“When I get up on stage and sing the words “I’m a superhero” I keep on fighting. I’m ready to take on the World and whatever comes my way”– sleevenotes ‘Superhero’ 2009
In January 2008 Candye Kane recorded a concert in Bonn for RUF records and I interviewed her for the local (now defunct) website ‘Bonn English Network’. I still remember her sitting on the big leather sofa backstage at the Harmonie next to a colleague, Manfred Schmitt, who seemed dwarfed by her. Back then Candye was a big woman and proud of it. Drummer Denis Palatin dropped in with a bottle of Jack Daniels, Deborah Coleman put her head round the door but closed it again – when Candye was in a room she ‘owned’ it. Not by demand but by sheer presence. Up and coming Brit Bluesgirl Dani Wilde was also there on probably her first major European tour and Candye, always smiling, happily posed for pictures.
A month after the interview Candye was first diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. The eight years between this diagnosis and her death this week were hard ones but the interview she gave me shows the years before were pretty hard ones too. That Candye Kane will be remembered by so many for not just her music but her smile and her kick-ass attitude to life and what it throws at you is the measure of her talents – as both a very special singer and a very special human-being.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Blues Superhero Candye Kane.
We sit in the silence of the dressing room at the Harmonie, Myself and Candye Kane. Candye has just made four hundred strangers feel like old friends. She has done so by sharing her quirky observations on life and love, usually with a bright glint in her eye and a rye smile. There was one moment in the show however when the glint disappeared and the smile took a break. Candye sings and writes from the heart about difficult subjects, and consequently her fan mail is often similarly heart-felt. She recalled in this moment one such fan who wrote to her of being beyond hope and beyond the will to live anymore – a girl literally on the brink of suicide. Until she turned on the car radio. Someone was singing:
‘I’m the toughest girl alive
I walked through the fire and I survived
I’ve been beat up, burned up, pushed around
but they just can’t keep me down’
It was Candye Kane with her disc “The Toughest Girl Alive”- and it literally saved this girl’s life. As Candye Put it onstage “I don’t care what they say about me in the press or anywhere else. That I sang songs about sex and masterbation, that I was a call-girl, whatever. I’ll always know I did this”
JH:Candye, you say on your blogsite that you went into modelling to escape the Welfare in America and in turn used your modelling success to fund a musical career.
CK:Thats true, I started singing as a very little girl in choirs. I went to the USC Music Conservatorium when I was 14 to be an opera singer, but I really wanted to sing the songs I was hearing on the radio which at that time were like Linda Ronstadt, Carole King. And I used to listen to fifties oldies and that kind of stuff. But I grew up in east LA and in my neighbourhood the norm was “getting pregnant young”. Most of my friends had babies by the time they were 16 or 17. I had a boyfriend, got pregnant young… and I guess it seemed more attainable than a career in music. But ironically, once you have a baby of course it changes your whole life. Your responsiblities. I wasn’t making enough money just being on the dole and trying to get by, so I found a job in a phone sex company and from there I ended up modelling and doing some adult entertainment work. But all the time I stayed out of trouble. There was a lot of temptation to visit late night drug parties and things like that, but I wasn’t tempted to do that because I always had music. I wrote my journals, I wrote songs…
JH: With the aim of moving into music?
CK:Exactly. Something just to get off welfare. that was better than being on the welfare. But I was really lucky because I had a lot of friends who were musicians. From the band Los Lobos, Maria Mckee from Lone Justice and punkrock musicians who were my friends. So everytime I went home to LA I was asked “What are you doing, where are you playing?” The focus wasn’t on how I was making my money, but on how I wasusing my money – to go into the studio.
JH: And you had the connections to get good musicians?
CK:That’s right. I could hire great musicians when no-one else could – and pay a hundred dollars a night, which was a lot of money back in the eighties.
JH:You did the 2005 Blues Caravan Tour (with Ana Popovic & Sue Foley) and now this year you’re back again. You said earlier this might be your last such tour but I get the feeling you enjoy encouraging young musicians on the Tour, People like Dani (Wilde) and Ana (Popovic). Is that true?
CK:Absolutely. But you know I’m still learning too. It’s just great to learn from other musicians and see what they do. I mean, when I did my Tour with Ana and Sue Foley I learned a little bit from them – how they did things, and vice versa.
JH: As Dani (Wilde) is doing now?
CK:Dani’s learning. She’s very inspirational too. Not just as a singer. She has a lovely, positive energy about her and it’s like she says “I wanna be on this bus forever!” and I’m like “Nooo!” But with me, it’s not that I don’t want to do another Tour like this. I want to go on the road with other people and especially with other women. I’m a big feminist. Whether I will do another Blues Caravan with RUF records is a difficult question because it’s very difficult with a lot of nights driving and I don’t sleep well on the bus, and it’s hard on my voice. So for those reasons, unless it was a Tour where we stayed in hotels every night and it was a bit more luxurious. I don’t think I deserve luxury but a bed every night instead of a rolling vehicle which is a little difficult for me.
JH: Thank you for your time Candye
CK: Well thank you. I appreciate it.
footnote: I later asked about the ‘suicide woman’:
“She wrote me an email” remembers Candye “I have never met her in person but I save all of these emails that people send about songs that save them for a book I will compile one day” It will be SOME book!