Parenthood, 'Darkness,' and Dancer - The Candice Night Interview
Candice Night met Deep Purple/Rainbow legend Ritchie Blackmore in 1989 while working for a New York radio station. After asking for an autograph from the guitar hero, she found herself wrapped in deep conversation and eventually an intimate relationship. Since that time they have gotten married, had two children together, and released eight studio albums as Blackmore's Night.
The following interview took place just before the release of their ninth studio release, Dancer and the Moon. Among other things, Candice was kind enough to discuss the new album, her role as a mother and a musician, and the influence of her Russian ancestry.
Dr. Music: Going into the latest CD, Dancer and the Moon, was there anything you wanted to achieve in regards to the band's sound, or were there any goals you wanted to achieve on a personal level?
Candice Night: Whenever we record a new CD, it's really just a musical representation as to where we are at that moment. We don't consciously move in one direction or have a concept. It's really more of a snapshot in time. That way, looking back over our last 16 years worth of CDs and music is always interesting for us, because they bring back a lot of nostalgia and personal memories. I feel like as humans and as musicians we are ever changing, ever evolving. So, our CDs are ever changing and evolving with us as well.
DM: On the new CD you cover a song called "Temple Of The King" from the Ronnie James Dio-era of Rainbow. What made you decide to cover that particular song?
CN: We always felt that within that song, it may have been the moment, in the 1970s that Ritchies fans may have realized that he was interested in medieval or renaissance style music. There were plenty of clues even before that song was created, but that song sort of brought it to the table in a more obvious way. Now, whenever we play onstage and ask for requests, after asking for Blackmore's Night songs, "Temple of the King" is one of the first ones that gets called out for us to play on stage. And occasionally we do it in reponse to the requests. So recording it on CD was really just for the fans who wanted to hear it in Blackmore's Night style.
DM: Another track called "Lady In Black" from the new CD reminded me of something that could've been written in the Dio-era of Rainbow. How influential is the Dio-era of Rainbow on Blackmore's Night music?
CN: Actually "Lady In Black" is an old Uriah Heep song. We heard it on the radio while in a castle in Bavaria and asked fans who it was and what the song was because neither of us knew it previously, even though Ritchie toured with that band and has known the guys for years. We added a woodwind medieval style woodwind riff and a few modulations and of course Ritchie's electric guitar, and tried to breathe new life into what was already a great track. We wanted to retain its simplicity and mystery and intensity but give it a bit more. I was always a fan of Dio era Rainbow, but I don't think, besides that fact that Ronnie was influenced in medieval style also, that it is influential on what we do. Ritchie has written lot of great tracks over his 50 years in the industry, and if the song is strongly melody based he will often ask me to sing it to see how it sounds with a female voice. Conversely, there are a lot of songs he won't ask me to sing if the previous male vocal was a a screaming one. He'll never ask me to approach "Highway Star" or "Space Truckin'," for example.
DM: A track named "Troika," from the new CD is a bit different in style as it is almost traditional Russian folk music. What was the inspiration behind "Troika"?
CN: Ritchie actually found that song on Youtube, which he can often be found searching at 2am looking for traditional or ethnic or different kinds of music. He found this one as a Ukranian soap opera theme. We changed it a bit and I added new lyrics to make it "Troika" - which translates to the carriage pulled by three horses in Russia. You can often see it on the artwork when you go to Russia or the Ukraine. We love traditional Russian folk music because it can be so dark and intense and passionate, and often the harmonies are in parallel fifths. Very different. Lyrically, my ancestry is from Russia. My grandparents actually escaped from there. Their village burned to the ground by Kossacks during a Pogrom, so I have a deep tie to the region. The idea of the lyrics are the horses running free, meaning an escape and ultimate freedom from any ties that bind, whether they are by country, by age or by time.
DM: "Carry On... Jon" is an instrumental tribute to the late Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord. It is set in the classic/hard rock style, and contains some of the most inspired guitar work I've ever heard. If Ritchie came to you tomorrow and said he'd like the next Blackmore's Night album to be a basic classic/hard rock album with only bass, drums, guitar and vocals, would you be on board with something like that?
CN: I'd be on board with anything he asked me to do. He's created some of the most incredible music and is basically a musical genius. He's discovered so many talents and plucked them from obscurity to put them in his bands and make them names you have heard of today. He has vision. And I believe in him and his vision. He wouldn't ask me to do something if he thought it was out of my depth, and I believe in his musical choices as a life partner as well as a musical partner. I'd support him if he chose to do a project like that with someone else as well, or an instrumental project. But he's enjoying what he's doing so much right now. It challenges him each time he writes, plays, records and tours. And he loves challenges. It's the only band I've seen him in, in which I see a smile on his face while he is playing for an extended period of time. He's pulling from a positive place now instead of solely from friction. And, as someone who cares about him on a personal level, that's a much healthier place to be.
DM: Do you think parenthood has changed the way you write music?
CN: Just limited my time more in which to write what I need to. I never thought I could exist on such little sleep. And the children are amazing, they sleep from 12 midnight to 12 in the afternoon. So I get to work on what I need to when they go to sleep. Which means I work till about 3 am. I hear influences and inspirations in the music that have stemmed from my children, but its very subtle so I don't know if anyone else would pick up on it. Still, they affect everything I do, and everything I feel so how could they not be influential on what we write?
DM: There is an interesting concept that runs between two tracks on the new CD. "Somewhere Over The Sea (The Moon Is Shining)" and "The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea)" are basically two different arrangements of one melody; one slower and the other more uptempo. How did this idea surface?
CN: Its actually an old traditional Czech song. We probably did 4 versions of that song, and then couldn't decide which one was stronger. So we gave them both to the fans for them to decide what they like best. I think that even though they have the same roots, the applications are so different they are both valid as strong songs, so it's hard to decide.
DM: The intro to "The Moon Is Shining (Somewhere Over The Sea)" has a modern techno feel with the keyboard that is a very different sound for Blackmore's Night. Was there any hesitation to bring in this kind of sound?
CN: No, I think we're both very into 80's music, believe it or not. It's my teenage years, and Ritchie actually was a fan of a song by the Pet Shop Boys called "It's A Sin" that was out at that time with a similar sound. He thought it would work as a bed for the track and asked the producer to mimic that sound and add a sequencer to beef up the bass end and add movement. We loved the effect.
DM: Let me ask you this before Rory does.... "How come Autumn got an album named after her and I didn't?!" ;)
CN: Autumn and Rory are so different. Shes like the sun and he's like the moon. She loves the spotlight, and he's my shy boy always hiding in my neck when new faces come around. So, he'd probably be just as happy being in the shadows. Though I was 5-6 months pregnant with him in A Knight In York and no one knew, so he did make an appearance on stage so to speak. Luckily he's only 15 months old now, so I have a little while to work on an answer for that question for him...
DM: HA! Seriously though, was there any attempt at getting "Rory" to work within an album title?
CN: No, he's always in the thank yous for inspiration since he was born. But obviously, her name is a double meaning being such a descriptive for changing seasons. His means the Red King in Gaelic, but you can't really work that in to a title or lyric. I guess our love will just have to be enough for him. He's the happiest baby, so...so far so good.
DM: You were working for a radio station in New York when you met Ritchie. At that point, what training or band experience did you have?
CN: I was in Little Theater productions and in singing lessons from the age of 4-12, then just chorus in school. No further experience. Just the fact that when he met me, and I went to one of his parties, he asked me to sing a song, and when I did he realized I could carry a tune.
DM: When did you learn to play the shawm, rauschpfeife, pennywhistle, hurdy gurdy, cornamuse, gemshorn and some of the other Renaissance instruments that we hear you play with Blackmore's Night?
CN: Along the way. It started with the pennywhistle and when I picked that up in 1999 and found it came naturally and wasn't an alien instrument to me, we were able to incorporate that sound into the CD. Then as we toured around the world, we would pick up these beautiful wooden renaissance or medieval woodwind instruments if we could find them. One in a music shop in the back streets of Prague, one in New Hope, Pennsylvania, one in Bradford, England. One day I got a little sad seeing them being hung on our wall as art and realized they were born to create music, not to sit on a shelf looking good. So I went to a local music shop and got a handful of reeds and attempted to play them. I'm pretty sure that the reeds I'm using are all wrong and the fingering is incorrect too, but I can get the scales I need to out of them, so it's working for us!