Repost: Yngwie’s ‘Perpetual Flame’
Guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen has always been respected for his amazing ability to completely conquer the guitar as an instrument. His career has lasted through many strong accomplishments and personal lows. Through all of this, he has persevered and has become as the title of his album, “Perpetual Flame,” suggests. He is an everlasting icon.
Yngwie, most of your career, your music has been categorized as Heavy Metal. Do you personally like when your music’s defined as Heavy Metal?
Yngwie: Ah, it doesn’t matter. Call it punk-influenced jazz riffs (laughs). It’s in the metal section of most stores, so I guess it should be called heavy metal or hard rock. But it’s not very important to me, really.
Do you ever compare yourself — competitively — with some of the other contemporary guitarists out there?
Yngwie: Never. And it’s not because I’m arrogant. … It’s just that I wouldn’t go out and buy a record and listen to it. If I’m working on an album, I listen to that. The last thing I do is think about what other people do because I am so occupied with what I do. When I was a little kid I had my heroes that I listened to, and my biggest heroes are Bach, Vivaldi, and Paganini, but I don’t even listen to that anymore.
Well, you certainly had guitarists that influenced you, like Hendrix…
Yngwie: No. That’s not true.
No? I had read that you saw Hendrix on television when you were a kid and that’s what got you interested in guitar.
Yngwie: Yes, I was seven years old and I saw him on television. On the day he died they showed a video of him lighting his guitar on fire, and that made me want to start playing guitar. I didn’t hear any music. It was just a visual. That was the impact that made me want to play, but musically if you listen to my stuff, there’s no Hendrix in there. Maybe, maybe, some of the ballad stuff.
Never influenced by European guitarists like Schenker or Uli Roth?
Yngwie: When I was a little kid, really little, like seven to ten, it was Ritchie Blackmore. And there was no one else. And then after that, I stopped listening to guitar players all together.
Back in the 80s, when you first came to America to join Steeler, there was quite a buzz about you. It reminded me about what I used to read about Clapton in the 60s, when they used to spray paint “Clapton is God” across London. How have you dealt with such high expectations over the years?
Yngwie: I learned really early on that whether it’s praise or criticism, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. The one thing I know is that I’m my own worst critic anyway. No one criticizes me as hard as I do. I’m very picky and to this day, a perfectionist. And, of course, it’s great that people dig what you do. All the praise is very nice and rewarding.
What do you think of the term “shredder”?
Yngwie: Well, you can shred cheese, you can shred carrots, you can shred a lot of things, and I suppose I shred notes. I guess it’s just a word because when I first came to the States many years ago as a teenager, people would come up to me and say ‘Hey, dude. You shred dude.’ I didn’t know what they were talking about at first but then, of course, I came to understand it. I don’t mind it. It’s all good.
I never thought of it as fitting your style.
Yngwie: I appreciate that, because there’s definitely a big difference there, for sure.
Since being in the 80s bands Steeler and Alcatrazz, have you been asked to join any other established bands?
Yngwie: There have been some people that approached me but I had been in bands since I was ten years old in Sweden and I was always the leader. I was always the writer, the lead guitar player, the lead singer… I was always the guy, so when I came to America I knew I had to take the route and go through some bands til I became the leader again. When all of that was finished, I started off where I left off in Sweden, basically, with Rising Force. I’ve always made sure that I end up in a position where I have control, because to be happy in a sort of democracy, that doesn’t work for me. I’m definitely a dictator. It’s just the way I am with music. I guess I’m the same way a painter would be, except I’m doing this in a rock and roll fashion. A lot of people, you know, just don’t understand and sometimes I give up trying to explain it.
Some define it as ego.
Yngwie: Whatever. They can call it whatever they want. They can call Pablo Picasso an egomaniac as well, so… At the end of the day, that’s what I got to do.
But, say, someone like Axl Rose came up to you and asked you to join Guns N’ Roses — a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — would you do it?
Yngwie: Probably not. But as a guest spot, I’m always open to that. I’m always flexible to do that. When I do play on other people’s records, I’m theirs to command. I will do exactly what they want. That’s just being a professional. And I’ve done that quite a lot. But as a permanent thing, probably not. But, who knows. You never know.
The title of your new album, “Perpetual Flame,” is that a statement of some kind? Keith Richards once said that he will play guitar on-stage until he’s dead. Is this what the title “Perpetual Flame” reflects?
Yngwie: I really can’t see myself doing something different than that. That’s just the way it is.
You have made comments that your songs are like children. What did you mean by that?
Yngwie: That’s what they are. When people ask what are your favorite songs, I say they are all my favorites, They are my children. I love them all.
It must make it harder to pick songs for a tour then?
Yngwie: That is a very tough thing to do. Every night I put a set list together, there are songs that I want to play and then there are songs that I think I have to do. It’s very tricky. And I think each song can stand on its own but the combination is when it’s at its best.
Speaking of songs standing on their own, some artists don’t like iTunes, because they want their work to be sold as an album…
Yngwie: Oh yeah. That’s for sure. For sure. That whole thing has just become out of line … this is crazy. This new way of getting music is not the way you’re supposed to get music. Plus the sound quality’s shit.
Do you find it easier to write lyrics as you write the music?
Yngwie: It’s not necessarily easier. For me, it’s the whole picture. I’m able to paint the whole picture.
I have also heard you say that you regretted, in the past, having vocalists write the lyrics to your music?
Yngwie: That I have found was not a smart move for me. It was part being lazy, I guess. Then realizing later on that it was stupid to do because writing (lyrics) was my way of expressing also.
Well it seems your lyrics are more dark, whereas some vocalists only want to sing, as you put it, ‘Cmon, baby, let’s get it on.’
Yngwie: (Laughs) I definitely found that was not what I wanted, you know; and I don’t want to do that again. I found that what you leave behind must be representative of who you really are.
(Vocalist) Ripper Owens is a good match to your music. Is there a commitment from him to keep on singing for Rising Force?
Yngwie: I hope so. I think, really, it is a match.
I recently read about your sobriety. Congratulations with that.
Yngwie: That was the best thing I ever did.
And you know what? By seeing you live and hearing your music I could never detect anything. It never seemed like it (substance abuse) effected your playing.
Yngwie: Well, it wasn’t so much that, it was just that it wasn’t a complete existence, really, you know. You don’t realize until you do have that complete existence, and then you go ‘fuck, what was I doing?’
And there is a lot of temptation out on the road.
Yngwie: Not anymore. It doesn’t tempt me at all. It’s been five years.
Finally, what do you prefer: life on the road and playing live, or creating music in the studio?
Yngwie: Well, they’re very very different things. I love playing live and the sound, when you’re in a good hall, with the band just cranking it, it’s just amazing. I try to get that sound in the studio. A lot of people try to recreate their albums on stage. I try to do it the other way around… that live feeling in the studio. But the studio is also a laboratory where you can be a crazy scientist forever, and change things around. Live, it’s like a battlezone, like being dropped right in the warzone for battle. I really love both of it. It’s a great contrast. Doing the same thing in such different environments is cool.
So you can’t see yourself doing one without the other?
Yngwie: Of course not.
Interview by Pat Prince
This entry was posted on December 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm and is filed under Heavy Metal with tags guitarists, Heavy Metal, metal interview, Yngwie Malmsteen. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.