In the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen addresses why he no longer hires singers, preferring instead 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.”
A year and a half ago, Yngwie elaborated on his issues with vocalists when he was asked by Tigman of WPDH Radio 101.5 FM in Poughkeepsie, New York to name the best of the three singers he worked with early on in his career: Jeff Scott Soto, Mark Boals and Joe Lynn Turner. He responded: “Here’s the way I look at this. So I came to America in 1982 and I joined a band called STEELER. And then I formed a band called ALCATRAZZ. In January 1984, I signed a record deal as a solo artist. So from the point of January 1984, it was never a band — never. There was never a band called RISING FORCE. My first solo album was called ‘Rising Force’. I had a band called RISING FORCE in Sweden in ’79. And when I hired people for my solo stuff, I would write the bass parts, the drum parts, the guitar parts — obviously — the keyboard parts, the vocal parts and the lyrics. So like an ensemble, like an orchestra or whatever, or even for a performance on Broadway, there’s a written piece and the performer is hired to perform the piece. If they, for some reason, don’t work out, you put someone else in there.
“For some strange reason, somebody seemed to think that a) it was a band, and b) the guy that was supposed to be the singer at the time was Elvis Presley or something,” he continued. “No. So I therefore, [in] 2012, decided I’m not gonna hire singers anymore and I sing myself. I said, ‘Good luck to you, guys. See you. Bye.'”
When Tigman noted that none of the singers Yngwie hired over the years “worked out” in the long run, Malmsteen said: “Well, they seem to think because they’re the singer and not the keyboard player they’re Elvis Presley. And they will soon find out, in my outfit they’re notElvis Presley and they will have to move on.
“It’s an Yngwie Malmsteensolo career,” he explained. “And even now, for the last album I even played all the instruments as well.
“Listen, it’s not like, oh, yeah, I minimize these guys — they’re all great; whatever — but the thing is that I’m like an artist like a painter or something. Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t call someone, like, ‘Hey, dude, can you come over and finish half of my painting?’ And that’s how I work — I paint the whole painting. That’s how I work.”
Malmsteen previously floated the Elvis Presley comparison in reference to his former singers during a 2018 press conference in Malaysia. Asked why he chose to handle lead vocals himself on his then-latest album, 2016’s “World On Fire”, he said: “When I started out when I was a kid in Sweden, I had a band called RISING FORCE, I was the singer. Then I came to America and I was playing with STEELER and ALCATRAZZ, they [had their own] singers.
“I always thought that singers have the Elvis Presley syndrome — they think they’re Elvis Presley,” he continued. “They’re not Elvis Presley. Because I write the music, I write the lyrics, I write the vocal melody lines — I write everything. Just because I let somebody sing something doesn’t mean they’re more important than the bass player or the keyboard player or the drummer. Because I write all the parts — I write the drum parts, the bass parts, the keyboard parts, the guitar parts and the vocal parts — like a classical composer. And I really kind of got tired of dealing with their bullshit, really. So I decided to sing myself.”
In 2017, Malmsteen gave an interview to Metal Wani in which the iconic axeman said that he had no interest in collaborating with vocalists like Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Lynn Turner and Tim “Ripper” Owens ever again. “I’m very comfortable singing myself, first of all,” Yngwie said. “Secondly, there’s a certain disconnect when you write the song and you have someone else sing it for you. And it’s kind of like a fakeness about it. I always wrote everything — I wrote all the lyrics, I wrote all the melodies, everything; it’s just somebody else sung it. And to me, the singer is nothing else than a different… like a bass player or a keyboard player — they’re not more important than any other musician. And they, unfortunately, seem to think that they are. And I’ve kind of had it with their sort of… self-absorbed sort of way, and I’m very much against it. No. I don’t like that. I don’t like any of those people, and I don’t like to do anything with them ever again.”
In the days after Yngwie‘s original interview with Metal Wani was published on BLABBERMOUTH.NET, several of the guitarist’s former singers — including Soto, Turner and Owens — responded on social media, with Turner describing Malmsteen‘s statements as “the rantings of a megalomaniac desperately trying to justify his own insecurity.” This was followed by a retort from a member of Yngwie‘s management team, who wrote on Malmsteen‘s Facebook page that the three vocalists “came out enraged, spitting insults and profanities” at the guitarist because “Yngwie said something that they didn’t like.” The management representative added: “It’s very unfortunate that these past hired vocalists must resort to mudslinging and insults to elicit any kind of media attention towards them. Such classless, puerile words are ungentlemanly at best and absolutely disgraceful at worst.”
Malmsteen‘s latest album, “Parabellum”, was released in July 2021 via Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group. Only four of the songs on the LP feature vocals. The album title is Latin, translating as “Prepare For War”.
After working with some of the top hard singers of the past four decades, Yngwie now handles much of the lead vocals himself in his own band, backed by a lineup that includes keyboardist Nick Marino, bassist Emilio Martinez and drummer Brian Wilson.
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