Former Brother Cane frontman finds comfort in guitar
Damon Johnson is in a good mood. In fact, he’s thrilled. His day began with the news that Black Star Riders’ new album, Heavy Fire, is No. 6 on the UK charts across all formats, comfortably positioned between Ed Sheeran and Adele. “None of us could have envisioned it,” he says, speaking for himself and his bandmates: vocalist Ricky Warwick, bassist Robbie Crane, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, and guitarist Scott Gorham. “It’s a real pleasure, and it reminds me of how grateful I am to be a part of this. We’re very grateful to our fans and to our team at Nuclear Blast. This is the highest chart position they’ve ever had with any act, and they’ve been around a while, so it’s a good day. It’s a goal and a priority for us to help some of that translate to the States.”
Black Star Riders came together in late 2012, building on Johnson, Warwick, and Gorham’s working relationship and friendship in Thin Lizzy. Although easily assumed to be an offshoot or side project, BSR was formed as a new, original band, one that Johnson had longed for since the dissolution of his 1990s group, Brother Cane.
Johnson’s musical resume is lengthy. He grew up in Alabama, where he played in bands, attended concerts, collected albums, and honed his chops by practicing to his idols’ recordings. With equal parts talent and determination, he worked his way up the old-fashioned way, making his first mark recording and touring with Witness, then forming Brother Cane, with whom he recorded three albums and developed a strong fan base. He also became an in-demand session musician and songwriter. In 2004, he joined Alice Cooper’s band, then became a member of Thin Lizzy, which paved the way for Black Star Riders.
At home in Nashville, Johnson was still reeling from the morning’s news when he spoke with Gearphoria.
GEARPHORIA: Black Star Riders have released three albums in four years. While many artists are releasing a song or two at a time, why have you chosen to release full-length projects?
DAMON: I am the one proponent in our band who wants to treat releasing music in a little more modern or contemporary fashion. We put out these albums because we’re older rock musicians who grew up buying full-length albums. It was always ten or twelve songs, hold the album in your hand, so we’re a bit retro in that respect. I’d like to see us make the transition to two or three songs at a time. I see artists doing that and I’m OK with it. That’s how you should do it, because the majority of people are streaming, not buying physical products. So the short answer is because we’re old and we’re accustomed to doing it that way!