Talking with Yngwie Malmsteen is more than a great and interesting experience; It’s a real honour. On the ocassion of his brand new album “Relentless”, the virtuose guitar player reveals at Metalpaths.com the steps he follows to create a classic Malmsteen album and on the other hand he travels us back in time remembering the “Hear ‘n’ Aid” project and his cooperation with Ronnie James Dio.
You can also listen to the audio format of the interview here. (We apologize for some technical problems that we had during the first minutes of the interview.)
My first question is about your previous release “High Impact”. Did this album reach your expectations?
Yeah I think it’s a good album. You know… it’s a really good compilation of songs.
Moving on the new album, is there a tag you could put to it? How would you describe it and what should the fans expect from it?
Well the title says it all, really! It’s “Relentless”, completely insane! I’ve been doing this for many, many, many years! One would think that someone who does it for so many years would become a little slower and stuff like that, it is exactly the opposite. Have you heard it?
Yes I have. It was really great; I would like to congratulate you!
Thank you very much! It is obviously hard to describe music in words, but we had lots of different things going on, its not just song-song-song, it’s got a lot of light shade, so it’s an interesting record I think. It has a lot of energy and the guitar playing is completely ridiculous! So, I enjoyed making this one, and I enjoy making it still, so I hope you like it.
Would you like to tell us a few words about the composing process of the songs; what steps did you follow to create a Malmsteen album?
Well, the way I’ve always done it, I write everything! Including lyrics, melodies, vocal melodies, drums… Sometimes I even play all the parts, in some other stuff I play all the drums and keyboards and everything on the record. I had the luxury of owning my own studio. So, whenever I am inspired I just go up there and I record right away, trying to capture the moment or whatever I think it is… See the way it was done in the past was that you write the songs, then you rehearse the songs, then you go to the studio you put the drums, the guitars, and that is not really a good way to make records. This is actually my first album that I have done everything in one place, so I liked the freedom of being able to change things whenever I wanted to, so it flows you know….
It is also the second time with Tim Ripper Owens on the vocals. Would you like to comment on this? What are your memories from your last cooperation?
It is the same thing you know… If it works out I keep it, if it doesn’t work out I change it.
You are a virtuoso guitar player and I bet that most of the fans listen to your albums because they want to listen to the guitar parts of each album. It is also true that you have also composed some awesome instrumental songs; however it seems that you prefer having vocals in your songs, do you think that music becomes stronger when there are vocals or do you think that fans like it more?
Of course I want the fans to like what I do, but I have to like what I do first. So, if I feel like doing an instrumental, I do an instrumental. There is one thing that a lot of people seem to misunderstand; even when the singer is singing, it is my song, I wrote it. It is like Sebastian Bach; he composed a concerto for a flute, the flutter is playing the flute, but it’s Bach’s composition. The same thing, if I feel that I want to write a song that someone else sings it; it’s still my expression, my song, and people some time think that I bring a singer to write things for me. No I write everything.
Which song is the most representative of the new album in your opinion?
There is not one. In fact I was just in New York, doing a lot of promotion and they asked me: “Hey play one song that is gonna be representative of the album”, and I said no, you can’t, it’s impossible! The way I like to make records is that every song is a part of a puzzle, if you take one out it’s not the same, if you put one in, or show one part, it’s not the same; everything together makes the record.
Let’s go back in time; everybody knows that you are heavily influenced by classic music, that’s something really obvious in your songs. Taking this for granted could we say that “Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra” was a dream that came true?
Yes, of course. The thing is that when I write rock and roll, or heavy metal records, whatever you want to call it, I write the same way; it is just that I put drums and stuff like that on it. It’s the same type of musical expression. I love the melodies and the complexities and the harmony and the counterpoints of classic music. If you listen to this album I just put out now, “Relentless”, it has more classical elements in it. A lot of it is classical, you just listen to the counterpoints, or stuff like this. So, the way I do this is just a different ensemble. When I do it for a full orchestra of course then it is for a full orchestra, but at the same time it is very similar the way I approach it.
So, what are your expectations for your new album in general?
I expect it to change the world forever! No (Laughing)! I just hope that people listen to it because it’s a very strong artistic expression for me. It is what I am, it is what I do; it’s showing who I am and what I am. It is pretty much opening myself out there, it’s from the heart, it’s from the soul… This is no: “Oh, I am trying to do something to please other people”, no! This is my art and if you like it I’m very happy, but if you don’t like it there’s nothing I can do.
I was wondering if such a successful artist like you has still dreams to fulfil…
The thing is that I’ve done about fifteen interviews per day now for a couple of weeks and my answers are getting a little boring to me because I’m saying the same thing, but I have to say this… When I came to America I brought one guitar and a toothbrush with me, you know, and I had no expectations, I just knew that I had to leave Sweden. This was many years ago, and the fact that I made it so big and I made it on my own terms and I’ve done it for so long, is completely mind boggling to me and I am very, very happy about that. See, a lot of people make it really big right? But they don’t stay around, they kind of go away, and I haven’t, I am still doing it, you know, and it’s amazing! To me carrying on what I’m doing would make me more than happy.
Your presence on the “Hear ‘n’ Aid” project was one of the most special you had, could you tell us your memories about it?
I remember I flew into L.A. from Copenhagen, I was touring Europe, and I sat there waiting to do couple of things with Brad Gillis and George Lynch, they were there before me and then I was coming in to do my thing. One of them took like four hours and the other one two hours, and I sat there waiting, waiting, waiting…. And when I entered the studio, from the point that I walked in to the point that I walked out it was fifteen minutes. I never knew how other people do things. I don’t take that kind of time, I’m very spontaneous, I put it down and that’s it. There is no way I can do a better one, because that was the best I could do. A lot of guys say they like to make it over and over again, I don’t do that.
Would you like to tell us a few words about Ronnie James Dio and how was it like cooperating with him?
God bless him for what he’s done… He was a very dear friend, I am still very sad about it… When I was twelve years old I saw my first concert and it was Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio and Richie Blackmore and it was amazing. When I first came to America, when I was just a teenager, I met Ronnie after two days being here and we were friends ever since then. He was the most wonderful person and the greatest rock and roll singer of all times. I am so proud that I did things with him and he was my dear friend, and god bless him forever.
You were also the last to work with Cozy Powell before he passed away. He did an amazing job on Facing the Animal, could you tell us some things about him and his strong personality?
He was also my favourite. He was extremely professional, an extremely nice guy. I did a show right at the end of the tour of “Inspiration” in Wembley in England. So, I did my show and the next morning I went to do a rehearsal to do the show with the band in Wembley. Cosy was on drums and I think Mick Cervino on the bass. We really hit it off you know… I am a Ferrari freak, I collect Ferraris, and he used to have Ferraris and we started talking about that, and I said: “listen, when I go back to Miami I am going to record an album and you can play drums in it”. So, he came to me a couple of months later and we recorded the album and then I said to him in my kitchen: “Listen, I am not asking you, I’m telling you, you are coming on the road with me!”. So he said ok and then the rehearsal comes and his drums and everything is in Miami already, and then he doesn’t turn up and he calls me a little bit later; he was very sad and upset on the phone. Even though he came to Miami he had to go right back because he had some problems with his girlfriend, and then the day after he was dead, so the sock was unbelievable… He was amazing…
Closing this “back in time” chapter, what would your advice be to some new guitar players in order to build their own style and sound?
Well one thing you could do to get your own sound is to stop copying me (Laughing)! I am just saying this as a joke. I think that it’s good to learn on what other people are doing, to build up a technique and stuff like that… But you have to find yourself, you know, which is actually more difficult than you would think. To be unique is probably more difficult than anything, so I don’t know how to give people advice on that, I think that that’s their own thing.
How difficult was it for you to build your own style?
I didn’t even try, I didn’t even think about it… All I knew was that other guitar players sounded like they are playing the Blues, and I didn’t want to play the Blues. So, I incorporated Nicolo Paganini and Vivaldi and Sebastian Bach in my playing, which made me what I am today. That’s what I did, and if you do that you will end up doing what I did, so that is not what you should do, you should do something else.
So, what are your future plans? Are you going to schedule a tour promoting the new album?
Yes of course, right now I am doing like sixteen interviews a day and my head is spinning around already! We had to do a little Christmas with the family here, decorated palm trees, and on January I’m releasing “Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Marshalls”, which is brand new. Then we’re gonna do some touring, I don’t know exactly where, but we are.
Can we hope for a live show in Greece? You know that you have a lot of fans here…
I would love to come back, I’ve been there a few times, I wanna come back!
What are your memories since your last visit in Greece?
It was great! Amazing audience…
So, Yngwie is there anything else you would like to add in conclusion?
Just that I hope you guys like the album and I see you on the road!
Interview by: Karagiannidis Panagiotis.
Transcribed by: Elpida Petraki.