Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Yngwie J. Malmsteen

Interview by Marko Syrjälä & Luxi Lahtinen
Intro & pictures by Marko Syrjälä

Additional help for the questions by Faith Nezad, Jared a.k.a. "thrashassult"
and Jake a.k.a. "ColdHateWarmBlood" - THANKS guys!!

Well it's been a very long time since Yngwie's last visit in Finland. This guy is a living legend and one of the best guitar players who is still around. This interview was done last August in Helsinki when he was doing promotional tour to support his latest masterpiece ATTACK!!.vLot's of interesting comments here … ENJOY!!

When you were coming up with the songs for this new "Attack" album, what kind of things actually inspired or influenced you when you were composing single riffs and melody lines and stuff like that for it?

In fact the only concept I had was no concept. I just let it flow. And the fact I didn't had any outside influences from anybody or anything was one of the reasons why that album came out sounding very fresh.



So you were kind of improvising things when you wrote these songs?

I always do it anyway. That´s for sure…



Has somebody else from your band written any songs for the new album?

No. It's all done by me.



How would you describe this new album?

Have you heard it?

Yes, I have.

Isn't it better if you describe it then?!


I think it is.

But how would you describe it by your own words...?

No, I mean that's not a thing. I can't describe it cause it's my music and that's my creation. The only one who can describe it in words is you. Cause you are the journalists and the media. Of course I can describe my own music, but it's not the right thing to do. So you can do it on behalf of me, right?!

Right… yeah… I guess so…

What I can say is that this album is very fresh. I think it feels very inspired and new. That's all I can tell you how I feel about that album.



On this new album you really have a great sound and production unlike your previous album War To End All Wars which was really muddy and kind of like, eh, "unclear…". What went wrong with the production for that album indeed?

Thank you!(?) Well, what actually happened... I was really like a… to put it simply: Two different things happened. One was that I had an idea of making a really heavy album. A lot darker, a lot heavier and maybe even slightly into the same vein what some other bands were doing that time. That was a big mistake. And the other mistake was that I hired an engineer who hardly knew what he was doing. For example I don't feel that drums were recorded very well at all. They should never have been recorded that way and there were lots of things like that. The funny thing in here is that studio where drums were recorded back then, the actual drum kit itself is the same drum kit in the very same studio we used for the Attack!! album. And everything we recorded there, I mean the vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, etc. - everything was recorded in the same studio as well. All the mixing was done in the same studio. But as you can hear there is a big difference there which happened because I was very critical and concerned this time. I was very critical for the sound and I hired an extremely good engineer named Brian Fitzpatrick whom I have been working with before and he really did a good job this time.



What kind of things actually inspires or influences you mostly?

I don't have outside influences on my album at all. I´m totally free of influences. That's why I don't listen to any music. A: It's not interesting and B: I don't want to be influenced by anybody. In fact, that was one small problem I had when I was doing War to End All Wars album cause I started of doing those tuning down things and that's not me. The music is totally free from any influence except Bach, Vivaldi and stuff like that because it's hardware in my head you know… But the lyrics obviously get influenced in advance - anything from the history books to current events, feel, anger and everything...



Yes, there are lot of influences from books and old stories I have to admit it as well… (I'm a Viking, too, so I know, -he-he!!)

"I hate the internet, I think it's horrible. I think it's the fuckin´ Devil."
- Y.J.M.

Yes, there are. I don't use computers. In fact, I hate computers; I hate the internet, I think it's horrible. I think it's the fuckin´ Devil. I read books a lot, I make my living playing a piece of wood you know. I'm not filling in with the ´Generation X´ thing or whatever it's called anyway. I'm not from that world - I' m from a different world. I'm from the world where you actually do something; you think, use your brain, you create something. So I don't get enforced by the shit which is coming out from TV and fuckin' computers you know? It's really seriously declaiming people´s minds are tearing like fucking rolling apples y' know because nobody's using their brains anymore. Nobody takes a challenge anymore. "Maybe I should actually try to become good at something?". "No, let's just tune guitars down and play fuckin´ ´nu-metal…´. Please, sorry… it's not a good thing.



How are your touring plans this time? Is Scandinavia and especially Finland included this time? It's been seven years since your last visit in here anyway…

Well, the thing is that I don't book the tours. On my last world tour I was even in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Turkey, Greece and basically all over the place - almost every city in the Europe except here in Finland. And I don't know why we never came in here?!



Do you have the same guys playing in a touring band who also played on this album?

Definitely, except the bass player…



How about Derek Sherinian… because I happen to know that he is also touring with Billy Idol at the same time...?

Well, the thing is that he's not probably with us in the first half of the tour because he can't come. But as soon as he can he will come.



When is this new album is going to be released officially?

It's coming out 4th of September in Japan, 16th of September in Europe and in the States around beginning of October. Something like that…



Is there going to be some extra songs for Japanese fans this time around?

Just one song…

Is that song going to be released sometime in the rest of the world also as a single B-side or something…?

Probably yes. It's a pretty cool song called "Nobody's Fool", but... on the other hand, you don't miss much really.



How about your new singer, Doogie White. How did you find him to sing for you?

The thing is, he found me…

Did he contact you personally?

Yes, he did. I met him first time when we played together with Rainbow back in 1995. We met very briefly then like "Hi…! How are doing?!" - and then I did a show in London about a year ago and he came to the show and we just talked to each other a lot then. The band I had at the time, I got rid of them then and... I still had a full South American tour to do. So we put together a band from there with Doogie, Derek, Patrick and Mick Servo.



You have had many great and talented vocalists in your band during all these years. How high do you rank Doogie in your long list of singers anyway?

Very highly! I think he is very good in my opinion.

Maybe the best one you've had so far…?

Well, for the thing we are doing now he is definitely the best.



What do you think of newer neoclassical players such as Alexi Laiho from Children Of Bodom, for example?

Who is he?!

Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom Finland . He is also such a big name for example in Japan these days - very skilled guitar player indeed!!

What was his name again…?! No. Never heard of him. But don't get me wrong. I haven't kept eye on those things. I mean, I'm usually so busy that I'm not able to listen to other ´rock bands´ or musicians really. It's not my thing and I just don't do it.



Do you even follow happenings in the Swedish music scene at all?

No, not at all. I've been living in America 20 years now, so… Actually this the same question as the previous one. I just don't have much time and also I'm not interested at all. Because I spend so much time with my music I don't listen to music. I prefer watching movies or reading books to listening to music when I have free time.



You have always done a lot of these guitar clinics around the world. What does it give for you?

It's a kind of interesting little thing to do 'cause you get to talk with kids and everything. Actually I do them quite often. Next is going to be next Monday in Stockholm. My clinics are quite different compared to my shows because I'm using backing tapes that are kind of cool and I just play live lead guitars on top of it. It's a very nice little setup what I do. I do some of the classics, some new stuff, some examples of my scales and everything. And it's all cool.



Are you going to release any promotional videos from the new album, by the way?

That's the plan.

From which song or songs?

I don't know. I haven´t decided yet.



About your first band in the U.S… it was called Steeler…

I already had a couple of bands before Steeler in Sweden. The first band was called Burn in 1976. And then I had a band called Power; after that Powerhouse and The Rising Force and then I moved to United States and joined to Steeler. I think I was in Steeler about 15 minutes anyway…

I see… Anyway, your name was printed on the album cover…

Unfortunately yes. You had some question about Steeler…?

Yes, actually I was a bit curious about your ex-singer named Ron Keel. How did you liked him and are you still in contact with him?

Well, let's put it this way. My nickname for him was "Wrong Key", so… I'm not in contact with him.



Ha, what a great nick name!! Do you feel that you've sacrificed something from your life because of your career?

What you actually mean by that…?

What I meant is that have you given up for something because of your musical career?

I think that especially in the beginning of the career you have to sacrifice a lot of things. Sometimes everything. I mean when everyone else is out and having a party, chasing girls and stuff like that, I was just home playing guitar. But I didn't mind. Some people might think that was a sacrifice, but I didn't. There's nothing from nothing. You can't get anything if you don't do anything. If you wanna reach something worthwhile, you just have to be really good at something; you've to work for it, y´know.



This question actually comes off one of our readers. Mr. Malmsteen, is there a song that you would say is your signature song that really defines what you're all about?

No. I couldn't go that far to say that because it's simply impossible. There are many things that I can do with my guitar and things that I can't do. And things I can't do people don't know about because I never do it. Because I tend to make records that are into that one style and that´s what most people are used to hear from me and that's the way it is. But you probably take one song off the albums and it may give you a good idea.

As for my ´neo-classical style´, I guess a song called "Far Beyond The Sun" might be a good example about that or... well, not "Black Star", but maybe… oh well, I just don't remember now. But there´s also a bluesy side in me as well. For example "Freedom" from my new album has completely different vibe there. You just can't say one song really, y´know.



When you are listening your older albums...

What… ?! When I listen to them… !?

Yes, you…!

I NEVER do that!!

Really…? Why on earth!?

Never. I'm just not interested in listening to them any more…

Not even when you're practicing for tours and stuff like that…?!


At least I assume you have to teach some stuff for your band mates?

Yes, I have to do that. That's sometimes hard. Usually I just say: "Here is the list of songs - Learn it!!". Because it's not fun for me at all to show and teach things like that for them , y´know.



This might take some time from you, but if you could give us a brief comment of each of your studio albums next… here goes the first one:

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This album here is really interesting because it started a new wave for instrumental guitar music. It wasn't my choice to make an instrumental album. Because I was still in Alcatrazz and I got this deal and the record company said that you can't have a singer on it. I just said: "Fuck this and that…" and did it anyway. So actually to me "Marching Out" could have been the first one. But that sold so well that decided to release it anyway.

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Well, "Marching Out" is more of a standard rock album.
It's pretty cool for the time.

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This was the first album when I really started concentrating on my songs and basically taking care of a bit more about my song writing, lyrics and stuff.

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That album was done when there was a period in my life when I was very down. It was a very horrible time in my life. There was a low point of my life. It was all about bad things in my life - everything seemed to be negative for me. That's why I don't like that album too much even if there are some good songs on it and it was selling very well in America.

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This one is a very cool album because I kind of started all things again. Really fresh album and everything was new and interesting again. I moved to the new place, had a new band and did a good melodic album.

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That one is also pretty cool. It's a little darker album and maybe a little less inspired, but it's still ok album.

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That one has its good moments, too…

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Well… I don't like that so much. Nothing else to say about it really…


There are a couple of good songs on that one. And there was that sad Cozy Powell thing. Cozy was a great man.

That was quite cool. A little crazy guitar playing there…


I think this album has very good songs. But I missed the point there with trying to go on with a really hard stuff. Has a heavy and dark sound, but unfortunately did not have a good engineer. But I'm telling you there still are a bunch of great songs on that particular album and when we played them live, they really sounded brilliant. These are great live songs. The heaviest album I've done - that´s for sure…



What about those old Alcatrazz albums. Do you have some ´golden memories´ from that era, too?

Well, it felt like a fuckin´crazy rollercoaster sometimes. I was nineteen years old back then and I came from a little town from Sweden. I came from a totally different world when moved to America years ago. Well, at least we had some good songs and funny song titles back in the day…



When you are playing your old songs live, do you still get sort of a magical or nostagic old feeling that you had when you wrote all that stuff?

Not really. When I play some stuff that is let's say, ten years old or so, I always put some new twist in it. I never do them exactly the same way as they were originally done. Every time I play a solo, it's always improvised one way or another. So to me my stuff is never old, it's always new. I never plan those things - it just happens, you know…



OK our time is up now. Thank you very much and hopefully see you soon!!

Thank you and see ya!!

Official Site: www.yngwie.org

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