Shawn Macomber of Decibel magazine recently conducted an interview with legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Decibel: Do you think creating space in your life for non-musical pursuits helps keep your work as a musician fresh and vital?
Yngwie: Well, yes. And as a creator, as a songwriter, as a composer, as a performer, keeping the work fresh and inspired is the most important thing. I never want to just go through the motions. When I go onstage, I don't play a single song the same way from one night to the other. Never. It's always different. Other cats, it's completely the reverse — everything is planned, pre-molded, predetermined. If it was this way for me, I would've hung it up a long time ago. Playing the same set the same way every night would drive me fucking bananas, to be honest. And when I say "not the same way," I don't mean I'm going to start playing jazz or any shit like that. No! It's just that there are large portions of my music that is improvised, and in that improvisation there is constant evolution and life. I didn't get into music to just meet whatever people's expectations are — that holds no interest for me whatsoever. I always want to be pushing forward. I'll tell you another thing: Every night I make a new set list. Ten, fifteen minutes before the show I say to the guys, "Alright, here's the set for tonight." The tour manager prints it up, puts it all over the stage, right? And guess what? I don't follow that fucking list, either!
Decibel: As the years go on, do you find yourself seeking out different sources of inspiration or are you basically still drawing from deeper depths of the same classical well?
Yngwie: It is a difficult question to answer exactly because the music I write really is not the result of anything in the environment so far as I can tell: When I pick up a guitar, it's like standing before a blank canvas. I never think, "Now I am going to plat X kind of thing." I begin to play — I always just play, never practice — and it is like I become completely detached from myself; almost more a listener hearing a set of chain reactions than the one setting them off. It is very strange, I admit. Then, here is this new thing. And if this new thing inspires or excites me, it urges on this other aspect I just described. In the best moments there is a mysterious channeling. At the same time, it can't be forced. If all you do is play guitar trying to force something special into existence, the opposite is more likely to happen — that is, nothing. I spend a lot of time on producing, on writing lyrics; I play bass, keyboards, drums; I sing — I do all sorts of shit separate from playing guitar. Lyrics? Okay, those are naturally all based in something I've seen or read or heard. But the music has its own thing going on. Most of the time I feel like I am only along for the ride.
Decibel: Let's talk about the memoir you released last year, "Relentless". Why was this the right time to tell your story?
Yngwie: Actually, I was toying with the idea for the longest time, but I didn't really start writing until 2006. The main reason I wanted to tell this story is because I figured there had to be at least a couple people out there interested in knowing the real deal of what I'm about and how I got to where I am. There have been so many things written about me from the outside looking in, but there's only one person in the world who can tell this story as it actually happened, and that person is me. How is someone else going to explain to you in any detail how I felt when I was seven years-old walking though fucking twenty foot of snow? Or how I evolved, stylistically, from liking the blues when as a kid to finding Bach and Vivaldi and Paganini? I mean, it's a very unlikely story when you think about it. I'm from a little shithole up near the Arctic circle in Europe and nobody fucking does anything there — I mean, they weren't back in those days anyway. It's part of a pretty good scene now. I dunno…for those who want to know the truth — good, bad, and everything in between — it's in there.
Read the entire interview at Decibel magazine.