With his unique and often dizzying marriage of heavy rock and Paganini-esque classically inspired technique, Yngwie Malmsteen has been universally regarded for years as a truly innovative electric guitar virtuoso. Amazingly, he is a self-taught guitarist.
Born Lars Johann Yngve Lannerback in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1963, Malmsteen showed little interest in music as a child. But when the 7-year-old saw a TV special about Jimi Hendrix in 1970, something awakened (or perhaps ignited) inside him; as an adult, Malmsteen referred to the day Hendrix died as the day “the guitar-playing Yngwie was born.”
An unruly but intensely curious and tenacious child, Malmsteen immersed himself in the music of bands such as Deep Purple and the classically inflected playing of Ritchie Blackmore, which in turn led to the original masters: Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Mozart. He played for hours each day, learning classical structures, absorbing styles and developing a prodigious guitar style. His sister, a classically trained flautist, taught him much about classical music and composers. By age 10, he had largely stopped going to school, where he was often branded a troublemaker; his mother (whose maiden name, Malmsteem, he had now taken, and a more Anglicized spelling of his first name), recognized his talent and allowed him to stay home with his guitar. Through the music of Paganini, Malmsteen conceived of a combination of formal classical structure and Hendrix-like rock flamboyance.
He left school for good at 15. He came to prefer scalloped necks on his guitars after discovering the style on a 17-century lute that came to a guitar repair shop he was working in. He began playing in bands around this time and recorded demo tapes, one of which found its way to U.S. label Shrapnel Records. He came to the United States and recorded with cult favorites Steeler and Alcatrazz before going solo.
Malmsteen’s 1984 solo album Rising Force became the bible for “neoclassical” rock, reached number 60 on Billboard’s album chart, won Guitar Player magazine’s best album award for the year and was nominated for a Grammy® award. Marching Out followed in 1985, and Trilogy appeared in 1986. A near-fatal 1987 car crash resulted in nerve damage affecting his right hand, but Malmsteen recovered and received his widest commercial exposure yet with the release of 1988’s Odyssey; he also toured extensively and performed groundbreaking concerts in the former Soviet Union in February 1989. Subsequent ’90s albums included Eclipse, Fire and Ice, The Seventh Sign and Inspiration.
Malmsteen released his first completely classical work, Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E-Flat Minor, performed with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1998. Face the Animal also appeared that year, as did Fender's Artist Series Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster® guitar. A DVD of the Concerto Suite, performed in Tokyo with the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, was released in 2002, as was the album Attack!! In 2003, Malmsteen joined that year’s G3 tour, which also featured Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
Unleash the Fury appeared in 2005, and Malmsteen finished out the prolific decade with Perpetual Flame (2008), all-acoustic Angels of Love and compilation High Impact (2009), and 18th studio album Relentless (2010).
Yngwie Malmsteen continues to be regarded as an innovative, influential and flamboyant master of the instrument, and he continues to mesmerize audiences worldwide with his incredible live performances.