I tore this thing open, I looked at it, and I went "What the hell are you giving me this for?" And he goes "Here give it me!"
And he takes it and he did an A chord and an E chord. And I thought it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen my Dad do! "Oh my God! My old man's a guitar player!" And I think what he had done was he had said, "Show me two simple chords" to the shop assistant. So I guess they showed him two simple chords to make him look really good to my 9-year-old eyes. (laughs)
Guitar.com: So he didn't play guitar other than that?
Gorham: No. My family was probably the most un-musical family of anybodys'.
Gorham: There were no musical instruments in the house. We did have a stereo, but I can't ever remember any music ever being played on it.
Guitar.com: Your Dad was in real estate, wasn't he?
Gorham: He was, yeah.
Guitar.com: What did he do? Was he a developer?
Gorham: Yes. Yeah, he would look at a mountain, and bring the tractors in and just rip it all down. (laughs)
Guitar.com: What did he do, build La Canada/Flintridge, or something like that? Your Dad and brother lived in Tujunga when I knew them.
Gorham: That's right. He did a huge development in Glendale. It's called Greenbriar. And I think he built something like over 250 homes there. There were a couple of guys from the L. A. Rams who bought houses from him. Yeah, he was a little up-market. But his problem was, he bought all this land, graded all the lots, and he only got about half way -- it was supposed to be 500 homes -- he got half-way through this thing and the recession hit. And it just wiped him out.
Guitar.com: The mid-'70s?
Gorham: Yeah. It just wiped him out. So that's when we moved from the big house in Glendale to the smaller house in Montrose.
Guitar.com: I remember being in his office one time and he had a copy of a magazine and it had your picture on the cover. I know he was very proud.
Gorham: Oh cool! Wow, you've been to his office?
Gorham: What street was that on, do you remember? Was that on Broadway?
Guitar.com: It was in Tujunga or Sunland. Up there.
Gorham: Oh. Wow, that office. Because he had another one in Glendale. I guess when everything went tits up he had to sell that office too, and then move operations to Tujunga. Cool.
Guitar.com: Yep. Well hey man, I really would look forward to seeing you here in the States. I hope that Black Star Riders will be passing through sometime soon?
Gorham: Well I hope so too. We can't leave the American thing forever. We've got to get to America. It's where you gotta go. We need to be doing this under the right circumstances, rather than just go over. So, you've got my email address. Why don't you, at some point, just shoot me an email, then I've got your email, and we can keep in touch.
Guitar.com: Yeah. I was gonna mention something to you when you brought up the acoustic thing: Have you seen what Randy Bachman is doing these days? Have you seen the DVD?
Gorham: No, I have not.
Guitar.com: He does something really cool. He has a full on multi-media show going on stage behind him while he sits there and talks about the writing of all his songs throughout his career.
Guitar.com: And actually he's playing electric guitar, and he's got his band, but it's almost an acoustic kind of situation.
Gorham: Yeah, that sounds kind of cool, really.
Guitar.com: It is really cool. You should check it out.
Gorham: You know that was the first band we ever toured with, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. BTO man! Hell yeah! Actually I'll look that up then. What do I type in, just Randy Bachman?
Guitar.com: Yeah, if you go to his website... I'll send you the link to the DVD and you can check it out. Bachman-Turner Overdrive was the first major concert I ever went to, and you and your brother in law Bob and Phil were the first rock stars that I ever met in my life.
Gorham: All right! (laughs) How cool is that, man? All right! Adam, I love you baby!
Guitar.com: I appreciate your time so much Scott, thank you.
Gorham: Thank you, and if you get a hold of my brother, tell him to get a hold of me.
Guitar.com: I will.
Gorham: Thanks bud. See you soon.
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Read: Thin Lizzy: The Boys Are Back In Town Book
Read: Glyn Johns’ Sound Man Book
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