Yngwie Malmsteen Almost Got Kicked From Tour With Triumph in the ’80s, Rik Emmett Reveals

According to Triumph guitarist Rik Emmett, Swedish neoclassical guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen was almost kicked from the band’s tour back in the mid-1980s due to playing over time.

Yngwie’s reputation is very well-known among rock and metal fans. So it’s in no way a surprise to know that he caused some trouble to the people he worked with in any capacity. But, in a way, it’s part of his image and kind of goes perfectly well with the music, this perfect combination of rock ‘n’ roll and baroque elements.

Fortunately for Yngwie’s career, he listened to Emmett’s advice and sorted things out after a couple of shows. The Triumph guitarist recalled the 1986 tour during his appearance on the Rock Interview Series podcast, explaining how Malmsteen’s habit of disregarding the timing even cost them money.

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“The first night or two that he played, he kind of went overtime and he was being sort of egocentric in what he was doing,” Emmett said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar). Realizing the potential troubles, he decided to go down a more diplomatic path and sort things out. He continued:

“And then there was talk, like they were going to fire him off the tour. And I said, ‘Let me just go talk to him in his dressing room. You know, guitar player to guitar player.’ And I think it helped that I was a columnist for Guitar Player Magazine.”

Rik also adds that he was not holding back the compliments. It was, of course, an honest remark since Yngwie really was a game-changer in the world of guitar back then. But praising the young guitar player was still important at that moment. He continued:

“I said, ‘Look, Yngwie, you are an incredible guitar player.’ I was smooching his butt… Because he is, what he does, he’s very singularly good at it.”

“And I said, ‘But, you’re out here on the tour with us. We’re going to let you do your thing. But when you get to the 8:22 mark, you’re done. And you must realize that this is a professional enterprise.'”

“We want you to succeed, we want the audience to be happy, we want you to be able to do a great show,” he added. “But at 8:22, when your time is up, you can’t keep playing for the next half hour.”

“You’re going to put the show into overtime. You’re going to cost me money out of my pocket. So, be reasonable to me and my business and the business of Triumph, and don’t go overtime, and you’ll be fine. It’ll be great. We can do a lot of shows together, and it’ll work.'”

Yngwie Malmsteen 1986-10-21 Toronto, Canada Pt.2

Despite Malmsteen having the reputation that he did, Rik’s very polite approach worked. In fact, according to what the Triumph guitarist said, the Swedish virtuoso seems to have been thankful for these words. Emmett added:

“He was looking at me like, ‘I don’t think anybody ever talked to me this straight before.’ And he went, ‘Yeah. OK.’ And he never played one second overtime after that night.”

“He played his show, and it was good, it was great. He’d do those things where he’d swing the guitar around on his strap, hit his poses, and play his Ritchie Blackmore licks, and then play his sweep [picking]. He was he was a tremendous player.”

Discussing Malmsteen’s work, Rik also mentioned how this particular blend of hard rock and classical music wasn’t really his thing. And, on top of that, he wasn’t all that impressed with his band members either.

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“His band — eh,” Emmett added. “And the style of music, after you’d heard three or four songs, you’d kind of heard every trick that was in the book, kind of. So, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, necessarily. But there’s people that really do love guitar heroes. And that’s what he was.”

These days, Malmsteen himself seems to be aware of the reputation that followed him. So much so that he even openly called himself a “a bit of a snob” for almost entirely disregarding rock ‘n’ roll artists at one point in his early career. In an interview with Rick Beato last year, he said:

“I actually became a bit of a snob and [had] gotten to that point where it was really like, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll?”

Yngwie Malmsteen - Trilogy Suite Op: 5 Demo

“Nope. I listen to Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Niccolo Paganini…’ For one exception.”

But then things changed with the first Van Halen record. Malmsteen recalled:

“My drummer brought a record to the studio, ‘Oh, this new band, you’ve got to hear this!’ I was like, ‘Not interested.'”

“I look at it: ‘This guy’s playing a new Strat; it’s got a black pickguard…'”

Yngwie Malmsteen Live in Japan 1985

“We listened to the album, ‘Van Halen I’, it was like somebody dropped the f***ing bomb. It was so good. That really knocked me out.”Top of FormBottom of Form

Photo: Alterna2 (Yngwie Malmsteen 5)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.