Yngwie Malmsteen: 'Never listened to Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin'

Yngwie Malmsteen: ‘Never listened to Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin’

Yngwie Malmsteen, considered by many audiences and critics to be one of the greatest living guitar virtuosos, has admitted to never having listened to two of the bands considered fundamental in shaping the modern aesthetic of the electric six-string: during a press conference held on the sidelines of the annual edition of Hellfest, a historic French festival dedicated to metal whose 2024 edition – which saw, among others, the Swedish artist in its cast – ended last June 30, the guitarist candidly admitted to never having dedicated himself to listening to Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin.

“I’ve never heard Black Sabbath, or Led Zeppelin; I’ve never listened to shit from them,” Malmsteen said. “But for my eighth birthday, I got Deep Purple’s ‘Fireball,’ which, by the way, everyone should listen to. Now, I had nothing to compare it to. The next thing I heard was ‘Made in Japan’[DeepPurple’ssecondlivealbumreleasedin1972]. When I was nine, I could play the whole thing from ‘Made in Japan,’ note for note.”

Later, driven by curiosity and the desire to improve his technique, the artist devoted himself to both blues and prog. “It took me very little time to realize that these were pentatonic scales. It’s the blues, which is wonderful. I love BB King. I love all of them (bluesmen). But I, who was a bit of a weirdo, thought: ‘It’s got to be more than that’. Then, when I was 9 or 10, someone played me ‘Selling England by the Pound’ by Genesis. And I thought, ‘Wow, what is this? Diminished scales?’. Suddenly, I realized that what I loved about what I was hearing wasn’t the guitarist. It was the notes and the chord progressions. I knew my mother had about 1,000 Bach records, so I started listening to him.”

His first love? “I stopped listening to Ritchie Blackmore completely when I was 10,” Malmsteen continued. “I love Ritchie Blackmore, no doubt about it, but my playing is nothing like his. He was a blues guitarist, a fucking great fucker, one of the greatest of all time. I love him, and Jimmy Page. I love them all. But very early, very early, I stopped playing the pentatonic, which is the normal way of playing guitar. I listened to Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, Hank Marvin, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore and Gary Moore – they were all listening to guitarists, which is great. However, I based my guitar playing on classical violin, not guitar. So it sounds a bit old fashioned to me when people tell me I was influenced by Blackmore: just listen to how we play.”