Yngwie J. Malmsteen: King's Diamonds
Originally printed in Guitar World, July 2008
In this album overview, Yngwie reveals the untold stories behind his crowning achievements.
Steeler  “I emigrated to the U.S. on February 3, 1983, when I was 19 years old. I joined Steeler right away and recorded the album the following month. I’d been playing in bands in Sweden since the age of 11, but Steeler was my first album. I had no idea it would be released on a record label called Shrapnel. All I knew was I’d be playing in a band called Steeler.
“The album was recorded outside of San Francisco in Cotati, California, on a farm that has a recording studio called Prairie Sun Studios. Except for the guitar parts, the other instruments were recorded before I joined the band. I was anxious to record my parts, but [Shrapnel Records owner] Mike Varney told me I had to wait until he got my work papers before I could do so. My papers arrived a few weeks later, and I had to record all the guitar parts in one day! I remember Varney saying, ‘We just got your work permit. Go in there and play.’ It wasn’t really much of a toil, because I was used to working at such a hectic pace anyway. I used my 1971 ‘Duck’ Stratocaster on the album, which I played on all my albums until the early Nineties.
“Steeler was a good start for my career. They didn’t play anything dangerous—everything was formulaic—but I played all this crazy stuff on top of it, and that turned out to be an interesting combination. But by the time Steeler came out, I was already out of the band.”
Alcatrazz No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll  “I joined Alcatrazz a month after I recorded Steeler. The big difference between Steeler and Alcatrazz is that in Alcatrazz I wrote the songs. When I went to the Alcatrazz audition, they had no songs and no direction. They also had a questionable drummer. They offered me the gig on the spot, but that same day I got another offer from [UFO vocalist] Phil Mogg, who wanted to get UFO going again after Michael Schenker had left to form his own band. I told Mogg I’d get back to him. I felt it would be too much of a gamble to work with him; at least Alcatrazz had a lineup and a manager.
“I told the guys in Alcatrazz I’d join if they’d get a new drummer, and they obliged. But the main thing that made me go with them was the fact that they had no songs. I wanted to write them, so that’s what I did.
“Alcatrazz got to play right away, and by January 1984 we were headlining in Japan. Everything all happened at once for me—I didn’t know what was going on! I remember walking out of my hotel room in Tokyo and there’d be a throng of people waiting for me in the lobby. It was like Beatlemania! After I got back from Japan with Alcatrazz, we toured in the States with Ted Nugent, which gave us some great exposure.”
Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force  “The concept behind Alcatrazz was that [vocalist] Graham Bonnet would be the star, and the band was built around him. But without intending to, I became the most popular member, which created some friction among the other guys.
“When Alcatrazz played in Japan in early ’84, the record label offered me the opportunity to do a solo album while continuing to play in the band. I wanted the whole album to have vocals, but the record company didn’t want that. Initially, the album was released solely in Japan. Months later, Polygram released it in the U.S. It spent nearly a year on the Billboard chart and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental performance [in 1985].
“I began recording Rising Force with [keyboardist] Jens Johansson while I was on tour with Alcatrazz. When we had a few days off, I’d fly out to L.A. and record a couple of solos at the Record Plant and then be back in time for the next gig. A few of the songs were on the demo I sent Varney, like ‘Black Star’ and ‘Now Your Ships Are Burned.’ I don’t think Rising Force is my best album, but there are some cool tracks on it. I’ll probably play ‘Far Beyond the Sun’ and ‘Black Star’ until the day I die.”
Marching Out  “Upon completing Rising Force I went straight into the studio to do Marching Out, with the intention that it would be my first U.S. solo album. But Rising Force had already beat it to the punch because it was rush-released.
“Marching Out is a pretty straightforward heavy metal album, but with insanely over-the-top guitar playing. Most of the songs were written specifically for it, except for 'Soldier without Faith’ and ‘Anguish and Fear,’ which I wrote in Sweden when I was a kid.
“A lot of the songs came together when I was living in a suburban home in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with [drummer] Anders Johansson and his brother Jens. We set up Marshall stacks and a drum set and played in the middle of the night! As you can imagine, the neighbors weren’t happy.”
Trilogy  “This album is special to me because I focused specifically on writing good songs and less on crazy guitar solos. ‘You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget,’ ‘The Fury’ and ‘Magic Mirror’ are songs I’m still quite proud of. I still play ‘You Don’t Remember’ every night onstage; it’s the only tune I ever wrote on keyboards. ‘Trilogy Suite Op:5’ is a pretty out-of-control instrumental. The main riff is a fast Phrygian run that I’ve played for years. A lot of the other trademarks of my style are in that track, things like diminished, chromatic, harmonic minor and Aeolian pentatonic runs.
“Marcel Jacob played bass on Marching Out, but I played all the bass parts on Trilogy and pretty much every album since. Playing bass myself, I found out, is usually best because it’s easier to do it myself than teach my bass parts to another musician—I don’t have the patience for that. By doing it myself, I bring the guitar, bass and drums together in a more compact way. Plus, I enjoy playing bass.”