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Music

Yngwie Malmsteen's opinion on Nirvana and grunge

Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen is a virtuoso in every sense of the word. He first shot to fame during the 1980s with the neoclassical style of playing that he fused with heavy metal, taking shredding to a different level entirely. He has released 22 studio albums to date and is regularly named as one of the finest to have ever picked up the six-string. 

Aside from his long solo career, Malmsteen also featured in respected bands such as Steeler and Alcatrazz, and for anyone fans of high-octane ’80s metal, they’ll be welcome additions to your library. Reflecting the kind of status Malmsteen holds, when he was kicked out of Alcatrazz following an onstage fight with frontman Graham Bonnet, he was replaced by the eminent Steve Vai.

Whilst we could discuss Malmsteen’s technical proficiency for an age, he’s also famous for another reason: his frank discussions about many different aspects of the music industry. Not afraid to give his honest opinion on other artists and the bureaucracy that is the music industry, Malmsteen has often found his uncompromising character the subject of criticism or even ridicule, but this doesn’t phase him.

Speaking to Guitar Player in 2005, Malmsteen said: “I’ve probably made more mistakes than anybody. But I don’t dwell on them. I don’t expect people to understand me, because I’m pretty complex, and I think outside the box with everything I do. I’ve always taken the untraveled path. Obviously, people have their opinions, but I can’t get too wrapped up in that, because I know what I can do and I know what kind of person I am.”

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Regarding his larger-than-life character, he concluded: “And I have no control over what anybody says about me. Back in Sweden, I’m ‘Mr Personality’ in the tabloids, but obviously, I can’t take that seriously. I know in my heart that if I do the absolute best I can do, maybe ten years from now people may turn around and say ‘he wasn’t that bad’.”

Once, when discussing the iconic outfit Nirvana for a Swedish TV interview, Malmsteen gave his thoughts on the grunge scene of the early ’90s, and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a glowing review. He criticised the scene for being too “contradictory”, positing that a rockstar should be an unobtainable character, and not down-to-earth, wearing baggy pants. 

In customary his straight-to-the-point style, Malmsteen said: “When this whole grunge style came, I thought it was so pathetic that a rockstar (was) wearing too big pants and an old torn shirt and sock on his bald head. I mean, what the hell is that? This is so contradictory. If I were a rock fan then I would like to see a guy on stage ‘Bigger Than Life’. One who got clothes which I cannot buy, one who got things which I do not have. One who does things which I can’t do.”

Interestingly, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain once made a joke referencing Malmsteen when discussing his own guitar-playing style, which was the antithesis of Malmsteen’s ornate form. He told Mike Hibarger in 1990, “If I squeeze a tennis ball, I might be as good as Yngwie Malmsteen, building up the muscles in my hands.”

Watch Malmsteen discuss grunge below.

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