Yngwie Malmsteen: The Prophet Speaks
Yngwie Malmsteen is a magical guy. Just go see him play. Malmsteen is cited as an influence by MusicIncider’s very own Rusty Cooley and you all know how we feel about Rusty. Malmsteen has been around for awhile, but how much do you really know about him? Sure, he was on the G3 your with Vai and Satriani. It is going to surprise you to find out that Yngwie has some definite opinions about the state of the world. I think you are going to fucking love this.
MI-What is your birthdate?
Yngwie-June 30th. (A Cancer. A rare musical bird. They are usually sensitive, and feel really deeply about everything. The trick is getting them to talk. Trust me, he loves his fans and isn’t going to disappoint any of us.)
MI-Tell me about Attack and your move to Sony.
Yngwie-Attack was recorded when we didn’t have a deal in the States for Attack. It was released in Japan and Europe and it was extremely successful. It was in all of the top ten charts in all of the countries in Europe, and it did extremely well in Japan as well. We toured both the continents of Japan and Europe, and then I was offered a gig with G3-with Satriani and Vai. –My wife who is my manager also-April Malmsteen stuck a deal with Sony upon the culmination of the medley with Vai and Satriani. The album comes out on January 13th . Right now I am in the studio actually working on a new record writing a lot of new songs full time. MI-Why don’t you tell me about the new project you are working on? Yngwie- (laughing) Well it’s an album. There are a lot of things that I have got. I have got a DVD that I shot with the Japan Philharmonic. I recorded a live album on the last tour. I am constantly doing things; and right now I am in the studio working on a new album, it is very very very heavy. It is going to be heavier than anything I have done before. MI-I love Attack. It is fantastic. Yngwie-It is in that vein, but slightly darker.
MI-Tell me about your musical history.
Yngwie-Oh that’s a long one. I grew up in a family where everybody is a musician. I was the youngest kid and I had all the brothers and all the sisters. They all played violin and classical piano. My mother sang in a choir and was a jazz singer. My father is a guitar player, professionally he was actually a soldier. My uncle’s were opera singers and my grandfather was a drummer. You know, I mean this list goes on. So, I guess it was sort of like in the blood really. The music was already there. I got my first guitar when I was five, and I didn’t really like it too much. I wanted to be playing outside with my friends just being a kid. Just like my son. My son is going to be six in March and he just wants to rock and go out and have fun. Then I got trumpet lessons, piano lessons, ballet lessons, and drum lessons, flute lessons-all that stuff and nothing took hold until the year 1970. They showed Jimi Hendrix on the news setting his guitar on fire and I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life. So I picked my guitar up and started playing the same thing-September 18th 1970. Then the next year my older sister gave me Deep Purple’s Fireball, which is a great record. ‘Til this day and I became a Purple fan. So that was a big influence you know. Eventually the classical music started creeping in. I couldn’t avoid it, for some reason the classical music just came more and more and more. So my biggest influences then became Johann Sebastian Bach and Antony Vivaldi. I even named my son after Antony Vivaldi. Nicolo Paganini of course, Beethoven-and through all of this I still have my love for hard music and that metal sound from Deep Purple, but with a classical melody. That’s basically where I am coming from you know. My type of guitar playing is more influenced by violin than guitar. By the time I had been playing for a few years, I realized that I liked the sound of the violin. My brother plays violin-but I didn’t so I started putting violin licks into my guitar playing. Arpeggios and all of that diminished stuff. So that is basically where I am coming from. I am a hybrid of metal and classical.
MI-Tell me about the most memorable show you ever played live.
Yngwie-That would be impossible to say. I have played thousands of shows. Thousands. I think the ones that stick out more than anything else are the ones that went really bad. Like the sound was bad or the lights weren’t working. The power went out. I did a show in New York. We started the show and the power went out. Everything went out. So that was great. Thanks. Wow. So we go back stage and we sit there and start drinking and everything and then we go on again and the power breaks down again. So by the time we got to go on we were all blasted and it wasn’t so good. That’s one thing I remember. I can’t remember exactly where it was. –I remember one time in Indonesia. There were guns being shot during the show in Jakarta. That wasn’t too much fun. It was a football stadium. It was huge, over a hundred thousand people. I am playing, and the bass player comes up to me and says hey do you want to stop? I am like hey, what do you mean? Then I started hearing it and it was sounding like fire crackers. It was loud, and apparently people got shot. They are pretty crazy down there. (But get this, he sure as hell did not disappoint his fans that forked over their hard earned bucks. He hung in there and toughed it out. Takes balls to play while guns are going off don’t you think?)
MI-What are your thoughts about legalizing drugs?
Yngwie-I am not a drug person. I don’t do drugs. I basically don’t do anything. I like to drink beer and that’s it. I don’t drink hard liquor. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I used to smoke cigarettes like a crazy person-four packs a day, but I quit four years ago. MI-How did you do it? Yngwie-It was a combination. It was my son, who is sitting here right now. He was only two then. And it was like why do it? It is so stupid, because I smoked so much as well. Another reason is you couldn’t bloody smoke anywhere anymore and it is getting worse and worse by the minute. In Florida, you can’t smoke anywhere not even in a bar. It is just like California. I just felt like it was a stupid thing, so I quit that. As far as drugs go, I don’t do them. So I am not sure I have anything reasonable to say about that. The way I look at it is live and let live. If you want to do it go ahead, it is not my problem. It is the same thing like when I quit smoking. I promised myself not to become an anal non smoker, bitching about it and all that. So if somebody smokes, fine go ahead. I don’t give a shit.
MI-Who do you think the five greatest guitar players are of all time and why-please be sure to include yourself?
Yngwie-Live guitar players? MI-They can be alive or dead…whatever you think. Yngwie-Well Hendrix of course. Blackmore. I like Brian May, he is a very close friend of mine as well. I think Steve and Joe are great. There must be hundreds of great ones. Alan Holdsworth. I love Alan Holdsworth. MI-and yourself? Yngwie-It is funny how it is with guitar players. It becomes like a sport. I don’t do it. The only sport that I play is tennis. In fact, I just came off of the tennis court now. I play tennis every day. I love to play tennis. I compete in tennis. I don’t compete in music.
MI-Where do you get your inspiration from?
Yngwie-The musical inspiration? I think I am like a radio tuner. It just comes to me and there it is, and I don’t know where the hell it comes from. Musically it is a very automatic thing. It just happens. Lyrically, which is something I have been working on with the last two albums. I have been putting a lot of work into my lyrics. The lyrics are inspired from strong feeling. It could be anger; it could be love, lust, sadness, happiness, excitement. I get inspired from books and film. A lot from books and film-I am like a book and movie guy. I really like that stuff. I have a home theatre with my big screen TV. Just last night I watched Dream Catcher on DVD. It was just awesome. Really really good. I get inspired by that. That is inspirational for me to write songs. The musical part-it just happens by itself. There is nothing that triggers it really. I could be on the bullet train in Tokyo and come up with a melody that is going to be on a soundtrack that is coming out on the next album. It has no formula at all.
MI-Where were you when 9-11 happened and how did it affect you?
Yngwie-I was laying in bed and I was getting ready to fly to Mexico to start a tour. I was lying in my bed half asleep. I don’t get up before eleven really; eleven is a good time to get up. So I am lying in bed, and my wife wakes me up and she goes look at this. The TV in the bedroom was on, and I am like you are waking me up to show me a Bruce Willis movie? That was my first impression. This can’t be fucking real. I was just like what the hell is going on. ‘Till this day I feel sick to my stomach when I think about it. –I was supposed to fly to Mexico that day. I had the whole band and crew in my rehearsal room and everything. We had to postpone the whole tour. That wasn’t really as bad as what happened in New York. They just closed everything down. I actually talked to a guy not so long ago that saw it happen. He was actually there. And I said to myself to see it on television is frightening, but to be there.
MI-If you could design a memorial for the victims of 9-11, what would it be like?
Yngwie-I really don’t know. It is such a horrific thing. I can’t even begin to tell you how disgusted I am with that. Once again, I am not a politician, I am a musician. So, I am going to keep my views to myself for now, but let me tell you I am not a big fan of those types (politicians). MI-So here’s the next question (I love to set myself up…call it uhhh persistence) what to you think of the US involvement in the Middle East? Yngwie-Once again, I am not a politician, but I have to say one thing. Here is what I think. Either do it right or don’t do it at all. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is not being done right. You do not half ass a war. Either you do it or you don’t. You do not wage a humanitarian war. You don’t. You either do the war or you don’t. That is my opinion in short. I could go on forever about it. I am not an American, but I have lived here for 22 years. My son is born here. I feel sorely for this country, but I have to say I don’t think they are doing the right thing, because to me it is either or. (You could SWEAR Yngwie was a New Yorker.)
MI-My favorite quote of yours is ‘It isn’t a concentration camp, it is a band.’ Tell me the story about where that quote came from.
Yngwie-WHAT? I don’t recall saying that. (Timo…bad Timo (from Stratovarius).)
MI-Tell me a joke.
Yngwie-I only know dirty jokes, all my jokes are dirty. MI-Tell me a dirty one then. Yngwie-You want a really dirty one? But you can’t print this one. MI-Uhh, yeah I can. Don’t worry. (Just call me bad 😉 ).
Yngwie-Why do they call the camel the ship of the desert? MI-I dunno.
Yngwie-For liberating sea men (or semen? I should have asked more questions here).
MI-Tell me how the music business has treated you during your career.
Yngwie-Pretty badly. Yet again, not really. To be honest with you, I am a very lucky guy. I come from a small country. I didn’t fall into a trend. I still made it. All I wanted to do when I was a kid was play guitar. And in Sweden, I grew up in Sweden, nobody could give a shit. It was just like neo-classical metal-what the fuck is that type of thing, you know. So when I had the opportunity to move to America when I was nineteen, things just started happening. It was very cool. –I have had some very bad experiences with the business, especially with managers and stuff like that, ripping me off and all that you know. It is a long story, but at the same time I have accomplished way more than I ever could dream of. Some people look at the glass and wonder is it half full or half empty; I look at it as half full. I count my blessings more than I am bitter for the drawbacks. I am starting all over again. I feel like I am a kid. I feel like I have more excitement and energy going on now than ever, and I have been doing this forever (laughing), and forever is a long time. –If you really have to break it down, more good than bad.
MI-Tell me what you think about MTV.
Yngwie-I can’t really say. I don’t know. I don’t watch it. I flip on VH1 every now and again. MI-What do you think of VH1? Yngwie-I think it is pretty cool I guess, you know. They do what they want to do. There it is. If you want to get all –why the fuck didn’t they play my video, then don’t even be in the business. Once again, this is not a competition. The fact of the mater is longevity is far more valuable than a big hit. Longevity is what this is all about. If you can keep on doing this-I have played professionally for over twenty years, -you just keep it coming. People pay money for tickets to see you and they buy your album you know. Who the fuck is complaining about that! So whatever they play on VH1 is maybe not my cup of tea, but there it is. They have to make their bread too.
MI-Tell me what you think about reality TV shows, like The Osbournes, Survivor and all that stuff.
Yngwie-I watch DVD’s, or I watch Conan ‘O Brian. Conan ‘O Brian is my favorite guy (Conan are you listening?). He is the funniest guy in the world. He is the best. –So when it comes to Survivor and stuff like this, I have never watched these once. I have seen The Osbournes a couple of times, and I seem to miss the point. What is the fascination? I mean Ozzy is great. I fucking love Ozzy, but what is the fascination? Most of the time he is not even in the show. So that’s just it, it is not my cup of tea. Basically the channels I watch are The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and The Science Channel.
MI-What do you think of the new brand of metal coming out these days-for example bands like Slip Knot and Chimara?
Yngwie-Once again, I don’t have the authority to comment on that because I never really heard them. I watched a movie called Resident Evil and I thought the music was really cool, and I think that was Slip Knot. It sounded great. I thought it sounded really cool, but all I do is make music all of the time. So when I don’t make music, I have hobbies. I play tennis. I work on my cars. I watch movies. I read books. I play with my kid. I don’t go home and sit and put a cd on. I just don’t. I don’t go out and buy them either. I hate to disappoint people. (He does so buy cd’s. They just REALLY have to GRAB him. Read the next question.)
MI-What do you think it would take for true metal to make a comeback-and I am talking about bands like Deep Purple?
Yngwie-Well, Deep Purple as far as I am concerned, is the greatest rock band ever, but that was then. I hate to say it, but Purple is not Purple anymore. Two of the most important guys aren’t in there anymore, but God bless them anyway. I think what is really important is that you make music that is honest, not trendy. If you make trendy music, you are automatically off my book. I heard a band that just came out that I thought was really good, Evanescence. I thought it was the best thing that I had heard for years, and I went out and brought the record. The last time I had that impression is when I head King’s X. I went out and brought their records too, but that is a fourteen year span. So I think that the nineties were the dark ages indeed. The 1990’s was the worst time for music possible. It was really not good. That’s just the way I feel about it. –I just try to keep my flag high. I don’t have a recipe for a revival of anything.
MI-Who do you think the greatest composer is of all time?
Yngwie-It is a draw between Vivaldi and Bach.
MI-What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in the business?
Yngwie-Get a lawyer. (Makes sense to me.)
MI-You have a great voice. Why haven’t you done your own vocals over the years?
Yngwie-Well thank you. For some reason, my voice has gotten better since I have quit smoking, a lot of my new songs I am singing on actually. My voice is either bluesy or really aggressive. When I do the blues thing, that is really natural for me. I can do the operatic thing, and the funny thing is that most of the songs I write are really operatic. –I think Doogie is a great singer.
MI-If you were stuck on a desert island, and could bring one person, one book, and one cd-who and what would you bring-include your favorite bottle of liquor?
Yngwie-One person. I can’t take just one. MI-You can take two. Yngwie-My wife and my son of course. The book would be Clive Barker’s Damnation Game. Since I only drink beer, it would have to be a case of beer. Heineken. The cd would be something from Bach probably. Or Paganini, I don’t know.
MI-What about the world today pisses you off the most?
Yngwie-I think that the situation in the middle east is really pissing me off. It pisses me off really bad. Terrorism-it’s not right. If you want to wage war, wage real war-don’t be some fucking cockroach running around hiding. That’s coward bullshit. That’s basically what I feel about that and that REALLY makes me angry. If you want to wage war, wage war, fine. But if you just run and hide you are like a cockroach. You disgust me.
MI-What do you think about Bush as President?
Yngwie-You know I can’t say for sure of course but I think he is doing a pretty good job. I am not very political in that sense. Things such as the 9-11, that I really care about. It seems to me that the politics are a little too involved. There is a little too much on the table going on there, but what do I know? I am from Sweden. (I think you know plenty Yngwie.)
MI-If you were God for a week, what would you do?
Yngwie-Of course, I would take all famine and all war out. I would feed all the poor and just get rid of this tension man. What’s going on with this shit? It’s not right.
MI-Do you believe in psychics?
Yngwie-I have studied the occult for many years, and I have learned a lot about certain things-but nothing is proven. There have been so many things that have happened to me. I am not talking about the people on TV; the call in psychics. There are certain people that are gifted, yes. So I believe in psychics, yes I do.
MI-Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Yngwie-Oh many many times. I could not even get into that, but yes.
MI-Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yngwie-I would like to, I have met people that say I am an old soul and all that stuff. I can’t say that I know. Believe is one thing, but I can’t say that I know. MI-But if you did who do you think you were in a past life, and who would you like to have been in history? Yngwie-Well, I don’t know exactly but for some reason, and I don’t know why this is, every time I go Italy I feel like I am from there. When I go to Florence, I look around and I know I have been there before. It is very bizarre. I was actually talking to a psychic, and the psychic was a guy from Istanbul Turkey, and he said you are an old Roman. And I am like-okay. Interesting. So this is a very long topic. I could go on for hours, but I don’t take anything for granted. I can tell you this much; I don’t believe, but I know there is a God. Absolutely. The God from the Bible, The God from the Koran…that I don’t know if I believe in. I am not religious. But I believe that there is something bigger than us doing something. When my son was born, that was a religious experience.
MI-If you could bring a person back from the dead, who would it be?
Yngwie-It would be a tie. Bach, I am a big fan of Bach. Any of the great composers and Jimi Hendrix.
MI-Name five groups (1960’s or later) that you feel have been important to the evolution of music.
Yngwie-Hendrix. Purple. Zepplin for sure. For me, Genesis also. Early Genesis, Peter Gabriel era. Queen.
MI-When you were growing up, who did you consider to be your heroes?
Yngwie-Blackmore definitely, Ritchie Blackmore.
MI-What are your thoughts on the European Union?
Yngwie-I think it is good, I am part of it. Look, the Euro is stronger than the dollar already. Somebody is doing something right.
MI-What do you think the best thing is that ever happened to rock and roll?
MI-What do you think about things like Lollapalooza and Ozzfest?
Yngwie-No comment there.
MI-What do you consider your greatest achievement of all time?
Yngwie-The invention of the wheel (Laughing.) (Side note-if Al Gore can invent the Internet, why not?)
MI-If you had one million dollars to donate to any charity, what charity would it be?
MI-How does it feel to have Kayos as your pr? How did you wind up with Kayos?
Yngwie-You know, I don’t know that. My wife set up all that stuff so I am sure it is good.
MI-Tell me about the worst job you ever had.
Yngwie-I have never had a job. (Hey, that’s cool. I don’t think Mozart ever delivered pizza.)
MI-If you could have lunch with anybody, living or dead, who would it be?
Yngwie-I would like to have lunch with Ludwig von Beethoven, because I know he would like to drink a beer and eat macaroni and cheese.
MI-If you could be a superhero, who would it be?
Yngwie-Superman, he’s the coolest.
MI-What is your favorite book?
Yngwie-I have many favorite books. I read all of the time. I am actually sitting in the library right now. It is very difficult to say the favorite one, but once again I really dig The Dark Tower series. The last one just came out. I finished all of them, and there was no ending. I get a little pissed off about that. I am on the last one right now, but that is a really good series. The Clive Barker one again I really enjoy.
MI-What message would you like to send to your fans?
Yngwie-I love you. (We love you too. I saw the kids lined up outside the Tabernacle at G3 for you.)
MI-What is your favorite quote of all time?
Yngwie-There are two quotes. One is from Nicolo Paganini, ‘One must feel strongly to make others feel strongly.’ The other is from Amadeus Mozart, ‘Melody is music, music is melody.’ Very wise words. Then there is a quote from yours truly, ‘More is more.’ When they say less is more, that is bullshit. Less is less and more is more. Simple as that.
Thanks Yngwie. You were truly a pleasure to talk to. Go see Yngwie live. Attack is out on the shelves NOW. Try Yngwie, you can’t be disappointed.
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