Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Behind the scenes of an interview with Ritchie Blackmore

Blackmore’s Night are sort of a journalistic legend, as there were number of conflicts and disagreements with the band and their promoters. Naturally, those who do interviews are in most of the cases fans and we all have a feeling for Candice's voice and beauty, but speaking to a mighty Ritchie Blackmore is little bit more tempting! It happened numerous times that interviews were arranged with Ritchie, but in the end, Candice was speaking. Therefore magazines were pushed to strictly demand the original agreement or cancel the whole thing. We can say the peak of it, was a recent incident where Ritchie was sued by the label, for him apparently not promoting Blackmore’s Night All Our Yesterday enough. Frontiers Records, with whom I also have some “lofely” experience, says: “This includes six television interviews and between 25 and 30 tabloids in Germany alone.” We will get to that, but seriously, with all respect to some great serious German media, German tabloids are similar to a Tesco toilet paper. So the interview went like this:

In order to start the conversation in a friendly way, I offered to talk about Czech castles, beer and medieval music. Well, first of all, I didn’t know if it would be only Candice talking or I might be lucky to actually get Ritchie on the other line. Next to that, who knows how he would act? There are so many stories of him being arrogant etc. Till this day I remember, when I first met him and Candice at Wenceslas square around 2005. I was there just on an excursion with my classmates from Serbian Anglo American High School. We were just coming out of Bontonland, the biggest music store in central Europe and I had my bags packed with Black Sabbath material – calendar, Sabbath Bloody Sabbathsweatshirt and VHS – Never Say Die. We were just in the middle of the walk through Wenceslas square, when I realized who just passed around me. I yelled to my Hungarian classmate Julia: “Do u know who that was? It was Ritchie Blackmore! But she didn’t care: “So? Talk to my dad, he likes that prehistoric crap.” I gave her a bad look and I ran back to him and used my high school English to say: “Hello, Mr. Blackmore, can I please get an autograph?” Ritchie and Candice stopped, looked at me and he said: “I am not here alone!” I kept staring at him, looking I haven’t heard anything. More like, my manners were really “early teenager” level and I didn’t manage to even say hi to Candice. Since he realized, it’s useless with me, he picked up the pen and signed the only paper I found. He was probably not happy about the autograph paper, as it was a bill from Bontonland, with two only items saying Black Sabbath.

Blackmore(')s on the other line

Therefore, when I heard both of them on the phone, I was more than happy to be nice to the lady after so many years. We covered number of Blackmore’s Night issue and I didn’t have any issue, with the fact, she takes care well of her husband and giving him hints, finishing his sentences or taking over the answers herself, while we covered Czech tourism, beer, middle age music, spectrum of inspirations on the All Our Yesterdays and band’s approach towards cover song. At the right moment, we turned the talk on to the main topic of the day – Rainbow reunion.

There were number of questions to ask and also thanks to you guys, questions were even deeper and broader than I planned. We started with a playlist of Rainbow shows, but Ritchie is keeping it rather secret. He mentioned only Carry On Jon, Soldier Of Fortune and well known fact – Stargazer. Secondly, we talked about the choice of impressive Ronnie Romero and rest of the band, including Jens Johansson, who was the only one who could keep up with Yngwie Malmsteen. I gladly recommended Ritchie, Yngwie’s breathtaking cover of Gates Of Babylon. I even used this opportunity to ask a question from my dad: “Ask him about Graham Bonnet! Did he get fired because he wanted to keep the short hair?”

Later on we talked about his practice regime for the tour, advance in the gear sound (“Hendrix sounded better than all of us combined and he didn’t even need a bloody overdrive”) and possible re-editions of first Rainbow albums. This was the great moment to get to the issue of Ritchie’s issue with Frontiers Records. I had to ask this question at least four times! Yes, the connection was not always good, my iPhone has it’s age and Ritchie asked me to speak closer to the phone, but I believe he was trying to see, if I will be persistent enough. It must be also an unpleasant issue but it had to be asked. I did my best to be professional, polite and supportive. However he kept saying: “I don’t understand the question.” After few tries he answered in the end. It was rather longer answer and included a comment: “It’s ridiculous. It sounds as they were pushing us to dress in a certain way. Since I left school, nobody was telling me what to do and no one will!”

We finished our interview talking about show's set-up/lights and last dig into setlist. I must say it was a unique experience and I feel very grateful for the opportunity to speak to Ritchie and Candice. They were both very nice and I’m looking forward for any other opportunity to meet or talk to them.

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