In a brand new interview with Sakis Fragos of Greece’s Rock Hard magazine, legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen was asked why he hasn’t worked with an outside singer on any of his albums following the release of 2010’s “Relentless”. “Well, that’s how I did it in the beginning when I started out, when I was a kid,” he said. “And then when I came to the States in the 1980s, I was in STEELER, I was in ALCATRAZZ, and they had singers. In 1984, I started my solo career, so from that point on, it was never a band. And it’s very important to remember that, because a lot of people don’t seem to understand what I’m doing. They think that I’m putting bands together and I fire them, and I don’t do any of those things. I write everything, and then I say, ‘Here’s your paycheck. I give you so much money a week. You’ve gotta sing this. These are the lyrics. These are the melodies.’ Or, ‘You’ve gotta play this on the keyboard.’ ‘You’ve gotta play this on the bass.’ Or the drums. So, basically, I would finance the whole thing and I would give them a salary. So it’s never been a band per se.
“A lot of times, the bass player and the drummer and the keyboard player, they would just be happy — they’d play their parts and they’d get their salary — but the singers would always cause trouble; they would always be acting like they were special and they had something different to say or whatever,” he continued. “So I said, ‘Listen, this is great. God bless you, man. Why don’t you go and write your own songs somewhere else? Thank you. I’m not stopping you to do that, but you can’t do it here.’ The singers always think that they’re better than the keyboard player or they’re better than the drummer.
“The thing is I’ve designed the situation so that I would not have a producer breathing down my back, I would not have a co-writer breathing down my neck or someone else that would tell me, ‘Let’s do it this way,’ or, ‘Let’s do it that way.’ Because I have a clear vision — very, very clear vision — of what I want and what I hear, so there’s no confusion there.
“There’s a lot of bands, a lot of artists that are very talented and they’re great, but they don’t have a vision per se; they’re just very good, but they need other people to lead them along,” Yngwie said. “And that’s great, and God bless ’em for that. I don’t need that. I have a very, very clear [vision] — since I was a little kid. That’s why I called my book ‘Relentless’, because that’s what I am — I’m completely fucking relentless.
“All these other guys, God bless ’em — all the best. I wish you all the luck in the world. But I’m doing what I’m doing, and you should be doing what you’re doing. And that’s the problem. And they always go out and they play my songs on tour and stuff like that, which is weird. But the thing is I don’t really care, because life’s too short for that kind of shit.
“You’re a creative person,” Yngwie added. “If you put something like paintings or books or, in my case music, if you put that out for everyone to see and hear, it’s very important for the creator and the artist — in this case me — to make sure this is a legacy. Let’s say Da Vinci or Rembrandt or Michelangelo, they don’t let someone else paint in their painting. They paint their painting and they have a vision. ‘Can I come and help you with the painting?’ ‘No. I don’t need that.’ Or a cellist in a baroque ensemble does not say to Johann Sebastian Bach, ‘That C-sharp there, can I play C instead?’ No, they don’t. Because it’s the one person’s visions. Or Stephen King, or whoever, or an author, or people that create something that’s not a group effort, whereas in rock and roll, that’s very unusual. It’s 99 percent of the time guys like Jagger and Richards, which I love, by the way — I love those guys. I love Brian Johnson and Angus Young, and I love the Van Halens and Dave Lee Roth — I love ’em all. I think they’re fucking amazing. They’re awesome, and they worked great together — Page, Plant. They’re all awesome. I don’t do that. And that’s what people [don’t understand]: ‘Why you don’t do it like everyone else?’ Because that’s now what I do. And that causes a lot of problems sometimes. ‘Cause people just don’t understand. It’s not like [I tell them], ‘Yeah, come in my band and write songs with me,’ and then I say, ‘No, you can’t.’ I don’t say that. I never said that. It’s not a band. You don’t write songs.”
Two years ago, Jeff Scott Soto, who sang on Yngwie‘s first two albums, 1984’s “Rising Force” and 1985’s “Marching Out”, engaged in a war of words with the Swedish guitarist over the fact that Malmsteen claimed in an interview that he “always wrote everything,” including the lyrics and melodies, and simply hired various vocalists to sing his material.
In the days after Yngwie‘s original interview with Metal Wani was published on BLABBERMOUTH.NET, several of the guitarist’s former singers — including Soto, Joe Lynn Turner and Tim “Ripper” Owens — responded on social media, with Turner describing Malmsteen‘s statements as “the rantings of a megalomaniac desperately trying to justify his own insecurity.” This was followed by a retort from a member of Yngwie‘s management team, who wrote on Malmsteen‘s Facebook page that the three vocalists “came out enraged, spitting insults and profanities” at the guitarist because “Yngwie said something that they didn’t like.” The management representative added: “It’s very unfortunate that these past hired vocalists must resort to mudslinging and insults to elicit any kind of media attention towards them. Such classless, puerile words are ungentlemanly at best and absolutely disgraceful at worst.”
Yngwie released a new album, “Blue Lightning”, on March 29 via Mascot Label Group. On the disc, Yngwie pays homage to those from the blues world who have fueled his artistic spirit for so long. “Blue Lightning” also includes four original tunes that bring to the fore Malmsteen‘s love for the blues.
Among the songs Malmsteen tackles on “Blue Lightning” are classics by THE BEATLES (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”), Jimi Hendrix (“Foxey Lady”, “Purple Haze”), THE ROLLING STONES (“Paint It Black”), ZZ TOP (“Blue Jean Blues”), DEEP PURPLE (“Demon’s Eye”, “Smoke On The Water”) and Eric Clapton (“Forever Man”).
(Special thanks to Sakis Fragos for providing the audio file containing the original English-language Yngwie Malmsteen interview from which the above words were transcribed)