Yngwie Malmsteen's track-by-track guide to new album Blue Lightning

Yngwie Malmsteen

Dressed entirely in black, shirt open to the navel, bedecked in jewellery and inscrutable behind mirror shades, Yngwie Malmsteen looks every inch the rock star. 

We're here because the guitarist is doing interviews to promote his new album, Blue Lightning, and we've requested that he tell us about his new album.  

This isn't easy, because Yngwie has loftier concerns. Behind those immovable shades, the eyebrows arch in excitement when he talks about technique, or melody, or classical composition, or harmonic minor mode, and you're left with the impression of a man so devoted to the minutiae of his craft that he'd much rather be thinking about that than having to explain the end results to an endless stream of hacks.

"I've been asked to do a blues album for the last 30 years," says Malmsteen. "And this time I finally said, 'Sure, why not? Let's try it!' I just didn't want to be stuck in the standard, pentatonic, play a 12-bar thing. I didn't want to do that."

Blue Lightning is out today.     

Blue Lightning

"I wrote this song during the sessions for the album, so I guess it's in the vein of the album. It's in a really cool key, because C# has that open E, you know? It's a groove thing, you know? I like it." 

Foxey Lady

"I love that song. I've always loved that song, and I wanted to do a cover of it. Although I don't call it a cover. It's more my interpretation. Or, to be more classical, my variation. It's a variation of Jimi Hendrix."

Demon's Eye

“When I was a kid I got Deep Purple’s Fireball album, which I have always thought was very undervalued. 

"The song that really killed me was Demon’s Eye. And I was very keen to do it for the album. But my style today is not influenced by Ritchie Blackmore. It's very important to remember that!"

1911 Strut

"This is one of my songs. I thought I needed something a little more up-tempo on there, so I threw that one in." 

Blue Jean Blues

"ZZ Top. Fucking amazing. I love them. This was probably one of the first choices I made as far as which songs I was going to put on the album. To me, there was always something very special about this song.

"I want to make one thing very clear. I didn't choose the songs to do on this album because of the guitar player. OK, so Billy Gibbons is great - I love him, he's very genuine - but that wasn't the reason. The reason was because of the song."

Purple Haze

"What can you say? I've done this one since I was a kid, but I put my own thing on there, with arpeggios. I made it a little heavier.

"I first saw Hendrix on television when I was a little kid, but I didn't really hear any music - it was just him smashing up the guitar. That was cool. But the first time I heard him was when someone bought me the Band Of Gypsies album. 

"Before he did what he did, no one else did it. It's important to remember that: he broke down the doors for everybody."  

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

"I've always loved this song, but never played it. And so I wanted to hear what it came out like, because it's got some some interesting chord progressions. So I listened to a Latin version, I listened to the George Harrison version, I listened to a few different versions, and I just put down the backing track and went for it.

"Like everyone else in the world, I think The Beatles are great. I wouldn't say I was an active listener, but every time I hear them I think, yeah, they're great"

Sun’s Up Top’s Down

"That's my song. It's an original blues, if you can call it that. It's deliberately very traditional, and the lyrics are about me cruising around Miami in my Ferraris." 

Peace, Please

"This track is completely my kind of music. I also wrote this during this session. I wondered if it should even be on the album, because if you listen to it closely it doesn't have any blues feeling at all.

"But then I thought, "Fuck it. I like it. It's good." 

Paint It Black

"Another song I'd always loved but had never played or sung. I didn't even know what key it was in. I studied several versions of the song, including live versions. 

"It's really interesting, because it's a song that is written in harmonic minor mode, which is my thing, so I just got to go crazy on it." 

Smoke On The Water

"I called this Rauch Auf Dem Wasser throughout the sessions. What can I say? It's just something I wanted to do. I've been doing it live for a long time. 

"The first album I ever had was Deep Purple's Fireball, when I was just eight years old. By the time I was ten I could play Made In Japan inside-out, upside-fucking-down. Every single note.

"And this resulted in me becoming a fan of Selling England By The Pound by Genesis, and then Emerson Lake and Palmer, then classical - Vivaldi, Bach - and eventually Paganini. I said, 'Enough of the Pentatonic blues stuff. I'm going in this direction!'"

Forever Man

"A song I heard a lot of TV and radio in the 80s. It was another one I really liked but never played or sang, but I really wanted to do it. 

"I checked out some live versions on YouTube first. I really like the song, and I had a good time doing it."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.