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Interview: Scott Gorham - Thin Lizzy

The past meets the future


Scott Gorham joined Thin Lizzy in 1974, just a few months before the band's first tour of the US, where they were hoping to become as popular as they already were in Europe. Little did he know that 35 years later, he'd be talking about recently discovered tapes of a 1977 concert and the process of preparing them for release in 2009. Gorham talked with Alun Williams about Thin Lizzy's "new" Still Dangerous - Live At The Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977.

I’m obviously high on this being out for several different reasons, not least of all because really quality wise and playing wise this is up there with Live and Dangerous if not even better. So yeah, I’m pretty excited to see just what people thought of the band, especially over here and see what people thought of the band and of how we were playing at that point.

Is there any likelihood at all of any filmed footage from this show that may follow on DVD?

Well, I really kind of doubt it, because this was just for the radio show that we were doing and that’s really all it was. Our main thought was this was going to be the live tour that was going to crack us in America. Our main goal was to let everybody know that Thin Lizzy was more than just the “Boys Are Back In Town” or the Jailbreak album or just that small period in time. Our main goal was to show everybody that this is a bona fide live act, something that people in Europe got and understood, now it was time for us to go out and prove it in America.

We had just finished the Bad Reputation album and what you’re hearing is us road testing a lot of these new songs, trying to gauge audience reaction, trying to find out just how well we’re playing it in front of a live audience. We’re seeing how we’re actually placing the songs in the set and how the set is flowing and you can kind of see where our heads were at, at this point because it actually starts off with a brand new song in “Soldier of Fortune” which is a kind of medium tempo song. You know, I’m not really quite sure what was going on in our heads there. You see, usually that’s something that we wouldn’t do. We used to come straight out of the bag with something really familiar and hit everybody in the nose and make their eyes water and go from there, but in this particular two week warmup period, we just decided to go with this set list.

I’m guessing why you’re saying it’s a much better album for you personally than Live and Dangerous is that many of the solos sound a lot clearer on Still Dangerous. I think it’s an overall much better mix.

That might well be. It’s funny, when Glyn Johns got into the producers seat, the whole thing just started to blossom, to the point where I was in the fetal position on the couch in the back of the studio to all of a sudden standing up going, “Yeah man, that’s what I’m talking about! That’s how I remember Thin Lizzy! Keep going, Glyn!” You know what I mean? All of a sudden I was in the audience and it was the first time that I was actually able to feel that way, the old “OK, now I hear what everybody else has been hearing,” instead of being the guy on the stage doing it. So that was actually a cool little eye opener for me.

Why Glyn? I’m looking through the back catalog and don’t see any mention of his name with Lizzy.

No, Glyn’s never worked on anything Lizzy before. This is the first. I’ve known Glyn now for about six or seven years … and he actually mentioned on several occasions that he would really love to get in with some sort of a Thin Lizzy project and work on it. What he has mentioned several times is … cherry picking a load of the songs out there and stripping them apart and actually remixing them and then putting those remixed songs into an album of its own. So I thought, that’s actually a cool idea, really, and when we actually happened upon this Philadelphia tape it was kind of a no-brainer for me, I thought, you know, classic legendary producer you’ve got this classic 70’s band … it just seemed like a really great marriage between the two and when I asked him about doing it, he just absolutely jumped at it! He just really went into it full throttle, it was kind of like watching him in full flight.

I’m curious as to why there are only 10 tracks. Having seen Lizzy so many times, the sets were typically not that short.

I’ll tell you what happened there. When we found these tapes, I knew that a load of these multi-tracks were in danger of being destroyed. That’s kind of why we went in and had to go through the baking -- getting these tapes baked so they could be put down to a digital format and the idea was to get maybe 15 songs on the actual CD itself, but two of the reels were destroyed … it actually sounded like someone had put their finger on top of the spool or they were leaning against the machine or something, because it kept going with that “wrrrooow, wrrrooow” kind of a thing, and I kind of panicked because we were halfway through this mixing process and we slammed on those tapes and that came up and I thought, “This can’t be happening!” There is nothing you can do at that stage, so what we got out of it were four new tracks so, you know, four is better than none!

What about Lizzy today? I saw an interview you did with Billboard where you said that you are looking to start writing again, so is new Lizzy material a real possibility?

I’m hoping that it will be. In all honesty, it’s the number one question that I keep getting asked. “When are you guys gonna get in the studio, when are you gonna release new material?” And you know something, Alun, I think with the release of this live album here, I think it’s kind of got me over a bit of an emotional hump … to make an easier path to actually go into the studio because it seems that the fans really want that, so I’m figuring, ‘OK, if they want it then it’s OK. It feels emotionally ‘legal’ to do something like that.” So I think we can start thinking about that on a serious level now.

Interview by Alun Williams, March 2, 2009

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