Classic Rock Revisted recently conducted an exclusive interview with legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. An excerpt from the chat follows:
Classic Rock Revisted: You have developed a reputation that you are difficult to work with.
Yngwie: "That is why it is called Yngwie Malmsteen. I am creating something that to me is art. I am like a painter who paints the whole picture. I am like a classical composer. A composer does not just write the main melody; he writes the cello parts and the choir parts — he composes every orchestrated part in the entire sound spectrum. That is also what I do but I do it in the form or rock 'n' roll.
"People who say Yngwie is hard to work with are frustrated because they are not in this situation anymore. Obviously, they wouldn't say it if they were still with me. If you speak to Doogie [White] or Patrick [Johansson], they would not say that. They went in knowingly and willingly ready to be guided through exactly everything that was supposed to be done. It is not like we make these records by just setting up and jamming. When we are doing a soundcheck on stage then we jam a lot and we have a great time but when it comes to the records we don't do that. I take it very seriously. I look at it like I am leaving a testament behind. This is something that an archeologist is going to look at in 2000 years when I am fucking dust. I really look at it like that.
"Every time I have used a co-producer or had someone come in and write the lyrics or even had a bass player on the record, I walked away unhappy — every single time. I walked away a little bit less overworked because I left things to other people. Now, I work so fucking hard at this that it is insane. Sometimes it is hard to have perspective because I am so inside of it. I usually work really hard on an album and then I leave it as good as it can be. A year later I will listen to it and think that I should have done something different. So far, I am still very happy with 'Unleash the Fury', mistakes and all. To me, art is an expression so if I play a note and the string is scratchy or I sing a phrase that is not perfect, I often leave it because it is what it is. The same thing goes with the other guy's performance as well but what they do is a little bit more scripted. My guitar solos, on the other hand, are completely improvised. It is difficult for me to explain because when people think rock music they think Steven Tyler and Joe Perry or Blackmore/Gillan. Rock music is always the guitar player coming up with the riff and then the band and singer do whatever they want. That is just the way it is but in my situation it is not that way."
Classic Rock Revisted: I like the analogy between what you do and a painter. Take Van Gogh, for instance. He had such a unique style that when he painted outside of that style it is often forgotten. Do you ever feel trapped that you have to stay inside of your style?
Yngwie: "No, I don't — that is a very good question and I am going to try and answer it the best that I can. I am a very fortunate man. Not a day goes by where I don't say to myself, 'How the fuck did I manage to pull this one off?' I am from an obscure country — I am from fucking Sweden. When I grew up in Sweden in the '70s, the concept of becoming a musician was not possible. Becoming a musician who did something outside the realm of normal was unheard of — you just didn't fucking do that. There was a lot of 'cut your hair and get a job'-type shit.
"When I got the chance to come to the United States, which has almost been 25 years ago, I jumped at it. I left everything behind. I left my girlfriend. I left my cat and my apartment. I even left my band that I had at the time. I had the feeling that I would not have to flip burgers to live. I thought that I could actually now make music and be able to make a living. The fact that it is 20-some odd years later and I am sitting here talking to you because I did what I did on my own terms. From day fucking one I did it on my own terms. I knew this was what I wanted to do and I knew I would do it come hell or high water. I don’t feel at all trapped because this is what I do.
"In the '80s there were a couple of moments where I thought I should write something so I could get played on MTV — I did do that. On every record, I really have done what I wanted to do. Now, this album and the one before it called 'Attack', I really feel that I went to town with the creativity of things. God knows what else it will lead to. There is a certain style that I am known for and I know that. What is a blessing for me is that it is the style that I like to play in. I love to play the blues but I just do it more for fun. I am very particular to the things I really like, whether it is this or cars or whatever. I chose one thing and then I stay with it and that is it."
Read the entire interview at ClassicRockRevisited.com.