Interview with Guitar Legend SCOTT GORHAM

Thin LizzyGrowing up in the eighties Thin Lizzy were one of my favourite rock bands-they remain in that position to this day. In recent years, I have been lucky to have interviewed Scott Gorham a few times – following the upcoming double edition of Phil Lynott documentary/Sydney Opera House live show on DVD (for the first time) I was able to chalk up my hattrick of interviews with the guitar legend.

With their driving hooks, twin lead guitars, lyrics saturated in working-class lore, and the charismatic presence of singer/songwriter/bassist Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy are undeniably one of the most influential bands in Rock ‘N’ Roll. Mercury Studios salutes their legacy with the release of Phil Lynott Songs For While I’m Away + Thin Lizzy The Boys Are Back In Town Live At The Sydney Opera House October 1978 on June 24. Pairing the acclaimed Phil Lynott documentary with a renowned live concert film, the set will be available as a 2xDVD+CD and Blu-ray+DVD+CD (with the Phil Lynott documentary on the Blu-ray).

Songs For While I’m Away chronicles the life and music of Phil Lynott, utilizing archival footage, interview snippets from the man himself, and music from both the Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott solo catalogs. Notable conversations with Midge Ure (Ultravox / Thin Lizzy), Darren Wharton (Thin Lizzy), Scott Gorham: (Thin Lizzy), Adam Clayton (U2), Huey Lewis (Huey Lewis & The News), James Hetfield (Metallica) and others, as well as Phil’s wife Caroline Taraskevics and daughters Sarah Lynott and Cathleen Lynott, reveal an all-encompassing look at Phil, from his 1950s’ upbringing as a Black boy in blue-collar Dublin to his rise to fame. Fully exploring his history and rippling impact on music, the film examines Lynott as a singer, songwriter, poet, father, and cultural icon.

Complementing this film is The Boys Are Back In Town Live At The Sydney Opera House October 1978. Previously released on VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD, this version presents the show in the highest quality that has been made available, with not only cleaned-up video and remixed audio from multi-tracks, but five additional songs from this set that have never been officially released. This performance showcases the electricity of these original Rock ‘N’ Roll masters – Lynott, Scott Gorham: (guitar/background vocals), Gary Moore (guitar/background vocals), and Mark Nauseef – delivering searing versions of their celebrated anthems, such as “Jailbreak”, “The Boys Are Back In Town”, “Bad Reputation” and “Me And The Boys”.

Unveiling the story of Phil Lynott, then backing up the band’s power and prowess with a dynamic performance, Phil Lynott Songs For While I’m Away + Thin Lizzy The Boys Are Back In Town Live At The Sydney Opera House October 1978 echoes the importance of Thin Lizzy in the pantheon of rock music.

ANTIHERO: First, what’s going on with Black Star Riders? One minute you’re in the band, then you’re leaving. Now I read your back in again?

Scott Gorham: Well, and I wasn’t in there for one minute, I did five albums with them, and I just figured during the pandemic, I just got this thing in my head of, well I served my time in Black Star Riders. I love the guys. They’re great, great musicians, good songwriters, and all that, but I just figured, well, okay, it’s time to go off on another road somewhere, so I know they’ve done a new album. And from what I heard, it’s good and hopefully, my buddies and BSR are going to go out and sell a hundred billion albums and make a whole bunch of money and track a lot of people. I wish them all the best. So, we’ll see what happens with them down the road.

ANTIHERO: I see though, on the latest Black Star Riders press release, they say that you’re going to be playing live with them, both you and Jimmy, Jimmy DeGrasso.

Scott Gorham: Yeah. I might get up for maybe two, or three songs with them. I won’t be playing the whole set, because it’s their thing and I don’t want to infringe on that, but they’ve asked me if I would… Because we’ve got a BSR 10-year anniversary coming up, so they tried to get as many of the original members from Black Star Riders to come up there and commemorate that with them and celebrate with them. So, I said, “Absolutely.” So, you might see me up there towards the end grabbing some limelight there with the boys. I’ll always like playing with them because they’re such good people.

ANTIHERO: It doesn’t seem like 10 years. I was at that first show in Milton Keynes, the very first gig by the band.

Scott Gorham: Wow. Wow, good memory. Yeah, geez. Oh yeah, we did it at the Gibson Factory, didn’t we?

ANTIHERO: Marshall Factory.

Scott Gorham: Right, right. Yeah, and they call that, what do they call that little room? They call it the cathedral.

ANTIHERO: Something like that, yeah.

Scott Gorham: Yeah, something like that. It’s where you go when you go to try… No, no, it was the Marshall Factory. That’s where it was. It was Marshall, right. And they built that room so you could go in there, you can bring your guitar and hear how your guitar sounds with this setup or that setup or Marshalls come out with the new line-up, so you can try that out before you go out on the road, so it’s a good setup. Yeah, man, wow, thanks for reminding me. I totally forgot about that.

ANTIHERO: But anyway, I mean, I read that you took time away from Black Star Riders to focus on Thin Lizzy. That was the reason that was widely reported. Do you own the Thin Lizzy name? Who owns that legally?  

Scott Gorham: It’s all a partnership. Yeah, that’s how that works and Thin Lizzy, it’s a tough thing to put together and put out on the road because if you’ve been watching at all, what I try to do is I try to grab these great musicians from other big-name bands and get up there with us. And most of the guys, so far, in fact, all of them have been huge bands, Thin Lizzy, Vivian Campbell, guys from, well Aerosmith, Tom, all these guys are big fans of Thin Lizzy, but the problem with this, is all those guys, they’ve all got day jobs. They got day jobs that pay very, very well and that’s really where they’re allegiance lies.

So, to find three guys at any one point in time that have time off from their touring schedule to come and do this two hours, Thin Lizzy set, it’s a tough ask. And obviously, we have done it in the past. A lot of it’s down to hard work, but a lot of it’s down to luck at the same time because it just happens to be off at the same time. So, we’ll see down the road if we can get lucky and put it together again. I’d like to do it in a situation where there’s something to celebrate with Thin Lizzy, not just go out. As I put it, use it as a cash machine because I’ve never even done that. So, we’ll find a time where there’s… And these numbers are killing me now, a 50-year anniversary of this or a 45-year anniversary of that. I never thought I’d be talking about those kinds of numbers.

ANTIHERO: Are you any closer to getting guys involved? I think you had talked initially when you left Black Star Riders about perhaps some live dates in 2023. Is that any closer to fruition?

You left Black Star Riders to focus on Thin Lizzy. I think I read somewhere you were looking to put together a line-up and maybe potentially do some live shows in 2023, which is next year. I just wondered how that was developing and progressing?

Scott Gorham: Well, as I say, this is the thing, just trying to put this thing together. So, we’re still looking for the right people with the right attitude and all those who have the same energy that we all have to get out there and get on the stage with us. So as of right now, there’s nothing etched in stone at all, but there are people that are working on it, so we’ll see. Fingers crossed that we could cross paths with a couple of cool people.

ANTIHERO: Are you hoping to involve some people who have previously been in Thin Lizzy or maybe some new musicians or a bit of a mix of both?

Scott Gorham: I think, probably, it’ll be a mix of both, which is always good. It’s always nice to see familiar faces up there, absolutely. People that have been on a couple of the albums or all of them, but as I say, it is the balls are in the air right now with juggling. So, there’s nothing really, I can say to you because I say, nothing’s etched in stone, so we’re just going to have to take a punt on this right now and hope for the best later on.

ANTIHERO: And, of course, you’re here to promote a dual release. There was a film about Phillip’s life and there’s also the famous Sydney Opera House concert, which for many Thin Lizzy fans, over the years, I think came out on video. Everybody has always said, “What happened to the rest of the set?” Now it appears that these tracks have magically appeared from somewhere.

Scott Gorham: Right. Well, that’s a good question and you’re the first one to ask me how this really has come about. And the reason it’s taken so long is we could not find the multi-tracks, but they did find them. It was a certain person who had the multi-tracks and, of course, he wanted to get paid for it, so there were negotiations involved there. Plus, we didn’t have the visual tracks either, so that’s a pain. And because it’s 1978, I won’t say any names or anything, but the way the certain person stored them was not very good. Unfortunately, there were about, maybe, three or four tracks that did get oxidised in the process of just lying there. So, we’ve had to work around that a little bit, but I think what we came up with was solid.

I needed to get this out. I know it’s 1978, but I needed to do it and I keep using the phrase, “It was an itch I just couldn’t scratch.” Because I would see things on YouTube. There were two songs that were put out or something and it just sounded terrible and those were the two songs that Phil and I originally saw in his living room. And that’s when we ejected the tape and said, “Well, that’s never going to see the light of day until we get into the studio and actually put a mix on this track.” And to my astonishment there they were on YouTube. So, it became this weird mission. I had to put this right.

So, when they found both components, the audio, and the visuals, the record company stepped up without even really, there was no argument at all. It was just like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” And I got in the studio with Peter Gabriel’s head engineer, his name is Ben Findlay who worked out of… What was the name of the studio? Doesn’t make any difference, but it was Peter’s studio and I got together with him, and he just brought the thing alive. He said, “Can I do this? Can I do that?” I said, “Absolutely. You gotta bring the guitars up here. We got to even them out. Phil’s vocals sound a little bit thin. I don’t remember him sounding like that.” So, he would do this thing, he would thicken his face up, those kinds of things that actually make it sound like we were Thin Lizzy because what you were seeing on the YouTube thing bore no resemblance to what the actual sound was. So, I’ve finally been able to scratch that itch there. So, thank God for that.

ANTIHERO: I mean, they’ve done a phenomenal job on that audio. I mean, the guitar solo was Still in Love With You, my favourite Lizzy song to this day. It’s just all so crisp and pure. They’ve done a brilliant job of that audio. Really, really good.

Scott Gorham: Thank you so much. It’s so great to hear that because we did put some work into it, and we were wondering because of the missing songs or are people going to get a little cheesed out with that? Hey, I know that you did this, and I know you did… Where is it? Well, unfortunately, they got lost in time, so I hope people will forgive us for that. Did you notice some of the pictures were different from each other? Did you notice that at all?

ANTIHERO: Yeah, just slightly.


Scott Gorham: It was the same thing with the visual side of things. Things after time, they got… I don’t know if those tapes oxidised or not, but they faded a little bit or whatever. So, the creative people at the [inaudible 00:11:38] company tried to enhance that a little bit to try to bring it in line with the rest of the concept. But I think, overall, it’s a job well done by the whole team and I’m really proud of it.

ANTIHERO: Yeah. As a longstanding Thin Lizzy fan, as I said, it’s a delight to have pretty much the whole concert.

Scott Gorham: Great, great. That’s great to hear.

ANTIHERO: What about the film then? Obviously, I’m sure you’ve been asked to contribute to many, many films about Philip over the years. Why did you decide to get so involved with this film? Why did it stand out to you?

Scott Gorham: Well, I met the director. Yeah, geez, she’s going to kill me for this because I’ve talked to her a million times, but I said to her that if this is going to be a drug documentary if that’s all you’re interested in is the sensation of the drugs and all that and how Phil died, I said, “You can actually count me out. I don’t want to know about that.”

For quite a number of years now. And she promised me that, no, that was not the onus at all in this film. It is all about Philip and what he was like as a person and how he grew up in his surroundings and all that. And that’s when I said, “Okay, I’m in because I know quite a bit about that.” So, I was comfortable with that.

ANTIHERO: Yeah. I understand that originally when it was released, the film, I think it had a few screenings, I think, maybe Dublin was one, possibly one in London. Are there any plans to bring it back out and show it a bit more in more cinemas, essentially?

Scott Gorham: I think that would be great because I know that I got feedback from people in Ireland, and they thought it was great. They had a great time applauding in the cinemas. I know that it was in a couple of the cinemas in England also and got the same reaction. I haven’t heard of any, and I’m not privy to that kind of information, but I haven’t heard anything about any kind of new releases in the cinema, but wouldn’t that be cool? With a sound system and all that. So really, that would look really great.

ANTIHERO: Or the same for the live show. Maybe as a double feature kind of thing.

Scott Gorham: Right. I like your idea. I like the way you’re thinking. Yeah, no kidding. That’ll be great. But once again, I don’t think anybody’s gone that far yet. Maybe it could happen, but we’ll see. Especially the live concert, that would be so cool to hear that in the cinema and see it on the big screen. That would be cool.

ANTIHERO: I think with the film when it came out, I think it fell a little bit under the radar in that it was so limited, the screenings of it and a lot of Thin Lizzy fans probably missed it, that it was coming out.

Scott Gorham: Well, probably a lot of people didn’t really understand what it was about and really, it’s about a guy who was born in Manchester, in England to a woman who didn’t have a husband. And back then in the 1950s, this was the ultimate sin, to have a child out of wedlock. And so, what Phyllis did is she called her mother and said, “Would you take care of Phil and let him live with you in Dublin there bring him up?” And thankfully, Phil’s grandmother said, “Absolutely. I’ll do this.”

Now, I remember the first time I was in Ireland. You’re going to back me up on this, I know it. I remember watching him with a crowd of people, people shaking his hands and getting his autograph and all that and I thought, “What’s different about this scene that I’m looking at here?” And I realised that he was the only person of colour in this crowd, and I started to look around and he was the only person of colour anywhere at all. So that got me thinking, we got back on the bus, and we went from town to town in Ireland. And he still was the only coloured person in the country. So here we have a guy, who essentially grew up without his mother, in a way. His grandmother brought him up. He had no father at all.

Now we’ve all heard stories, the same kind of stories where this guy is the same way, but he happens to take the right path to the right. And he gets in all sorts of trouble, thrown in jail, I don’t know, suicides and the whole thing, but then there’s the guy who takes it on the left. And he says, “The hell with all that stuff, I’m going to make something of myself. I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to make something of myself.” And that’s what Phil did. He took that path to the left there, and said, “The hell with all the other things. I don’t care if I’m the only coloured person around. I’ve got so many friends here. It doesn’t make any difference at all.” And he became bulletproof, and I saw that so many times travelling through America and Australia and all that, how really bulletproof and strong this man was, and it was pretty inspirational stuff hanging around with a guy like Phil Lynott.

So, to this day, I still feel really privileged to have been as close to him as I always was. And this film will actually show how he grew up and how he became that guy. So, I think, a lot of people, sorry, but a lot of people didn’t know that, so it got, maybe, pushed to the side a little bit.

ANTIHERO: One thing I wanted to ask you as a longstanding Lizzy fan after Lizzy broke up and Phil died, was it difficult to reactivate the name again when John Sykes came to you and said, “I want to do Thin Lizzy.”? Did you not have any conflict of emotions? How was it?

Scott Gorham: No, that’s another great question. The first time someone’s asked me that in a long time, really. John had only done one album and was so enamoured with Thin Lizzy, that he was shocked when the whole thing broke up. He just hadn’t had enough of being in this band. So, he goes out and he starts Blue Murder or one of his other bands, so he calls me up one day and said, “Hey, what do you think about getting Thin Lizzy back together again?” And this is totally out of the blue for me. “What are you talking about? There’s no Phil Lynott. That’s impossible.” Back then, people were not really bothered. Once the band was over with, it was over with yeah. You didn’t back together again, so there was no… I don’t know. There was no blueprint for how do you actually do this kind of thing?

So, I instinctively went, “No, no. I’m out. I don’t even want to know this.” And he called again and again. It was probably about the fourth time he called me. He says, “I’ve just come back from Japan, and I put a couple of Thin Lizzy songs in my set and the Japanese just tore the roof off the roof.” Now, I know the Japanese and they’re a lot more sedate with their reaction to anybody, but when I heard what he said, I said, “John, are you beefing this up in any way? Are you exaggerating?” He says, “I swear to God, they were ballistic.” And I said, “Well, I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go talk Brian Downey and if he wants to do it, then I’m in.” Knowing, for sure, that Downey was going to go, “Forget about it. That isn’t going to happen.”

So, I was all full of confidence. I call up Brian and say, “Hey, Brian. There’s this idea that we put Thin Lizzy back again.” And he went, “All right, when do we start?” That blew my whole excuse right out of the water. As soon as I knew that Brian wanted to do it, Sykes wanted to do it, at this point, I seemed to run out of excuses. So, I said, “Okay, what’s the plan?” “Well, let’s go to Japan. We’ll just do seven shows and then that’s it.” Okay. Yeah. Why not? It’s the other side of the world. Okay, we’ll do seven shows. Got together in Los Angeles, there were three weeks of rehearsals, and went to Japan. Sure enough, the Japanese people went duly crazy for the whole thing. We all shook hands at the end, got in our prospective aeroplanes, and went home.

But in reality, what happened was there were no emails at this point. The letters started coming into the Thin Lizzy fan club. People were angry, really angry saying, “We’re the ones that supported you guys all these years, and you decide to go halfway across the world and do this and you’re not going to do this for us? What’s going on here? Okay, and I took that board because there were enough of those letters to make me really think about it. Oh, okay, well, okay, next year we’ll do 10 shows in Europe. Four or five in England and then five in Europe somewhere and then we’ll call it quits. And the problem with that idea is the ticket sales went mad. The audiences were there, and they loved it. So, I realised that this was such a loved band that the fans were not going to let this go. Everybody knew that Phil wasn’t there, everybody was there to hear the songs. They wanted to hear the songs live.

Sykes sounds enough like Phil to pull it off. He did. He pulled it off in a really good way. So, we kept that going for quite a number of years. And then the whole idea of Lizzy doing an album. I kept saying, “Oh yeah, yeah, sure. We’re writing songs.” Knowing that I did not want to do a Thin Lizzy album at all, at any point. But it got to the point where it’s shit or get off the pot kind of thing. And I just told everybody, I said, “I can’t do this. I’m sorry, guys. I can’t do a Lizzy album.” And to be honest, it was a lot of relief with the guys, with Ricky and Damon and all these guys. They were relieved that I was the one that actually said it because they knew that they were going to be going up against history and they were going to be judged against all the albums that we brought out. So that’s when we decided, well, okay. Because we already had a whole boatload of songs written.

ANTIHERO: And then, obviously… then we got Black Star Riders. I just have a couple to finish because I don’t want to run over my time. Again, as a longstanding Thin Lizzy fan, you played with many guitars, but for me personally, there was almost something special, a musical chemistry between you and Robo. Are you still in touch with Robo? Did you feel that yourself? That there was more of a connection with him than maybe the likes of anybody else you played with?

Scott Gorham: Yeah, gee, that’s a good eye you have there. I’ve always had this affection for Brian. I always thought he was just a great guitar player. He just had a little bit of a hard time. He was great on the pitch, but as soon as he left the pitch and went off the ground, things got a little haywire with it. And Phil just, he couldn’t abide by that at all. So, he just did one or two things too many and he was done, which I always found really sad. I did get him back for the Bad Reputation album though, which I was really happy that we flew him in to do the three tracks. He was a little disappointed that all the guitars were already done, but I just said, “Brian, just shut the fuck up. Play your guitar.” And he did and he just played it great, but yeah, I do have a real affection for Brian Roberts. I really do. And unfortunately, he’s hidden himself away and somewhere and he doesn’t really want to talk to anybody, so I don’t know what to say on that one.

ANTIHERO: Just the final one here, Scott, if we can wrap up with another one of your bands, 21 Guns, is there anything happening with them? You get all these rumours on the internet all the time, so can you answer that one?

Scott Gorham: Well, I have talked to my old partner, Leif Johanson from 21 Guns and I love that band. We got caught up in the whole grunge thing just as we put our album out, grunge was wiping every other band off the face of the planet, and we were among them. So, I would like to go over to Oslo where Leif lives. He’s got his own studio over there and I’d love to get in there with the studio with him again and just start writing songs and see what happens and see if 21 Guns can have some kind of rebirth in one way, shape or form. So, I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to flying over and seeing what we can do with each other again.

ANTIHERO: Well, that’s great. I think I’m over my time now. Thank you very much for chatting with me. I’m going to say hopefully, we’ll get to see Thin Lizzy back in the cinema, especially that live show. That would be great.

Scott Gorham: That would be great. That would be so good. Hey, Mark, it was really great talking with you. Thank you so much.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much. Cheers. Bye.

Scott Gorham: See you.

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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