RITCHIE BLACKMORE (with CANDICE NIGHT)
"Classic Rock", August 2000
"Ritchie Blackmore can be a very difficult man",
Deep Purple keyboard maestro Jon Lord once said, using all the vast resources of
understatement at his disposal. All these years later, Blackmore remains a law
into himself, having spurned the hard rock that made him a household name with
Deep Purple and Rainbow in favour of the medieval strains of his current group
Blackmore's Night. Classic Rock were promised an interview with Ritchie and singer
Candice Night during their recently completed debut UK tour, so we invited
readers to email us their questions for the duo. So far so good, huh?
Then things began to go wrong. There were backstage gremlins at the London show
where the meeting was originally to have taken place. Traffic jams, stolen
luggage, a dangerous water/equipment interface and a 10.30pm curfew all
combined to scupper the interview and threaten the show itself. Tellingly, when
Blackmore was informed of the venue's curfew towards the show's end, his
reaction was to keep on playing until the plug was pulled. This from a man
who once incited a riot at Wembley Arena for refusing to play an encore.
A post-show invitation to his hotel followed, where the interview was a
possibility 'if Ritchie is in the mood." Reading between the lines we
attempted to set it up on the phone instead, A succession of calls were
made and then, just as all hope had been abandoned, the blower rang late
one Thursday afternoon...
Until your recent UK tour, British fans had no idea what to expect at a
Blackmore's Night gig. Tell us, does much thrashing of lutes go on? Rob
Fletcher, South Wales
Ritchie Blackmore: "Not really, because we don't play any lutes in the act.
Even if we did, we wouldn't thrash our lutes. But hopefully there's some
thrashing of other instruments going on."
Have you heard the re-mastered Mk 2 Deep Purple CDs with extra tracks, and
if so what do you think of them? Steve Richards, Deal, Kent
Ritchie: "I haven't heard them because I had enough of Deep Purple when I
played with them. But various people have told me about them, if you're
referring to the ones that [Purple bassist] Roger Glover altered people's
solos on. I believe he altered a couple of mine. That is ridiculous, and
I'm kinda looking into it legally at the moment. Nobody has the right to
mess with any of that stuff. It bothers me a great deal that someone has
the audacity to start changing people's solos without asking first. If he
wants to change his bass solos that's up to him, but leave my work alone."
Tell us a little of the circumstances of how you and Candice met, and of
your initial impressions of each other. Derek Digby, Derby
Ritchie: "We met at a soccer match. Candice was working for an American
radio station, and we were friends for a long time afterwards. We were
always talking about music before we became involved. She struck me as
an angelic person who was very, very bright. We work well together
because she has qualities I don't. For instance, my musical strength
is improvisation and sometimes I rely on the other musicians to guide
me, but she's the one that remembers all the arrangements."
Candice: "I went up to Ritchie after the soccer game to get his autograph
and he sent three of his roadies to go through the crowd and get me to meet
him at a bar afterwards. We wound up just sitting in the bar and talking
all night long. I was so taken by his eloquence, worldliness, spirituality
and mystery that after it closed at four or five o'clock in the morning I
wound up back at his hotel in New York. This was not planned, and although
it was hot I kept on my jacket - really kept myself covered up - for the
whole time because I was convinced people were gonna read about me in
the paper the next day, 'Rock star kills girl in hotel room' I was
terrified of being alone with him, but he was the perfect gentleman. And
slowly he won me over."
We're lead to believe that you composed in a very spontaneous way with Purple
and Rainbow. Blackmore's Night tend towards a more thoughtful, structured
method. If, or when, you return to a hard rock direction, will you reprise
your traditional method of working? Roy Davis, Kidderminster
Ritchie: "Probably not, I like working this way. Rock is a much looser
affair, you tend to just go with the band. I'm usually inspired to write
a riff on the spur of the moment. With this type of acoustic music, every
note has to be written out."
The two Blackmore's Night albums are soothing and extremely enjoyable.
Can we expect a live video at some point? Paul Newbold, Cleethorpes
Candice: "Yes, we're working on that at the moment. There are two already
available from the fan club as we speak, but we'd like to do a more
Ritchie: "I wanted to wait until the personnel and the identity of the
band had been established before we recorded ourselves live, and there are
still a few flaws to be ironed out, but we're getting close. What are the
flaws I refer to? Well, actually we're probably going to fire Roger Glover."
The fluctuating line-ups of your previous bands have passed into rock
folklore. Do the members of Blackmore's Night enjoy any more job security
than their predecessors? Clinton Mortonson, Humberside
Ritchie: "Absolutely not. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. My music is
very important to me and if I think somebody is slacking then I will change
them, or change myself, accordingly. "Sometimes it gets me into trouble,
but the people who are paying to watch and listen are always more important
than whether somebody is going to get upset if they're replaced. No-one
wants to fire anybody and everybody's very secure with the same old faces,
but sometimes you have to move on, be cruel to be kind if it's not working
Having seen the success of Jon Lord's concerto with the London Symphony
Orchestra at the Albert Hall last year, have you considered the possibility
of staging a similar event with your own music? David Glennie, Billericay
Ritchie: "Not really. What I'm doing right now is very successful to me.
I don't really know much about what Jon Lord did."
Rainbow's 'Catch The Rainbow' would work brilliantly accompanied by an
electric violin player like Vanessa-Mae or Ben Mink, who worked with Rush.
Would you and Candice ever collaborating with an artist like that? Stewart Eadie,
Ritchie: "Yes and no. I'm sure that song would sound great if it were
played by Yehudi Menuhin, if he were alive, but there are certain things
you just don't do. That track's yet another ballad and there are lots of
ballads that Rainbow did that would suit this band, so maybe we'll get
to it. I know of Vanessa-Mae, but I wouldn't particularly want to work
with her because we have our own Vanessa-Mae that plays on our records
in New York, but we don't take her on the road with us." [Ritchie's
referring to Miri Ben-Aril.]
Do you still play the cello? Ann Wahistr6m, Uppsala, Sweden
Ritchie: "No. Once I got more into Blackmore's Night's style of music I
found myself playing guitar more. Before, when maybe I was frustrated with
what I was playing, that's when I began picking up other instruments.
I play the hurdy gurdy quite a bit, though, but I'm not that good at it."
How did you come up to the riff to 'Smoke On The Water', and has the song
now become an albatross to you? Mick, Didcot
Ritchie: "It was just something that was going through my head at that
particular moment. The Graham Bond Organisation always inspired me, things
like 'Wade In The Water', which was an instrumental that was played in
parallel fourths. It's a good tune but I simply refuse to let it become
an Albatross for me because I never play it in concert anymore. So when I
do play it, it's refreshing. The riff and the vocal were both great, and
it had a good melody, but there were a lot of things that Purple did that
people tend to ignore, and I often wonder why they pick up on 'Smoke On
The Water. It's the same for my hero, Ian Anderson [of Jethro Tull], who
gets lumbered with one of my least favourite songs of his, 'Aqualung', all
Free have just put out a boxed set, and it has been reported that you tried
to get Paul Rodgers in a band with you on a couple of occasions. If Free
decided to do a reunion tour to promote it, and they asked you to be their
guitarist, would you agree? And if not, who would you recommend for the
job? Stephen Wells, Woolley, Wakefield
Ritchie: "Yes, we did want Paul in Deep Purple, but I think he heard all
the screaming that went down and said he couldn't handle it. So,
unfortunately, we never got together with him, which was a shame because to
me he's probably the best rock singer in the world. As far as playing with
Free, not that they would even ask, it's just not my style of guitar playing.
They'd need a very good, basic, rhythm guitar player that doesn't do all the
fast runs up and down the fingerboard, and that's a very old school way of
playing. Someone with a good right hand. Paul Gilbert [Mr Big/Racer X, now
solo] springs to mind but he might be almost too technical for the job.
I'd have to think about it."
Whatever happened to the huge illuminated rainbow stage prop that you used
to take out on tour with you in Rainbow? Paul Cropper, Liverpool
Ritchie: "It's in storage in Upstate New York. We're trying to find someone
who wants to buy it, I don't think they'll even take it away as scrap metal.
Do I envisage using it again? No, not that one especially. It was always
going wrong. All the bulbs went and it looked so tatty."
If the pair of you have children together, would you encourage or discourage
them from entering the mad and crazy world of rock 'n' roll? Wayne
Ritchie: "It'd be left entirely up to them, but we'd try to guide them.
I'm more concerned with the anger that goes on in society as a whole than
anything the crazy world of rock 'n' roll had to offer. The world outside
is much crazier."
Candice: "There'd be no television in our house. We'd try to instill a lot
more childlike innocence into them, that sense of wonder and awe that seems
to be missing in children today. I'd probably still be playing make-believe
with them until they were about 20."
A couple of issues ago in Classic Rock, Ronnie James Dio told a fascinating
story about how Rainbow used to hold sÈances during the recording of 'Long
Live Rock 'N' Roll'. Was it as terrifying as it sounded, and do you still
believe in poltergeists? Vivian Bartlett, Nonvich
Ritchie: "You'd have to be stupid not to believe in poltergeists, but it
wasn't that frightening. SÈances are what you make them. It depends on
the chemistry of the people there and what you're looking for as a reaction.
If you have the right people you can get incredible insight, but if you
leave the wrong people sat around the table it'll bring the Hollywood
B-movie reaction, which is things crashing and people screaming and yelling.
You have to retain your neutrality, not just assume that who you think
you're in touch with is really that person. At the studio in France where
we did 'Long Live Rock 'N' Roll' we found that anything we did in the
daytime always worked, but at night things would always go wrong. Some nasty
stuff was at work. So we had to change our routine and work as fast as we
could before the sun went down. If we recorded on channel six the playback
would come out on channel 13. The 24-track machine started working on its
own. Things like that."
Your our knack of signalling for an extended jam onstage is well known.
Do you still control the more improvisational moments of the Blackmore's
Night live show? Austin, Gwent
Ritchie: 'Yeah, although we're not so prone to improvising unless it's a
particular tune that requires extended guitar playing. The signals are very
similar, I have a hand movement that signals cutting someone's throat if
they don't watch."
Which band member did you take the most pleasure in dismissing? Steven Rodger, Croydon
Ritchie: "I don't remember taking any pleasure in dismissing anyone, it was
just one of those things that sometimes had to be done to save the music.
There was always a reason, I never sacked anyone because I thought the
music was great."
Have you ever regretted parting company with a band member? David Glennic, Billericay
Ritchie: "No, I know where he's coming from with this question, but the
decision has always been made for the right reason."
Why do you always wear black? Glenda Baron, Skegness
Ritchie: "On the road you don't get to wash your clothes too often, I
suppose, but I've always liked the colour black. To me, it represents
sincerity and depth. It's probably a psychological thing that goes way
Have you ever sung on a record? Paul Giles, Sheffield
Ritchie: "No. I don't think I sing very well, although I'm getting better.
And doing anything in public sometimes bothers me, I'm extremely
selfconscious. I like to hide behind my guitar."
Do you wish that you had started Blackmore's Night sooner than you did?
Garry Thirlaway, Co. Durham
Ritchie: "I suppose so. It's very rewarding and fulfilling to play that
kind of challenging music. I'd gone through quite a few years of just
flip-flopping around, not knowing what to play. It's the same with any art.
You can never find your way on cue. There was many a night when I loved
playing the guitar, but sometimes I didn't feel like playing - and that
caused turmoil. Sometimes in the hotel or whatever I felt in the mood to
play, but not when I got onstage."
Apart from each other, who are your best friends in the music business?
Leon McCorkle, Nuneaton
Candice: "Annie Haslam of Renaissance. She's a fan of our band and we're
huge fans of hers, which is why we covered her song 'Ocean Gypsy'
[on 1998's 'Shadow Of The Moon' album]. She's been a great help to us,
she's so well-known in this style of music whereas Ritchie's renowned for
rock 'n' roll, and if we had any questions on places to play or musicians
she was always there for us."
Ritchie: "I don't have many friends. I'm wary of them cause they always
want something in return. My friends in the music business are not
well-known, they're people that I play renaissance music with, bagpipers
and people like that."
What are your opinions on the way you have been portrayed in the media?
Have they treated you fairly? Brendan O'Booticy, Greenwich
Ritchie: "Very fairly. In fact, I used to like watching the music papers
would tear apart nearly every band they came upon, it's been going on in
the English media for the past 20 years. The English press crucify people
very methodically and very sarcastically which can be very funny - until
it happens to you. After a while you get used to the knocks, though.
Have I almost encouraged it myself? Yes, I do well on that negative side.
If they want someone to write about, I don't want to be the goodie two
shoes next door. I've always been inspired by Christopher Lee and the
nastier, weirder things in life. I'd hate to be thought of as a nice,
normal guy. We know that the English press jury will have been out during
the dates we've just played, but we were very pleased indeed with the
reaction of the fans. The media police aside, we were happy with how it all
went so we're probably gonna come back in September. I couldn't believe
how quiet the audiences were for the shows, which was nice. In fact, we
have two different acts worked out in advance - one that's more rock-orientated
for the rowdy crowds and another that has more ballad and renaissance music
for the very quiet ones. It's great to have audiences that'll listen and
not just yell and scream."
To the best of my knowledge you've never been to Ireland, which is strange
as Blackmore's Night's music has a slight Celtic twist. I know you'd enjoy
it here, so why haven't you done so? Nigel McAlinden, Co. Amagh
Ritchie: "Actually, I did come to Ireland with Houston Wells and the
Marksmen back in 19b4. And I was also there for a month with The Outlaws.
But we don't play Celtic music, basically it's Teutonic, very European.
There's a big difference. I couldn't begin to tell you why I've not played
Ireland for so long, there's a lot of places like that around the world."
Candice: "We actually started Blackmore's Night three years ago but it's
taken us this long to get to play these five dates in Britain. We kept on
asking promoters to book us for over a year, and now they have we definitely
want to play Scotland, Ireland, Wales, wherever."
Apart from maybe yourself, who is the single most influential guitarist -
in any style - of the modem era? Mitch, Cruernsey
Ritchie: "Jimi Hendrix or Jeff Beck. For me, the early influential ones
were Hank B. Marvin [of the Shadows], Tony Harvey of Nero And The Gladiators
and Jim Sullivan. When I heard Beck's 'Shapes Of Things' it was a milestone
in rock for me. Then Eric [Clapton] and the Cream came along and opened up
the doors for all the heavy guitar players. After that, I started to get
more into violins than guitars."
You have become notorious for setting up musicians, journalists and members
of your entourage with transvestites. Has anybody either realised their
error too late or failed to take it in the spirit it was intended?
If so, please name names for us. Martin Mill-Morris, Hereford
Ritchie: 'I don't know what he's talking about. I've never set anybody up
with a transvestite, ever. Would I swear on the life of my white Stratocaster?
Absolutely, that's right."
What were the most ridiculous lengths that a fan has gone to in order to
meet you? Paul Nicholas, Bradford
Ritchie: 'We caught a girl in the bushes outside my house once, my dog
flushed her out. I'm always in awe of that kind of devotion. It's amazing,
we have lots of fans that seem to think nothing of travelling from other
countries to see our shows. I'd never go any further than 20 miles down
the road to see anyone."
When can we expect a brand new Blackmore's Night album? Nicholas Peterson, Dundee
Ritchie: 'All the songs for it are written, but we really want to
concentrate on the touring side of things for the moment. I don't really
want to go into the studio until December. My biggest dilemma at the moment
is whether to get a so-called producer in for it, or to do it very basically.
We'll have to see what happens."
We know that you're a keen footballer. But which club do you support? Paul Giles, Sheffield
Ritchie: "At the moment it's Nuremberg, I love German football. I'm not a
big fan of English football, I like watching skill on the ball. That's gonna
annoy people. My favourite player is Mark Hughes, and Paul Gascoigne had
those moments of doing something with the ball. If you put me on the spot
I'd say Chelsea because they have foreign players and a lot of finesse.'
What do you honestly think of 'Purpendicular' and 'Abandon', the two albums
that Deep Purple made without you in the 90's? Bill Dyson, Inverness
Ritchie: "I still haven't heard them - honestly. I'm sure people won't
believe that, but there's a part of me that really has no interest in
hearing what they've been doing. You never hear those songs played on the
radio or at a club, but if they did I suppose I'd listen. I'm sure Steve
Morse [Ritchie's replacement] has done a great job because he's a brilliant
The Rainbow back catalogue was recently re-issued on CD, though sadly
without bonus tracks. What are the possibilities of a series of releases
rounding up any studio outtakes, taped rehearsals or live recordings?
Roy Davis, Kidderminster
Ritchie: "There probably are some tracks, but there's a conflict of interest
here. The manager of Rainbow [Bruce Payne] has now become the manager of
Deep Purple, and there's a lot of politics going on there - even now,
believe it or not. I don't think they're likely to bring out anything that
would benefit me. Those problems with the old Purple management were one
of the reasons I left the band, it wasn't all to do with Ian Gillan,
vocalist and long-time rival and myself."
Deep Purple's concerts at the Albert Hall were not the same without you,
Ritchie. If Deep Purple were to play one final reformation tour the way
Black Sabbath did, would it interest you? Anonymous Classic Rock Reader
Ritchie: "Maybe I'd be prepared to do a couple of weeks with them because
even now I still like them all as people and it would be a good nostalgia
thing. Obviously, I would never go into a studio again with them - as they
wouldn't with me - but it could be fun to just to play to the fans who'd
want to hear all those old songs. But if I did do something like that, it
would have to be a spur of the moment thing. There would have to be no
management involved at all, and, as I said earlier, that would be a bigger
problem than people have let on."
Would you ever consider writing a warts 'n' all autobiography, and if so
who should consider doing a Lord Lucan? Dougie Freeman, Portsmouth
Ritchie: "Of course, I do know a lot of good stories about various people,
and it's a suggestion that's been made several times in the past, but I
think I'll save them until I've nothing left to do. There are a lot of
very funny tales that often tend to come out over a beer late at night,
but at the moment I'd really rather not say anything - try to keep the
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