Yngwie Malmsteen meets John McLaughlin

By Matt Resnicoff / Photography by Deborah Samuel

(Reprinted from Musician Magazine: September 1990)

Apart from the guitar case he's carrying, John McLaughlin could be just another splendid-looking bon vivant sauntering down Paris' Place Vendme. "You know, I'm quite happy to come today," he says about this interview. "But it seems that the only thing we have in common is the guitar."
On the surface, he's right. McLaughlin, 48, ascetic jazz innovator, keeper of the inner mounting flame, and Yngwie Malmsteen, 27, brash hard-rock bird of fire, are the strangest bedfellows in contemporary guitar. Scratch a bit deeper, though, and the pairing begins to make sense: note the deep flowing classical gestures, the casual application of blinding torrents of speed picking, the shared penchant for scalloped, scooped-fret guitar fingerboards. Recent career-threatening injuries (John's hand meets a swiveling television set, Yngwie's Jaguar a tree) nearly stopped both in their tracks.
John McLaughlin had a funny name once too. He gave guitar lessons to Jimmy Page, invented fusion, used acid, wore white, and made the world safe for virtuosos like Malmsteen. John is a composer whose work has been played from the symphony orchestra pits to the downtown jazz scene of New York; it's almost culture shock to listen to him thrash his way through the classic Birds of Fire or Miles Davis' Jack Johnson after hearing his two current releases, Mediterranean Concerto and Live at the Royal Festival Hall, with Trilok Girtu and Kai Eckhardt. By contrast, Malmsteen's Eclipse, his fifth studio effort, shows signs of retread for the young Swede. Though Yngwie is adamant about his status as a trendsetter, it's clear by the way he thumps his chest and knocks over table fixtures that in his heart he knows he's still got a lot of room to grow. It would be pretty easy to dislike him if he weren't such a heavy guitarist. It's not much of a struggle to dislike him anyway.
But sage John understands, as do the patrons of a Paris restaurant called Vishnou (of all names). Yngwie's loud disavowals of practice and influences are harder to swallow than the spiciest vindaloo; it intensifies the irony that he built his reputation on a musical ideal the man who quietly munches chutney beside him created 20 years earlier. Maybe all these two do have in common is their instrument after all. Small wonder our talk eventually found its way to the French Open. Here they are, the John McEnroe and Arthur Ashe of the guitar - gut string tension of a different kind.

MUSICIAN: Although you've both made a lot of strides for guitar, you've also received criticism for forsaking emotional depth. Is there such a thing as overdeveloped technique?
MALMSTEEN: I think it's not technique, really, but how you use it. I think that technique can also be how you play a vibrato. Vibrato is, in my opinion, the most important thing - not speed. I think both of us, actually, are kind of known for brrrrrrrr.
McLAUGHLIN: Technique is a global concept, isn't it? What people do, particularly with guitars, is they split this global concept into things like speed, hammering, thumb, pulling off, vibrato. I agree with Yngwie, it's not a question of technique, it's whether you use the technique or whether the technique uses you. The thing is because it's guitar. Over the years people have used me to say, "Technique, fast, and it doesn't mean anything." And it's peculiar to the guitar.

MUSICIAN: Yeah, no one ever said Coltrane played fast.
McLAUGHLIN: Or even Oscar Peterson, who has a phenomenal technique.
MALMSTEEN: I think maybe it has to do even with the guitar's being used in all sorts of different genres; it's also the prime instrument in rock'n'roll, which is the common man's music, not jazz, and they are not used to having extreme technique in a rock'n'roll concert. They're used to hearing Eric Clapton or something.

MUSICIAN: What are the dangers of...
MALMSTEEN: I don't think there are any dangers.

MUSICIAN: John's played his share of thrash, but he's also played delicate acoustic music, and there are times when you've brought together very opposing ideas. What are the dangers of bring the common man's music to that level of sophistication?
MALMSTEEN: I think it's making it more interesting.
McLAUGHLIN: I don't think it's a danger at all. I think it's a funny word to use. It's not danger. Every generation's going to come up with its own way of looking at things. Technique and mind and people are evolving all the time. I mean, look at the difference between the rock'n'roll of the '50s and the rock'n'roll of the '80s. Worlds apart. There are so many different variations. Why? Because there is evolution going on all the time. To hear a guitar player like Yngwie is really nice for me. I've seen you on MTV.
MALMSTEEN: My really commercial song.
McLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I came in in the middle, and I see somebody playing the guitar like that, wild, and it stays with me. You played some amazing shit.
MALMSTEEN: That record's so old to me.
McLAUGHLIN: When you're my age and people say, "Yeah, what about this record I like, that you made 20 years ago?" Then you can start to worry. A guitar player like Yngwie wouldn't have come out in the 1950s or even the 1960s. Things have changed. People like Coltrane, Miles, they've had their effect, especially on popular music, rock'n'roll, the working man's music, as they say. It's like jazz in the sense that it takes what it needs and doesn't lose its own identity.
MALMSTEEN: It's much more demanding listening to jazz. It's come to a point now like where fusion jazz is musician's music. I love to listen to Jeff Berlin, Allan Holdsworth - I love him. How many records does Allan Holdsworth sell? Ridiculously few. Bon Jovi sells a shitload of records, and I can't stand it.
McLAUGHLIN: There's two different kinds of success. Artistic, musical and commercial success don't always go together.
MALMSTEEN: I try to put it together.
McLAUGHLIN: But I have to admire people who are true to themselves, whether they sell a lot of records or not.

MUSICIAN: What about improvisation?
McLAUGHLIN: Improvisation is work. You don't just do anything. You have to know what the scales are, you have to know what the harmonic movement is. Unless you know what you're doing, you don't just start improvising. Ask any classical musicians. They have incredible technique, they can read anything, they can interpret anything, but you ask them to improvise and they won't be able to do it, because it's another way of thinking. It's work.

MUSICIAN: Does that mean that valid improvisation can't happen early in a musician's development?
McLAUGHLIN: Of course it can, on the condition that he's working towards that, but if you're a classical interpreter, you don't even think about improvisation, so you cannot improvise. I have a lot of friends in the classical world. They would love to improvise, but they don't know how to. Even if you have tremendous technique, it doesn't mean you can improvise.
MALMSTEEN: There's not one note in any of my solos that's not completely spontaneous. Straight off. Every night I play onstage, it's a different solo for every song. Of course, it's in the same framework: If it's A minor, I play in A minor. I venture out to G, G major or E phrygian or do some diminished or chromatic runs or whatever, but it's always improvised. Every solo on every record. Most jazz guitar players do that, but rock guitar players don't do it, classical guitar players don't do it. If you hear a live tape of Michael Schenker or Eddie Van Halen, they play exactly the same solo as on the record.
McLAUGHLIN: I find that hard to do.
MALMSTEEN: I can't do that [laughs]. I can't remember. Too many notes...

MUSICIAN: After playing for a while, your hands might start doing gestures they've become accustomed to doing. It's an unintentional structuring.
MALMSTEEN: Oh, I make a great effort to avoid that. Don't ever get into a rut. For many years, I used to construct my guitar solos: "Okay, I throw in that run, some symmetric pattern, do that pattern, then do an arpeggio, then that way and this way." Now it's completely free-flowing. Most rock guitar players have that certain framework in each key. That's all they play.
McLAUGHLIN: You have to structure your thought process. You have to structure your way in music. But these structures should not be permanent. You should be ready to break them at any moment. Be ready to break down and bring into question everything you do: your phrasing, even how you look at the instrument. Listen, I'm maybe twice Yngwie's age, and I'm still doing the same work. I'm still questioning what I do. We are creatures of habit. The thing is to recognize when good habits become bad. At that moment, you've got to be ready to break them and find yourself a little bit in the unknown. But that's music.
MALMSTEEN: Yeah, but that's very hard. Very few musicians would be able to do that in my genre of rock'n'roll. Musicians are boxed in, very boxed in. Same chord progressions, same scales.
McLAUGHLIN: That's dangerous, to use your word. It's hard to evolve. This is where your technique starts to run you: When you're not ready to break the structure of your mind, how you approach your improvisation, at a moment's notice. I practice and I still work hard.
McLAUGHLIN: I'm in the middle of breaking a lot of things. But I'm happy to. Because there are periods where there is no need to. Something happens in your life and suddenly you start to think differently, you start to hear differently what you're doing. You say, "It's time. There's something wrong. I don't like the way I go from A to B. There's another way to do it and I have to find it." So you start to break structures and the way you perceive harmonic movement, or your guitar, keyboard, whatever. It's all the same. It's a way of perception. Music is a structure. And these are what we have to be ready to break. But there are moments when I don't think at all, and you're just flying, everything is just working beautifully.
MALMSTEEN: I understand exactly what you're saying. I'm happy right now with what I'm doing, and I feel very comfortable...
McLAUGHLIN: [Patting Yngwie's back] Don't worry! It's gotta happen!
MALMSTEEN: A couple of years ago, I had a very serious car accident. That changed me. I had a brain hemorrhage and the nerve endings in my hand were not working. I started practicing like crazy like I did when I was fifteen. But this injury healed, and all the practice I put in elevated me to another plateau. I might sound a little like I'm bragging, but right now I feel like there's no boundaries to what I can do. It's brrr like crazy, much more than I could do before.
McLAUGHLIN: The value of work! Two-and-a-half months ago I broke my left index finger.
MALMSTEEN: Phew, that's a nightmare.
McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, it was a nightmare. I was having nightmares. I was waking up in the middle of the night sweating. But there's a good side. Nothing's all bad and nothing's all good. Already this accident has affected the way I think.
MALMSTEEN: How long did it take before you could play again?
McLAUGHLIN: I started two weeks ago. It took over two months before I could touch the instrument.
MALMSTEEN: For me it was about two, three months. I wouldn't do it because I knew I was going to hate myself. I was in the hospital, I was very injured, and my friends brought me guitars: "You sure you don't want to play?" "No. Take that thing away." But that was a little bit of motivation. As I said, you mustn't fall into a rut.
McLAUGHLIN: I'm a very optimistic guy. I believe everything is a blessing, or in disguise. Anyway, I was a little crazy. I'm sure you were a little crazy after your accident.
MALMSTEEN: No, actually I mellowed out soon after that. I've always been a little bit of a madman. I wouldn't want to put myself up with the great composers, but what you hear about Mozart and Paganini, like the crazy lifestyles and women and whatever, I'm a bit like that actually.
MUSICIAN: John, you smile as though you understand.
MALMSTEEN: You've been through it all.

MUSICIAN: When you got to a certain age you cut your hair and wore white and disavowed alcohol, but here you are sitting and drinking and seem a lot more earthy than monastic. Are you more impulsive now, after moving from being young and excited, through being meditative, and then becoming a human being again and getting back into...?
McLAUGHLIN: You know, I hate that "human being." What was I, a robot?
MUSICIAN: By "human being" I mean accepting the limitations we have. Being in touch with one's spirituality means renouncing oneself, right?
McLAUGHLIN: Well, I had some peculiar views that were, years ago, more well-known. I don't broadcast them so much, but I still hold my peculiar views. They're valid to me insofar as I'm convinced of the great nature of human beings.
MUSICIAN: But do you grip the view less tightly as you get older?
McLAUGHLIN: No. I think it's all a question of perception, again. Have you ever tried living a spiritual life? Well, until you make the action you'll never know, that's all I can say. You can theorize about it till you're blue in the face.
MALMSTEEN: What exactly are you referring to?
McLAUGHLIN: Well, not that you renounce anything, but you impose a spiritual discipline on yourself. You get up at four in the morning and you meditate. You think about the nature of God, the nature of the universe, you meditate on the nature of the void - anything that is your ideal. Whatever inspires you. But keep going.
Whether you become a Zen Buddhist or you become a Sufi, or whatever, it doesn't matter. The thing is to impose another discipline on yourself, another structure, and you start to see your life and this universe differently, and that's important. If not we're just victims of whatever's going on around us, and I'm against that.
MALMSTEEN: I've never had the motivation to do that. Because there's nothing I can do. As much as I don't want to be in this environment, I am in this environment, and I gotta be like what this environment is like. I can't change it.
McLAUGHLIN: No, Yngwie, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the environment. Your environment is perfect. The world is incredible, everything's perfect. It's the way we view it, that's all I'm talking about.
MUSICIAN: Yngwie, can you foresee yourself ever doing some meditative acoustic music, cutting your hair?
MALMSTEEN: See, I just happen to be very happy in this point in my life with what I'm doing. I find a lot of artistic satisfaction. Who knows what is gonna happen in the future? I'm very impulsive.

MUSICIAN: But you have to keep moving. As John pointed out, part of being an artist is looking at what you're doing and saying, "This isn't good anymore. I want something more from my music."
MALMSTEEN: Well, I change by changing, I change members of my band. I keep getting the same questions: "Why don't you change?" "How come you don't start playing more blues?" "Why don't you do that, why don't you do this?" Listen, I just happen to be very happy with my style. In fact, if I may be so bold....
McLAUGHLIN: Be bold!
MALMSTEEN: ... not many players canboast that they have their own music style. I'm happy with that. You know, nobody comes up to Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton and goes, "How come you don't play more classical arpeggios in your blues solos?"
MUSICIAN: Well, there's more potential for you as a young, facile guitarist to change and grow. You look at it as an insult.
MALMSTEEN: Well, I don't look at it like an insult, but I just live more like... I feel like a big fuckin' question mark, really.
McLAUGHLIN: The question is a trap. But if you ask me the same question - "So what are you going to do? How are you going to grow, how do you see yourself in 10 years?" This is realy difficult.
MUSICIAN: That's not the question. The question was, Do you think you constantly need to be dissatisfied with what you are in order to grow as an artist? Yngwie said, "Well, I fire members of my band." He's pretty dictatorial, which cuts down on how much you can learn from other players.
McLAUGHLIN: Have you ever played with him?
McLAUGHLIN: Then you don't know. When you're working with musicians, they've got to love what they do. You can give them ideas. You can say, "Okay, put the backbeat on the four or the one," or to the bass player, "Just stay down, don't go up, stay down on the low strings." And they're going to do what they want to do.
MALMSTEEN: I give them the direction to go in. My new keyboard player added a lot to the new record. And the bass player did his own little bits.

MUSICIAN: Yngwie had an incredible keyboard player (Jens Johannson) before he changed his band around, and because of personality...
MALMSTEEN: Nah, I'll tell you exactly why. Because I feed off of musicians. I feed off of their enthusiasm and their passion for the music, and there was no passion anymore. With the new band, I've never been so inspired, because they're really enthusiastic. To me, that's a change.
MUSICIAN: John didn't you have a similar problem with Billy Cobham?
McLAUGHLIN: No, no, no. You see how things get deformed. It wasn't Billy Cobham at all. Billy was always cool, but I had problems with Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman. They were just fucking jerks! And you can print it, it's alright. Jerry's cool now, but Jan still has some weird problem with me after 20 years.
We all know how to deal with failure much more than we know how to deal with success. I could be wrong. All I know is that that's really the only bad experience, with those two, and it was curiously one of the most popular groups that I played in. Funny, huh?

MUSICIAN: Yngwie has never worked for anybody. Do you think he would benefit from a temporary commitment to someone else's music? You've said Miles was good at bringing things out that you didn't know you had in you.
McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but it was another world. Don't forget, in spite of everything he says - "I'm not a jazz musician" - Miles' discipline is jazz. And Yngwie is by himself. I mean, I've heard him play and he's a confirmed rock'n'roller. I love to hear that. But the equivalent of Miles doesn't really exist in the rock'n'roll world. Miles is like a godfather to a lot of people, including myself.
MALMSTEEN: At the same time as I say I am playing rock'n'roll, the classical influence is so big. I mean,all the chord progressions are classical. Even a heavy song like "The Fury," with a wakadumwakadum double bass drum, if you play it on the piano, is completely classical. I mean, it's the way Mozart would arrange, the inverted chords. But I'm doing it with the power of rock'n'roll: the sound of distorted power chords, a double bass drum, the big fat bombs and shit, but the arpeggios... I'm sticking in things that normal rock'n'roll does not contain.

MUSICIAN: I also notice you're using a wah-wah pedal.
MALMSTEEN: Yeah, my Hendrix influence definitely comes in.
MUSICIAN: Ask John what it was like to jam with Hendrix.
MALMSTEEN: [to John] You fuck! Sorry. Did you?
McLAUGHLIN: [pause] Sure.
MALMSTEEN: What was it like?
McLAUGHLIN: Gee, I loved Jimi, man.
MALMSTEEN: He's my fucking hero. I didn't mean that, I'm sorry.
McLAUGHLIN: You can say anything you like, asshole.

MALMSTEEN: You know what I did? My mother gave me a guitar on my fifth birthday, right?
McLAUGHLIN: Lucky you.
MALMSTEEN: She wanted me to be a musician. She gave me piano lessons, she gave me ballet lessons, she gave me vocal lessons, flute lessons, trumpet lessons, everything.
McLAUGHLIN: And nothing worked.
MALMSTEEN: No, nothing. I hated music. On the 18th of September, 1970, I saw a show on television with Jimi Hendrix, and I said, "Wow!" I took the guitar off the wall, and I haven't stopped since. That's what triggered me. It wasn't the guitar playing, it was his guitar style.
McLAUGHLIN: Jimi was a revolutionary.
MALMSTEEN: He was so cool, man. He was the greatest.
McLAUGHLIN: He was a revolutionary.
MALMSTEEN: As far as coolness, you know. As far as coolness, he was the coolest.

MUSICIAN: Could you tell by being with him that his legend would grow to such huge proportions?
McLAUGHLIN: Oh, before I met him it was pretty easy to tell. To hear Jimi play? C'mon. I mean, he turned the world on its ear.
MALMSTEEN: You know, the funny thing is, I burned a guitar last night. I started playing because I wanted to do that; that's what triggered it off.
McLAUGHLIN: Poor guitar.
MALMSTEEN: I burned it last night, and it's always a great feeling.
MUSICIAN: John, you'd been using distortion before Hendrix appeared, with albums like Devotion.
McLAUGHLIN: Long before that. In 1962, when I was working with Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker. I had a big amp made because it was impossible to find, and I was using distortion on that. But it was uncontrollable because I still had a hollowbody guitar.
McLAUGHLIN: Oh, no, I'm talking a long time ago, nearly 30 years ago.
MALMSTEEN: They made 335's in 1962, too, you know.
McLAUGHLIN: I know, but I didn't have one. I had a Gretsch.
McLAUGHLIN: An old Gretsch. [Affecting old geezer's voice] We were quite pure in those days, know what I mean?
MALMSTEEN: I wasn't even born.

MUSICIAN: Another thing you guys have in common is that you're the only two mainstream guitarists to embrace the scalloped fingerboard. Yngwie, did you discover it through John?
MALMSTEEN: No, that's funny. I used to work, for about two or three months, when I was about 14 years old, as a guitar repairman [chuckles], believe it or not.
McLAUGHLIN: You were a guitar repairman?
MALMSTEEN: A luthier, yeah.
McLAUGHLIN: I was too. It's very interesting.
MALMSTEEN: Yeah, I was a luthier, but a 17th or 16th century lute came into the shop, and instead of frets, the fretboard was carved out concave, and the dip in the wood was the fret. I said, "Wow, that looks so nice," I did it on one of my bad necks, just experimenting. All of a sudden I could feel a string. I got a really good grip on the string. I didn't play it like down like that. I played it normal, but it felt like very high frets. And I did it on my good necks and then went on. The first time I saw you with it was on the cover of Guitar Player, and I said, "Fuck, it's cool."
MUSICIAN: Do you both use it for the same reason?
MALMSTEEN: I play like normal. I think you push down right?
McLAUGHLIN: Nooo, no.
MALMSTEEN: Somebody said you wanted to emulate a sitar.
McLAUGHLIN: Don't believe everything you read in magazines.
MALMSTEEN: That's for sure.
McLAUGHLIN: I never said that.The reason was exactly like Yngwie said: You feel the string, you can do what you what with it. You don't have any friction between the end of the finger and the fingerboard. It's just your finger against the string against the fret. It's your string, your note. You get more vibrato expression from the one note. That's the only reason.
MALMSTEEN: A lot of people ask me, "Why do you do it? Does it make it easy to play fast?" No, it's because you get so much more control of the note, because the string goes perfectly into the fingertip. You can really shape the note.
MUSICIAN: You both play classical, nylon-string guitar with a pick.
MALMSTEEN: I in fact play nylon-string with a pick and the fingers at the same time.
McLAUGHLIN: Sometimes I do that too. Occasional notes I do with the fingers, with the pick in the hand, to get the chord.
MALMSTEEN: Basically, what the classical guitarist would do with the thumb we do with the pick.

MUSICIAN: Some players say that without alcohol or drugs, they might not have begun thinking as creatively.
MALMSTEEN: That's bullshit, man. That's so false. No, no, no. Alcohol is like a release of tension. I don't think it enhances music at all. I think it's something you do when you don't play. I'm not pro-drugs at all. Against it 100 percent.
McLAUGHLIN: Well, I grew up in the '60s, so I was dropping acid and smoking dope.
MALMSTEEN: I've never done it.
McLAUGHLIN: Which certainly had its effect on me. To alter the state of your consciousness is not necessarily bad. The question is, how do you do it, and under what circumstances.
MALMSTEEN: I'm not a party pooper. But whem I'm a professional musician, I'm completely straight. And that's my point of view.
McLAUGHLIN: That's the only thing we're gonna hear, isn't it?
MALMSTEEN: That's right. Everyone is entitled to my opinion, you know.
McLAUGHLIN: To your opinion!

MUSICIAN: Let's look at what you've done. Yngwie was a guitar hero when we didn't have a guitar hero. He kind of brought it back as a solo instrument. John did the same thing a while back, before many other historical players came into their notoriety. For the next person to come along, there's got to be something you guys haven't hit on. Yngwie's taken guitar to a wild level of technique, which John almost invented back...
McLAUGHLIN: Notice how he speaks about me in the past tense? You motherfucker.
MUSICIAN: Wait, I'm speaking of events and impact and...
McLAUGHLIN: What am I, an old man or something?
MUSICIAN: I was about to make an objective observation that...
McLAUGHLIN: Impossible. That's an impossibility. Anyway, go ahead.
MUSICIAN: Today, with your classical concerto, you've adopted a more traditional role that...
McLAUGHLIN: I'm not playing classical music.
MALMSTEEN: He plays with a pick.
McLAUGHLIN: I'm playing my music in a classical formation. I've also got the trio.
MUSICIAN: Well, the point I was going to make was...
MUSICIAN: There is no point! What kind of strings do you use?
McLAUGHLIN: No, come on, please.
MUSICIAN: Okay. My idea was that growth as an artist involves constant dissatisfaction with oneself, and that you seem to have gone into a traditional vein after years of innovation, as though you've completed your journey. Yngwie's old hat, in a way. He's old news to a lot of people, too. Your contributions...
MALMSTEEN: Wait a minute!
MUSICIAN: ... are in the past, unless you continue
MALMSTEEN: Shit! Five years is a long time ago?
McLAUGHLIN: Come on, what's the question, Matt? [laughs] Don't screw around.
MALMSTEEN: It's like a cat and a fucking ... I think you're talking too much about how you're gonna fuckin' evolve from this, how you're gonna evolve about that. Listen! I'm a happy camper where I'm at right now. I don't feel like I have to go anywhere else. When I feel that way, I'll do something about it. Right now I feel really good about the way I play. I don't think it's old hat! My imitators - they're old hat!
McLAUGHLIN: Go ahead, Yngwie!
MALMSTEEN: Where's the whole wave of new classical electric guitar players? Where the fuck are they now?

MUSICIAN: You're using that old trend as your defense. All I'm saying is...
MALMSTEEN: What exactly are you getting at?
MUSICIAN: What I'm getting at is...
McLAUGHLIN: Shh, shh, shh, it's coming now! I've been waiting for this for five minutes already. Okay, the question is...
MALMSTEEN: The question is...
MUSICIAN: I forgot the damn question.
McLAUGHLIN: No, you were talking about evolution, and you have to be dissatisfied. The thing is, change is going on everyday. Like Yngwie is saying, tonight he's going to go and play and he's not going to play what he played last night. When I start my concerts, I'm not going to play what I played the day before, change is happening all the time. Every day we're different. You don't notice because it moves by millimeters. But over six months, you notice.
MALMSTEEN: Incredible. Incredibly great statement. I must agree. Maybe that's why I don't feel a great desire to just fuckin' shave my head and go to a monastery. Because I find variation every night.
McLAUGHLIN: You'd look good with a shaved head [laughter]. We were talking about spirituality. If you really want to look at it, this moment that we have before us is totally unique and has nothing to do with the moment that just went by. We structure it with a perception, but it's absolutely new and, in that sense, totally miraculous. It arrives free, and here we are, and then the next one comes and here we are. This itself is the greatest miracle. Music? We're a little more exposed to it, that's all.

MALMSTEEN: May I say something? I know you're gonna say I'm full of shit.
McLAUGHLIN: Why don't we just say it now? [laughter]
MALMSTEEN: Listen, I play guitar 20 years, and during these 20 years I've never practiced.
MUSICIAN: I don't believe that.
MALMSTEEN: I have never practiced. I've never done an exercise, I've never done a certain pattern over and over and over, ever!
McLAUGHLIN: Remember what I was saying to you when I was listening to his tape, Matt? "This guy never practiced in his life." [laughter]
MALMSTEEN: All I've been doing is just playing. Playing!
MUSICIAN: Practicing is playing, and playing is practice.
MALMSTEEN: No. You can do a diminished scale up and down till the fuckin' cows come home, but the cows won't come home. I've never done it, believe it or not.
McLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm a worker, but I love to work.
MALMSTEEN: I hate it. I mean, I could never stand to just move my fingers, and I hate the sound of it. I hate it. It's just music that really matters, not the flesh moving over the strings. In my opinion. You're entitled to my opinion.


Since his last tour with Mahavishnu, Johnny McLaughlin has been focusing his attention on the acoustic guitar, playing in duos with bassist Jonas Hellborg and with his current trio. For 15 years John has enlisted the services of luthier Abraham Wechter, who created John's first drone-string acoustic (seven drone strings and six regular strings). McLaughlin currently uses Wechter's 6-strings.
As if 30 square yards of Spandex weren't freight enough, Yngwie also carries a couple dozen Fender Stratocasters on the road, some of which are the guitarist's signature model, designed after one of his 1961 pieces. The Malmsteen Strats feature a scalloped 22-fret fingerboard in either maple or rosewood, an American standard tremolo and DiMarzio HS-3 single-coil pickups. Onstage, it's Marshalls, Marshalls, Marshalls plus a selected array of effects that includes a Cry Baby wah-wah pedal and some Korg delays.