Dear Guitar Hero: Yngwie Malmsteen Answers Readers' Questions on Sweep Picking, Amps and Arrogance
How do you manage to keep your Strat in tune when you’re constantly doing huge dive bombs and pull-ups? — Michael McLaughlin
I couldn’t tell you exactly how I keep my guitar in tune, but I think it’s how I tune it. The strings are wound on the pegs exactly right. If you have too few windings, the string might slip; if you wind it too much, the string might not pull back properly after you use the whammy. Basically, you have to find just the right amount of winding. I beat the shit out of my guitars onstage, but they stay perfectly in tune.
How do you respond to the people that accuse you of being arrogant? — Chris
I tell them to fuck off! I saw an old interview with Queen on TV recently, and Freddie Mercury and Brian May were talking about how they were when they started: arrogant, cocky and convinced they’d conquer the world. You have to be like that if you’re really gonna make it.
If you’re timid, laid-back and quiet, you have less chance of being noticed. So maybe there was an arrogant side to me when I started out. You have to be cutthroat and go for it all the way. Obviously, I don’t have a need for that anymore. I just do what I do.
Besides guitar playing, what other things do you like to do? — Jeff Hernandez
I love driving my Ferraris, playing tennis, hanging out with my family, going to the movies, reading books and messing with my watches. I’m also a tennis freak and play as much as I can. Tennis is like chess and boxing combined into one. It’s not a team sport—it’s all about you. It’s very intelligent, psychological and physical.
You have to be smart to play it, because you need to quickly anticipate your opponent’s move. It’s quite a mental challenge and also very humbling. My tennis coach is the only guy who has ever taught me anything in my life. Whatever he says goes.
I have seen you play numerous times, and I always wonder if you use all those stacks at once or switch between them for different tones? — Ronny Oliver
On my last tour I used something like 32 heads and 30 cabinets at certain shows. I like the feeling of having a wall of amps behind me. I often mix the 50-, 100- and sometimes 200-watt heads together. For the big venues, I like to combine the warm tones of the 50s, the hard sound of the 100s and the extreme loudness of the 200s for a really immense sound. But it wouldn’t be wise to connect all the onstage heads and cabinets together, because it would probably blow the roof off.
Why don’t you try to reinvent your style? Ninety-nine percent of people I know who like your music say, “Yngwie makes the same record over and over again.” Is it time to take the neoclassical style to the next level? — Raul Gomez
Raul, have you ever heard of Eric Clapton? He’s been playing the same five notes for 50 years! B.B. King has been playing the same three notes for 60 years! The Rolling Stones have been playing the same chords for 50 years! The kind of music that I make is quite diverse in the sense that it doesn’t just have one aspect—it goes from neoclassical to bluesy to metal. People who think that I make the same record over and over again are narrow-minded.
Any artist who has their own sound, from Sting to Iron Maiden to ZZ Top—for them to change would be mad. Having your own definable sound is something that should be treasured. Nobody tells Angus Young to change. Anyone who has a narrow-minded view of me, well, what do they have to offer? I’m proud to have started a style of music that has been copied. How could someone ask me to reinvent my style?
What kind of talk is that? I’m an artist. I’m not a waiter who takes orders from people. As for taking my neoclassical style to the next level, I composed a symphony [Concerto Suite for the Electric Guitar and Orchestra, 1998]. How’s that for the next level!
Photo: Larry Marano