By: Tracy Forsyth-Lundy
On June 30th, 1963 a legendary guitarist was born into the world in Stockholm, Sweden by the name of Yngwie Malmsteen. The music industry was forever going to be changed as he morphed into the status of an iconic musician over his many successful years as one of the world’s greatest guitar players EVER.
Not one critic could ever deny that Yngwie Malmsteen plays with pure passion & soul each time he steps onto the stage or into the studio. His unique style and sound have inspired many a young guitarist to be a perfectionist in their craft & strive for greatness.
On October 14th, 2008 history was made yet again with the release of Yngwie’s new album titled ‘Perpetual Flame’; the first album from Yngwie in 3 years. ‘Perpetual Flame’ is loaded with 12 tracks of six string metal heaven; produced and engineered by the one and only Yngwie himself. Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth front man) also joined forces with Yngwie on this latest project which adds even more depth to the album.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a bit of time with Yngwie to ask him about his new album, his tour and his views on the music industry today.
TFL: So you have a brand new album ‘Perpetual Flame’.
TFL: 12 awesome tracks, I’ve heard them all – love them all! I’ve been a fan for many years & I can’t thank you enough for the fabulous music you have given me in my lifetime and I’m so excited for the next generation to see what you DO have to offer.
YM: Well thank you very much (chuckling)
TFL: Now – 12 track…how long did you work on your new album?
YM: Ok this is a good question because in a normal way and through out the years I have been doing this it goes in cycles. Let’s say you do a tour & come back from the tour – the tour is finished; now I’m just writing songs and I’m sitting down in my studio and I put together songs. Then I demo them and make them as good as I want, then I go to the studio to record the drums, then I put guitars and bass on, then I write the lyrics; then I have the singer come in & he sings the lyrics and then I mix it – and then I go on tour. OK this time what I did was I started writing songs when I was on a break or what ever, then it got to the point where I said to my drummer ‘Hey let’s go to the studio’; I have the luxury of having 2 studios – one with a really big sound stage and one where the rest is done and stuff. Anyways, let’s go and do the live drums – so we go in and do the live drums & as soon as the live drums are finished – we went on tour! Which is very unusual! I came back from the tour and I heard the songs & I listened to them a little differently and then I did some guitars, bass and keyboards and I went on tour to some different places like Moscow, Istanbul and places like this. I put a little strings on, I put a strings section from Istanbul played on some of the songs. Then I came back; the songs started taking on a life – I wrote the songs like ‘Death Dealer, ‘Live to Fight’ and ‘Damnation Game’ because I write all of the lyrics and everything and that is when I realized that the singer I had was definitely not going to cut it.
YM: So I got together with Tim and he came in and sang it & it sounded amazing; so we did some more takes and then we went on the road (laughing). Then we came back and we finished it and then we went back on the road again. So it’s been a very very different way of making a record. I started quite a long time ago but it wasn’t a start and finish record like I normally would or actually most people do.
TFL: Do you have a favorite album of yours at all?
YM: Well, obviously as far as Rock goes – this is my favorite album, but I’ve had I think throughout the years the albums have been not necessarily a reflection of where I’ve been in my life but it’s been a result of it. In fact what I did used to be times in my life where you know where my life was really in shambles. You know I had my years of drinking too much and all of that shit so I think that – all of that now; looking back – reflects on the records. Some of them are better than others. As far as Rock though I’ve never been as focused as I am now, my vision and my focus is so uncluttered you know. I’ve never been so sharp before you know and that shines through on this record.
TFL: How much has your love for Classical music influenced your career?
YM: I’d say pretty much all of it you know as far as music goes. As far as influences – that’s all my influences I don’t have any other influences
TFL: Well anybody who knows your music knows you are very heavily influenced by Classical and I’ve always wondered about that. When Judas Priest released ‘Nostradamus’ you could hear the classical as well – the strings, violins, harps & when I was talking with Ian Hill he agreed that it’s probably the most mature album they have ever released. I’m just seeing this become more and more so with all of MY icons; Maiden, Priest, Malmsteen – all of your work is so refreshing & it’s so full of substance and meaning. As an Editor and a music fan I’m finding a lot of the newer bands are just lacking that substance & lacking…I wouldn’t say passion because I believe they are passionate about what they do BUT the lack of experience and the lack of road time even living life. They can’t possibly write and release what you guys are because you are decades ahead of them – you understand?
YM: Yeah – I see exactly what you mean. I never used to think in that type of way but I agree with you 100%. Maybe it’s because (laughing) I’ve been in it for so long but you know it doesn’t get any worse unless of course you’re I don’t know are on a different course; a collision course with abuse and all that shit. If music is your focal point, you can only get better.
TFL: How long did it take you to reach the speed that you play your guitar?
YM: Oh I don’t know, I never thought of that really. I’ve always considered being an instrumentalist whether you are a guitar player or whatever – as a vocabulary… you should not be limited to one or the other. By that I don’t mean that speed is everything because it certainly isn’t; you have to be able to express the notes in vibrato and pitch you know it’s all just very very important. You have to be able to express & you HAVE to have the craft.
TFL: If you could collaborate with ANY artist – Living or Passed – who would it be?
YM: Johann Sebastian Bach
TFL: It would be hey!
YM: Oh yes!
TFL: I wasn’t sure if you were going to pick Jimi Hendrix out or what.
YM: (chuckling) Oh no – no no no. I would be an avid pupil & admirer and just apprentice and sit and absorb all day long – that is what I would do because nothing – NOTHING is closer to God than that.
TFL: Wow – that’s deep.
YM: I know
TFL: I love it when artists can dig deep and give such heartfelt answers like that – thank you.
TFL: November is a big month for you – your “Play Loud” Stratocaster guitar will be unveiled.
TFL: Were you actively involved in it’s construction & what part did you play?
YM: Oh yeah – of course…I gave them the real one. I didn’t GIVE it to them – I gave it to them to have you know. I have to say what John and all of the other master builders at Fender custom shop – what they have done is frightening. Its mind bending, it’s like a science fiction movie when they make exact copy of a person or something you know. It is so intensely exact that the weight of the wood, every single scratch, every single mark, every little cigarette burn (I used to smoke years ago), every single rust particle; everything is so exact it is absolutely…I don’t even have words – it’s stunning. I’ve owned that guitar for 30 years and it’s just that exact.
TFL: Did Fender approach you about the idea?
YM: Yes they did, Yes. I’ve been involved with Fender all of my life, I bought my first Fender when I was 11. I’m super blessed; I’m also very pleased to say that I am very very involved with Marshall as well. I’m a purist in that sense you know, some people may say yeah what ever – but I would not wear a watch if it wasn’t a Rolex, I would not drive a car if it wasn’t a Ferrari you know then forget it – I wouldn’t do it. I’m a Fender man and this thing goes way way back you know.
TFL: How are you dealing with the whole digital revolution Yngwie? Are you going with the flow or do you let your people handle that & you just focus on your craft?
YM: (laughing) I make my living playing a piece of wood. I’m very well aware of technology in the sense that I am a studio engineer. The format of distributing music has obviously changed you know and I think it changed for the better when we went from LP to CD – I think that was an improvement. I think when everybody got a computer and realized they could copy the Cds – that was a bad thing. It’s not good for us, as musicians it reflects on what labels do and it reflects on the whole revenue which is what makes things go round. There is one thing that people seem to fail to mention is the sound quality of these MP3s is absolutely inferior – it’s a digital compression – it’s like having a low pixel camera you know – it’s not good quality. That I am not happy about and I’m not happy about the fact that people seem to think that spending a million dollars on an album is something that we should do because we have so much money because and that’s not the case. When you produce something whether it is a movie or a car or a hamburger – whatever – that costs money to do that and we all have families too. The notion that they should be free is f***ing ridiculous – it’s crazy! I don’t see that and I don’t understand that concept.
TFL: I actually wrote my last editorial on Piracy as I am one of those people who are dead against piracy. Yet the people who steal music seem to be the first one to step up and complain about the price of a concert ticket! They need to realize that because there is a huge loss in actual record sales – the revenue has to be made up elsewhere.
YM: It’s also touring! The cost of touring is f***ing astronomical! If you think it’s expensive to take a car on a tour – know how much it costs to take a tour bus around the world?!
YM: Now THAT is serious money! Listen – the money is an argue thing and I was never in it for the money anyway – BUT – you know one must live and one must take care of his family and what’s fair is fair. Listen to this! The thing is this; when I was a kid & I had an album (I was a Purple fan as a kid) and somebody would have a cassette copy of it…I’d go “you loser!” The whole idea was to put the LP on and look at the pictures and owning that thing – that was the whole idea. That was the whole excitement, magic even the mystique – having them on your IPod – where is the connection to the music?
TFL: Any plans on bringing your kick ass tour up to Canada?
YM: Definitely going to happen. It was going to happen this time around, but we have to do some other countries at the beginning of the year and then we come back to America and we are going to hit it hard everywhere and Canada as well.
TFL: I know we are low on time Yngwie – if you could send a message out to your fans what would you tell them?
YM: Well, Thank you. Thank you for hanging in there with me for so many years and I really really hope that they are going to check out the new record.
Legend is hardly the right word to describe this stellar musician however I actually found myself in awe as he answered each question with such accuracy and honesty. Yngwie is certainly not afraid to speak his mind as well as speaking from his heart about his music & his career.
Backstage Live Magazine proudly welcomes Yngwie Malmsteen; an iconic & world acclaimed artist into our Rock & Roll family.