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The Almighty – Making a Mark

The original line-up of The Almighty reunited in 2023 for some headline shows in the UK. We caught up with frontman Ricky Warwick a couple of weeks before the shows to chat about how the band got together, the music making a mark, and partying with Iron Maiden and Lemmy (“Warwick, you’re a f***ing light-weight”).

The original line-up of The Almighty reunited in 2023 for some headline shows in the UK. We caught up with frontman Ricky Warwick a couple of weeks before the shows to chat about how the band got together, the music making a mark, and partying with Iron Maiden and Lemmy (“Warwick, you’re a f***ing light-weight”).

Text and photography: Anne-Marie Forker

Hey! ‘Bout ye?!

I’m good. How are you doing?

I’m good. Going on tour next week! I’m also looking forward to The Almighty show in London. Going back to the very start, I know you met at school, but how did you actually get together, who spoke to who first?

It was as simple as that. I moved into what would be fourth year when I moved from Northern Ireland, I went to Strabane in Scotland, I moved into fourth year at Strabane Academy. It was a small school in a small town, and word gets around pretty quickly that there’s a new guy in school, he speaks funny, he’s got a funny accent. So, you’re in the playground “Do you like football?” “Yes, I like football” “What team do you support?” and “Do you like music?” “I like music” and word gets around that day that I had an electric guitar, and I’d got the electric guitar literally a couple of months before I moved. Next thing I know, I’m approached in the playground by Stumpy “I hear you’ve got a guitar – can you play it?” “Ach, a couple of chords” “Well, I’ve got a drum kit, and that guy over there” and he points at Floyd, “he’s got a bass, and that guy over there, he’s got a guitar, we’re having a rehearsal every Saturday at my house, do you want to come and jam with us?”. And that was it, and music, as we know, it brings people together continuously, and that started opening doors for me. And literally at the age of fourteen, I was rehearsing and playing in a band with Stumpy and Floyd, and I’m still in band with them to this day, forty-three years later. So that was how it went. First day at school, I think I started on the Monday, and by Saturday we were jamming.

I can relate to joining a school and being the odd accent. I moved from the South of Ireland up to Belfast when I was about eight, and I had the exact same thing “She talks funny”.

Oh yeah, yeah.  All of that!

How did you get back together?

I think, like for so many things, COVID was a big catalyst for it, and also sadly, we’ve lost so many people that we started with, with The Almighty, with our management and crew, that are no longer with us, who died really young, who died in their forties and fifties. You’re talking six people, maybe, of our original gang, that aren’t with us any longer. Stumpy and I are like brothers, we fight continuously but he’s one of the funniest people I know, and I love him dearly, and we get on great and then we argue, and it’s that relationship that’s lasted. We’ve always been mates, but I’ve drifted away from the others and Stump did as well, because life just takes you in different directions. COVID was a catalyst and also was a catalyst that every day I get asked about The Almighty, every day of my life, whether it’s online or friends, or whatever, it’s just “Why don’t you do another show?” “What’s going on with The Almighty?” “Why won’t you ever play together again?” And people ask, “Does that annoy you?” and it’s the opposite. I find it really, really cool, because the fact that we meant so much to so many people and still after so long a time, we’re still relevant, is lovely. It’s just great. It makes me really proud that we made such a mark on people’s lives, that they still remember it when we’ve been inactive for so long. So, long story, short, I’m at my manager’s, me and him, it’s COVID, we’re going “this sucks, this is shit” and he just starts talking to me about The Almighty, because obviously he didn’t manage me when I was in The Almighty, and I said “You know, Adam, it would be great to do something, it would be great to play those songs again, it would be great, while the rest of us are alive and doing well, to celebrate our legacy. I think it would mean a lot to a lot of people, I think it would mean a lot to a lot of us.” And Adam said “Well, let’s do it.” and I said “Well, the first person we’ve got to reach out to is Stumpy” because there’s no point planning this if the guys aren’t going to want to do it. So, I spoke to Stump and I said “here’s the idea, and what do you think?”, and he went “Brilliant. I’m in.” And through that we reached out to Floyd and to Andy, to Tantrum, and they were both like “Yep, absolutely, 100%, let’s do it!” Y’know, we sat on it, before we announced it. We’d known about it a year before we went public at the start of this year. So, we’ve been sitting on it for about a year, not saying a word. It’s been in the planning for about two-and-a-half years.

You hadn’t played with Tantrum since the early days. What was it like, getting back with him again?

Well, I have actually. When I went to Glasgow with Warwick Johnson a couple of times, Andy got up and played with us on a couple of songs, so I had played with him, and I had got back in touch with Andy about ten or eleven years ago. We had started communicating again, and obviously when I’d been in Glasgow, he’d got up and played at the Warwick Johnson shows, so I had been in communication with him. So, that started great. Floyd, I hadn’t spoken to Floyd since 2008-2009, and that was a really, really long time. I hadn’t heard from him at all. So, that was great, to reconnect with him. The minute the four of us got in a room, it was like thirty-odd years hadn’t happened, we just picked up where we left off, taking the piss out of each other, being sarcastic, you know, no airs or graces, it was lovely.

It’s almost like riding a bike again – you don’t forget?

Well, I just think, you’re older and you’re wiser and you’ve got to let go of any grievances that you have or any stuff that’s in the past. It is in the past, and I think we all realised that and nobody was hanging onto any ill will or any of that. So, everybody walked into it with a clean slate, and that was lovely.

So, if we can jump back in time again, you’ve got signed to Polydor after less than a year. Was it twelve gigs?

Signed on our twelfth show, that’s right.

That’s quite special. Can you remember if you felt ready or was it a shock to the system?

Perhaps I’m speaking for myself, but we used arrogance, confidence and naivety in abundance, if that makes sense.  We didn’t really know what the fuck we were doing but we didn’t care because we were supremely confident in the songs and our attitude, in our live show and the way we looked. We’d all been playing for years obviously, so we could all play and the chemistry just clicked when the four of us got together with The Almighty. We stood out, we just stood out because, geographically, it helps us being from Glasgow, from Strabane and not being part of the London scene that was happening at that point. We always treated it a bit like a Viking raid where we would come down to London, play The Marquee, blow the roof off the place, get drunk, annoy a few people, get back in the van and go back up the road, and people were like “Who the fuck were they? What just happened there?” It wasn’t like we were hanging around any scene or anything. I think that worked to make us stand out. I think we were supremely confident in us and in our ability but we didn’t know what we were doing, we were naïve. We were on a roll and just going with it and taking it as it came.

And at one of those shows, there happened to be a Polydor guy…

It started way before then. It started at the first gig in Rooftops, in Glasgow. We played our first show and there were probably nineteen people there and there was a guy called Richard Heggie there who wrote for Kerrang magazine, and he reviewed the show and he gave it five out of five and said “I’ve seen possibly the worst or the best rock and roll show I’ve ever seen in my life” and the following Monday, the phone started ringing, and it wasn’t just Polydor. We had twenty six labels that wanted to sign the band and we could pick any one at that twelfth gig.


Polydor got involved very early on, and we really like their attitude. We also liked Polydor because it was Polydor. It was Slade, it was Hendrix. It was that red label which is iconic and we were listening to that music, so there was a lot of that to do with it, y’know. And they just really got it, from the get-go, from that first gig, they was a woman called Susie Collins who just got the band, and she said “Look, you’re onto something great here, you’ve just got to redefine your songs a bit more” and she basically said “We want first dibs, go away and write some more songs over the summer” that was ’88, which was what we did. And then, when the band really started getting a buzz, towards the end of ’88, which was when we were really starting to get all of the other labels interested, they really upped the ante, and said “what do you need, what do you want?” and we were able to say to their bosses what we wanted and they agreed to everything. Then, we played a show at The Marquee, January ’89, and the next day, the managers came in and said “Right, who do you want to sign with? We think you should go with Polydor, because they’ve been there from the start.” And we went “Yep” and that was it.  I mean, it sounds easy, and it was easy. It was ridiculously, stupidly easy. It’s inconceivable to think of something like that happening now. It probably couldn’t because the times have changed so much. We, in that year, we created so much hype and such a buzz, by not overplaying and, I hate to say it, the smoke and mirrors thing, because although we were the real deal, there was a lot of hype, a lot of winding people up. The fact that we weren’t playing a lot made people desperate to see the band when we did play, it just all worked. And again, right place, right time – we were lucky too, of course.

What do you remember about making that first album, “Blood, Fire and Love”? What are your favourite memories of it? Does anything stand out?

Just going into Abbey Road, Studio 2, where The Beatles did all that amazing stuff, and standing there in that studio, the studio. We used a couple of studios, but that was the main studio. I remember just going in, and we’d been given a huge equipment advance by Polydor, and I remember going to Sound Control in Glasgow, which was our local music shop, where we used to stand and drool at the guitars and drums and Marshalls that we’d never be able to afford, and we would pretty much go in and buy the shop, which is what we did.

That must have been a good feeling.

And there we were in Studio 2, surrounded by thousands of pounds of equipment that we didn’t know how to fucking use!

But you could afford it and that felt good!

Ha! It took me half a day to find the “on” switch on the Marshall – that kind of thing. It was that stupid and surreal. It was just, “whatever you need, here it is”. We were kids in a sweet shop, we absolutely were. We were just naïve, but, again, naivety is a great thing because there’s no preconceptions, you go in there with your mind almost clear, and I think that’s what I love about the first two, the first couple of albums. They’re not the greatest sounding records, but the songs and the attitude come across on them in a way which, when you lose that naivety, you lose that little bit of attitude as well, I think, that you can never get back.

That’s well said. So, “Soul Destruction” was produced by Andy Taylor [Duran Duran]. What did he bring?

I’d become really good friends with Luke [Morley] from Thunder, and Andy had just worked on “Backstreet Symphony”, the album by Thunder. We loved the way that sounded and Luke couldn’t say enough good things about Andy to me at the time. “He’s a rocker, you’ll really like him, you know, he’s one of you guys. You’ll love his attitude.” We agreed to meet him and we met him, and we loved the guy straight away. We loved his attitude, we loved his craziness. He got the band, he didn’t want to change anything, “I’m just going to going in there and record you as bombastically and in-your-face as I can”, I think that’s what we wanted to hear at that time.

I know some people thought “What? Duran Duran?” but it worked.

Yeah. Andy’s a very misunderstood individual. He’s a rocker at heart. Obviously he’s in one of the biggest pop bands of all time, in Duran Duran. But listen to Andy’s solo stuff, and you see what a rocker he is.

Jumping to “Powertrippin’”, which hit the top five spot while you were in tour with Iron Maiden, how did you celebrate?

Iron Maiden, being the absolute wonderful human beings that they are, threw a huge party for us back at our hotel, and – it’s the weirdest thing, I’ll never forget this – the caterers had made us a space cake, filled with hash. Now, the main guys, I know they like a drink, but I don’t think they dabbled in weed or that stuff, but we did. And we all ate this space cake, and we were so stoned, and we went back to the party, and it was one of those things where we were just so stoned, we couldn’t even speak. It was just like “Fffuuuucccck”, and you’re trying to be social and talk and you’re just like “Godddd…” and the room’s spinning. But it was a great night, and they paid for everything and they threw a big party for us, which was lovely.  I’ll never forget it. It was just a wonderful feeling, it was a great feeling. It was just one of those things where we were at number two mid-week, and you think “okay, we’re going to have a top three album”, and as thrilled as we were with a top-five, it was a little bit like “ah, man”, because I think we lost out on the top-three by about forty-five sales, or something like that.  That was just validation of everything we dreamed of, sitting in a pub in Strabane planning world domination – that suddenly here it was, and it was real, we’d done it. And we made a mark – it’s one of those things that no-one can ever take away from you.

Exactly. And I bet none of those top three had Iron Maiden throwing a party for them, at the time.

No, no! I think Bowie was number one that week and I think Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü beat us at number four, which I was okay with, because I’m a huge Bob Mould and Hüsker Dü fan. So, I thought “that’s kind of cool”. Number three – I think it was David Essex maybe. Wonderful times.

Does it feel any different performing The Almighty songs now, to back then?

Not really, no. They feel timeless to me and I love playing them, and I’ve always loved playing them. I’ve always done them, even since the band split up, whether it be with The Fighting Hearts or solo acoustic. I absolutely love playing them, and they are part of who I am and who we are. So, they are part of the families, I mean. So it never feels alien or weird playing them. The guys in The Fighting Hearts do a fantastic job of playing the songs, they’re brilliant. It’s not the same as the four of us playing them, because nobody is, but it’s lovely to be able to play them, it really is.

I loved what the guy from Sisters of Mercy was doing on guitar.

Ben [Christo] is phenomenal. He’s a phenomenal guitar player. Big, big Almighty fan as well – he grew up on The Almighty, so we were a big influence on him, which is lovely. He probably knows the songs better than we all do, to be honest.

You became good friends with Lemmy during your time with The Almighty. What’s your favourite Lemmy story, that you can share? I’m sure there are ones you can’t share!

When I met up with him in LA and went to his hotel room, and he’s playing me the final mix of the “1916” album that he’s just finished, and proceeding to get me very, very drunk and fucked up and I’m trying to remain cool and keep my composure and it’s one of those things where I think “Shit, I’m really, really drunk” and I end up falling on the floor and I remember Lemmy leaning over me and going “Warwick, you’re a f***ing light-weight” and laughing in my ear. I just never forget that. He was an incredibly kind, wonderful human being, a very gracious man, and a pleasure to have got to know him.

Your vocal delivery changed a little bit, I thought, in between your time with The Almightyyou’re your first solo record “Tattoos & Alibis”.

Oh, God! I learned to sing!And it was great because it was Joe Elliott who basically said “Look, you don’t have to shout all the time, because you’re so angry. You yell, you yell everything.  You don’t have to do that to get your point across. You’ve actually got a good voice, Ricky, you just need to educate yourself.” He was really instrumental, him and Ronan McHugh, on that first solo record, “Tattoos & Alibis”. He really stuck to it: “No, you’re yelling! Sing it!” and I just learned how to sing and I learned about my own voice and about my own capabilities, about my own delivery, and it was brilliant. And I learned about keys! Up to that point I was like “What? You can change the key of a song to suit your voice?” I didn’t know that. I thought you had to sing it in the key of whoever wrote it was in. So, that was a whole new thing opening up to me, because The Almighty was just terrorist anthem hard rock and roll, it was big chanty choruses and very brash and in your face, and that’s brilliant.  But moving away from that and getting into the solo stuff, which was obviously very different, it was brilliant to be able to go “Oh! I can actually sing a bit here, I’ve actually got a voice”. So, for the last twenty-five years, that’s been brilliant, being able to realise my strengths and my weaknesses vocally, and work within those boundaries.

And how did you find that transition, from playing in a band where everybody has this amazing, upfront attitude and swagger to being on your own with an acoustic guitar in front of a crowd? How did you find that?

Very different, but I think that what you said there is key – I brought that attitude and swagger into those acoustic shows. I wasn’t going to play sitting down, I wasn’t going to finger-pick, I wasn’t going to be that “feel my pain, life is shit” singer/songwriter type, kind of guy.  It was “okay, it’s just me and a guitar”, I’m still going to put on one hell of a show here. So, that certainly came from my education in The Almighty, of having that swagger and bravado. So, in some ways it helped, but, again, I had to go out and reinvent myself and learn. I learned – you’ll know him – from an Irish folk singer called Kieran Goss. I went to a lot of Kieran Goss shows, and he took me under his wing, and I watched how he did the solo acoustic thing and how he interacted with the audiences and how it worked, and I really learned from him. So, it was just a matter of combining the two elements, you know.

Fascinating. So, as someone from Belfast – The Almighty started in Scotland – I’ve always wondered if you saw The Almighty as the Scottish side of yourself. Do you think of it that way, and the rest the Irish side?

Ah, very much. The Almighty are one hundred percent a Scottish band, one hundred percent. And people probably don’t know that my mother’s side of my family is Scottish, so I have this Scottish blood in me. But we started in Scotland and we’re fiercely proud of being a Scottish band as much as I’m Northern Irish and that’s home and that’s where I’m from, I’m lucky that I can turn around and have Scotland as a second home and have allegiances there, what with my grandfather being Scottish and all that stuff. The Almighty are a Scottish band and that’s something we’re tremendously proud of.

Can we expect a follow up to “When Life was Hard and Fast” any time soon? Or is there just too much going on?

Yes! I mean, it’s being worked upon. I could go and record it tomorrow, but I’m still on tour all the fucking time! And it’s just trying to get some time, to set aside a month to get in and sit down and focus and get it done. I’m hoping to do that January/February. Everything’s written, all the demos are done, I’m just waiting to go in. I’m going to work with Keith Nelson again, he did “When Life was Hard and Fast”. Absolutely, that’s the next piece of recording that’s on the to-do list.

That’s good news. So, is that it for The Almighty, after this year?

Apparently so. I mean, the mantra was “Never say never” but we said we’re doing three shows and that’s it and so far that hasn’t changed.

I’m happy there’s more solo stuff coming!

I’ll just keep reiterating “never say never”. I mean, I said that even when we played our last show in 2009, and people said “Was that it?”. I don’t like as I get older and with the world we live in to say “never” because you don’t fucking know, and that comes with age as well. It’s easier when you’re younger “I’m never doing that again” and suddenly things change or you don’t know what’s round the corner, feelings change or relationships change, and suddenly you can go back and revisit something you thought that you’d never touch again. So, I don’t like saying “No, I won’t touch that ever again”, because you just don’t know. But at the minute, nothing’s planned.

Wise words. I look forward to seeing you at one of those shows – I’m going to photograph it. Thanks for your time!

Nice one! Thank you! Have a great time on your tour!