In a new interview with Jeff Gaudiosi of MisplacedStraws.com, ALCATRAZZ singer Graham Bonnet discussed the group’s decision to split with Yngwie J. Malmsteen in 1984, just one year after ALCATRAZZ‘s inception.
“Yngwie had to go. We just had a battle which was not very good. I wished he could stay, but this kid, he grew into a monster — but a f*cking great guitar player, no doubt,” Bonnet said. “One night I walked offstage when it was time for his guitar solo, and I walked offstage and I tripped over his cord and I pulled it out of the fricking amplifier. And he thought I did it on purpose. I went to the bus and I was sitting there talking to the bus driver. And Yngwie runs in, gets me by the neck, does this [makes a choking motion], pushes his thumbs right into my throat. He said, ‘You f*cking asshole. In the middle of my solo, you unplugged me.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I didn’t know — I really didn’t know what I’d done.
“What happened was one of our crew saw this happening, saw Yngwie. [Yngwie] was trying to kill my voice, basically,” he continued. “He dug his thumbs right in, right in here. I was choking. And this Hungarian guy, who was big and one of my close friends back then, came up to him and said, ‘Yngwie…’ He got Yngwie under his arm like this [makes a headlock], and he said, ‘You f*cking touch Graham again, I’m gonna break your f*cking neck.’ And that night, I remember we were driving home in the bus back to L.A., and we fired Yngwie on the tour bus because you can’t do that — you can’t strangle the singer. So that was the end of Yngwie.”
A short time later, Vai came into the picture and stayed in ALCATRAZZ long enough to appear on the band’s second album, 1985’s Disturbing The Peace.
Graham said: “For me, it was better. I love the way Steve played, and he was so unusual — like Michael Schenker. There’s something about those two guys; they aren’t like anybody else. They do all that [shredding], but they have a certain style that’s incomparable. I don’t know. It’s like Gary Moore and Jeff Beck — you can tell it’s them. A lot of guitar players, it’s just [shredding] for the sake of [shredding], which is great. It’s fantastic, but it’s not a song. Yngwie was great because he would play the song, not just say, ‘Oh, here comes my guitar solo.’ And Steve was the same. Steve, I got on with him very, very well, because he’d just kind of left Frank Zappa‘s band and we had different ideas.
“It was just very, very unusual — very sort of offbeat and so avant-garde about al lot of things. We had to kind of refine the avant-garde stuff to a little bit more radio-friendly stuff. But I love what he did. And we wrote some songs that we had to sort of pop up, if you will — make it more popular, commercial-sounding. Because he was on the same trail as I was. I liked things when they were unexpected, and that’s what he was like. But I think that second album, for me, of ALCATRAZZ is my favorite — it really is — ’cause of his playing. The songs we made up I think were great. They still sound good.”