Guitar World – 1986 – January
I was unpacking boxes and I came across all of my Guitar World magazines, Guitar for the Practicing Musician which morphed into just Guitar, Guitar School, Guitar One, Guitar Player, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Australian Guitar and Guitar Player.
This was the first Guitar World magazine I purchased. I remember purchasing it from the newsagency, bringing it home and slowly taking it out of the plastic. I remember turning the pages over as delicate as a heart surgeon. This was all I had back in 86, apart from a tape of Twisted Sister’s Stay Hunger, Van Halen’s 1984, Bruce Springsteen’s – Born In The USA and Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil. I also had some seven inch singles from my brothers that had Kiss – I Was Made for Loving You and Hard Times as its B Side.
It had Yngwie Malmsteen on the cover. I don’t know why I purchased this edition as at that time I didn’t even know who Yngwie was or how he sounded. However I was starting to get into guitars and the magazine was called Guitar World.
There was a small piece in a section called The Whammy Bar, which stated that Billy Sheehan will be joining David Lee Roth on his new solo project and that DLR is also trying to get Yngwie Malmsteen in there. Here is the connection for me as I knew who DLR was from Van Halen. This alone made me interested in seeking out the music from Malmsteen.
Who would have thought how interconnected Malmsteen and Steve Vai where at that time. Talk about six degrees of separation. So Malmsteen came to America and played in a hard rock band called Alcatrazz. When he left that band to do Rising Force, Alcatrazz hired Steve Vai as his replacement. DLR is looking at putting a new band together post Van Halen and Malmsteen is sought out, however it is Vai that gets the job.
Then I read the Malmsteen interview.
“I’d rather have people dislike my style than change it,” he says. “If someone says, ‘Hey, Yngwie, you play too damn much’ –- I don’t care. The way I play is the way I like to play. If people like it – great. If they don’t, it’s still fine with me.”
I think 27 years on; it’s safe to say that Yngwie didn’t conform to any record label standard. I have listened to every album he has produced and while quite a few became a yawn fest and a waste of time I will never get back, he never gave in and he never sacrificed his ideals to please the corporate empires. For any guitarist or musician coming out, this should be your motto especially when you have musicians from ‘successful ‘ groups departing and issuing comments like this (from Adam Gontier – ex Three Days Grace vocalist);
“The music BUSINESS. Remember this people…, in my/our case; it’s always been about the “business”. The money. What about the love for creating real music from the heart? Where did that fit in? Pretty much nowhere. No room for music from the heart, when it’s just about music for the radio.”
You can safely say that Malmsteen has always been about the music.
It’s okay to have haters. You cannot please everyone. However as soon as you lose what made you special in the first place, you are the same as everyone else.
“I’ve always sacrificed things in order to become the best musician I could be. “
Malmsteen dropped out of school at 15, got a job working in a guitar shop which further developed his skills (being able to play is one thing, however knowing your equipment and knowing how it all hangs together is another). How many kids these days drop out of school at 15? Why would they? Isn’t it better to get an education and even go to Uni/College so that there is something to fall back on?
“If guitar players just listen to other guitar players it’s almost impossible to avoid sounding like them,” says Malmsteen, who acknowledges only Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore as guitar influences.”
Isn’t that so true. Look at all the metal guitarists around today, they can do all the guitar tricks from so many different styles, all packaged into one. Malmsteen sweeps, Van Halen taps, Al DiMeola alternate picking, Steve Morse string skipping, John Petrucci legato, Randy Rhoads modal theories, and so on. The ones that truly stand out are the ones that do it a touch differently. Disturbed is a prime example that comes to mind of this where guitar and drums where one. The guitar acted like a percussion instrument. Great music can be born out of the syncopation of drums and guitar.
“It’s also important to me that what I play fast will also sound good if the same notes are played at a slower speed. I play classical runs, arpeggios and broken chords that if played at a slower speed would sound very nice as well. “
Has anyone ever done it? I have. I remember taking Trilogy Suite and playing it at 100bpm instead of the 200 bpm it is supposed to be.
“Anyone who’s witnessed Malmsteen on stage knows he is an intensely exciting performer. Most guitarists with mind-boggling technique are actually quite boring in concert, but Malmsteen manages to impress as well as entertain. He is always in constant motion, whether playing his Strat with his teeth or effortlessly twirling it around his body.”
This is a general rule for every musician. The definition of musician also takes in the definition of performer. You need to deliver the goods live and make it exciting. You need to make the kids want to be you, you need to inspire the almost there musicians to be you and you need to leave the mouths wide open of seasoned musicians. Otherwise the million plus other musicians will come along and push you aside.
“Much hard work, of course, has gone into honing his style. “I’ve been playing constantly since the age of eight,” says the twenty-two-year-old guitarist.”
Yes that’s right, Malmsteen was 22 in 1986. He came to the U.S in 1983 as a 19 year old. This is what kids need to realise. It takes time. Nothing happens overnight. You need to be in it for the long haul. In the case of Malmsteen, he came to the US and joined Steeler and then Alcatrazz. Both bands where stepping stones.
Would Led Zeppelin have been so great if they formed in 1964 or 1966? Would Jimmy Page write the songs he did if he didn’t do time with the Yardbirds and the British studio scenes.
Would Metallica be where they are if they kept their original bassist and never hired Cliff Burton? Would they have written Master of Puppets if Dave Mustaine was still in the band?
Basically it was a long road to success once upon a time and that hasn’t changed in the current internet era. Even someone like PSY had put in time before he went viral. His first album was released in 2001. It wasn’t until 2011 that the world knew who he was and that was achieved without the traditional mainstream press and radio.
Even though the news carriers publicise the one in a million stories of people found and made into overnight sensations, there are still a billion of other artists still paying their dues.
“I’ve always been aware of recording techniques,” he says, “and I’ve always felt I could do a better job than an outside producer because they obviously don’t know the songs as well as I do. I mean, I don’t think a painter would do the background and let someone else finish the rest of the painting.”
The musician definition just keeps on growing. You create, you perform, you know your gear and tweak it to suit, you practice your art, you record your own music, you produce it and release it. With the internet and advancements of technology, every musician should be doing the above.
“Malmsteen’s desire to do it all obviously puts a lot of weight on his shoulders. Will he keep a clean head and progress? Or will he get caught up in the rabid attention he’s been getting and stagnate? The answers to these questions will prove if Malmsteen becomes the legendary guitarist he is so capable of becoming.”
The magazine came out in January 1986. Malmsteen was promoting Marching Out which came out October 1985. In September of 86 he released Trilogy. Three albums in three years as a solo artist. In total if you include Steeler and Alcatrazz releases that is six releases in four years.
Remember Malmsteen’s motto, it’s all about the music. Keep on pumping the music boys and girls, that is how it was done back in the day so that artists could get traction and that is how it should be done in this day and age. Six album releases in four years. A total of 50 songs over a 48 month (as one Alcatrazz album was a live release).
A song a month should be the aim of every artist as a minimum.
Did Malmsteen become the legendary guitarist? My view is YES. He released Odyssey in 1988 with Joe Lyn Turner which became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career and the one where you could have questioned if he was becoming another record label slave. Remember his motto, its all about the music and the very commercial sounding Joe Lynn Turner was fired.
Did he maintain his legendary status? My view is YES. When shredding and neo-classical became out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s. He never gave in to suit a flavour of the year style. He remained true to himself and that to me is the sign of a legend.
Yes there are stories of his ego, his erratic behaviour, his fury (remember the plane incident) and his controlling manner however he never gave away himself, he never sold out to cash in. As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started a new again.
I remember reading in Metal Edge or another music rag sometime during the mid 90’s that Malmsteen and Ronnie James Dio ended up getting together to write some songs or where going to get together to form a supergroup. I don’t know how true that is and what happened to the music they created.
Other guitarists mentioned in the magazine where Spacey T. from the band Sound Barrier, Kazumi Watanabe, George Thorogood, John Martyn, Lonnie Mack, Steve Stevens, Dave Meniketti and Al Di Meola. But that is for another day.