Swedish guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen first entered the public eye via the 'Spotlight' column for new talent in the February '83 issue of 'Guitar Player' magazine. After a move from his native Stockholm, Yngwie (pronounced 'Ing-vay') relocated in LA and following a brief spell with Steeler he formed Alcatrazz with singer Graham Bonnet. In June '84 Yngwie left Alcatrazz to pursue a solo carear fronting his band 'Rising Force'.
Yngwie is one of the few rock guitarists who can be said to have founded a new genre. Unfortunately, 'neo-Classical Metal' all-too-often sounds like an epileptic Paganini cranked through a Marshall stack - blindingly fast harmonic minor scales, rippling arpeggios and dramatic gestures but played with a cavalier disregard for dynamics, form and melody. Along with Paganini (epileptic or otherwise), Yngwie has frequently cited his other main influences as being JS Bach and Jimi Hendrix.
UV: Do you remember the first time you heard Hendrix?
YM: Yeah - it was the day he died. That was the day I started playing. I had been given a guitar for my fifth birthday and when I was seven years old they showed him on Swedish TV. I started playing straight that day.
UV: Seven years old is a pretty young age to be impressed by Jimi Hendrix...
YM: I don't think so. Why?
UV: I would have thought that a seven year old wouldn't quite appreciate the sensual and psychedelic aspects of his music. But then again, maybe a seven year old can respond to the music without any preconceptions or prejudices.
YM: Yeah, sure. He was my hero - he made me think it was cool to play the guitar.
UV: Do you still feel there's a Hendrix influence in your style?
YM: Not so much now. Everything I play comes from within - I strongly believe I'm not influenced by anyone right now. But his attitude towards everything he did is still there - the way he dressed and everything.
UV: Just trying to be true to himself?
YM: Yeah, basically. You know, I call my cat 'Fuzzy' but his full name is 'Fuzz Face Cry Baby', named after Jimi's pedals!
UV: Moving on, do you remember when you started tuning a half-step lower?
YM: I've always done that - I didn't do it on the Steeler or the Alcatrazz albums because they didn't do it. But apart from that I've always, always done it.
UV: Was it influenced by Hendrix?
YM: Oh no, I've just always done it. Did he do that? I didn't know!
UV: You mixed your latest album in Electric Lady Studios ['Fire and Ice' - a deliberate Spinal Tap reference, we hope - DJN]. Did you chose it because of the Hendrix connection?
YM: That's right. Wouldn't you?
UV: Yeah, I'm sure I would! On your live album 'Trial by Fire/Live in Leningrad' [which shows Yngwie burning his guitar and I think we know where he got that from - DJN] you cover 'Spanish Castle Magic'. Is that one of your favourite Hendrix songs?
YM: Yeah, I love that song. That was totally spontaneous, you know, it was the first and the only time I've played it in concert. It was completely unrehearsed and the band didn't know I was going to do it! I didn't know I was going to do! [Phew - these crazy, spontaneous rock 'n' rollers - DJN]
UV: Which other Hendrix songs have you played live?
YM: I've done 'Red House' [debatable - DJN], 'Purple Haze', 'Manic Depression', 'Little Miss Lover' and 'Hey Joe'. You know, I can go into any song onstage sometimes and the band just has to follow me.
UV: You don't rehearse these songs with the band?
YM: No! I know most of his stuff and the guys in the band have all heard the songs. To do what he did on the guitar is not as difficult as it was then because guitarists learn so much quicker now - you can get books of his music and so on...
This interview was previously published in UniVibes issue 7, August 1992.
UniVibes 1992 reprinted by permission of UniVibes, International Jimi Hendrix Magazine, Coppeen, Enniskeane, County Cork, Republic Of Ireland