The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world








I still recall the moment I first heard Yngwie Malmsteen play the guitar, and it was nothing short of earth shattering. All my preconceptions about what was and wasn’t possible in the realm of rock music were shattered, and it’s safe to say Yngwie directly influenced a large part of my approach to playing music, writing music and performing. After all the rumours, all the hearsay and all the controversy, I was granted an audience with the Viking of Shred himself.  Yngwie was relaxed, down to earth and every bit as passionate as you’d expect!

Q: Yngwie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. How are you?

A: I’m going great, onto interview number five for today!

Q: You’ve just announced an Australian tour; how are you feeling about that?

A: I was there last year for a clinic tour, but now I’m back for a full fledged concert, and I’m very excited about it. It’s going to be awesome and we’re going to have a great time!

Q: The last time you played in Perth was the very first concert I was able to attend after turning 18, and the concert was so loud and outrageous that I’m sure it permanently damaged my hearing!

A : Laughter

Q: You just got off the guitar gods tour with Gary Hoey and Ron Thal 9uli roth cancelled at the last minute), how was that?

A: It was really good. We hit all the big cities in the states, y’know, and it was a really long show. We had a great time.

Q: How did that experience compare to the G3 tour from a few years back?

A: it was very similar; there was a different vibe though. G3 was very structured whereas this was more like a big get together.

Q: You put the tour together; did you personally handpick these guys and ask them, and did you choose the musicians to break up the evening from just being a neoclassical shredfest?

A: There were literally hundreds of applicants; it was my wife’s idea and we chose the guys to bring in a wider array of stuff for the tour.

Q: Uli Roth was originally part of that tour, I imagine he was someone you would have grown up listening to?

A: Uli had to cancel at the last minute; he’s a great guy and a great friend that i’ve known for ages now. We’ve played together many times before and he’s great.

Q; There’s an obvious connection there with you having covered “Sails of Charon” by the Scorpions which was very cool and fit your style of playing very well.

A: I had a good time doing that one too!

Q: Your last album “Spellbound” has been out for a while now. For any of our readers who are unfamiliar with that release, tell us a little about it.

A: Firstly I played everything on the album.

Q: Was that a liberating experience?

A:! That’s what I used to do when I was a kid. All the demo’s I sent to Mike Varney (Shrapnel Records) were like that. It was very fun though; there’s a certain freedom to recording what I feel, when I feel like it. It’s like I’m driving a Ferrari or whatever and then “hey, I’ll go do this!”. Then I record a song and go off and do something else.

Q: Can we expect many songs off that album?

A: We don’t do many off that album; maybe one or two. The set is two hours long and there’s a lot of material to cover, and the set is never the same. I never do the same set (chuckles)?

Q: Like the James Brown of guitar!

A: It’s funny as hell because I always write a set list and we put the set list on stage, but we never follow it; I have people from the previous night come with a set and it’s totally different! I have a live album and a live DVD coming out, one recorded in Tampa and one recorded in (Florida). They’re two days apart but they’re completely different; that’s what I do. If anyone wants to come to more than one show in Australia, you’ll see what I mean.

Q: How do you approach singing songs yourself versus writing for a singer?

A: It’s a little different. What I do is I write songs; lyrics, melodies and whatever. What I’ll do is record some music, put it on a USB and drive around and sing. If I get something that sounds good, and I can sing it I give it a go. It’s always come naturally to me anyway, so that’s nice.

Q: “Spellbound” is definitely a lot more bluesy than some of your other records. A lot of it reminded me of stuff like “Bedroom Eyes” off Eclipse; anyone I play that too is amazed at how groovy it is. Rather than nerd out and talk about shredding, how important is groove for a musician?

A: What I always say is “groove or die” you know? I tell that to all my students; the groove has to be there no matter what you play. When you approach music you need to have a certain passion and a certain set of rudiments there and that all comes from within. So yeah, groove is extremely important.

Q: Is that something that comes from just playing or from playing with other musicians?

A: I think that’s something you have or you don’t. It’s a feel.

Q: A lot of people associate feel with a lack of technical ability. Listening to your back catalogue, your command of musical elements like bending, pitch and vibrato have always been there. Is that something you also feel is inherent in a musician or can it be learned?

A: I think it can be learned to a certain extent; it’s important to have a certain amount of knowledge you need to have. Almost like in language, it’s like a grammar of music. But the thing is, and that’s what it all comes down to; it’s what you do with it. If you just learn it all but don’t put it together there’s no point, and I think that’s what has to come from within.

Q: What’s the main difference you find between doing an instructional DVD or video versus your clinics or web based tuition?

A: The clinics are kind of fun; it’s a small performance really, but you can talk and ask questions and interact. I find it very interesting.

Q: This brings the big question; what do you think of the term “shred”?

A: I Always thought labels were so limiting. It’s just a word, like saying heavy metal or black metal or nu metal. To me it’s all rock and roll! If you have a guitar and a drum set it’s all fucking rock and roll man. Call it whatever you want, that’s what it is. I’m not big on the label thing and I don’t think too much about it.

Q: The late 80’s was a real boom period for that kind of music and playing wheareas in the mid nineties/early noughties it was incredibly uncool to play virtuoso style music; how did you survive?

A: I think simply because I did what I’ve always done. When I grew up in Sweden I was constantly told I’d never make it doing what I was doing, and what the fuck did I think I was doing, and this and that. So I said “oh yeah” and I stayed true to what I wanted to do.

Whatever the fashions are, they don’t mean anything to me. People still got into it!

Q: Nowadays with social media, YouTube and streaming service, a lot of artists deplore the fact that recorded music doesn’t sell like it used. How do you feel about that? Has it helped or hindered you?

A: I’ll put it in a nutshell. Basically what happened with the internet was that the money machine was eliminated. When the money machine was eliminated, all these people who had nothing to do with the music, and who used to make millions of dollars, started to do something else. Then everyone went “it’s fine, bands are still signed”.

But it’s not! The reasons bands were signed and new acts could get a shot was because people thought they could make money from these bands. So the fans got to hear new music while the machine was going around investing a million and getting ten million back. Now when there is no return, no new bands are being signed or exposed and no record labels are acting like they did before.

People love heavy metal, people love rock and roll and people love guitar players but there’s no money in it.

Q: Especially someone like yourself...

A: That’s the thing, there’s nothing new! Simply because the labels, the retailers , the distributors, the manufacturers graphic designers, photographers and so on, they are not making they say fuck this and they go do something else. The new groups that start in a garage are not going to get exposed and the fans are not going to get new music.

Q: Do you think that’s lead to an upsurge in the live music scene?

A: Look, the thing is if you’re already established, if you’re Judas Priest or Yngwie Malmsteen, you’re fine. There’s no difference, you do what you’ve been doing and it’s the same. But if you’re a nobody and you want to sound really good but you want to start out, you can’t get a tour bus or an opening act slot because there’s no machine there to invest in you.

All the old acts, like Alice Cooper, The Scorpions, The Police and more, they’re bigger than ever. Do you remember the days when there was a new band every fucking week? It’s not happening! Back then, someone could sink a few hundred grand into a band and make millions.

If you make a product that people steal and it costs money to make that product, you get no say in who’s going to put money into it.

Q: Under those circumstances is making an album gives you more creative control?

A: To me, I thank god every day for being where I am. I can do whatever I want and not worry about airplay or the first single. I don’t have to worry about any of that shit. If you’re not established you’re never going to have a big mansion, you’re never going to have a big mansion and a Ferrari, you’re never going to be a rockstar. That’s the shame of it all. If you’re established, you’ve got nothing to complain about.

Q: Do you think that’s leading to the rise of nostalgia for the 70’s?

A: The biggest reason for that surge in all those bands is because of record sales is because there’s nothing new, because the people who put those bands on the map only did it for the money! If I said “Hey I’ve got a YouTube video, check it out” what’s going to separate it from a billion other people?

Q: On that topic of classic bands, what would your dream band lineup be?

A: Johann Sebastian Bach on keys, Pavarotti on vocals, on I dunno!

Q: Yngwie Malmsteen on drums?

A: Ha! Why not?!

Q: After all that discussion about music and the industry, what’s the meaning of life?

A: Have a good time, all the time!


Tour dates:

June 4th - Powerstation, New Zealand
June 6th - The Astor, Perth
June 8th - Wrestpoint, Hobart
June 10th - 170 Russell, Melbourne
June 11th - The Tivoli, Brisbane
June 12th - HQ, Adelaide
June 13th - Factory Theatre, Sydney


Yngwie spoke to guest interviewer Leon Todd October 2014

Leon Todd is guitarist with Ragdoll





Interested in an interview for your band? e-mail prefers to interview live or via skype or phone but will consider e-mail interviews