Ritchie Blackmore & Candice Night
BURRN Magazine September 2017
Very soon a new collection of the best Blackmore's Night songs will be released. It's called "To the Moon and Back". When did you start working on this project?
Ritchie: We've recorded so much that I don't even remember when we started or finished. (Turns to Candice): Do you remember?
Candice: In the middle of last year, we started discussing which songs we'd like to re-record. We wanted our fans to choose the songs. That's why we made polls on Facebook and other social networks to find out which songs our fans would like to hear in a new version. We also re-recorded several songs that we wanted to correct ourselves. And, of course, there's one new song.
Ritchie: Yes... Although I can't remember right now which song it was... ah exactly, it was "Ghost of John". Before you ask - this song has nothing to do with Jon Lord. It's an old British folk song. One day our daugther, after returning from school, sang it to us, saying: "I've learned a new song". It was a beautiful melody. It sounded very unusual, so we decided to record it for this album. Our daughter is singing at the end of the song. She's only seven years old, but she already has a very nice voice.
But you said it was a new song...
Ritchie: It's a new old British song (laughs). It was written 300 years ago.
When did Autumn sing it to you?
Ritchie: 300 years ago. No, I think it was 8 months ago. She came home and sang it to us. We added a few more words and also a little bit more musical elements.
Did Candice write the lyrics?
Candice: In the first verse the lyrics are the same as in the original, but Ritchie thought it would be better to add a few more lines, so I added my text with a story about ghosts.
Ritchie: That was very clever.
So the first CD is basically a mixture of the fan's favourites...?
Candice: We asked our fans for their opinion through social networks, on blackmoresnight.com, candice-night.com, Twitter, Facebook.
Ritchie: You did it.
I think it's not easy when you have such a big reportoire?
Ritchie: It's very difficult. I forgot most of the songs we recorded. I think we recorded about 80 songs, but over time I forgot them. So we appreciate the opinion of our fans. On stage, we sometimes ask the audience what they would like to hear, and it happens that they're asking for stuff which I don't remember at all. It's interesting to play songs that the rest of the band doesn't know. But it's great that our fans remember our old songs. We have a great reportoire.
I remember talking to Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. We were in a bar and they were playing a Jethro Tull song and I asked him: "Do you recognize the song?", and he answered: "No, who's that?". I said: "You are singing it". And he said: "I don't remember it, I don't remember half of my own songs, I've written so many of them". With me it's completely the same. Even when somebody is playing some of my old songs to me, I don't recognize them. It's because I'm always looking forward.
Of course. And in addition you have to consider how many songs you wrote...
Ritchie: Yes, too many. (laughs)
By the way - on the first CD there's the song "Play Minstrel Play", in which Ian Anderson played the flute.
Ritchie: That's right.
All songs are presented in chronological order on the first disc, except for "Dandelion Wine" and the live version of "Home Again", although I personally think that the first one is more suitable for completing the album...
Ritchie: That's a good idea. It's worth applying your thoughts for the future. To be honest, we left these questions and decisions to our management. When she asked us about this, we were so busy that we just told her: "You decide it."
Candice: Including the opinions of our fans.
Ritchie: That's right.
Candice: Many asked us to put "Shadow of the Moon" there.
Ritchie: That's right. It's one of our first songs. We also put "Ghost of a Moon", "Fires at Moonlight", "Under A Violet Moon", "Renaissance Moon", "Shadow of the Moon", "Spirit of the Moon" and "I Surrender to the Moon" on there. (laughs)
But there's not a single song from Autumn Sky on there. Why?
Ritchie: Candice reminded me of this. We have a problem with the rights for the songs. We had to change our record companies a few times over the last couple of years.
Candice: We don't have any rights to use any of the songs from the album.
Ritchie: So in order to not get into trouble, we would have to re-record or rewrite these songs to be able to do that. Record companies like to use their power in that kind of way.
That happens very often. I heard about it from other groups.
Ritchie: From whom?
From many, for example, a band called Curved Air.
Ritchie: I remember them. We used to tour together in 1970. They had a good violinist. I don't remember his name right now...
Was it Eddie Jobson?
Ritchie: No, not Eddie Jobson.
Ritchie: Right, Darryl Way. I remember that Eddie Jobson was going to take part in Rainbow for a short while. He came to us and was magnificent. But... I don't remember what happened, but in the end he didn't join us. I'm not sure if it was an audition in Los Angeles. It's too long ago. He is a wonderful violinist. And we wanted him to play the keys, but he could also play the violin, that was his main instrument. But we wanted a keyboard player, and he constantly played the violin. I think he didn't need us...(laughs)
By the way, did you remaster of the songs on the new album?
Ritchie: I think so. We did it with "Ghost of a Rose". "Writing on the Wall" was being re-recorded. Now it's a fast rock n roll song. "Coming Home" sounds completely different now. I hate the original version. On our previous albums were always songs I didn't like. "Coming Home" turned out very bad. I also didn't like "Writing on the Wall", which we had recorded a long time ago, so I tried it again. I like the new version. It has a pleasant sound. Now it's a hard rock song with a great melody. The original version sounded too soft.
You have waited a long time to re-record that song...
Ritchie: That's right. I would like to overwrite 90% of the songs I wrote. Of course I haven't so far. But I think that most of them could sound a lot better in new versions.
The song "Village Lanterne" is called "Olde Village Lanterne" on the Japanese release...
Ritchie: I didn't know that. Very interesting.
In Japan, the album was called "Village Lanterne", while in Europe and America it was called "The Olde Village Lanterne".
Ritchie: You are well informed.
Most likely, it wasn't done by you on purpose?
Ritchie: Yes, I don't know anything about that. But maybe I did it to puzzle everyone.
In the live version of "Home Again" there's a male voice singing. Who is it?
Ritchie: Our keyboard player Dave. He has an operatic voice. And he sings "The Drinking Song" from the 1954 film Prince Student. I have always loved this melody, and I like to perform it on stage. When everyone sings it at the shows, that's usually my favourite part of the concert. Dave is a very good singer. It's a live recording. When we play it, the audience always starts to dance.
Candice: But Dave gets all the attention.
Ritchie: That's right. Dave wears very funny costumes. Usually he's always sitting behind the organ, but when this song starts, he goes forward to the microphone, and all people in the audience are shocked by the fact that he's wearing high heels, and his belly is tightened with a leather belt. He knows how to make people laugh.
Candice: Sometimes Ritchie puts in pieces of other songs, for example, "Hall of the Mountain King" and "The Happy Wanderer", also changing the order, but "The Drinking Song" is always in there.
Ritchie: You've just revealed my secret.
The album "Secret Voyage" wasn't released in Japan, so we never had an opportunity to interview you about the songs from this album. But on the new release there's a song called "The Circle". What is it about?
Ritchie: About the ring? Or about a circular dance with swords? Do you know about that British dance? It goes back to the XVI century. The dancers tie bells to their feet, take swords in their hands and dance in a circle. But this is probably not what the song is about. Maybe Candice can tell you, because she wrote the lyrics.
Candice: I love to listen to your thoughts on my lyrics... (laughs)
Ritchie: Or is it about Stonehenge?
Candice: Actually, it's a song about how the story repeats itself. People repeat the same mistakes...
Ritchie: Well, yes.
On 26th May, you released a new version of "I Surrender" with Ronnie Romero. Why did you also decide to release a version with Candice's voice?
Ritchie: Candice sang on the demo we sent to Ronnie. But Candice sang it so well that I decided to release it on the Blackmore's Night album, and the version with Ronnie on the Rainbow single. The music is the same. As you can hear, we played it in F-sharp key. I don't have any problems with that key, but some religious people are concerned. F-sharp makes them nervous.
Ritchie: Oh, they say it's the devil's tone.
So Candice sang "I Surrender" before Ronnie did.
Ritchie: That's right. There's another version where Ronnie is singing together with Candice, we could also release that. They are singing different verses.
Did you record the version with Candice at the same time as with Ronnie?
Ritchie: Yes, in the same period.
You recorded an acoustic version of "Moonlight Shadow", which is completely different from the one on the album "All Our Yesterdays".
Ritchie: We constantly play "Moonlight Shadow" and we always do it differently. In fact, it's not my favourite of the six re-recorded songs. I like how Candice's voice sounded in the fast version. But this one is slower. When we recorded it, it sounded good to me, but after listening to it again, I think that the fast version sounds better. Well, it's all subjective. Depends on which kind of drugs you take. I don't know which ones I took at that time.
How do you come up with the arrangements for the songs?
Ritchie: It all depends on my mood in the studio. Fast and slow songs come by different moods. And sometimes I regret things I do. Because in like 2 days my mood keeps changing. At first I thought this new version was much better, but when I heard it again a couple of days later, I thought it sounded too sad, and that puzzled me. But some people prefer sad emotions. Candice, which version do you like the best?
Candice: The slow one.
Ritchie: It's suited to your voice a lot better. Your voice is very prominent in it.
In a previous interview you said that this song was the basis for "Shadow of the Moon".
Candice: That's right. Ritchie introduced me to Mike's work. He constantly listened to "Moonlight Shadow".
Ritchie: It was one of my favourite songs for a very long time.
Candice: Maggie Reiley is a fantastic singer.
Ritchie: Yes, she's a great singer.
Candice: So "Moonlight Shadow" undoubtedly influenced the music on "Shadow of the Moon".
Ritchie: Yes, I made a mixture of ballads with Renaissance music. Mike Oldfield also did some similar stuff, he used bagpipes and all that. I saw him in concert once, it was great.
When it was?
Ritchie: A long time ago. He wrote some incredible tunes in 1985-1986. He is a real genius. I don't know what he's doing now, but I like many of his works. "To France" is also a wonderful song.
You said that it's hard for you to transfer the concert version into the studio.
Ritchie: This new version sounds closer to what we do on stage. When the band leaves the stage, Candice and myself are sitting on chairs, I start playing the mandola, and she's on the flute. The only problem is that the rest of the musicians are going drinking and don't come back.
Candice: We also like the fact that it doesn't sound like the original.
Ritchie: But when I think about what you just said, the instrumental part of "Journeyman" was very similar to the original version by Nordman. It's their song. We weren't able to understand the lyrics, but I loved the instrumental part, so I copied it. I played my solos, but the rest of the parts are exactly the same as in their version. Candice also wrote other lyrics. I liked her interpretation. When we talked to them, they advised us to change some words, so it was a little bit closer to the original lyrics.
Nordman also play Renaissance music?
Ritchie: Yes. They play in a style similar to ours.
Candice: The singer has a very interesting voice, he's an excellent singer. It's more like a rock band, but they always include elements of Swedish folk music.
Ritchie: Which of them dined with us?
Candice: Mats Wester.
Ritchie: Who else did he work with?
Candice: With Eric Basilian. He is a musician and composer who wrote "What If God Was One Of Us" by Joan Osbourne. He also worked with Joe Bonamassa.
You've added a string arrangement to the new version of "Somewhere over the Sea". How did this come about?
Ritchie: Usually, I'm arranging everything right in the studio, while Pat Regan is working on other songs. I know that Pat is taking lot of time to refine the songs, so in the meantime I come up with arrangements. So instead of thinking about that stuff before I go into the studio, I do it right there.
Why did you decide to do an instrumental version of "Coming Home"?
Ritchie: I also changed the melody. The previous one bothered me. I liked the part which I played on the mandola, but not the parts in between. I thought that they didn't suit each other. It sounded like two different songs, so I changed that part. The riff was very difficult to play on the mandola.
The second disc also presents several of your instrumentals...
Candice: We had the idea to release a compilation of all of Ritchie's recorded instrumental compositions. Here we tried to do something like that on this release.
Ritchie: Yes. But here, too, there are two or three things that could be improved. In the studio you have to try not to do any faults, so in the end your playing starts to suffer. You have try again and again. Sometimes I think: "Let's write this instrumental as simple as possible". What was the name of that instrumental I wasn't happy with, Candice?
Candice: "Beyond the Sunset".
Ritchie: Exactly, when I heard "Beyond the Sunset", I almost went crazy. I played it as If I had just started to learn the guitar. The melody is beautiful, but I'm not happy with my playing.
By the way - is it true that when you recorded "Possum Goes to Prague", outside in front pf the window you saw a possum. So you decided to name that song like that?
Ritchie: Yes, it climbed into the garden behind us. The window in our studio looks out on the backyard, and in it I saw a possum, it was funny. But it didn't show much interest in us and left.
And there is a story about how you knocked a possum on the road?
Ritchie: I drove over it by car. It calmly crossed the road. I stopped to see if it was all right, but it wasn't there anymore. It ran away. So all is well.
I heard that the song was called "Return of the Possum"?
Ritchie: I change the names everyday.
That's why you called it "Possum Goes to Prague"? What does Prague have to do with this?
Ritchie: I don't know. Probably I wanted to call it like that.
Candice: When you wrote it, you realized the beauty of Prague.
Ritchie: Maybe it was the year when Prague became our favourite city. Candice and I watched Prague together.
Candice: It's strange. Before that, he never left his room during the tours.
Ritchie: I was afraid.
Candice: He feels more comfortable in his room. He can sit there all day and go to bed. But when we first met and first went on tour, I didn't know If I would have the opportunity to see all these cities again. I wasn't sure about our relationship and I didn't know exactly what would happen to us in 30 years. So I began to visit all those beautiful cities, and although he had often visited these places before, he only saw it from the car window when he was driving to the show. I was impressed by the majestic view of this city, the cathedrals, bridges.
Ritchie: And there was a medieval band playing...
Candice: Yes, there was a restaurant decorated in the spirit of the 16th century, in which a medieval band played. When I returned to the hotel, I grabbed Ritchie by the hand and said: "You won't stay here any longer and go with me to the city!". He replied: "I was already there, what did I miss?". But I didn't listen to him and dragged him along. The city fascinated him. The same thing happened in many other places. So we started to visit the cities in which he had stayed before, but never saw anything. It's funny. Before I knew him he only sat in his room and even ordered food to his room.
Ritchie: I'm afraid to leave the hotel, because I don't want to be run over by fans. Fans are constantly stalking, wandering around in the hotel lobby and watch over me wherever I go. So I prefer to order food to my hotel room.
You released a new Rainbow single "Land of Hope and Glory", which was also used as an introduction to the recent Rainbow shows...
Ritchie: I've loved this song for a very long time. I like it very much when a big choir is singing this tune. Candice wasn't at home for 2-3 days, so I asked the producer: "Let's record our own version, and instead of the orchestra there will be an electric guitar". It was funny. Everybody expected to hear a big orchestra, but there was only an electric guitar with a violin. I like this version. But it wasn't easy to arrange such a beautiful melody correctly, but it turned out better than I expected, so I decided to record it with this arrangement. On this year's Rainbow tour, we started our concerts with this version as you said.
Candice: We also felt that it was important to release it at that moment. The United Kingdom is the birthplace of Ritchie and we had to perform at the arena in Manchester, but there was a terrorist attack, so the show was cancelled. So we thought it would be right to express our feelings to what happened with this song. Ritchie is an Englishman, and the British prefer not to be afraid or openly express their opinion. Right, Ritchie?
Ritchie: Of course, we like to get into trouble. We know how.
Among the bonus stuff on this album is also a video...
Candice: That's just one of many videos we have collected over a long period of time. We have a friend in Germany who's constantly taking pictures or making videos of us. He also does interviews with us and captures our life on tour.
Ritchie: But that's just an excerpt.
By the way - what are your thoughts on the three Rainbow gigs last month?
Ritchie: We arrange them once a year, and I'm always nervous. We need to learn all these songs. Usually we rehease for a week, but when I go out on stage and play all these songs with the band, I start to get very nervous. We started in London, then went to Scotland, and then to Birmingham. The concert in Manchester was cancelled. I think when we arrived in Birmingham it all started to make sense musically. At the other gigs I was only hoping that everything would go well. It takes me a while to relax and get used to play all those songs again. It takes some time until I feel them again. But as I said before, at the last gig, it all happened. By the third gig I started feeling the songs and be relaxed. At the first concert I was very afraid. But everything went very well. In Blackmore's Night, it's quite the opposite. We sit on chairs and play, chatting with the audience and some concerts last for more than 3 hours. It's good fun, because we play the songs that the audience wants to hear. I'm relaxed in such an atmosphere, but when I play rock n roll these days, I'm starting to get very nervous. You can't sit on a chair all the time. I still like to play the strat, I like to to turn up the amp and play with distortion. I also play with a plectrum, which I don't do in Blackmore's Night. I only play fingerstyle on the acoustic guitar. Acoustics require long nails. However, when playing with a plectrum, you have to cut them short. So between the last Rainbow show and the first Blackmore's Night show, I have a month to grow my nails again and try to strengthen them, desperately painting them with acrylic. You might think that this is not such a big problem, but it's very difficult to play in such different styles. Before that, I hadn't played with a plectrum for 20 years. Of course, sometimes I used it, but when I was playing guitar at home, I always played with my fingers. However, when we started the Rainbow thing, I had to relearn to play with a plectrum again.
You added the song "All Night Long" to the setlist and removed "Highway Star". How did you decide on the setlist this time?
Ritchie: Candice decided that. I was just playing the music. She looked at my list and suggested adding a few more Rainbow songs because she knew that fans were asking for more Rainbow songs on the internet. So I removed "Highway Star" and added a few more Rainbow songs.
At the end of July, you will be touring again with Blackmore's Night...
Ritchie: Yes, we will go to Europe, don't we Candice?
Candice: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: We will travel to the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. In these countries there are still bands playing such music, so we pay special attention to them. Of course, they love hard rock bands too, but there is also a market for music in the spirit of the Renaissance. And I don't really wanna travel to countries like Ireland. There are countries in which people only want to hear rock music. So we only go to such countries, which are connected to what we're doing with this project. For example, Germany and France - so much of my favourite medieval music comes from there, back in the XV-XVI century. So it's natural that we feel a strong connection to those countries.
Do you have plans for the rest of the year?
Ritchie: Yes, I think we will be touring the USA a bit again. I'm happy with everything at the moment. Back in Deep Purple we worked too much, so now I have a lot freetime and just go out when I want to. In Rainbow and Deep Purple we sometimes had such crazy shedules that I almost fell asleep on stage. I swore to myself that I would never allow that to happen again. The shedule is still being organized by my agent, but I'm having an eye on it. When a group becomes very popular, agents organize big tours. And these poor groups have to work until they die. Musicians are starting to get sick after a while. Sometimes the group breaks up, and the agents don't give a shit. It's still like that today. Some bands are playing every day! Of course, when you are 21, it's still possible to do that, but when you get old, it gets harder. Agents and managers just want money. I was part of that system too for many years. It was too much.
Are you thinking about doing more Rainbow shows in the future?
Ritchie: I think so, yes. Everything went well, everyone was happy. It was great when we did it the first time, and I also enjoyed it very much this year.
I'm glad to hear that. Are you happy with Ronnie Romero?
Ritchie: Oh yes. He's the ideal singer, because he's never asking for money. Why are you laughing?
Candice: That's ridiculous.
I hope we'll see you in Japan again someday...
Ritchie: Yes, rumours that we are going to Japan again, have a basis. In fact, we are working on this. For me the biggest problem are the long flights. And it's getting worse... Because of terrorism, everything is getting out of control at the airports. You can be happy if you arrive safely in today's world. It's ridicolous. You are forbid to take shaving accessiores or water with you. Some passengers aren't even allowed to wear shoes. I'm surprised that they aren't asking you to take off the pants or the shirt. Very soon everyone will fly naked in airplanes.
But it's also a long way to Europe...
Ritchie: It's my limit. My limit are six-hours because of my back. I just hate planes.
I understand you.
Ritchie: There's a terrible airport in New York... When we returned from England it was a total chaos. No one knew where to go. There was no indication where residents or non-residents should go. I can't believe that an airport in such a modern and developed country is in such a bad state.
Give us a few words to the Japanese readers please...
Ritchie: Don't fly to the USA. It will take you three days to get to the States. I really look forward to see you all again in Japan. I hope it will work. We wanna come over during the cherry blossom.
Candice: So we can write a song about it.
So you come over in April next year?
Candice: In April is your birthday, isn't it?
Ritchie: I think March is better.
Sakura begins to bloom in late March - early April.
Ritchie: I think we'll be coming over in that period.
I really hope your plans will materialize! Thank you for the interview!
Ritchie: Yeah, thanks!
© BURRN - September 2017