By Steve Newton
“Okay, let’s correct that,” says Malmsteen when I mention that Wikipedia names the six-string legend from Deep Purple as “his most important guitar influence”. “Have you read my book?” he asks from a tour stop in Cleveland. “I released a memoir last year called Relentless, and everything that you have ever heard about me is put to rest in that. It includes all the personal stuff, the technical stuff, equipment, musical journey, you know.
“I grew up in Sweden, and in Sweden it’s, like, a socialist country—we didn’t have anything. It’s black and white, everything. One TV channel. And my sister gave me Deep Purple’s Fireball for my eighth birthday, so I was eight years old in a country that didn’t have any media anywhere, so of course the impact was amazing, to hear that music. By two years later I knew how to play everything note for note—Made in Japan, all this—but I became frustrated with the fact that it was all pentatonic scales. Pentatonic blues scales are what guitar players play, and I got really frustrated with that because I was playing all the time.”
As Malmsteen explains, he didn’t find a respite from his pentatonic blues until the same sibling who turned him on to Purple brought home some early Genesis records.
“They have much more interesting chord structures and melodies and much more difficult things to actually learn and play,” he relates. “So then I realized that that’s actually mostly baroque classical music that Tony Banks, the keyboard player in that band, brought in. So I went direct to the source and started listening to Bach and Vivaldi and then eventually Nicolo Paganini. My whole style is based on baroque classical music and the virtuoso violin of Nicolo Paganini. That is what I do with Marshall stacks and Stratocasters.
“So I have absolutely no influence from Ritchie Blackmore at all,” he concludes. “Nothing.”
So much for the accuracy of the world’s free encyclopedia. But what about its sordid details regarding Malmsteen holding his fiancée hostage at gunpoint, or being involved in that drunken airplane incident?
“Those two things are not true,” he stresses. “Having said that, yes, I was a bit of a wildman.”
What we can confirm about Malmsteen—or his current Guitar Gods tour with Guns N’ Roses guitarist Bumblefoot, instro-rock ace Gary Hoey, and former Scorpions axeman Uli Jon Roth—is that Roth has to sit out all the tour’s North American dates due to visa problems. So he won’t be fretting up a storm when the tour hits Richmond’s River Rock Show Theatre this Saturday.
“I think he’s amazing,” notes Malmsteen, “and I think it’s a shame that he can’t come along. But this is not [about] one person, this is an event, this is a big crazy guitar thing. And everybody brings something. I do what I do, and Bumblefoot does what he does, and Gary Hoey does what he does. And then we play together and jam, so it’s really good, you know.”
To hear the full audio of my 2014 interview with Yngwie subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also hear my interviews with such guitar greats as:
Joe Satriani, 1990
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1995
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990