1. How did you
get to participate in this Concerto project? How did it happen?
"Yngwie invited me down to Miami to play on a couple of songs on his
Inspiration album. We had a great time working on the record and we really
clicked musically. It was just in passing that he started talking about this
idea he had to do the concerto. He said he wanted to do a full blown piece
with an orchestra and that he was just at the very early stages of the idea.
I knew that he didn't read or write music so I asked him if he had someone
to do the orchestration. We began to talk in more detail and I instantly
understood what he was looking to do. We connected right from the very beginning.
Even though I was very interested in the project, when I got back home I
never really expected to hear from him again because so many people talk
about these big grandiose ideas and never follow up on them. But sure enough
a few weeks later I got a call from Jim Lewis (his manager) to discuss it
further, and a few weeks after that we got started."
2. What was the first impression of this project
when you heard about it?
"My first impression of the project was - 'I've gotta get involved in
this!' Yngwie's got great ideas and comes up with some great melodies, and
I knew right from the beginning that we would make a really good team. Working
on a full-scale orchestral piece is something that I've wanted to do for
a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity to do it."
3. What did you think of Yngwie before working with
him in this project? And in this sense, how did you feel when you actually
worked with him?
"Yngwie has a bit of a reputation in the business, shall we say, as being
a little tough to work with at times and a perhaps a little wild. But he's
a perfectionist. And I'm a perfectionist. We immediately found that we had
that in common. And when we got in a room by ourselves with just a guitar
and a keyboard, we totally clicked. I didn't really come across any of the
things that other people have said they've come across when working with
him. We have a tremendous mutual respect for each other and I think this
translated into a very positive working relationship. I really had a great
time working with him."
4. What was the most difficult part when you wrote
the score? And how long did it take to finish?
"One of the challenges of writing the score was dealing with the way Yngwie
tunes his guitar. He tunes a half step flat, which means his open strings
are Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb and Eb. When he strums an E chord, it sounds like
an Eb chord. So while he's playing away in E minor throughout the concerto,
the rest of the world has to play in Eb minor which has 6 flats! One of the
movements ended up in Ab minor which has 7 flats!
Needless to say, sight reading in these key signatures is very difficult.
I figured that the orchestra would have very little time to rehearse, and
that they'd probably have to sight read the whole thing. So I suggested to
Yngwie very early on that he should consider tuning to concert pitch, in
the interest of making life easier for the orchestra. He said "No way - this
is the way I play and this is my sound. The orchestra will have to deal with
On one hand, I respected his decision for standing his ground and staying
true to his unique style and sound. On the other hand, he really made it
tough for the whole orchestra. And I had to deal with millions of flats in
the score! It was flats and flats and flats and flats! After a while, I just
got used to it. But when other musicians look at it for the first time they
are a little intimidated by the key signatures. And then they get used to
"It took 7 months to complete the first draft of the score, and this included
making demos. Since Yngwie doesn't read or write music, I couldn't show him
the score and say, "Hey, what do you think?" The only way to present my
orchestration to him was to make a demo of it. So I assembled the 'Rosenthal
Philharmonic' using 7 Kurzweil modules and then played every one of the parts
in the entire score. This way Yngwie could play over it and make sure that
he was comfortable with the arrangement. This was incredibly time consuming
but we ended up with a pretty good idea of what it was going to sound like.
Then came the massive task of proofreading my 307 page
score. During this time I was also creating the parts - which also had to
be proofread. I ended up with about 1500 pages of individual parts that all had
to be put together, sorted and collated, and it all had to be right! If everything
wasn't accurately proofread right down to the note, it wouldn't have mattered
how good my orchestration was. So I really took my time to proofread everything
properly. In total, creating the parts and proofreading took about 2 months. So
the whole project from start to finish took about 9 months."
5. What directions (instructions) did you give to
the orchestra during the recording in Prague?
"I didn't have any direct discussions with the orchestra, since that was
the conductor's job. I explained to him what I was looking for, and after
that I had to trust him to communicate it to the orchestra. However, the
language barrier was a tough thing. Most of the musicians in the orchestra
spoke Czech. Fortunately the conductor spoke some German which the orchestra
understood a little bit more of than English. So between that and the universal
language of musical terminology, they managed to communicate."
6. What was the most important part in recording
"The most important part in recording the orchestra was making sure that
we had the flexibility to mix it properly after Yngwie put his guitars on.
Each of the sections of the orchestra were individually miked and recorded
onto separate tracks. These tracks could later be used in the mix to enhance
the overall stereo blend of the orchestra. This gave us the control we needed
to compensate for changes in the orchestral blend that would occur after
the guitar was added.
We also needed to have complete isolation on Yngwie's guitar tracks, so
we decided it would be best for him to overdub his parts. This would also
allow him to perform his guitar parts in the privacy of his own studio, in
his own time and space, and not have to worry about all the other musicians
and everything else that was going on during the orchestral recording
7. What was the most memorable thing in the orchestral
"The whole thing was a memorable experience. I can't isolate one event.
It was an amazing feeling to sit there and listen to a 90 piece orchestra
and a 40 piece choir play something that I had orchestrated for them. As
I mentioned earlier, most ideas like this never come to fruition. But there
we were, in Prague, in front of the orchestra, and the piece was actually
being performed and recorded. It was very exciting!"
8. What was the most important point when you mixed
the album in Miami?
"Unfortunately I wasn't able to be there for the mix, but I wish I could
9. What kinds of things did you talk about with
Yngwie, Chris Tsangaridos and Tomo Ezaki and how did you communicate with
them while working on this project?
"Mostly with Yngwie, we talked about cars, women and partying...(just
kidding!!). Yngwie and I worked very closely throughout the creation of the
whole project. We shared a vision of it. The recording team that was assembled
was there to make sure that the end result carried out what the initial vision
was. Chris is Yngwie's producer and is also an engineer. He's been working
with Yngwie for years and is very familiar with how he plays and what his
sound is. His job was to oversee the entire recording process and insure
that the guitar was recorded properly. Tomo is a classical engineer who
specializes in orchestral recording. He was there to make sure that the orchestra
was properly recorded. I was there to make sure that the score was being
played correctly, and the conductor was there to make sure that the orchestra
kind of stayed together.
On a technical level we talked about the recording process and some of
the complications that would come up as a result of mixing a loud distorted
guitar with an orchestra. Because it's not commonly done, we wanted to be
prepared for as many possibilities as we could so that the recording sessions
would run smoothly. The initial plan was to digitally record the orchestra
to multi-track, and then have Yngwie overdub his guitars on analog tape while
watching a video tape of the conductor during the orchestral recording sessions.
Even though we planned all this in advance with Tomo and Chris, at the sessions
it never happened that way. I guess the language barrier played a role here
10. What part did you feel most challenging and
exciting in this project?
"Orchestrating a classical style piece for a musician who doesn't read
music was very challenging. Yngwie was forced to memorize the whole thing,
yet he's a very free player who's accustomed to playing in a band where he's
the leader and the band always follows him. But an orchestra will not follow
him. They can't add an extra time around the solo section if you feel like
playing a longer solo, and they definitely can't jam! They play what's on
the page and that's that. I explained this to Yngwie repeatedly because he
kept saying things like, "Let's do it this way... or maybe we'll do it that
way..." And I would say, "We can do it any way you want, but you've gotta
pick one, and then you've gotta lock into it. The orchestra will play whatever
we want them to, but once it's on paper that's what they're going to do and
you'll have to memorize it and be comfortable with it." So we ended up with
certain parts where the melodies are set, and other parts where he is free
to solo. Even though he'll never play the piece the same way twice, he'll
basically stay within the framework of this structure.
The guy's got a remarkable memory to have memorized the whole thing, but
it did come out pretty different from the original demo. But who's too say
which is right or which is wrong - it's just two different versions of it,
and the public will probably never hear the demo."
11. Finally, what do you think and how do you feel
after accomplishing this project?
This project has been a real milestone in my musical career. I got to use a lot of the techniques that I had studied many years ago at Berklee and never really had the chance to employ on a professional basis. Being able to hear an orchestra play something that I spent so much time working on was a tremendous experience. The fact that it actually went from idea to completion and now the public will get to hear it is also very exciting. I see this concerto as my first big orchestral project. I plan to do many, many more.