Yngwie Malmsteen: "I don't follow trends… if anything, I make trends"

Yngwie Malmsteen
(Image credit: Rob Ball/WireImage)

Yngwie Malmsteen is a maverick, and whether he's playing or talking in interviews he goes full bore – uncompromising until the last. So he had some interesting to say to Sonic Perspectives in a recent interview ahead of his new album Parabellum's release on 24 July, especially when it comes to maintaining his modus operandi 40 years into a solo career. 

If I play it myself or I tell them what to play it's the same thing

"I've always showed the drummer what to play, written all the parts for the keyboard player, singer, whoever is on record," Malmsteen explains about the approach since his early days. "You've got to understand something, since 1984 I've been a solo artist so whoever I've been hiring for any purpose - record or tour or whatever - they've been a hired hand and I paid them a salary and they play what I tell them to play.

"So if I play it myself or I tell them what to play it's the same thing, to me. Because for me it's the results of the music that matter. And I just happen to enjoy doing it too."

Malmsteen also explained why he has chosen to sing lead vocals on four tracks for Parabellum. "When I was little kid I used to play in bands and I was eight or nine years old," he told Sonic Perspectives. I used to be in bands where the other guys were 20 years old and I was nine. The I became a teenager and I found people that were my age and I was always the lead singer. I was always the singer in the band. I was the lead singer, the lead guitar player and the songwriter. Always. 

"I came to American and I made [records] with a couple of other bands… except Steeler where I didn't need to write anything, afterwards I wrote all the vocal and melody lines. So I've always been involved in all that stuff. It just feels right to go back and do it how I feel it should be done. And also, some of my lyrics, they can't be sung by anybody else anyway - they're personal. 

I've always been very clear in my vision on where I wanna go and what I wanna do

Malmsteen also reflected on some of the scenes he's seen come and go during his time as a musician in the interview you can hear above. 

"I've done this for such a long time, and I was a very accomplished musician already - very young, but very accomplished," Malmsteen explained.  "I was in junior high when the first punk wave came - Sex Pistols. And I was going, 'What the fuck is this?! I was going, 'Why don't you tune the guitar?! Why do you sing like that?!'

"And then, of course, that wore out, you know.  And then in 1991, the same exact thing happened again with the grunge wave. So, obviously, as you might already have figured out, I'm not a follower - I don't follow trends. If anything, I make trends. I don't follow. And I've always been very clear in my vision on where I wanna go and what I wanna do. And my art is too important to me to dilute with trying to follow other things. So I just don't do that."

And we wouldn't want Yngwie any other way. Check out the video for his new single Wolves At The Door below. 

Yngwie Malmsteen's 6 tips for guitarists

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.