Bonnet: Malmsteen wasn’t hard work.. at first
Graham Bonnet says guitarist Ynwie Malmsteen wasn’t difficult to work with when Alcatrazz started out – but that changed with time.
And the frontman, who’s also been a member of Rainbow and Michael Schenker Group, has recalled how quickly things came to an end with Malmsteen’s replacement, Steve Vai.
Both axeman have gone on to much bigger and better things, but they were far less well-known when they were part of Alcatrazz in the 1980s.
Asked if Malmsteen was “hard to work with,” Bonnet tells Songfacts: “He wasn’t at first – but he was suddenly engulfed by people telling him how wonderful he was.
“When a kid of 19 years old and everybody’s telling you how marvellous you are, you could be better than this, you could be the next Jimi Hendrix, it was very tempting for him. His ego suddenly inflated.
“He became not a band member any more. He wanted to go off on his own, and, eventually, he did. It just wasn’t working – I could see it happening.”
Malmsteen left when the band was just a year old in 1984, and Bonnet found a replacement in the form of Vai, who only stayed for two years before moving on to become part of David Lee Roth’s solo band. “I didn’t even know he was leaving,” says the singer. “He said to the rest of the band, ‘Don’t tell Graham yet,’ because he knew I’d be pissed off. And of course I was; I was very upset.
“This is really going a good way, and then David Lee Roth saw him and he was invited along. And of course money speaks. He would get paid a lot of money, and the ultimate hippie suddenly turned into Mr. Give-me-the-money. Steve was very hippie-fied: ‘The money doesn’t bother me, it’s the art.’ But then a better job comes along… ‘See ya!’”
Despite that, he’d still enjoy the chance to work with both guitarists again. “No matter who they are now, they’re still great musicians,” he says. “I don’t know if it will ever happen because times have changed. Now guitar players are even more successful than any singers or drummers or bass players. Guitar players are always going to be gods to people.”
And he’ll always have a soft spot for the first Alcatrazz incarnation. “The first lineup was a great lineup with Yngwie – it was all new and fresh with this new guitar player, this young kid who everybody loved to death. I kind of miss that. It would be nice to do it again, but I don’t think there’ll be a reunion.”