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MALMSTEEN, YNGWIE


YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN "Flame On!"


Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

One of the biggest cliches in the entertainment business is to say that a certain star needs no introduction. Well, it may be a cliche, but it is often also true. Never more so than when talking about Yngwie J. Malmsteen. In the world of rock guitar, he is truly a giant.

Yngwie's reputation has sometimes been that he is "difficult" to talk to. Guess I must have lucked out then, because I found him more than willing to talk to me. I think maybe "confident" and "self-assured" are better adjectives when speaking about Malmsteen. After all, who is hell is gonna tell this guy anything about how to play guitar?!

I have not always been a huge fan of his work, but the latest scorching blaze from the Maestro, "Perpetual Flame", is one of the best...an unabashed metal album featuring the vocals of Tim "Ripper" Owens, one of the best in the biz. This has got tons of Yngwie's trademark shred and neoclassicism, but tempered by good straightforward songwriting and even restraint. It's one Malmsteen album I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Let's see what this musical pyromaniac has got cooking...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Yngwie, you have been incredibly busy this year. Would you say your career is at your peak right now?

YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN: Well, it's funny you should say that. Not only has my career not stopped, but it's been escalating the last couple of years. It's been completely mad! The whole scene's kind of changed and a lot of people are realizing that hey, this cat's doing something from the heart, you know? I'm definitely getting more attention. The new album has been making a good impression, I'm really happy about that, and the touring is going well. It's actually pretty amazing.

WC: I think in the last few years, people have also rediscovered the lead guitar. For a few years, it wasn't even fashionable to play solo.

YJM: You see, I've always keep on doing what I've always done. The environment has now changed. I think it's a combination of exposure on the Internet with video games like "Rock Band" and all that stuff. A new crop of kids are coming up who are deciding it's cool to play guitar and be in a rock band. And that's great for me. It's great for everyone who's in rock n' roll, actually.

WC: Speaking of "Rockband", what was it like working on that? Did you ever think when you started that you'd some day be in a video game?

YJM: (chuckles). No. No way, man. I couldn't have imagined it. I think it's a very cool thing, because kids will play the game and some of them will actually want to go out and buy a guitar and play for real.

WC: It's actually kind of perpetuating rock n roll itself...

YJM: Exactly. It will never die.

WC: Has your approach to playing guitar changed over the years or does it basically remain the same?

YJM: I think attitude-wise I've always been on the same track. Nothing is really good enough. I always think I can do one better. And I never think like "well, now I've got a Grammy so it's time to slow down"...I just don't do that. It involves working all the time and working hard, but for me, it's not really an option not to do that. I think I've always had the same feeling, but there's a lot more focus now.


WC: I mean it in more of a physical sense. As you get older, do you change your physical method of playing guitar?

YJM: No.In fact, I'm in better shape now than forever. The more you do, the better you get.

WC: The Fender Guitar Company has recently released a version of your "Play Loud" Stratocaster. Tell us about this collaboration.

YJM: I've been playing Fenders all my life. When I got approached to do a Signature model back in 1986, it was a great honor. They've made that guitar since 1987, but now the guys at Fender wanted to make an exact replica of the guitar I brought over here with me from Sweden when I was a kid. That guitar is very worn...it's nicknamed "The Duck". I gave the original Duck to them to use as a template. They wound up making EXACTLY the same guitar...it's virtually identical. Every scratch, every stress mark is on it. That was created by John Cruz and the guys at Fender. It's so good, it's scary.

WC: Even the sound?

YJM. Yes, exactly. It is amazing to see and hear.

WC: Your new CD is "Perpetual Flame" and I'm guessing that is a reference to your career. How do you keep that Flame burning within without getting burned out?

YJM: Every day I do something, it's like either the last time or the first time that I do it. I am very, very critical of what I'm doing and very, very passionate about what I'm doing. And it has to be that way. That automatically leads to not slacking off. I am not a slacker.(chuckles) I just keep on going like a motor that never stops. The funny thing is, I am actually getting more intense than ever. It is pretty bizarre, actually.

WC: Your new album is very classical sounding. There's no concession to anything in the modern music scene at all. Was that your goal all along for this record?

YJM: Yes and no. My goal is always to do what feels natural to me at the time. Many years ago, I did try to adapt my sound to what was going on at the time, but I never did it full out. That's just not me. One of the reasons I'm still here is because I never did really compromise, I always had a vision that I've followed...that's it.

WC: You've worked with some great vocalists over the years. What has working with Tim Owens been like? Where would you rank him?

YJM: He's amazing, he's very, very good and fits the music perfectly. He has all the power and all the range that you could want.

WC: He's going to be working with you in the future?

YJM: That's the plan, man.

WC: You also worked with the renowned Roy Z on "Perpetual Flame". What did he bring to the table on this project?

YJM: Well, I produce and engineer all of my own records. Roy was brought in to work on the mix and he did an awesome job. He's a super cool guy and we hit it off really, really good, man. I'm very pleased with what he did. We had exactly the same idea of what things should sound like. And we had a lot of laughs,too...a lot of good times.

WC: He's worked with Halford and Dickinson and has a really great idea of what classical heavy music sounds like.

YJM: Absolutely. I hope to work with him again.

WC: Is the music business as much fun for you in the digital age as it was during the 80's?

YJM: What do you mean, digital downloading or digital recording?

WC: Both.


YJM: Well, as far as downloading goes, that's out of my control, there's nothing I can do about that. But I record things in a very traditional manner. We use live drums, live guitars...everything is the real deal. I have compressors that cost twice as much as a ProTools system would cost...very, very expensive stuff. We use tubes and stuff with moving parts, very oldschool. The digital thing to me is only a watered down version of the real deal, you know.

WC: So you are completely analog in your approach?

YJM: No, we stopped using analog tape, but everything else we use...the mikes, the EQ, the compressors...has to be for real. Then we put the result on disc to edit.

WC: "Perpetual Flame" is an actual ALBUM, which all kind of flows together. Is the art of the complete album lost in this digital day and age where people buy songs one at a time?

YJM: Getting music a song at a time really limits the scope of what you are doing. I like to make albums to have a wide selection of songs, a big sonic palette.

WC: Looking back at your career, is there anything you might have done differently?

YJM: Oh, for sure! A lot of things! But that's all hindsight, you know? What I've done is what I've done and every time I did something, bad or good, it was part of a learning experience. I don't regret anything I've done, really. It's been a crazy ride, though! (laughs)

WC: Is there any goal left that you'd like to accomplish?

YJM: To me, it would be a great thing just to keep on doing what I'm doing. That's an enormous success, to just continue to do what I'm doing.

WC: Is there anything you'd like to try musically that you haven't done before?

YJM: No, I'm not looking for that so much. I just want to keep on doing what I'm doing now.

WC: If you could ask any three people in history to dinner, who would they be?

YJM: Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Paganini and Enzo Ferrari.

WC: Ferrari! Do you own any?

YJM: (chuckles) Actually, I own three. I'm a Ferrari freak. Fender and Ferrari are two of my obsessions.

WC: Any tour plans for here in the States?

YJM: Actually, we just came off an American tour, two or three days ago. We're going to head out across the world and then hope to wrap things up back here. Keep an eye on our website to stay up to date on that.

WC: What was the last CD you bought just for your listening pleasure?

YJM: I recently got the vinyl version of Rainbow's live album, the one with Ronnie James Dio.


WC: Is it fair to say that Rainbow is the biggest influence on your as far as rock goes?

YJM: I'll put it to you this way. When I was 12 years old, I went to my first concert and it was Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, with Ronnie James Dio, Cozy Powell, Jimmy Bain and Tony Carey. Needless to say, it completely blew me a way.

WC: I would have given a hand to see that line-up of the band. It's a shame that didn't last longer.

YJM: That was the ultimate right there.

WC: What was the last gig you saw because you wanted to?

YJM: Saw Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio about six months ago....well, I call it Black Sabbath, but it's really Heaven and Hell.

WC: Was that on the Masters of Metal tour?

YJM: No, it was in Miami and they were playing with Alice Cooper. It was fucking great.

WC: I saw them on the Masters of Metal tour this year and I thought they were awesome. Of all the times I have seen Black Sabbath and Dio, this was by far the best.

YJM: I agree.

WC: In your long career, have you had any Spinal Tap moments to share with the readers?

YJM: Every day. I mean, I couldn't tell you how many times I got lost looking for the stage or something blew up the wrong way or when we even wound up at the wrong venue. I get searched in the airport,too, but I don't have a cucumber in my pants...(laughter)

WC: Any final words?

YJM: I just want say that I'm really, really excited about the new album and I'm really, really excited to be back in the States. We've got Japan and South America coming up, but we'll be back to the States for sure. Check out "Perpetual Flame", you won't be disappointed!