“Nobody is perfect. But people really don’t understand what I’m doing”: Yngwie Malmsteen on why he’s the guitarist people love to hate

Yngwie Malmsteen holding his guitar sitting on a couch
(Image credit: Jesse Wild)

Cover of Classic Rock 320

(Image credit: Future)

Ynwgie Malmsteen is one of the rock’s most divisive musicians. The number of people who see him as one of the greatest guitarists of the last 40 years are matched by those who think he’s a self-centred egotist who puts speed and flashiness over actual songcraft.

Now Malmsteen has responded to the fact that a lot of people love to hate him - not least some of the musicians who have passed through his solo band.

Speaking in the brand new issue of Classic Rock magazine ahead of his UK tour, Yngwie addresses the question of how much the negative attention is deserved or whether he’s misunderstood.  

“Nobody is perfect,” he tells Classic Rock’s Dave Ling. “But people really don’t understand what I’m doing. This is not a band. It hasn’t been a band since 1984. That’s strange for rock’n’roll people to comprehend, but it’s how I work.

“I’m a painter. I won’t do half a painting and call you up and say: ‘Dave, please finish it for me.’ Working with others, I felt like I was subtracting something, and not adding.

“That’s often mistaken for egotism, but really it isn’t. Singers have a real problem with the fact that they are part of the ensemble, performing my music. They just don’t get it.”

Malmsteen - who has made no secret of his frustration with some of the singers he’s worked with in the past – also addresses why he has decided to take on vocal duties himself in recent years.

“I need to explain something to you,” he says. “The way I work is different to everybody else. I can wake up in the middle of the night and hear a perfectly completed song – including the production. Therefore I don’t need producers, outside writers, and I no longer need singers.

“When I had singers, I wrote the vocal melodies the way I heard them in my head and taught them to [former Alcatrazz bandmate] Graham Bonnet or whoever. Until I came to the States I was the singer, guitar player and writer, all I needed to do was hire a bass player and drummer. Over my career there was only a small [period of time] when I used singers. It’s just easier to do it myself.”

You can see for yourself how well that works when he kicks off a short run of UK dates on November 3.

Read the full interview with Yngwie in the brand new issue of Classic Rock, featuring Status Quo on the cover and onsale now. Order it online and have it delivered straight to your door.

The cover of Classic Rock 320

(Image credit: Future)
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