google5fdb2843fc4f1b5b.html Rock Chic: An interview with Thin Lizzy drumming legend Brian Downey

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

An interview with Thin Lizzy drumming legend Brian Downey

Interview by Adrian Ball
Photo credit: Larry Canavan

Ahead of the celebration show for the 40th anniversary of Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous album at Nells Jazz and Blues Club, London, Brian Downey talks to us about memories of Lizzy and what’s ahead.

Brian, you’ve released so many fantastic songs and albums with Thin Lizzy, are there any in particular that stand out for you?
The Live and Dangerous album (released 1978) is an amalgamation of all the albums we had out then and all the bands were recording live stuff.  Phil (Lynott) said bands are releasing live albums lets release one.  We were on top of our game at that period and just had to get out there and record the shows. The majority was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon, which is a great venue to play and was close to where we lived in those days.  I think it was the manager that suggested it so we said absolutely.
So talk us through your latest venture, Alive and Dangerous…
After we finished the reunion band, about a year later I met Brian Grace (guitar player) and said I miss playing.  We went into a rehearsal studio and played some Lizzy and blues songs.  After a brief pause to have a re-think, we then got the guys together and discovered they were so conversant with Lizzy.  We went straight into Jailbreak, expecting to have to have to restart the song but we went right through with no issues.  Then onto The Boys are Back in Town.  After speaking to the guys further, I realised how into Lizzy they were.  On stage the band are tight and we’ve been told we’re so close to the original Lizzy sound.  It’s amazing to be capturing that early Lizzy sound, very authentic.
You’ve inspired so many other drummers, how did it all start for you?
Going back to the early days, it had to be Tony Meehan from The Shadows that sparked my interest.  He was a big influence.  I used to watch him on TV at the London Palladium and just loved it.
I was playing in a pipe band and knew the drums, but when I saw him play a short solo on the show it really grabbed me so I pestered my dad for a kit!  A little Olympic drum kit…I had it four of five years.  Olympic and Premier were well made and a good sound to me.
What’s your most memorable live performance?  
Most memorable was back in ‘77 playing at Dalymount Park in Dublin, which was a home town gig with 40,000 in the crowd; a great concert.  Thin Lizzy also played just outside San Francisco and that was in front of 110,000 people, but we weren’t headlining at that one. 
How was it performing with Gary Moore at the tribute concert, following the unveiling of the Phil Lynott statue?
It was an emotional moment; I’m really delighted the statue was unveiled.  Everything was co-ordinated and it was so incredibly emotional.   Backstage was amazing too with so many stories and so much reminiscing.
It’s great to see you on the bill for the Rory Gallagher festival this year - what sort of set will you be doing at the festival?
A good question!  We don’t know any Rory Gallagher songs, haha.  I think we’ll stick to the Lizzy songs and might throw in one or two Rory tunes.

Brian Downey’s Alive and Dangerous play at Nells Jazz and Blues club on 10th Feb, The Rory Gallagher festival 31st May - 3rd June and Sweden rocks 6-10 June. 

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