It isn’t every day when you get to talk to a guitar legend like Yngwie Malmsteen. I have listened to his music since I was a teenager, and never imagined that I would one day get the honor to talk to him. I have heard lots of unpleasant things about Yngwie over the years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I interviewed him. What I found was a person who was very easy to talk to, and at times quite humorous. He was a total class act during our interview session. We talked about his new album “Perpetual Flame”, his history and influences, and his opinion on music today.
HRH: How did you start working with Ripper Owens?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well, what happened was I did this album a little different than normal. Normally you have like a cycle where you make a record, you go on tour for that record, then you come home and start writing songs for a record and do another tour. This time around I was just writing songs as I was touring for the last album. I eventually had enough music to cut real songs. I went in recorded like 30 songs. Then I went back on tour and so forth. The songs all sounded different when I came back. Everytime I came back I wrote some guitars, I wrote some bass, I wrote some lyrics. Eventually the songs started taking shape so much that they had names and they were finished. Songs like Death Dealer and Live to Fight (Another Day) and so forth. I realized that the singer that I had at the time (Doogie White) he would not fit the new songs, so Tim’s name came up. I invited him down to Miami. I said hey do you want to come down and sing with me a bit. He came down, I showed him a couple of songs, and that was it.
HRH: You worked with him once before on the Bat Head Soup CD right?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, but that was different. I was in one studio and he was in another one.
HRH: Ripper’s voice really seems to compliment your style of playing. “Death Dealer” and “Red Devil” are two of the coolest songs I have heard by you in quite some time. What was the recording process like for Perpetual Flame?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Thank you. It was a little different because I needed drums. I went on tour. I came back, I had guitars and bass recorded and lots of lyrics. I came back again added keyboards. I had my Pro tools on my laptop and I was hanging out with a guy who had a string section who put some strings on it. All of the recording was done and Tim came in and just sang the lyrics I had written, and that was it. It was pretty simple. It was done in sections.
HRH: How does Ripper compare to past singers that you have worked with?
Yngwie Malmsteen: His voice really fits in with almost exactly what I hear in my head. When I write songs like “Death Dealer” and “Damnation Game” I know what I am looking for. That is why I decided Doogie wasn’t going to cut it. I feel that Tim fits right in.
HRH: This album is a lot heavier than the last couple of discs you have put out. Was that your intention when you were writing the music?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Not in the beginning, but the songs started coming together, and I knew that is what we were going with. In the beginning, I was kind of letting it flow . That was one of the reasons why I changed singers too, because the songs were starting to get so heavy, that there was no way that Doogie would have fit in.
HRH: You have a pretty large collection of guitars. Which guitars did you use while recording Perpetual Flame?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I used a lot of different ones. Fender Strats, and different bases of course and two Marshalls. The Fender guitars I used on this album from the late 60’s and the Marshall amps are also very old.
HRH: What are your Tour plans for the new album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: We have done Europe in the summer, not so much for the album, but we just toured. We did five weeks in America, by no long shot was this complete tour but it was good. We will be going to South America, Japan, Australia, America and Europe again. It is going to be a big tour.
HRH: There are quite a few festivals popping up in the United States. Do you see yourself performing at one of the new musical festivals like Rock Gone Wild, Rocklahoma or Rock the Bayou?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, sure why not, that is always cool.
HRH: The number of guitarists that cite you as an influence is pretty much endless. Who inspired you to pick up the guitar and make music such a huge part of your life?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I grew up in a very musical family. My older brother and sister they were very good musicians. I was the youngest. I got my first guitar when I was five years old. On the news they showed the day that Jimi Hendrix died. They showed him setting his guitar on fire at Monterey Pop. I saw him burn his guitar and I knew that is what I wanted to do. I started playing the guitar the same day. A year later or so I got a record from sister. She gave me the Deep Purple Fireball album. I thought it was very cool. When I grew up in Sweden there was nothing there. It was completely empty from rock and roll and music or anything like that. There was classical and Jazz, but nothing like what it was here. The impact of hearing Purple was very big on me. I really like that. The biggest influence on my music are Bach, Vivaldi and Niccolò Paganini. If you listen to my stuff you will hear it.
HRH: If you could give advice to any young guitar players out there, what would you tell them?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It all depends on what they want to achieve. If they want to achieve greatness and be like something that is out of the ordinary. It is a lot of hardwork. There are no shortcuts to that. Obviously, if they wanted to learn how to play, they can learn bits and things and carry on. It all depends on what they want to do. If they want to be serious, there is a lot of hard work involved.
HRH: There have been a lot of classic hard rock and metal acts reunite over the last few years. Ron Keel has recently announced the reunion of KEEL for several live shows next year. Can you see yourself doing a Steeler or Alcatrazz reunion in the near future?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I have been contacted a lot about that. I don’t know. I will never say never.
HRH: What is your opinion on the current guitarists of today?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I haven’t really kept track of them. I am so extremely busy with what I am doing myself. When I am not playing music I am usually doing other things. Playing around with my Ferraris and playing Tennis and things like that. What I understand there is a new group of kids that are very serious about playing which is great, I think that is a good thing.
HRH: Are you still a big Ferrari Fan?
Yngwie Malmsteen: (Passionately) Ohh Yeah!
HRH: Have you seen the new Spider Model that has just been released?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, but I am more into the vintage Ferarris.
HRH:Why do you think hard rock/metal was able to maintain it’s popularity in Europe and Asia but not here in the states?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I am not even sure about that. What I do know is Rock and roll and metal never goes away ever. It took the back seat in America in the 90’s. In Japan and South America it was still really big. I never followed trends so I don’t know the exact function of them. I think there must be somebody in league to changing things. When the glam metal thing of the late 80’s became to glammy, then instead of having two bottles of hair spray in your hair, it became better not to wash your hair at all. To me its all trend stuff. I don’t follow that stuff. I just do what I feel is the right thing. I don’t know what the reason is for that. Its not fashion.
HRH: Did your involvement in the G3 Tour with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai help get your music back out there in the U.S.?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It had some impact, sure, yeah. I think that it helped all three of us, but I think the most important thing now, that you can see nowadays are kids are being introduced to this music through video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. This seems to be a big influence on kids. Its a new thing to them.
HRH: What do you think about the new generation of music fans being introduced to hard rock and metal through games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band?
Yngwie Malmsteen: When we were younger it was Radio and MTV. It is just a different way of getting it. If they have a game that has rock and roll in it, that is going to introduce the kids to the music. That is good. It is cool.
HRH: Are their any plans for your songs to be added in future editions of the games?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I think so yeah. I am pretty sure that is happening right now. (A few days after our interview, it was announced that some of the songs from Perpetual Flame would be available for download in the game Rockband.)
HRH: Your son Antonio is 10 now right? Has he taken on your passion for music yet?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, Not in the same way that I did. When I grew up there was no TV, nothing. The guitar could be my whole life. The kids today have internet and TV and games and all that stuff. When he does pick up the guitar, he is a natural for sure. For sure he is going to play. I was so extreme, I was playing 24/7 all my life. That was bizarre anyway, kind of like a (laughs) a circus freak you know.
HRH: There is a new line of Yngwie Malsteen Play Loud tribute guitars from Fender coming out next week. What you can you tell us about those?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Fender had made my guitars for 20 years now. The model has been improved on and updated. It is just fantastic, that is why I love to play it. This is a special series of just 100 pieces that is an exact replica of the guitar that I brought with me from Sweden when I was a teenager. It has the exact same rust particle scratch, feels the same, smells the same. It is amazing. I have never seen anything like it my life. It is scary, it is frightening. It is limited to 100 pieces.
HRH: I saw how the even mimicked your bite marks on the guitar, and wondered how they did that.
Yngwie Malmsteen: I wondered if they had some witchcraft going on there. (laughs)
HRH: You were recently inducted to Guitar Center’s Rockwalk in Hollywood, what was that experience like?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Very Bizarre (laughs). I have time to reflect on it now. Apparently it is in the street already. The next time I go there I will see it. I remember walking those streets as teenager. Its amazing. I don’t know what else to say. Thank you, I am honored.
HRH: Is there anything you would like to tell your fans in closing?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I would like to say thank you. I would like everyone to check out my new record Perpetual Flame. If they have heard my stuff before they will dig it. If they haven’t I hope they will dig it. Thank you for the support for twenty years. God Bless You All! God Bless America!