Yngwie Malmsteen, the guitarist with a god’s name, recently talked to UG’s Justin Beckner about his career and some fun facts about it. Here are some excerpts of the interview:
Of your hundreds of guitars, what are some gems in that collection?
“Well, the one guitar that’s on the cover of my first solo album – the guitar that I toured America with. I basically had that guitar and a toothbrush when I came to the States.
“It’s beat-up now but I’ve been offered seven figures for that guitar. But as far as collector guitars, I have some really sick ’50s Strats. I have one from March of ’54 which was the first month, first year. It was one of the first 8 ever made. It’s older than the one David Gilmour has.
“They were all made by hand back then, they didn’t have machines. I have some from ’56 too. I have a bunch of Flying Vs and all sorts of sh*.”
It’s interesting that you have all these amazing guitars and you always come back to your signature Strats.
“I know. It’s crazy. When I go on tour, I’ll take, like, 10 guitars and when I’m on stage, I don’t even know which one I’m playing because they’re all set up exactly the same.
“I have to look on the back and there’s a number there. The reason I did that was because I didn’t ever want to get too attached to one guitar. For the longest tie it was just the one, ‘The Duck’ guitar was the only one I could play.
“Then I got a ’56 Strat and that was the one I would always go to. Then in 2005, they really went to the model and tweaked it so it was exactly like mine.
“What I did was I took one of my favorite Strats I ever had and I gave it to Fender and they CNC’d the neck, so the necks are CNC’d from that guitar. It’s so exact, it’s ridiculous. And I set them all up the same way. I love them.
“They are like weapons of mass destruction. I beat the fu* out of them and they’re still completely amazing. For some reason, I use them in the studio too. Even though I have all those vintage ones, I never use them.”
The last time I talked to you, you mentioned that Gibson had made you a Stratocaster [style guitar]. How did you get them to do that?
“Well, what happened was, when I was very young, I became a very focused and determined person. Once I saw something like the Stratocaster and the Marshall amp, I would never use something else.
“When I first came on the scene in the States, I became very popular very fast and every guitar company under the sun offered me money and models and I said no.
“Back then, nobody got free guitars from Fender and nobody ever had a custom guitar made for them by Fender [for free]. Hendrix, Beck, Blackmore, they all had to buy their guitars.
“So when the ‘Rising Force’ album came out [in 1984], that was like a big ad for Fender and Fender was very happy about that so they came to me…
“I have to back up. Before this happened, before I got the Fender deal, I had every guitar company coming at me including Gibson. They said, ‘We will make you whatever you want,’ so I said, as a joke, ‘Make me a Strat.’ And they did.”
Was it any good?
“Don’t get me wrong, I love Gibsons. I have a lot of them – 335s, SGs, Les Pauls, all of them, and they’re beautiful guitars. But they’re not like something I’d go to war with. Do you know what I mean? They’re more like beautiful coffee tables.”