Interview: Yngwie Malmsteen


Swedish guitar maestro Yngwie Malmsteen tells Mark Crampton why he put the 'ice' on his recording deal with Polydor and how his new album has put the 'fire' back into his playing.

Self-indulgent twat!? Or Musical Messiah!? Swedish guitarist YNGWIE MALMSTEEN is regarded by many as a bit of an 'ego' maniac. From his debut appearance on the scene in the mid-eighties with ALCATRAZZ up to and including a prolific solo career that has now spawned six studio albums, he's taken a hammering at the hands of critics, but still retains a loyal fan base who regard him as one of the last real 'guitar heroes.'

Having now broken away from his record contract with Polydor Records, his latest album Fire And Ice is released through his new label Elektra, part of the Warners stable. Yngwie regards the change of label as an extremely good career move.

"I believe that it was probably the best thing I ever did. I did get treated extremely badly by Polygram. They didn't promote me whatsoever. I was very upset about that. So I basically told them to fuck off!"

Malmsteen's last album Eclipse, apparently suffered badly because of this lack of promotion. Even when it was released in the States there was no follow up. Japan on the other hand was a different story.

"In Japan Eclipse went platinum because they played it on the radio and shit – so that's the only way you can do it. If you don't get exposure you can't sell any albums. That's a fact of life. And I didn't get any exposure so I decided to go somewhere else."

Musical satisfaction is Yngwie's key goal and as one of the sole remaining exponents of the neo-classical style (pioneered a decade earlier by the likes of Ritchie Blackmore) he's very self-determined and does things the way he wants to do them.

"I think that's the only way to do it because you've got to be true to yourself, and I feel very good about this record. It has a broad spectrum of very different types of song on it, from the Pop type songs like Teaser to the instrumentals, which are very complex."

In comparison to his last two efforts, notable Odyssey, which featured PURPLE crooner Joe Lynn Turner, Fire And Ice is much more self-indulgent, although as Yngwie points out, each track has it own little value.

The album even features the use of a full string orchestra on one of the songs. Although Classical and Rock are seen by the establishment as being at separate ends of the musical spectrum, both in terms of attitude and style, Yngwie believes the marriage of the two works perfectly with the way he approaches his writing.

"You can utilise the harmonies and the chord progressions and the melodies from it. What I play is like Classical music in a more aggressive way and I think you can get quite a nice combination of the two."

Having a reputation for hiring and firing, much like Ritchie Blackmore in his RAINBOW days, it does seem that Yngwie's current line-up is a tad more stable.

"It's exactly the same as the last album but we've changed drummers because our last drummer Svante Henrysson got very ill. Our new drummer’s a guy called Bo Warne, who's also a Swedish guy.”

So is the 'Swedish' factor an elemental part of the stability?

"When I did the last album Eclipse, I figured I’d try to do the whole thing like brand new and all Swedish, and it seems to me like it really works. Most of the time I record one album with one line-up then I change it. Now I've got Goran Edman who can really sing."

Yngwie and his Scandinavian cohorts now seem to for the nucleus of 'a band.' But the man still has the main difficulties of being perceived as a solo artist, a tag that immediately encourages accusations of self indulgence and intolerance.

"I am a solo artist," affirms the Swede. "The reason I call it YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and nothing else is because I write all the music, all the lyrics, and produce it myself. I really work very hard on it and I figure that it should be called that. But on stage and on tour, hangin' out drinking beer and shit, y'know we're definitely a band. In the creative sense I consider myself more like a solo artist."

Compared to the situation Yngwie found himself with in ALCATRAZZ quite some time ago, he's obviously more in control of what he wants to do. But, in order to gain the marketable popularity which he strives for, wouldn't it be best of Yngwie hung up his solo ego and put himself back in a band situation again?

"Not in the neat future. I have no intention to do that. Maybe in a couple of years I'll want to slow down my thing. I'm very happy with what I'm doing right now so I've no intention of changing it."

Yet there must be times when the axeman would like to switch control on certain things under the pressure of having to handle everything himself.

"In the end the reward is very good but until it's done there's a shit load of work, psychological pressure, et cetra. I put it all on myself because I'm a perfectionist y'know and I have very high goals and standards about what I want to do."

But how perfect can Yngwie get?

"Well, I've got no choice. That's just the way I am."

On to the subject of studios: it transpires that Fire And Ice was recorded in Criteria Studios in Miami (where the Eclipse album was recorded) and mixed at JIMI HENDRIX's Electric Lady Studios in New York with initial overdubs taking place in Polar Studios in Stockholm.

Yngwie has a house in Florida and is in the process of actually building a studio where he intends to record the next album. Does the guitarist spend any time at all in his native Sweden though?

"No," comes the reply. "I've lived in America for nine years and I've totally moved out of Sweden."

So, is Yngwie a tax exile like Swedish compatriots EUROPE? On the subject of EUROPE, Malmsteen quips back.

"I have my financial deals well under control so I have no problem with that."

In this day and age of faceless musicians would he then classify himself as a guitar hero of sorts?

"I've never really been interested in other guitar players," comes his elitist response, "because that's not my main influence. My main influence is Classical music, mainly Bach and Paganini. That's really what I like to listen to if I listen to music in the car or whatever."

Roll over Beethoven!

Mark Crampton
Riff Raff
March, 1992
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