A Conversation with Yngwie Malmsteen

0

LIVE! – December 3 – The King of Clubs – Columbus – TICKETS

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

In 1984 a young, extraordinarily talented musician released his first solo album called Rising Force which won Guitar Player’s Best Rock album award, reached no. 60 on Billboard 200 and was also nominated for the 1986 Grammy Award, Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter, Composer Yngwie Malmsteen continued his world-wide success with Gold albums Fire & Ice released in 1992 and Facing the Animal released in 1997 and Platinum album The Seventh Sign, released in 1994. Now, having made over 20 solo albums, he just released his latest amazing creation PARABELLUM which spotlights his outstanding abilities of songwriting and composition and propelling his over 40-year career (originally playing with Alcatrazz in the early 80’s) to even newer heights. He is also bringing his phenomenal show to the Ohio area November 24th at Carnegie of Homestead Hall in Munhall, PA and on December 3rd at The KING of CLUBS in Columbus, OH.

Catching up with Malmsteen just prior to the start of his tour, he revealed some details about the new album, his music in general, his book, the live show and what fans can look forward to.

Ohio Music Experience: I listened to PARABELLUM. It’s awesome! What was the inspiration for the album?

Yngwie Malmsteen: It’s a good question. Here’s the thing that you may know that I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. I came to the States 1982 and started recording and touring here, yea, but before then, where I grew up in Sweden, I was composing and recording stuff. I had a recording studio that I could use. I was really lucky. So, when I started, I was like seven years old. So, I’ve been doing it for many, many years and the music for some reason, has always been the biggest part of my life, kind of thing, but it comes to me when it wants to and really, I learned how to kind of like capture it. It’s like an elusive thing and it comes to me with no sort of warning. It could be while I’m driving. It could be while I’m watching T.V. It could be wherever; you know and it’s just the perfect melody is already there. And of course, after spending all that time on the guitar and improvising. All my improvisation always leads to conversation as well which is really how the conversation is.  So, it wasn’t really a mute way of doing it. The thing was the fact that I had so much time and we all know why (he laughed) because I was on tour in March 2020. I was in Mexico to be exact, but the tour was booked the whole year.  I was scheduled, like tour the whole world and they said, oh we have to push everything back about two weeks, three weeks. I said, oh yeah, whatever, because no one really knew what was going on. So basically, we all know what happened there. So, I started going to the studio more and more and more. Then after a while I said, well, I guess I’m recording a new album, and I just kept on doing it, and the songs, I must have written, oh God, eighty or ninety pieces. Like close to a hundred pieces, brand new stuff. Out of that I made it into ten pieces. So, it really was the crème del la crème of what I can do (he laughed). The other stuff was ok too, but I felt this was like the best of the best and you know, the lyrics of course, they are different because the lyrics are always a reflection of what I think and feel at that time, but the music and the melodies, the themes and stuff like that, they just happen. There’s no warning.

Ohio Music Experience: You previously stated that the title is “prepare for war”?  There’s a natural flow to the songs. The song “(Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum” means “if you want peace, prepare for war?”  Explain all that. That’s a great theme.

Malmsteen: My mother was a scholar. My father too, Linguistic Scholars. They basically knew Latin and all European languages and everything, and I kept on hearing Latin phrases all the time. They would do as a comment, they would throw out like a Latin phrase, which is really bizarre I know, but the thing is that some Roman legionnaire, legion, whatever must have said like two thousand, five hundred years ago “if you want peace, prepare for war.” Ronald Reagan said too “Peace through strength.” Basically, war is mostly declared on the weaker opponent. Almost always. Someone wouldn’t declare war on someone they know that can’t beat. That was the meaning of that. I’m not talking about war specifically. I just like the majesty of all of the Latin phrases and I’ve done a couple of before. I just like the sound of it and it was like that made the decision. I didn’t really know what to call the album and I had a few titles, a lot actually, and I ended up with that one, and I like it.

Ohio Music Experience: It fits it really well. I like how it starts off with “Wolves At The Door” and all the guitar Intros really grab you and I do see the flow. I like how you have the ballad “Eternal Bliss”…

Malmsteen: Right after something crazy, yeah (he laughed).

Ohio Music Experience: Right, and “God Particle” is really cool. I could almost see that being in a Halloween movie or something. How did all that come about? Is it like you were saying that they just come to you?

Malmsteen: The reason I call it “God Particle” is really kind of funny because you know, I’m extremely, I kind of like worship Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer. The Baroque classical music is sort of like when I hear some of (Antonio) Vivaldi and (Niccolò) Paganini. I love Paganini too, but like some of the melodies and some of the things they wrote three, four hundred years ago and I’m saying to myself, wow! This shit sure didn’t get any better you know? It’s not like things are being better now than they were then as far as music. So, I like to see and feel God almost because that particular intro is very baroque, classically influenced. My composition, but it’s got counter points and it’s got chord inversions which is a certain chord version that has thirds in the base instead of the root of the base which sounds complicated, but it’s really not. It’s just kind of mathematical and I’ve always been so intrigued by that because I remember when I first started playing when I was just a little tike. I was seven years old. Blues and rock was the only thing that I wanted to do, right? But I very, very quickly realized that in the pentatonic scale which is five notes per octave, there’s only five notes per octave where there’s a harmonic minor or a major scale, there’s eight notes and it’s all mathematical. So, one note harmonizes with a third note for instance, so there’s always a math system to this, and I bet when they composed this stuff back then, it was all very mathematical the same time as you know, thought inspired as well. So, I don’t know, to me that’s like the music that I don’t think so much to it anymore, but I did it for so many years that it’s like hard wired when I pick up the guitar.

Ohio Music Experience: “Wolves At The Door” was in reference to Paganini, correct?

Malmsteen: Yeah, the middle there.  There’s a variation. I call it the variation of the 24 Caprices. It’s not verbatim, but it’s a variation. I transposed the key as well, but yeah, obviously. I mean, I remember the first time I heard Paganini I was like twelve and I heard this and I was going wow! Imagine playing stuff like that on a guitar which is not really possible because a violin is through the fifths instead of fourths. So, the neck is much closer so you can reach in like four octave arpeggios without even moving your hand. On the guitar, that’s very long distance, and also when you have distortion on there, you want to play stuff like that, it’s very difficult to make it to sound all distorted. So, I had this crazy idea. I said, I’m not too proud to apply some of these techniques to the electric guitar, therefore my style is like that because it was such an impact on me. I owe everything to Vivaldi, (Pyotr Ilyich) Tchaikovsky, Paganini.

Ohio Music Experience: What inspired “Eternal Bliss”? The ballad.

Malmsteen:  It’s about my gratitude. I have to pinch myself sometimes because I come from very strange background. I come from you know, a country in the arctic circle where no one is encouraged to become a musician especially not a free form neo-classical metal kind of guy. So, it’s like I’m very, very grateful for all the blessings that I have plus you know, we have a beautiful family. All that stuff so, I’m a very, very grateful person and I don’t take anything for granted. I work real hard, but I always see the fruits of the labor. That’s what that’s about because I’ve had some hard times too. So, it’s everything, but the song is basically an ode to being grateful.

Ohio Music Experience: You did work hard. This is your 21st solo studio album?

Malmsteen: I believe so. That’s what I was told, yeah. I mean, I haven’t counted, but it sounds about right.

Ohio Music Experience: I read you were influenced by Jimi Hendrix?

Malmsteen: Well, here’s the funny part with that because I grew up in a family where everybody in my family was musical. My mother was a singer. My father was a singer. My older siblings were classical violinists and pianists, flautists and everything like this and I was the youngest. So, when I was five, I was given a guitar for my birthday. When I was six, I was given a trumpet and I was given lessons and everything, and I said, eh what is this? But when I was seven, I saw Jimi Hendrix smashing up the guitar onstage on T.V. and it wasn’t any musical revolution because there wasn’t really any music there. It was just noise, but I saw this. I was Oh God! That’s so cool. I want to do that! So, I said, well, I only have the guitar, but I just know how to play a couple of notes. Do I have to smash it up? I was seven years old. I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, but I realized right away that this musical instrument was something that just, because music was all around me, but the guitar for some reason just. And then my mother had a bunch of records and I heard a blues album called John Mayall Blues Breakers. Like I said, I was seven years old, but I heard that. I learned how to play that stuff almost immediately. In fact, the first thing that I learned how to play was a Swedish folk song. It was a A minor harmonic minor scale which is really funny because that’s what I’m known for, but in the beginning it was basically rock and blues yeah, but when I realized it was all kind of like very limited to five notes, that’s when I started diving into my mother’s classical albums. (Wolfgang Amadeus) Mozart, (Johann Sebastian) Bach, (Johannes) Brahms and so on. And I love the sound of the rock, you know, the distorted guitar and the big drums and the smoke machines and everything like that. I wanted that, but I thought the note choice in rock was limited. Just for me. Having said that, I love AC/DC. I love rock and roll like that, but for myself to make my own stuff. That’s not my style at all.

Ohio Music Experience: That’s interesting. That’s very cool.

Malmsteen: I actually wrote a book about this. You can buy it on Amazon.com. It’s called Relentless the memoir. It’s pretty good. It explains actually every single incident. I mean, there’s some crazy shit happening to me too. I was ripped off on shares and the car crashes and bar fights and all sorts of crazy stuff.

Ohio Music Experience: What inspired you to write the book?

Malmsteen: Well, there was a couple of things I always said to myself I needed to do. I needed to write a memoir which is now almost about ten years, 2013 I think came out. So, it can be even more now, and it’s sort of like this where it’s my upbringing in Sweden and stuff like this and I just wanted to put into words you know, how I became who I am because a lot of people think certain things and they say certain things and they’re not true. So, I just want to make sure everybody knows that, and then I also decided that at one point I said, I need to compose a concerto symphony and record it and I did that. I composed a concerto and I recorded with the progs harmonic and the jazz Harmonic. So, I did all the things I decided I wanted to do. Now, I just want to make great music and let it flow by itself.

Ohio Music Experience: You definitely did with this album and you also sang on it. Did you have vocal lessons as well when you were young?

Malmsteen: No, I actually didn’t. Ok, so when I was a little kid in Sweden, I started putting quote, unquote bands together when I was like in second grade. Yeah, no it was crazy because I had a guitar and I wanted to make noise and it was just one of my friends in school I said to him, listen, you’re the drummer. “I don’t know how to play drums.” Its ok. I’ll show you. “Well, I don’t have any drums.” That’s ok. I have a drum set. My grandfather was a drummer. So yeah, so I’m a very decisive person. I said, you’re going to be the drummer. I’m gonna write the songs and we got to make shit load of noise. We got to play the mess hall in school and we got to just annoy everybody. I’ve done that since I was a little kid. I couldn’t find singers and stuff, so I was singing too. So, I was the singer and you know, writer and then I had these bass players and drummers. Like ten thousand different ones. So even when I was in Sweden like in ‘78, ‘79 when I was still a kid, I put a band together called The Rising Force, but it was different bass players and drummers, so when I did my first solo album in ‘84, I said, yeah, I’m, going to call that Rising Force too because that was my solo thing when I was a kid. So, why did I start to talk about this? Oh yeah, yeah, about the singing. So, my uncle is a tenor in the Royal Opera in Sweden. My mother was a jazz singer. She sang in a choir, so there was a lot of singing without learning scales or learning all that stuff and pitching and vibrato and all that stuff, but I wouldn’t call that lessons. It was more just like you know, common sense things.

Ohio Music Experience: What can people look forward to with the tour?

Malmsteen: Well, personally I’m looking forward immensely to just go back onstage again. I’ve done a few shows, but it wasn’t until this thing happened, I realized how many shows I actually do a year. I didn’t realize I was going out that much. It just stopped. I’m like, what the hell is going on? So, I’m looking forward to just doing that and giving two hundred percent. It’s definitely not going to be boring.

Ohio Music Experience: Anything different than what you’ve done in the past?

Malmsteen: Yes and no because here’s the thing. I never play the same song the same way. Ever. So, to me it’s different every night. If I’m playing a song like an old school, like that song I did in the 80’s whatever, I would play differently from one night to the other. You know, I would do a different set list every night. So, it’s never boring, you know what I mean? As far as the approach goes, let’s just turn up to eleven. Turn all the smoke machines and bring motion stacks. Go crazy. That’s what I do.

Ohio Music Experience: They are amazing shows, so that’s very cool.

Malmsteen: Thank you.

Ohio Music Experience: You’re welcome. What would you recommend to an up-and-coming musician?

Malmsteen: Well, I speak a lot about this in my book too because it’s such an amazingly different scenario now than from when I started. When I started, it was all about getting a record deal. There was really nothing else that meant anything. You could be in a local band that was very successful around town, whatever, but it didn’t mean shit. You could try to maybe create your own thing, but nobody gave a crap. Even to be on an independent label, they would be like, “nah nah nah. We don’t want that.” So, it was like more than one goal you know, they want the Holy Grail that everybody was going for. That obviously is not the same anymore, and also what was very specific back then was there was very stylistic, everything. Everything was very formalized, so for instance 70’s was whatever would fit the mold. If you tried to go outside that mold, no one would even look at you twice, which I did anyway (he laughed) because I didn’t seem to care, but what I’m saying is for most acts that wanted to make it, they would have to follow a certain format and so on up until the 90’s really. Now, it’s more like the thing is, you get something on YouTube yeah, that’s great, but there’s also a trillion other things on YouTube. So, it wasn’t like back when I started. if you got your song on MTV, that was it. You were done. You know what I mean? I don’t know if you remember that?

Ohio Music Experience: I do. Yes.

Malmsteen: It was MTV, airplay, Billboard chart. By the way, my last album actually made the Billboard charts. Can you believe this? PARABELLUM actually made it! I know it’s crazy! You know when I last broke the top 200? 1991.

Ohio Music Experience: wow!

Malmsteen: And this is top 100. So, I’m like, what the…Something is going on, but as far as going back to giving advice, ok, so there’s very little things that are important to remember. Now, do you want to be a rich, big famous rock star with all the girls and the cars and all that stuff or do you want to be a very good musician? These are two different things. Completely different goals and offers because do you want to be a real incredible musician, composing songs? There’s no shortcut. There’s only blood sweat and tears. There’s only sacrifice all the time you got on the instrument otherwise, you’re never gonna make it. If you just want to bang out a few chords and have your hit. Well, it’s like playing lottery. Again, very different now than it used to be, but that stays the same. That stays the same, that concept, which goal you have and I don’t want to say just guitar players. It doesn’t matter what you play. Doesn’t matter what you do. If you’re a singer, even if you’re an athlete. You got to dedicate basically your life to it. That’s what you have to do. There’s no two ways about it.

Ohio Music Experience: That’s great advice. Is that what you would say lends to the longevity you have as well?

Malmsteen: Well, actually it’s as I again said earlier on, it’s amazing. You’re the second interview I’m doing today and I’ve been doing this for such a long time and I’m going, wow! People still want to talk to me. This is amazing! People still listen to my albums. It’s crazy you know, because I came to this country with a guitar and a toothbrush. I had a toothbrush and a guitar when I came to the airport in L.A. That was it. When I was eighteen years old because I said to myself, nothing can be worse than Sweden, but this again is in my book. The whole thing. The fact that I’m now, almost 40 years later, Its nuts! It’s crazy! But to finalize what I was talking about. I believe that, I think I’m right, but I of course could be wrong. I believe the reason that I’m still doing what I’m doing and I’m not compromising. That I’m still getting, I get people to talk to me. This is amazing is because A, I don’t fake it. I don’t try to be something I’m not, number 1. Number two, to quote Niccolò Paganini, he said, “one must feel strongly to make others feel strong.” And I’m extremely passionate about what I do. When I make a record or if I go onstage, I don’t leave anything. I don’t cut no corners. It’s like everything or nothing and I think maybe people pick up on that. they realize wow, this guy’s shit and I’m still here. I don’t think he’s going away and I think he’s real too. Because there’s a lot of times when you make something and they become successful. It may not become successful because all true art is. It could be because it’s a very perfect fitting formatted thing for the time and that’s great, but as you all know, times change. So, when times change that doesn’t work anymore and then you have to change because you follow the trend once, you can’t stop doing that. If you say shit, I’m not gonna follow trends, period. Then it’s no different, although I got to be honest. In the 80’s I wrote some songs that were definitely radio oriented. I did that, but again you know, if you have the passion. If you have the passion, there’s nothing stopping you because you won’t stop because people say, “oh that’s no good” or “we can’t listen to that.” When I grew up in Sweden, I was making music, people go “ththth. What is this?” It was like neo-classical metal, like really hard, fast guitars and neo-classical lines and stuff. That was my influence. That’s what I did even then. It wasn’t like it was shitty. It was just so for that time, new and people would go, “ah that’s not going to go anywhere.” And it was the local bands doing AC/DC covers and they would laugh at me and so on, and I don’t know what happened to those guys, but if you do something you really believe in and just stay true to it, there’s no stopping ya.

Ohio Music Experience: That’s great advice. The other thing that is really wonderful is your album cover. You had the artwork done by David Banegas. The Mural was done to raise awareness and funds for children in foster care. How did that come about?

Malmsteen: Well, it’s my wife’s. She has a foundation, April Way foundation for children. April Way Children’s Foundation is the exact words (https://www.aprilwaychildren.org/). It’s a charity for foster children, abused children and so on and she says, “you know for your new album, “we were sitting in a café, “we should have a painting and we should auction it off for the charities.” OK great! I like the idea. I wasn’t sure what it was gonna be like, but I like the idea, and then the cover came out nice. I really dig it. We are in the process now of doing the sale on that, but yeah, my wife is definitely the leading mind behind that. Of course, I’m a hundred percent behind it too.

Ohio Music Experience: You have the lyric videos out for all the songs on the album and you mentioned you’d love to do videos for all the songs? Is that in the works?

Malmsteen: Well, as I said, I would love to, but that’s got to be done through the label, but the thing is, I wouldn’t be able to take one song and say yeah, that represents the album because it’s much more to it than that however, of course the thing when we talked about putting out the first song I said, let’s do “Wolves (At The Door)” because it kind of just like start blazing, you know? why not. It’s like let’s not make it slow. Let’s just do that, but I always thought, back in the day when I grew up it was, you would listen to an album, you would like really listen to it.  And it was a great little journey. I remember doing that when I was a kid and I think this one is like that. When I was a little kid, I would buy an album and I would listen to it from start to finish. I wouldn’t skip songs or I wouldn’t go to the end or whatever. It’s like watching a movie. You don’t look at the beginning and then you walk out and then you see the end or just the middle and not the end. You know what I mean? The way I put the songs is like tempo, velocity, keys, feel. Certain order is important.

Ohio Music Experience: That is true. I definitely listened to the whole album when I listened to it. It was really good.

Malmsteen: Wow! I’m proud of you. I’m proud if ya.

Ohio Music Experience: It’s an amazing album and looking forward to the show as well. Was there anything else you wanted fans to know? Anything else for them to look forward to?

Malmsteen: Yeah, just come out to the show basically. It’s gonna be awesome! I’m going to give everything there is, and then some.

 

 

 

Share.