Yngwie J. Malmsteen Interview
Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s new album, and follow-up to Perpetual Flame, Relentless is slated for release on November 23rd via Malmsteen’s imprint Rising Force Records. Relentless also marks the return of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens on vocals. Malmsteen is world renowned and has set the groundwork for neo-classical guitar with influences ranging from Richie Blackmore to Johann Sebastian Bach. In a press release Malmsteen stated this about the new record; “The album title really says it all. The drive to surpass my own accomplishments can best be described with one word — relentless. After all these years of composing and playing music, I still am passionate about pushing myself to the limit — to the highest, most demanding level of playing possible.” I recently spoke with Malmsteen while doing press for the new album.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been very prolific during the past three years. You’ve released four albums on your label Rising Force Records, with the latest being Relentless. How does this ‘do it yourself’ approach work for you in a creative sense?
Yngwie Malmsteen: The truth of the matter is when I was on a major label they didn’t have any control of what I was doing. I never let a label tell me what to do. They tried, but it got to the point where they just gave up because I wasn’t listening. There’s this saying that I have; “there’s the right way, the wrong way and the Yngway.” I’ve made it clear from day one that this is what I do and how I do things (laughs). I do listen to people’s thoughts on my music, I’m open to that. I listen to my wife all the time, but if you’re coming to me and telling me that I need sacrifice my vision to make something more commercial or to make it into a single then talk to someone else. I started my own independent label as a business thing really. I can also release whatever I want whenever I want — it’s awesome.
Sleaze Roxx: Relentless marks your second record with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens as vocalist. As with previous albums, everything on Perpetual Flame was written prior to the singer coming in. Did Tim write for the new album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Ah, no! It was done in the same way as you mentioned. I have to say that it’s not necessarily a bad thing, because Tim has a lot of projects where he gets to write for. I like to write everything — I write the drum parts, I write the keyboard parts, I write the melodies, I write the guitar parts, lyrics and everything else. I approach it much like a classical composer — he wouldn’t leave the cello parts for the cellists to write. The composer writes every part for everyone involved. I’m sure in reading this people are going to say, “What the hell is he talking about?” That’s the way that I have done this, that is what works best for me and it’s a personal thing. It’s how I create.
Sleaze Roxx: This way you write isn’t the norm. Have you met anyone in the rock world that writes in the manner you described?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I’m not sure. The only person that I can think of is Frank Zappa. I think that how he wrote that way as well. In the past when I’ve used an outside producer I’ve had singers come up with the melodies but it never felt complete. Let me put it to you this way — it’s like a painter, I paint the landscape and the clouds and I just can’t hand it over for someone else to finish it.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned that you are receptive to feedback and one of your biggest critics is your wife. Was it open for Tim to give feedback during the recording of the album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Coming in they know how I work so they don’t do that. They don’t give any suggestions. I know that it sounds strict, but it’s not. The musicians I work with know that their role is to come in and deliver the best possible performance. I see it like Robert De Niro playing a role — it’s his task to bring that character to life. I know that in rock and roll that’s not the traditional way of making records. I don’t have a guitar riff and have the drummer play along and then bring in the singer to come up with his part over it. I just don’t work that way at all. I have to add that with Tim he has the voice that I have been looking for. I don’t have to push him hard because he gets it and knows what I’m looking for and it works brilliantly.
Sleaze Roxx: The new album sounds fantastic. You have a powerful vocalist in Tim and you are gelling very well on the album. Is this a relationship that you perceive lasting for a while?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Thank you. Of course I’m looking at this relationship with Tim as long term. People don’t know this, but Tim is a real sweetheart to work with and he’s such a great person.
Sleaze Roxx: With the advent of Pro Tools, and it being more and more accessible to artists, it has changed the way bands record. Was the new album recorded in the traditional way? Were you and Tim in the studio together at the same time?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Of course, I’m the producer. He’s got the melody line, he’s got the lyric sheet and we make changes if it doesn’t work. We can change a work here or there, that’s the classic way of doing a record — I’m hands on like that. I’m there with the drummer as well — I set up the click track and record the basic track. I’m extremely, extremely hands on with everything (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: It’s great to hear that you’re still recording in the traditional manner and not simply sending files online to one another.
Yngwie Malmsteen: I can do that too. I can send the song to Tim and he can send it back, but if it’s not what I envisioned then what’s the point? I’d much rather go into the studio and get it right once. I have my own studio with the 64 fader board and all of that stuff. I like that environment, it’s the best place to work in I feel. You don’t get that in front of a computer.
Sleaze Roxx: Relentless is the new album. It’s the logical progression from Perpetual Flame. In your own words what can the fans expect from the new album?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I have to add that I sing a song as well. Well for starters you obviously won’t mistake this album for someone else. It’s pure Yngwie J. Malmsteen. I don’t think it’s like the last album — the last record was song, song, song, song. This album each song flows and transitions right into the other. I used Gregorian chants on this album and some other different things and the guitar playing is even more extreme — especially the title track. I’ve receive some good feedback on the track I sing. All in all, love it or hate it, Relentless is not boring — that’s for sure.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you considered recording an album that featured you as the vocalist?
Yngwie Malmsteen: The song I sang on this record “Look At You Now” is much different than the songs that I have sung in the past. I was doing an interview today with a guy from Japan that didn’t know who was singing. In the past the stuff that I have sung was more blues oriented or a Jimi Hendrix type thing. This is much different, this is more of a rock vocal. It was very interesting to do for sure, but right now I don’t know. I used to be the singer before I was signed in America and I wasn’t having much luck finding the right singer. I have Tim right now and I love what he does. I don’t have any plans to do an album like that right now, but in the future who knows? We’ll see.
Sleaze Roxx: There have a been a few guitarists that have tried to duplicate your sound and style. A couple that come to mind are Chris Impellitteri and Alex Masi — what do you think about others trying to cop your style?
Yngwie Malmsteen: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery for sure, but I don’t worry about that. I’m me and I do what I do. I just wish people do something that’s their own thing you know? God bless them.
Sleaze Roxx: On High Impact you tackled Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” which any guitar enthusiast knows Eddie Van Halen played on. What inspired you to do that track?
Yngwie Malmsteen: You mentioned sending files over the internet earlier on — Tim was in South America on tour and I sent him the instrumental track. He wanted to sing on it and I was all for it. It was a tribute to Michael and it was meant to be a little tongue in cheek. It was all in good fun. I thought Michael Jackson was very cool and I like that song.
Sleaze Roxx: Relentless is set for release on November 23rd and then I’m sure there will be a tour to promote it.
Yngwie Malmsteen: Yeah there will be a tour. It’s in the talking stages at the moment. I’ll leave for New York for a few days to do some more press for the album. I’d say in the beginning of the year we’ll have some tour dates.
Sleaze Roxx: So we can expect a Portland, Oregon stop on the upcoming tour?
Yngwie Malmsteen: I think it’s time. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Portland. It’s a great rock city.
Sleaze Roxx: Any plans for a live DVD? Seems like a great opportunity to showcase some of the back catalog with the current band.
Yngwie Malmsteen: That will happen on this tour, we just have to find the right venue in which to do it. Expect it.
Courtesy of SleazeRoxx.com