As you perhaps know, we at Metal Shock Finland are presenting a week’s Tribute To Ritchie Blackmore and today is the final day. The goals of this celebration are; first to send a message to Mr Blackmore that we remember him, love him and we appreciate what he has done to improve Rock and even Metal music.
As part of this celebration, we have invited well known names in the world of rock and metal to share their thoughts about Ritchie. Musicians, guitarists, photographers and managers shared their thoughts with us and you and I am sure we all found them interesting. But the project couldn’t be complete without the opinions and comments of a journalist and writer who sees the industry from above. I, Mohsen Fayyazi, was lucky to have a chat with Martin Popoff, who wrote many books about rock and music and its bands and artists and has been called “heavy metal’s most widely recognized journalist” by his publisher. He is also the senior editor and co-founder of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles.
I know Martin is a very busy person, so we started our chat about his current projects and he said:
“I just proofed a coffee table book that I’m doing on Ozzy Osbourne, which is like a timeline with quotes book, like my Iron Maiden coffee table book that just came out. And I’m halfway through a WHITESNAKE book, I’m gonna do a book on a Canadian band called MAX WEBSTER and I just finished up a 400 page book that I’ve got with my layout guy on MEGADETH. So lots going on, and also through another big American publisher I’ve got a coffee table book that’s like an oral history of Hair Metal, so going from about 1980 roughly to about 1991 when NIRVANA came out. Plus working with Banger films, we did the Rush movie Metal Evolution and we did the IRON MAIDEN movie. We got a new series called Rock Icons, it’s half hour episodes on just one person at a time, so I’m in there as a consultant as well, one week on, two weeks off, so I dip that in between everything else.“
Then we went forward to the main point of this interview, Ritchie Blackmore. Martin wrote a few books about DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW, I asked Martin about his opinion and thoughts on Ritchie in general. Mr Popoff answered: “I think one of the big things Ritchie contributed to us, he essentially is in there at the very beginning, inventing heavy metal.” He continues: “People often talk about the first BLACK SABBATH album in February 1970, the second BLACK SABBATH later in 1970, but I think if BLACK SABBATH wasn’t there earlier by a few months, i would say that “Deep Purple In Rock” is the most pronounced, most modern, most revolutionary of those three records in 1970. Ritchie Blackmore was there inventing heavy metal.“
I found his answers interesting, in fact he encouraged me to go forward and ask if metal music could be different, if Ritchie Blackmore hadn’t chosen to play electric guitar. Martin stated:
“Yes I agree with that, I think DEEP PURPLE’s big contribution is the bringing of a classical element to heavy metal and that’s a combination of Ritchie and Jon Lord. We might have gotten some of that Middle Eastern or Turkish or Morrocan sound too. All of power metal, which is a massive heavy metal genre, owes a lot to bands like DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW, JUDAS PRIEST, and Ritchie is in two of those bands. It got even more power metally when he started RAINBOW, especially with “Rainbow Rising” and “Long Live Rock ‘N Roll.” At that point you have Ronnie James Dio helping him out and they both agree philosophically about subject matter like fantasy, dungeons and dragons, castles and all of that stuff. You’re right, heavy metal would be a very different beast, it might have gone more of that blues or doom route, not this interesting classical route if it wasn’t for Ritchie.“
I asked Martin about the guitarists and musicians who entered the industry after Ritchie, especially those who seem to be influenced by Blackmore ‘s style, and as you know, one of them is special, Yngwie Johan Malmsteen. Martin Popoff shared his opinion about Yngwie with me, which you can read below:
“That’s an interesting one because Yngwie is almost the guy who picked up where Ritchie left off and just went crazy. RAINBOW was almost like the uber DEEP PURPLE on steroids kind of band, but when you get into Joe Lynn Turner he’s moving into a more American sound. So he went one way and Yngwie is like hmm well if Ritchie kept getting heavier and faster and more crazy and bombastic and more heavy metal and more classical, more and more everything. He’s almost like the guy who did pick up from there. In doing that Yngwie battered us all over the head and came up with a style that’s even more distinct.“
You can listen to the whole of the interview on the sound player below: