'Most bands have a set list of twelve songs.
We know more than a hundred'
Whenever a list of remarkable career moves is ever made, Ritchie Blackmore is bound to score high. After decades of testing the nerves of the members of Deep Purple, he decides to start a group in the mid-1990s with his spouse Candice Night: Blackmore's Night.
Gone is the hard rock that the master of the Stratocaster made in previous lives. This time the emphasis is on medieval sounds, in which Blackmore's acoustic guitar and Candice's beautiful, crystal-clear vocals balance each other in a tasteful way. Performances should preferably take place unamplified, in churches and castles, where the front rows are reserved for people in appropriate attire. But this time too the man-in-the-black is successful.
"When we started with this music, I know it was never going to take big forms," Blackmore says after a concert in Oldenburg, Germany, where Blackmore's Night captivated nearly two thousand people for two and a half hours. 'Now that this is about to happen, I have decided not to perform for large crowds anymore. Above two thousand people, the sun ladders are added. If you play softly, you will always hear one Hey Ritchie, get on with it lallen. To close yourself off from that, you play harder. I am good at improvising. But within Blackmore's Night I mainly focus on tight melody lines. To see if I can make it. When I play in front of ten people, I can concentrate one hundred percent. But with a larger audience you feel that people do not want to be confronted with too tight a straightjacket. So we usually play a rigid and a happy tune one after the other. I sometimes feel guilty towards our musicians. Most bands have a set list of twelve songs. Candice and I know more than a hundred, the band members at most half. Sometimes we go on stage without them having any idea what we are going to do. Then I see panic in the bass player's eyes. I also hear the errors. I do not mind. As long as there aren't too many."
You play European music with American musicants. Why?
"I like to punish myself, make life as difficult as possible for me. I have a prosecution complex. A huge sense of guilt that makes me hurt myself. That's why I hire American musicians to play European music... No, sometimes you don't have to be something to appreciate it. In fact, fantasy is often more exciting and more powerful than reality. As an Englishman I have always lived near castles. Windsor Castte was so normal to me that it didn't surprise me. While someone from Seattle was completely upset about it. He observed the castle in much more detail than I did. I preferred to sit in the pub. So: the further away you are from something, the closer you can get."
Live you currently play almost only acoustic. But I also heard other strange noises. Was that a guitar synthesizer?
"An acoustic guitar is a beautiful instrument, but not suitable for leading a band. A lot of my lead melodies should actually be done by trumpet, cornet or bagpipe. To approximate that sound, I use a guitar synth. What has the additional advantage that the tones sound longer. Whether I am the first to combine an acoustic guitar with a guitar synthesizer? Probably not. But I have a bad habit of not looking at other guitarists. I never play music at home. We don't even have a decent installation.
When I hear a good idea, I'd rather pick up my own guitar and play around with that idea than listen to what someone else makes of it. But I prefer silence. Only nowadays it is so difficult to find silence. Everywhere you hear a bass drum coming from somewhere. They should make a law against that! The bass drum is often so loud that they no longer even hear it when someone else blows his horn. That is ridiculous. In America, they just banned cell phones. But as a next step they should ban the bass drum!"
Candice: "We have an inside joke about contemporary music. If you divide that word into con (scammer) and temporary (temporary) you already have the answer in your hands. The music industry is very contemporary today."
It took a long time before you dared to play renaissance music yourself. How great was Candice's influence in that process?
Candice: "I mainly functioned as a therapist. Tried to clarify his problems. When you see someone you care about, you love is so miserable ... And every day hear the anger and pain he goes through when he gets off the stage ... I never said he was out a band had to go out. But when he did, I supported him in that."
Ritchie: "I played with Deep Purple in large halls, a lot of people came to watch. But that band started to look more and more like a circus. It was one nostalgia trip. That works for a while, but after a few years it will come out of your throat. Apart from that, I was not satisfied with the management of the band. And I certainly couldn't get along with Ian Gillan. It was just a matter of water and fire: clashing characters. In addition, Ian had a difficult habit of forgetting the lyrics of the songs. You see thousands of people singing along, while the singer does not know the lyrics and does not care about it! It drove me crazy! You can't ask people to pay for it!
In situations like that, I turned off my guitar and got on stage with an attitude of, I'm great, but I'm not going to show you. I complained to the rest of the band. Jon Lord said I'll talk to him sometime. But nothing changed at all! And the management only found me difficult. I am. Bette Davis used to say it: you are nobody until you are difficult. But so were the other four! They just took a much more subtle approach. For me it was always right on top. I could have stayed in the best hotels for the rest of my life and played Smoke On The Water. However, music is far too important for me to accept such an unhealthy situation."
Didn't that put a lot of pressure on Candice when you two went out to perform together? Especially since Ritchie was always very critical of vocalists...
Candice: "As critical as Ritchie is of others, I am so critical of myself. He knows that. And he can trust that I will never lose the text. I don't drink and I don't like drugs. When I sing a false note, I hear it myself. And I will do everything I can to master it. Ritchie sees that. And he also sees that he doesn't need a whip to steer me."
Is that the reason why you even radiate fun on stage today?
Ritchie: "I'm just glad I'm not in Deep Purple anymore. This is a much lighter type of music. I never thought I'd ever play it myself. Yes, at home! However, when Candy started to sing and whistle along, the ball started rolling. It is a naturally developed situation. Musicians should make music naturally. When Lennon and McCartney started, they were friends who started writing songs together. But I've been in bands whose members only met with their managers and accountants. Even rehearsals felt unnatural. This band is very natural.
Candy and I often play in restaurants. Just with a few friends. I was always jealous of musicians who could. Was always in groups that could function alone with a whole stack of Marshalls, laser beams and thousands of spectators. We always had to go all out, just like a Ferrari. That just wasn't right. In the old days, nobody would sing spontaneously. Whether it was Ronnie Dio or Ian Gillan.
They never sang spontaneously, but only at full power, into a microphone. Music worked for them. And I had to break out of that train of thought. Many people do not dare. Because success means security. Within Deep Purple, two band members hate the other two. They would leave tomorrow if they had an alternative. But they don't..."
Hans van den Heuvel, Oor no 20 - October 6, 2001
Photos: Ruud Strobbe