Yngwie Malmsteen Learned Vocal Warm-Up Techniques From Uncle in Royal Swedish Opera
Neoclassical guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, discussing his latest album, Parabellum, which is out now.
The shredder reflected on his writing process this time around, which found him making tweaks to his arrangements and melodies while listening to recordings of what were then soon-to-be album tracks while driving around in his car.
He also explained why he has previously likened himself to a painter when writing music, as he has a particular aversion to collaborating with outside artists. Even on songs that require a singer, he's often the one writing the lyrics and always presents to vocal melody to his singer.
Having experience as a singer himself, he also shared that his uncle, a tenor in the Royal Swedish Opera, taught him warm-up techniques earlier in his career.
As technically proficient as he is, Malmsteen still contends that there are certain elements of writing and playing that do challenge him, and although the approach is the same onstage and in the studio, it comes with a different mindset.
Read the full interview below.
Time afforded you an opportunity to approach Parabellum differently from the way you typically make albums. What did you enjoy most about the process of molding and shaping the songs?
Here's the thing I've learned from many years of doing this — that too much time could be bad too. If you start overthinking stuff, you actually go from something that started to be good, gets really good and then started getting bad [laughs] because you just keep on changing it all and second guessing. That's not good.
So, I learned how to balance it a lot. What I spent the time on was coming up with ideas — about 80 or 90, almost a hundred things — and out of those, I chose 10 pieces.
I would record it, listen to it in my car, drive around and I would be thinking, "Oh, that should be there and I move it around, I feel more harmony on there." I put a little different voice on it and spent a lot of time detailing the songs.
Once you're in the studio [to record] a solo or something, I did it in one take it. If you keep doing another and another, it doesn't get better. This is the first time I haven't toured for a long time, so that was kind of strange, but I balanced it so that I was only going in when I was inspired. I didn't have pressure or anything like that, so it was very good that way.
Yngwie Malmsteen, "Wolves at the Door"
Being a world-class musician, you're recognized for your command of the guitar. What still challenges you about the instrument in spite of your proficiency?
What I do when I go onstage or in the studio and do solos is I improvise. That's a challenge right there because you the tape is rolling and you have to come up with something right there and then that's going to be forever. Onstage, you have to do it too, but it's a little less because it's pulling all the inspiration from the people. It's live and that's a one time thing, but on the record, it is forever.
It's very challenging, but at the same time, very enjoyable because when you do succeed, it is great.
As far as playing to come up with things that are challenging, I don't normally do that, but on this album I did. For instance, the title track, that's extremely difficult to play and so is "Presto Vivace in C# Minor."
Just coming up with those songs is really satisfying, such as "Eternal Bliss." They're just songs, not really guitar oriented things. I do both.
Yngwie Malmsteen, "(Si Vis Pacem) Para Bellum
You've compared your compositional approach to painting. How has an appreciation for the techniques of visual or literary arts enhanced the way you think about creating music?
The reason I make that analogy is that people sometimes find it confusing that I don't collaborate with a band or something like that. It's just because of who I am as a person, as an artist and as a creator. I'm probably more like a painter than a rock 'n' roll musician.
I wouldn't paint half the painting and [ask] somebody, "Hey, could you come over here and paint the [other] half for me?" That's what I meant by that. I see the whole picture immediately in my head — I hear the whole vision of music. I hear it already finished.
Singing is something you've added to your musical palette. In what ways has singing expanded your creativity and sense of self-expression?
I mostly bring the melody to the singers. I've always brought the words. Sometimes I'm not writing the words, but I always bring the melody.
When I started out, a long time ago, I used to put bands together when I was just a little kid — nine or 10 years old up until I was 18. I was always a singer, so I did it then. I started singing a lot onstage back in the '80s then I threw a song on here, here and there, so it's not really like something brand new to me at all.
My uncle is a tenor in the Royal Opera in Sweden. He's taught me a lot of the warm-up techniques and I just feel it that it's another way of expression that gives more personality. I'm very happy with that.
You're touring with John 5 later this year will partner you with another virtuoso, much like the G3 and Generation Axe tours you've done in the past. What's unique about the camaraderie of players who take guitar to the extreme?
I've had the pleasure to know all these guys and it's great — they're all awesome. It's a lot of fun and the Generation Axe G3 tours were great too. This is going to be cool. John 5 is a good friend of mine, so that will be awesome.
Thanks to Yngwie Malmsteen for the interview. Get your copy of 'Parabellum' here and follow the guitar legend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.