As one of the most fiery players on the planet, Yngwie Malmsteen developed an identifiable style and tone that blends classical music and heavy metal. VG sat with Malmsteen following his stint on the 2003 G3 tour with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and Malmsteen filled us in on what made the tour so different from his solo ventures. He also offered a preview of his new projects, and explained why his days of shopping for vintage gear are largely over – even if there are are things that still tantalize him.
Vintage Guitar: What was it like to be part of G3?
Yngwie Malmsteen: The whole thing was a blast. The guys are great and it’s really cool that we all have very different styles; it was a great combination. I just got a rough cut of the DVD and it looks really good.
It was a good lesson in discipline, because for the last 25 years I’ve been doing exactly what I want to do.
What was your reaction when asked to join?
I thought it would be perfect for me to play with these guys, and play nice places in America for a change. For the last few years, I’ve been concentrating on Europe and Japan.
And I had no doubts. I called Uli Jon Roth, who did it with them, and Brian May, who has been up jamming with them. They said I was going to love it. I think that in the end, it turned out better than anybody expected, and we sold out virtually every show.
Which guitars did you stage?
All old stuff. My Strats are from ’67 up to about ’72. I just love the look and sound of cream-white Strats with maple necks and the big headstock, like the Hendrix Woodstock guitar. They’re all customized with deep scallops and huge frets. You can drive a train over the top of these things. They all have brass nuts. I like them because they don’t wear out. The tremolo is stock. The pickups are DiMarzio HS-3 in the back, and the middle and front are YJM models, which are my own DiMarzio pickup. It’s a single-coil sound, but it’s a humbucking stack. It’s very cool. I never really liked those double-coil things. You don’t get as much attack in the guitar. And they’re all four-bolt, as well. Even if they were three-bolt originally, I’ve had them re-done.
Do you drill the fourth hole under the original three-bolt plate, to keep it looking original?
No, it’s a regular four-bolt plate. But not only that, the four screws that hold in the neck are not wood screws, they’re machine screws. Inside the neck they’re reversed threaded brass inserts that go into the neck. With the machine screws, it’s as close to having a neck-through-body guitar, as far as sustain and steadiness. It’s ridiculous. You can move the neck around on a stock Strat, but not on mine.
Have you added any instruments to your collection?
I haven’t bought a guitar for a long time; I haven’t seen any like the one I play for a long time. The last time I saw one, I bought it, and that was about five years ago. It was at Guitar Center in Miami. Actually, the last guitar I bought was a Les Paul. That was three years ago. It was a newer one and it has this very nice tiger top. I don’t know much about Gibsons, but I have a few. I have an ES-335, I have three or four Flying Vs, an SG, and an amazing old goldtop Les Paul with humbuckers.
The most amazing guitars I ever bought, I got them all in Sweden, like my ’56 Shoreline Gold Strat. I got a March ’54 Strat, which is the first month and the first year. It’s not scalloped. I left it original, but it might have been repainted before I bought it. It’s all bakelite parts. If you take the neck off, it’s written in pencil “3/54.”
Then I have a ’55 and a ’56, and all the way up. I have a couple of really nice Burgundy Mist Strats. I’ve got over 200 Stratocasters.
So you don’t actively look for guitars anymore?
No. I’d rather spend money on something else. Also, the ones I really like are just not around. I wouldn’t buy a ’65 sunburst Strat, or even a ’64. But if I found a ’55 Mary Kay with the gold parts and blond finish, then we’re talking!
But there was one guitar that I saw and had to have. When I was in Nottingham, England, this kid came up to me and said he wanted me to sign his Strat. It was a ’67 with a maple cap neck and big headstock with a transition logo. They didn’t make maple cap necks in ’67, so that must have been a one-off. So I bought it from the guy. I traded him for one of my guitars and I signed it. I gave it to the shop to refret it and scallop the fingerboard because I wanted to play it. It’s cream and has all the original parts.
What’s in your live rig?
I go through a Bradshaw, but there’s really nothing in it. The main sound is straight through the Marshalls with everything set full up. They’re all old amps from the ’60s and early ’70s, with four inputs and no master volume. They’re very primitive, but they have the most organic sound.
I brought quite a few Marshalls on this tour; more than I normally use.
The Bradshaw has six presets. The first is dry, and preset two splits the two stacks in stereo. One side is totally dry and the other has all the delay. I really love that effect! You can do little improvised fugues and stuff. The delay is a Korg DL-8000R.
The third preset is bizarre, with a dry signal on one side and a delayed signal that’s an octave lower on the other side. So the octave divider comes only on the echo feed, and when I play with the volume knob for swells, it sounds like a violin and a cello together. The fourth preset is an octave higher up, using a TC Electronic G-Force. I only do that to annoy people.
The last preset is an old Roland echo, which I also use to annoy people – like at the end of my guitar solo, which is quite annoying. Then I’ve got a Crybaby in there, and a DOD YJM Overdrive, which is a pedal I designed that’s based on the original ’70s 250 Overdrive. That’s it.
The only reason I use these effects is to make it so it really is an effect. A lot of guys always have a little delay or chorus or harmonizer, and that’s cool for them. But I like it very organic, very straight. The playing should be more important than the effects.
What are your plans for 2004?
I signed a deal with Sony and Epic, and [my new album] is called Attack!! I’ll be touring in the States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South America, then I’m going to start another album. I also recorded a live album in Europe and that’s going to come out, too. Then there’s also live DVD with me and the Japan Philharmonic. I’m really excited about that.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.