ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON DEC. 27, 1985
By Steve Newton
Hendrix. Page. Beck. Clapton. Blackmore. Van Halen. Rhoads. Malmsteen.
That’s right, Malmsteen. The name might not be as familiar, but rest assured that in years to come it will gain a place beside those of rock’s biggest guitar heroes. At only 22 years of age, Swedish-born Yngwie (pronounced “ing-vay”) Malmsteen is fast becoming known as the most skilled player in hard rock.
Taking his influence more from classical music than the blues, Yngwie has developed a mind-boggling technique and a sound that is uniquely his own. In the latest edition of Guitar World magazine–which features Yngwie on the cover–his music is described as “an ear-searing combination of heavy metal bombast and classical beauty.”
Local metal fans will have a chance to hear for themselves what all the fuss is about when Malmsteen’s Rising Force opens for Dio this Saturday (December 28) at the Coliseum. Yngwie fanatics take note: you can meet him in person, the day of the show, at A&A Records on Granville, between 3 and 4 pm.
Yngwie Malmsteen’s rise to the upper echelons of the guitar world has been a rapid one. In February of 1983 he made his first move to America from Sweden, on the invitation of guitar aficionado Mike Varney, a columnist for Guitar Player magazine and high-profile talent scout, especially in the metal realm (as “Mister Varney” he has produced three volumes of U.S. Metal–Unsung Guitar Heroes on his own Shrapnel Records label.)
Varney set up a recording project with Malmsteen, Talas bassist Billy Sheehan, and drummer Leonard Haze of Y&T, but that plan fell through, and Yngwie quickly joined another band called Steeler, with which he cut one album.
By the time that record hit the streets, however, Yngwie wanted out of Steeler. After being approached by UFO singer Phil Mogg to join his band, Yngwie settled on a new one being formed by vocalist Graham Bonnet, who had previously played with guitar greats Ritchie Blackmore (on Rainbow’s Down to Earth) and Michael Schenker (on the Michael Schenker Group’s Assault Atttack).
The group became Alcatrazz, and Malmsteen recorded two albums with them, the debut No Parole for Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the mini-LP, Live Sentence, recorded in Japan. Two years ago, just before the release of No Parole, I interviewed Bonnet, and this is how he described his new find:
“Yngwie came down [to audition] one Sunday afternoon and that was it. I mean, he plays like Ritchie. And he looks like him a bit too, you know, he has crosses hanging around his neck and all that stuff–the typical heavy metal guitarist. He’s real young, but he’s got great technique. He’s very much like Eddie Van Halen, real clean. And I’m not kidding when I say he’s as good as that. He’s shit-hot!”
Unfortunately for Bonnet, hot as Yngwie was, he had cold feet. While still a member of Alcatrazz, he was planning his own band, and just last year he recruited former Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow, fellow Swede Jens Johannsson on keyboards, and American vocalist Jeff Scott Soho–who Malmsteen picked from over 2,000 demo tapes submitted in answer to an MTV ad.
Rising Force was formed, and in April of ’84 they released their self-titled debut album. Originally available only in Japan, it sold so many copies as an import that PolyGram Records went on to release it in North America–and it eventually went as high as Number 60 on the Billboard chart.
On the strength of Rising Force Yngwie received the Best New Talent award in the prestigious Guitar Player poll (an honor previously bestowed on the likes of Al DiMeola, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Adrian Belew, and Stevie Ray Vaughan), and a third place showing in the Overall Best Rock Guitar category (behind Gary Moore and Alex Lifeson of Rush).
1985 sees Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force with a second album, Marching Out, and a new singer from the Ted Nugent band, Mark Boals.
Earlier this month I called Yngwie at his home in L.A., where he was resting after a 60-date tour with Aussie rockers AC/DC. He talked about his influences, his admiration of horror writer Stephen King, and his hatred of most “heavy metal”.
What made you want to learn guitar in the first place?
Basically I got really inspired by seeing Jimi Hendrix on TV, you know. That’s basically how the whole thing started.
What was it about Hendrix that you liked so much?
I liked the fact that he was really incorporating a lot of show into what he was doin’. I liked that lot.
On the liner notes of your new album you mention Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore.
Yeah, I started listening to Deep Purple a lot after that as well.
Which albums in particular?
Fireball and In Rock, way back when they first came out.
What was the music scene like in Sweden when you were growing up?
It was nothing. It was just like a lot of shit really.
Is that what brought you over to America?
Well I’d been playing for such a long time, and the reason I went to America from Sweden was because it didn’t matter how much I tried there–it would never bring me anywhere.
I understand you’re heavily into classical music.
Yeah that’s my biggest influence really, period. That’s what I listen to right now. I don’t have any influence from rock bands, because I think it’s too limiting really.
Who are your biggest classical influences?
Johann Sebastian Bach. Paganini.
You say in Guitar World that Paganini was “a rock and roller”.
You could say so, yeah. What I mean with that was that he was really wild. You know, he went around drinking and fooling with women. He was wild.
Does it bother you when people call Rising Force a heavy metal band?
It didn’t use to bother me. But nowadays, when I really understand what heavy metal stands for, I don’t like it at all. Because as far as I’m concerned heavy metal is a very primitive, and in my opinion not very necessary form of music that could be extinct.
I really detest it. It’s disgusting, and it’s really boring, and it’s very low, and it’s totally free from any intelligence or logic or notions. It’s all crap, and it’s for little frustrated pre-pubescent kids. And I’m really fed up with it.
But aren’t those the same kids that come to your concerts?
Yeah, but they seem to have a little more understanding for what’s going on, the kids that come to my concerts. You know, rather than people like W.A.S.P. and all that shit.
I understand that you were drafted into the Swedish army when you were 18?
Yeah. And anything that is like an establishment, I just can’t stand really. Schools, or armies, or jobs–whatever–it’s something I just can’t cope with. Because I’m too independent a person to be told what to do, and do things in groups. I’m a very creative person in my own way, and I don’t need people to tell me what to do, and I definitely don’t like it!
How did you get out of the army?
Well it’s a long story really, but basically just by explaining to them exactly how it was. And by spicing it up a little bit, and exaggerating here and there, and telling them I’d shoot myself if they didn’t let me out.
You’ve got a special thanks to Stephen King on your new album. What’s that for?
Because it’s really inspiring to read good books, and I’ve always been fascinated by the unknown and so forth. I’ve been studying the occult a lot.
Which is your favourite Stephen King book?
I think Firestarter and The Stand. I’m reading The Talisman right now, which he wrote together with another guy, Peter Straub. And that one’s really good. That’s one of the best ones I think.
Do you ever get ideas for songs from his stories.
Well not exactly ideas for songs as much as inspiration. It’s creation that really inspired me–that’s why I’m inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and H.P. Lovecraft and whoever.
How is your new album, Marching Out, doing? Is it selling pretty well?
It’s not doing bad! Considering the fact that we don’t get any airplay, and a very small amount of MTV play, it’s actually very good. It’s something a little over half a million now I think.
To hear the full audio of my 1985 interview with Yngwie–and my 2014 interview with him as well–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 350 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
….with hundreds more to come