Candice Night: I would never try to fill Ian Gillan’s shoes
Blackmore's Night singer Candice Night on coping with stage fright, hair metal fashion, and Ritchie Blackmore's haunted clock
For 20 years, Candice Night has been half of the partnership that astonished rock fans – Blackmore’s Night – in which Ritchie Blackmore set aside his Strat, and turned instead to the mandola to make renaissance-inspired folk-rock. In the wake of the release of an extended edition of their Christmas album Winter Carols, Night spoke to Classic Rock about hair metal, performing in the shadow of a rock legend, and haunted clocks.
What was the music around your house as a kid?
I had a very varied range of music growing up. My father was really into big band sounds – he loved to dance around the kitchen on Sunday mornings while making breakfast. My mom really loved showtunes, and Elvis, so I guess as a rebellion against that, my teenage years were about the hair bands of the 80s.
Did you dress in hair metal fashions?
I did. And when I look back at the pictures I can’t believe I was allowed out of the house dressed like that – spandex, high boots to my knees, blue eyeliner, spiked-up hair. I showed my daughter of me with big hair the other day, and she said to me: “You look like a lion.”
You met Ritchie Blackmore when you were interning at a radio station – and your first professional experience as a singer ended up being onstage with him…
Yeah – anything else had been for fun. I met Ritchie in 1989, and when I went on the road with him in 93 with Deep Purple, he wanted a backup singer for his Difficult To Cure part. They hid me behind a stack of amplifiers and curtains, so no one knew I was doing it. The next day, the promoter was reading some of the reviews for us, and they said Jon Lord must have had a female voice programmed into his keyboard.
What was the first Blackmore’s Night show like?
It was in Tokyo, in front of 5,000 people. That was the first time I stepped onstage as a lead singer. I was completely terrified. I was in denial until about five seconds before I stepped onstage: this is a dream, it is not happening, and I’m going to wake up. All the audience knew of Ritchie was Deep Purple and Rainbow, and Ian Gillan and Ronnie Dio – and here comes this little blonde girl. I would never try to fill Ian Gillan’s shoes, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to try to fill my stiletto heels, either. I held on to the microphone stand so tight, because I was shaking so much – it was the only thing holding me up. We finished Shadow Of The Moon, the first song – and there was complete silence from the audience. Nothing. Then Ritchie went “Yeaaaahhh!” and the whole audience erupted. I think they had been in shock. The minute he broke the silence they were on his side.
Did you feel as the group went on you got the respect you deserve as half of Blackmore’s Night, simply because of Ritchie’s longevity and status?
Ritchie’s always had that legendary status, so anybody who is standing next to him pales in comparison. I’m actually OK with that, though I imagine a lot of lead singers wouldn’t be – they would crave that spotlight. But he’s the star of the band, and he’s worked hard for that status. I think it's important to note that when you're in a band with your other half you aren’t afforded the luxury of only being the singer – you are also wardrobe consultant, therapist, gopher, the sounding board, the wife, the mother – the list goes on and on. It's a lot but I wouldn't change anything for the world. The world we have created is mystical and magical and everything I've ever dreamed of.
Do you think women get treated well in the music industry?
I think there’s definitely a double standard. Growing up in the 80s, it seemed to be all about being sex objects. I remember turning on MTV and seeing Nancy Wilson, a really good guitarist, crawling across the stage and licking guitars, and she didn’t need to do that. The women I am inspired by in the music realm have their own strong identities without using shock value: Maggie Reilly, Sarah Brightman, Joan Osborne, Stevie Nicks – their talent is their identity. They don't need to use all the parlour tricks to get attention.
I spoke to Ritchie earlier this year, and he was telling me about the haunted clock in your house. Have you experienced that haunting? Has it chimed randomly for you?
His name is Ting. He’s an old nautical clock that was given to Ritchie by a friend who collects memorabilia from the Titanic. Ting only chimes when he’s happy. We’ll be down there working on ideas, or rehearsing, and only every once in a while does he go off. He doesn’t go off when he’s supposed to, but when there are positive energies in the air, he will chime.
What I forgot to ask Ritchie was: have you ever taken it to a clockmaker to get the mechanism checked?
Maybe you should. It might just be faulty mechanism.
I don’t know if I want to mess with the magic. I like Ting the way he is.