Interview with Mike Clemente (a.k.a. Earl Grey of Chimay)


Hi Mike, first of all thank you very much for this interview: the first question is very simple, how and when did you meet Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night?

Mille grazie Gaetano e SpazioRock! E congratulazioni per la nascita di tuo figlio Lorenzo!
I first met Candice and Ritchie through mutual friend and filmmaker J. Andrew Colletti about six years ago.

italian interview


You were already interested in the nature and folk & renaissance music before entering the band?

I’ve always been interested in diverse styles of music, particularly renaissance, baroque, and gypsy music before joining Blackmore’s Night. Ironically, I was rejected from just about every school music program I ever tried out for so I primarily studied with private instructors, which gave me the freedom to attempt styles of music that I would have never been thoroughly introduced to in a mainstream setting. I also like to collect and play exotic instruments from around the world - it feeds my addiction to the constant challenge of learning and studying different styles of music on different instruments. My latest challenge is running on an elliptical machine everyday while practicing Highland Bagpipes.

Which thing convinced you the most to say “Yes, I will be in the band?”

They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. 


“Dancer and the Moon” is very delicate and touching, more intense than “Autumn Sky”, in my opinion. It seems that Ritchie has been deeply touched by Ronnie James Dio and Jon Lord’s passing away. What do you think about that? 

Every album is like a chapter or time capsule into the lives of those who produce them. Ritchie’s performance and execution in “Carry On...Jon” and “Temple of the King” emotes a perfectly fitting and touching tribute. “The Spinner’s Tale” is also a moving tribute to the late Owain Phyfe. But “Dancer and the Moon,” in the tradition of the previous records, is a celebration of life, with an energy and charisma reflective of the spirit of the band, experiences on the road, and our incredible fans.

The Moon is a main and essential feature Blackmore’s Night discography. There are plenty of song and album titles, song lyrics, where the Moon is the main character: is there any particular event or memory related to it?

The Moon is integral, she is always watching over us.

By the way, talking about moon and nature and religion: the lyrics of the last cd (for example “The Last Leaf” lyrics) make me think about Neo-Paganism or Wicca. Can you tell us something more about this topic?

The songs are sculpted in a way to draw the listener into a world of simpler times; away from the headaches of computers, television, smartphones, and most importantly, New York Mets baseball. Candice is a brilliant vocalist and lyricist; always painting an intriguing picture filled with vivid imagery and metaphor.

In my opinion the best Blackmore’s Night album is “Fires At Midnight”. What about yours?

They’re all excellent records, it would be an injustice to the other records if I were to isolate and pick just one. As a member of Blackmore’s Night, I’ve spent many hours dissecting each one lol. Lately I really enjoy listening to and performing the songs off of the latest release “Dancer and the Moon”.

Which audience convinced you the most in 6 years of concerts around the world?

What makes a Blackmore’s Night concert audience so special is that no matter where we are performing, the Blackmore’s Night fans are always united to the cause of having a great time and reveling in an evening of music and magic. For six years, every audience has convinced me of this every time I walk out on stage.

All the guys from Blackmore’s Night Official Italian Fan Club keep on asking me and asking you when you’ll come back to Italy... I know you’re looking for a trustworthy promoter... But aren’t you penalizing Italian fans, who have been waiting for you for so long?

Mi dispiace tutti. Che ragione, non lo so. Spero noi ritorniamo a Italia presto.

You are already in the studio to work on a new album, as Candice twitted some weeks ago. Can you tell us something about it?

It will be full of surprises!

We all know that Ritchie has an intransigent personality, but he also likes joking and kidding with band members on tour. Did he ever do a joke to you or to other members of the band?

Ritchie is incredibly creative (and dangerous) when it comes to practical jokes. We’ve all been a victim at some point or another but it is all in good fun....most of the time.

Would you like to share with us any story about the “life on the road”, that you have never had the chance to tell?

Life On The Road: by Earl Grey of Chimay
It isn’t often that one encounters a road such as the one I encountered that late, cloudy and humid evening in July. Cloudy being an understatement; the air becoming so heavy you can feel the clouds graze the skin during momentary wind gusts. Air so heavy, one could take a bite out of it and taste it, saving the rest for tomorrow’s burdening leftovers. Yet, the moon was high on a perch in the sky, burning portraits of silhouettes amongst a blanketed canvas of muted stars. I suppose this road before me must look quite different in the daylight, for on this evening it appears to seem like a formidable road, full of dark turns and twisted embankments of unknown direction, riddled by the shadows of ferns and pine needles that line this hallowed pathway. This was my first time on this particular road, with anxiety blinded by the reflections of dewdrops that have collected on partially tanned grass stems within the vast fields that seemed to engulf and entrench the path that would ultimately take us away from all of this. The fields were barren, yet life was all around; crawling and existing in microcosms that would rival any large-scale modern suburban infrastructure. The heavy air was stifling; muting all outside interfering audible interference while amplifying the most delicate of songs - ants carrying twigs, trees swaying in the breeze, the delicate sound of owls gliding in the air, and hedgehogs crawling out to see what all the commotion was. I had never seen a hedgehog until that night, and I assure you, that hedgehog had never seen me until that night either. But it was a strange hedgehog, slowly hobbling its way across the road with monocle and cane. I suppose this was typical for the region, but marveled at the idea that this hedgehog was truly independent, amongst a complete society of other creature-dwelling inhabitants bearing characteristic traits that would rival a bowling squad. I, for one, can recall how it’s tiny fingers left tracks in the gritty dirt road that quickly materialized to clay once the prints had enough time to harden from the relentless humidity. “How does a hedgehog find its way through such thick air and hazy mist?” I would have stopped to ask him but he was on his way, probably with the sole purpose of avoiding any owls flying overhead, looking to rain on his parade. And speaking of rain, so it became, as this dark road turned to mud for the torrential rains decided to crash this naturally sophisticated party. And with the rain, the song of the trees was muted, along with the song of ants carrying twigs, owls gliding in the air, even the frogs had to take cover for fear that their song would be muted too by this awesome commotion of thunder. Lightning erupted, but only brief, to provide a snapshot into the distance of the external surroundings. My connection to this suspicious road was quickly hampered when the lightning quickly revealed the silhouette of a figure, sitting many kilometers down the road just as I was sitting, writing into a leather bound notebook with the quill of an ostrich just as I was. My last image before the lightning subsided was a silhouette of a hedgehog, hobbling down the road with monocle and cane towards this figure that was sitting many kilometers down the road just as I was sitting, writing into a leather bound notebook with the quill of an ostrich, just as I was.

earl interview

Have you some parallel music-projects beside Blackmore’s Night? If yes, can you tell us more?

Nothing of the moment. I’ve written about 728 songs but I haven’t had the courage to record any of them yet. People keep asking if I will record any of the songs, maybe I will try. Many of the songs are about neuroscience so I don’t know how people will receive them. Those songs will probably be very popular at medical schools.

Would you like to leave a message to all Blackmore's night Italian fans? Thank you so much again for this interview… see you on the road!

Saluti e molte birre per tutti! Spero ci vediamo tutti presto! Mille grazie Gaetano e SpazioRock!

Article by Gaetano Loffredo
Published on: 29/10/14