Yngwie Malmsteen is probably one of the world's best known guitar virtuosos, who combine blazing speed, with flawless techniques and neoclassic style with commercial music, which not only earned him respect of fellow-musicians and critics alike, but also allowed for some continuously considerable sales figures for all of his many albums. Just recently Yngwie has put out his latest effort under an aggressive title of 'Attack!', which made a very good cause for us to talk to the maestro about his new CD and a dozen other things. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Yngwie Malmsteen - the magnificent and the horrendous...
MetalKings.com: It's a very special occasion for me today, because I have been a fan of your music for many years, and finally I got a chance to do this interview.
Yngwie Malmsteen: Thank you.
MetalKings.com: And let's start with the first question. In my opinion you are as popular in Russia, as you are in Japan. And you were one of the first musicians whose records came out here during the Perestroika times and the Trilogy vinyl is still one of the most precious things in my collection. So what impressions do you have of those legendary gigs in Russia, and do you have any intentions of coming back during the European Attack tour.
Yngwie Malmsteen: I am definitely intending to come back, and I have nothing but the good memories from that time. Back then we did like 20 shows in two cities: 11 nights in Moscow and 9 nights in Leningrad.
MetalKings.com: Do you have any tentative plans already of coming to Russia, is there anything scheduled, or is that just a wish?
Yngwie Malmsteen: No there's nothing scheduled, but I am personally hundred percent sure that it happens, you know.
MetalKings.com: Attack is your first record in the past few years, so does this mean that this is the storm that normally comes after a short calm, you know? Who are you calling to attack and what do you fight for - neoclassic versus what?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It more like a symbolic thing, I'm not political at all. I am not doing things in the political way, and I am not fighting anybody or anything. It's just a title. It doesn't really mean anything.
MetalKings.com: Whose eye is on the cover, is that yours?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah.
MetalKings.com: Who came up with the idea and what is it supposed to symbolize?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It doesn't really symbolize anything. It was my idea. I was thinking: "What the hell am I going to put on the cover?" - because with all the covers it's always the same, you know. So I thought it would be a great idea, and then we tried it and it really looked good, so.
MetalKings.com: The lineup for the new album consisted of Doogie White, Derek Shirenian, and David Johnson - tell me why did you choose these particular musicians and how was it working with them?
Yngwie Malmsteen: They chose me really. I think we just got along well, we did a tour together and it went really well and I think that's the most important thing. They just needed to understand that I write everything, and I don't want any interference, I don't want people to start creating problems. So the most important thing is the personality of the people.
MetalKings.com: Well it's already a known fact that the rumor-mill thinks you are quite a tyrant really, like "Yngwie or the highway" - so what would be your own description of yourself - is it hard to work in your band?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I don't think so. If you understand what you position is. And if you understand that I write everything, it's just the way it is. It has nothing to do with arguments, like this is not working, or it's hard, or whatever - it's just the way it is.
MetalKings.com: Well, let's put it in another perspective, how much of a perfectionist you are?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Uhm… I think I'm a perfectionist in a way that's kinda hard to describe. Cause perfection here isn't really technical perfection, perfection is the exact right moment to a song, or to a performance - and when that happens, when that REALLY happens - that's perfection. And it could be a little bit of whatever, you know. Yeah, to me it's really hard to describe what I mean when I say perfection.
MetalKings.com: For you, is it more important to work live, or is it more important to work in the studio?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I think it's two different worlds, and I live in both worlds, you know. Obviously I feel very-very good, I feel very happy, when I create something, when I create something that I consider being good music, you know. It feels really good, and that's the studio work. And on stage it's more of a combination of getting the energy from the audience, and challenging yourself to do things new every night. It's a challenge each way, but it's also a very enjoyable challenge, so I think that I love both.
MetalKings.com: This year you've become an honorary peer of NARAS - the organization whose members are taking part in the ballot for the Grammy award. And in very many ways this award is associated with primarily pop artists - is it hard or easy for you to be a judge for pop artists.
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well… I think it probably can't be so hard, you know.
MetalKings.com: Any expectations about it?
Yngwie Malmsteen: No, I'm not expecting anything yet. Whatever happens, I'll just take it at what it is.
MetalKings.com: One of your most popular records is generally considered to be the "Concerto Suite Live with the Japan Philharmonic", which became #4 in the Japanese charts during the first week of sales right next to Mariah Carey and the Back Street Boys. Was there any difference really between working with the Japan Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Uhm… Well, when with the Czech Philharmonic - I didn't play with them, see what I mean. Or, I did play with them, but what you hear on the record is my guitar put there afterwards. And that was difficult in itself already. But to play live with an orchestra, in front of an audience, and record at the same time - now that is VERY difficult, ha-ha! But I passed! That was the most challenging thing ever done in my life.
MetalKings.com: So what's the next challenge for you?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well do it again I guess? He-he!
MetalKings.com: It is common knowledge that you decided to take upon the guitar on the day of death of Jimi Hendrix when you saw him play on TV. Since then your affection with this musician was constantly growing and you even named your cat Fuzzy as a short name for the Hendrix Fuzz Phase Cry-Baby pedal… how is the cat doing by the way and what other dedications to Hendrix may we expect in the future.
Yngwie Malmsteen: Err… The cat is dead. He lived for a long time though. Well, you know I think it's really important to know what inspired you, and to remember it, but also not to get stuck in it. It is important to go forward. I mean there's a tribute to Jimi Hendrix on the one of my albums where I'm singing myself actually, it's not a Hendrix song, but it's a Hendrix-style song. I still love to do these things, and he obviously had an impact on everything I do. Although musically obviously classical music is bigger for me.
MetalKings.com: You are one of the few musicians who have ever recorded live in Russia, however not everyone considered 'Live in Leningrad - Trial by Fire' a successful record - what is your own opinion of that album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: It's ok. It's not the greatest thing, but it's ok. But there were some pretty strange circumstances, because we were supposed to record four-five nights, and then there only was just one night.
MetalKings.com: It was during that gig in Leningrad when you burned you guitar on stage - a very Hendrix-like move - and played Spanish Castle Magic - as far as I remember you did not play this song at any time afterwards - was this a special treat for the Russian audience.
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well, actually what happened that night was nobody in the band thought I was going to start that song and then I started it… And I didn't even plan it myself. And afterwards we did actually keep on playing it for a while.
MetalKings.com: So what was the spur of the moment?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Oh, these things I don't know, they just happen.
MetalKings.com: That was tough on the other musicians I guess?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Oh, they helped me, and I think they did a good job.
MetalKings.com: Since we started talking about the audience, it's probably an unpleasant memory for you, I mean the last year's gig in Brazil when the riot started after 'Star Spangled Banner' - You've been living in the States for a long while, but you are Swedish by nationality, and the only American guy in the band is Derek. So do you really feel yourself becoming more American too, or not?
Yngwie Malmsteen: You know, that's a very hard question. If you look at it technically, I lived a longer time in America, than I lived in Sweden. That could be looked at in different ways. Of course I was born in Sweden, I'm Swedish, I have a Swedish passport, and I speak Swedish, and I spend some time there just a couple of days ago. I suppose you could call me a Swedish American or something like this. You know, I really love where I live in, and I don't see anything wrong with that.
MetalKings.com: I'm not saying it's wrong, living in a different country for a long time might change your personality, might change your character?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well, I don't think it did.
MetalKings.com: So you don't have any cultural problems coming back to Sweden or anything like that?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Oh, not at all. Nothing.
MetalKings.com: You've established your own guitar school, and I am sure any neo-classic fan would swim across the ocean just to go there and get a couple of lessons from you. How often do you have a chance to do these clinics and do you get tired of going about the basic stuff over and over again?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well, my clinics are more like a show really. It's not like school really. And I don't really do any what you call basic things. I just show people what I do.
MetalKings.com: It's like on a sink-or-swim basis right?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah-yeah, he-he-he…
MetalKings.com: Do you consider yourself a good teacher or not?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Probably not a good teacher, no.
MetalKings.com: Are you a patient teacher?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Really don't know.
MetalKings.com: Your guitar collection consist of 100 pieces, but what is the absolute all-time favorite? And which one are you still dreaming to get?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I'm not really much of a collector anymore, by now I pretty much have all the guitars that I really love. And I cannot pick just one particular favorite.
MetalKings.com: Anything that you would still like to get?
Yngwie Malmsteen: (Laughs) No, I really don't think so.
MetalKings.com: In your early days you have been invited to join Kiss, U.F.O. and Ozzy Osbourne, but you chose Graham Bonnet's Alkatrazz - why did you make that choice, and now after years have passed, do you still think it was a right choice?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I think it was a right choice after a number of reasons, but the main reason was that it allowed me to come in and write the songs, you know. It has always been very important to me to write songs and everything on that album I wrote it all. So that was my main reason for going for it.
MetalKings.com: Also I hear Graham is going to reform this band, did he invite you?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah. But it didn't happen.
MetalKings.com: Your son, Vivavldi-Antonio is already 4 y.o., do you give any guitar lessons to him? And would you like to see him take after you?
Yngwie Malmsteen: No, I'm letting him grow up as a kid and let him make his decision when he is older. If he wants to be a musician I'll be ready to help him, but if he doesn't that's ok too.
MetalKings.com: But does he show any interest in music yet?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah, of course.
MetalKings.com: The first track on Anthology of 1994-99 is the cover of 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme' by your fellow-countrymen of ABBA, it has been a big surprise why you chose to cover that particular song and why it never appeared on the ABBA Tribute?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I don't know which ABBA-tribute you mean. What happened was that I was asked by somebody to do a Swedish heavy metal song. And I decided I didn't want to do a heavy metal song and did an ABBA song instead. I think it has turned out really cool, so I put it on my album too.
MetalKings.com: A couple of questions from your early days: was the song 'Evil' later transformed into 'I'll See the Light Tonight'?
Yngwie Malmsteen: No.
MetalKings.com: Is there a chance to see the Genesis album with rare tracks to be released?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Actually I am releasing some stuff that's very-very-very rare, we are still talking to people about it, probably towards the end of this year, some very-very early stuff, it's quite interesting to hear actually.
MetalKings.com: Is it possible to collect all Japanese bonus tracks in one album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: But I think it wouldn't be that many, would be like… uhm… 12?
MetalKings.com: Are you planning to write an autobiography some day?
Yngwie Malmsteen: No. I wanted to do it, but I wanted to do the whole thing, if I do the whole thing people wouldn't believe it.
MetalKings.com: Would you welcome somebody to do it if they volunteered?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Maybe some day, but at this moment of time, no.
MetalKings.com: Did you really work with Joey Tempest and Jon Leven from Europe in early days in Sweden?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Oh, Jon Leven for sure, but Joey Tempest was never really involved.
MetalKings.com: Why you were against the release of 'Birth of the Sun' released by Marcel Jacob with rare tracks?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Well, because it's a bootleg. The man is simply insane, he just decided to release something that doesn't belong to him and not give me any money. The guy is crazy. I'm suing him right now.
MetalKings.com: Is there any possibility for Inspiration - Part II?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Uhm… No.
MetalKings.com: Your photos have been on the covers of every mag out there, is there any magazine left the cover of which you'd like to endorse?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I don't know.
MetalKings.com: Why did you pick Miami as your place of residence in the past few years? I remember you said you liked L.A. a lot, but you moved out of there…
Yngwie Malmsteen: L.A. became unpleasant after a while, with a lot of bullshit, and drugs, and earthquakes. I moved to New York for a while, but that was too cold. And then I went to Miami and I completely fell in love with this place. It's like living in paradise.
MetalKings.com: You still seem to keep yourself in a pretty good shape, what sports do you do?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I play tennis.
MetalKings.com: Are you good at it?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Pretty good, yeah.
MetalKings.com: Would you challenge Lars Ulrich to play against you?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I don't know.
MetalKings.com: That'd be the match of the year. Anyways on June 30th this year your birthday happened, pretty much the same as any other year - accept our belated congrats - what presents did you get, anything special?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I don't remember.
MetalKings.com: Can you remember anything especially funny from your touring experience?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Oh there was so much, there're so many of these things. Well, one thing that's not really funny, it was kinda scary actually, in Indonesia when we were playing on this huge stadium like, like a football field, all of a sudden there was all this gunfire going off, it was quite crazy. I don't know what it was.
MetalKings.com: Well, thanks very much for this interview, and your closure and wishes to all your fans out here.
Yngwie Malmsteen: I'm really looking forward to go there again. I hope that the people will enjoy my new album, and I just want to say thank you and see you soon.
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