So you thought that “Caprici di Diablo” was impossible to play? Well, you’re right: Even the man who wrote the tune finds it a challenge to play on a real guitar. The king of the shredders gives us the lowdown on his three new DLC tracks and more in this exclusive interview.
Brett Milano: I've gotta say congratulations first of all, because your songs have been in the game for about three weeks and "Caprici di Diablo" is known as the toughest guitar song in the history of the game.
Yngwie Malmsteen: [laughs] You want to hear something funny?
YM: That's the toughest song I have ever played myself on the guitar. I really pushed myself on that one. It really challenged me to play as well. [laughs]
BM: Really? What about it is hard for you to do?
YM: Well, the way I did it, or the way I wrote it specifically I wrote it - "Caprici di Diablo" means "the devil's caprice" which is caprices will say Niccolo Paganini he wrote 24 caprices which is like a piece for each instrument. What happened basically, is that I wanted to write something that was some chord progression, but you could actually play it in six strings arpeggios. You could play it in four string, three string arpeggios. You could turn this into nodes, but yet play in the realm of the chord progression and do it in one take and no rhythm guitars or nothing, just a solo guitar. It's a very, very, very trying piece. And I enjoyed it very much, and I still enjoy it live.
BM: How do you get yourself in the right mindset to play a piece like that?
YM: I wish there was a way to just push a button. You just have to catch the moment. To put it down, to record that, it really was a challenge because I basically recorded everything [else] on the album. I kept on putting it off - "Ah, I'll do something else, I'll do something else." Of course, after all that, there was nothing left to record but that. So I had to do it. It was definitely a challenge.
BM: So you're pretty good with real guitars. Have you ever tried to play a plastic one like we got?
YM: I have yet to try one, no. But I certainly will now. [laughs]
BM: What's your take on music games and people trying to play your music on virtual instruments?
YM: You know, the funny thing is that initially I was a little bit skeptical because I have a son that's ten-years-old. I took him to a video game store, three years ago, maybe. And some guy in the store showed us one of these games and I was kind of skeptical. But I've realized now that I think it's actually a really good thing because if there's one kid out of one hundred kids that will really like it so much that they'll pick up a real guitar or whatever that would be great. Even so the kids are exposed to music that maybe they wouldn't have been exposed to before. Kids are going to play the games no matter what. This makes it more like - they're together, it's a bit of a positive thing. There's nothing negative about it. Good music. I think it's a good thing. I'm really for it. It's a good thing for the artists because we get to expose our music to the kids. And it's great for the kids because they get the feeling like they're in a band. But they really step up to the real [instruments] as well. It's not a bad thing at all. I like it.
BM: What's funny is that people that are great at playing real instruments can be the worst at playing the fake instruments.
YM: Probably so. [laughs]
BM: We've got three pieces from the new record that are up on game at the moment, hopefully more to come. Tell me about "Damnation Game" - that song seems to have a message to it. What were you writing about there?
YM: Actually the lyrics in that song are inspired by a book by Clive Barker. The book is called Damnation Game.
BM: Oh, okay.
YM: It's an occult story. It's about a guy that gets involved with some hard-hitters, the gamblers and stuff like this. One of them is kind of like the devil, but he's not the devil. They call him the European and he's sort of the devil. And this other guy made a pact with him and he gets mixed in with them. It's a really good book. I got inspired to write a song about it.
BM: That song to me is like a real classic kind of hard rock song that hearkens back to Deep Purple and kind of music like that. Was that on your mind while writing that?
YM: No, not really. The music I write just came naturally. It just kind of happens by itself. If it has that feeling, then that's great. I didn't do it on purpose. That was just what I felt like doing. I don't decide, "Now okay, I'm going to play this way, that way, whatever." It's just a very natural way of composing. Then there are some that are more, obviously I have to think about and be more in a certain direction. The music is very natural to me. It just happens by itself.
BM: What about when you get new people in your band - like you've got Ripper on vocals now. Do you write around the personalities of the people that you're playing with?
YM: No, not really actually. Ripper - I knew his voice before. I actually wrote songs before he came in and he turned out to be the perfect guy to do the songs. He just has that very aggressive voice which is great for the lyrics I write. So, no I don't really do that. I tend to get an idea and sound in my head and I need to find someone that will do the job or I'll do it myself or whatever. So, no I don't really do that, no.
BM: So "Red Devil" is probably about a subject close to your heart, right? It's about your car?
YM: Yes, it's about my cars, actually.
BM: How many have you got?
YM: I got Ferraris. Three of them.
BM: What do you love about those cars?
YM: I love a lot. It would be quicker to say what I don't love about them. Which is nothing. [laughs]
YM: I love everything about them. I love the way they look. I love the way they sound, the way they feel to drive them. Everything. It's just a very special vehicle. It's not so much just cars. They're really art. They made so few of them - I've got the vintage ones. And they're very personal cars. They have a certain aura about them. They're fast too, of course. They're just beautiful. They're pieces of art.
BM: How fast have you been able to drive in them?
YM: I've been really kind of naughty. I did one hundred eighty in one, one time.
BM: How did you manage that? Where were you?
YM: I was just on one piece of road, but I kept it really short amount of time because it's very dangerous. [laughs]
BM: It's a classic rock n' roll thing to write a car song, right? You figured it was time to do yours.
YM: Of course. [laughs]
BM: Your first few records you came out of the starting gate pretty much at full speed on those records. Is it hard to still find challenges to set yourself as a player?
YM: I don't necessarily put up challenges, except for "Caprici di Diablo" - that was a deliberate challenge. I decided, okay I really want to outdo myself on this one. I don't necessarily do that. I find it more inspiring just writing stuff. When the stuff comes out, and I write the stuff, that to me is refreshing and new and it's a beautiful thing. I feel like everything that I've done has a certain value. I think that I can do, or I could have done that better. But it was always the best I could do at the time. I always try to do the best I can at the time. Obviously I wouldn't want to say to myself, "Okay that's it. I don't have to do this anymore. I don't have to try hard." or whatever. I always try my best, even though I've done this a long time. I do push myself, but it's more like a self-gratifying. I get very happy when I manage to do something I feel good about. And vice versa. I get very upset if I don't. I try to keep it so I'm always at one level.
BM: You went through one of the worst things that could happen to a guitar player - you broke your hand at one point. How did you come through that?
YM: That was really hard. It was many years ago and I decided that there was no way that I'm not going to go through it. It was a strong will thing. You have to have a purpose in life and I decided that my purpose was to do that.
BM: One of the great things about playing this game is that you get to pretend that you're stepping into the shoes of whose music it's doing. Say that you're a kid playing the game and you want to be Yngwie and you want to unleash the fury. What would you recommend?
YM: [laughs] I don't know. You could run around, just have a good time. It's a great thing.
BM: I assume we'll be hearing a whole lot more from you in years to come.
YM: That's the plan. [laughs]
BM: Well thanks a lot. Great talking to you.
YM: Thank you, thanks for having us.
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