Graham Bonnet recalls what led Alcatrazz to part ways with guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen

Photo by Joe Schaeffer Photography

Graham Bonnet recalls what led Alcatrazz to part ways with guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen

Former Alcatrazz lead vocalist Graham Bonnet was recently interviewed via Vintage Rock Pod. Bonnet recalled an incident that he had with his bandmate at the time, guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen, that led to the latter reportedly getting fired from the band.

Bonnet indicated (as provided by Vintage Rock Pod): “Well, he was looking for something better because he wasn’t too thrilled with the other guys in the band either, like I wasn’t. I was looking for somebody who was like a real shithot keyboard player, a really shithot bass player, which I didn’t find. We got somebody who would do because we had to make this record. He [Yngwie] knew people were watching him every night he went on stage. They watched this kid do all this. People were aghast. How’s he doing that? I mean, now it’s like commonplace. Everybody bloody plays like that now. But he’s out there. He’s taller than me by about four inches, I think. And he had his high heels on, his Cuban boots, Cuban heel boots. But he started doing that [overplaying] while I was trying to sing a verse of a song. “Yngwie you know, when I get to this bit, I’ve got to have the stage here. This is my bit. This is where I’m singing the verse” whatever it may be.

But he was playing through everything because people were looking at him, he wanted to be seen. And I thought, well, this guy’s going to go. He’s looking to go on to something else, which eventually happened, because what happened one night — I don’t know if you heard the story — but he grabbed me. I went off stage and I went off to the bus and he came off stage and grabbed me by the throat, started pressing in here [pointing to his throat], really really hard, trying to destroy my tonsils and whatever else. And I was like “What are you doing?” He said, “You fucking bastard, you pull my fucking cord out of my guitar when I do my lead.” And I didn’t at all. I didn’t know. I actually walked off stage and had pulled it out by accident because the stage was dark and the spotlight was on him. And I’d gone off to the bus just to get some air, sort of thing. And he thought I did it on purpose, which I didn’t. And so he tried to kill me, basically. And he could destroy my vocal cords and my tonsils, whatever. As I said, he’s bigger than me.

And then our Yugoslavian, one of our Yugoslavian roadies, I remember him so well, bless him he died not so long ago. And he got hold of Yngwie, got hold of him by the head, put him under his arm like this and said, “You fucking touch Graham one more time, I break your fucking neck.” Because he was stronger and bigger than him [Yngwie]. So that night when we’re driving home, we fired him on the bus. But he went on to better things. He progressed whereas we went down the shitter. The band went down a shitter for a while.”

You can listen to the full interview with Graham Bonnet on Vintage Rock Pod via Spotify or view / listen to an excerpt from the interview below:

Wikipedia states the following about Malmsteen‘s tenure in the band (with slight edits): “The band’s initial line-up consisted of former Rainbow singer frontman Graham Bonnet, young Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, who had recently left the American metal band Steeler, Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo from New England and Clive Burr of Iron Maiden

fame. Burr was reportedly only in the band for a week, and left upon discovering the band was going to be based in the United States, as opposed to his native England. Burr was soon replaced by former Iron Butterfly drummer Jan Uvena, who had just left Alice Cooper‘s backing band. Shea dubbed the group “Alcatrazz“. For the first album, the bulk of the material was written by Bonnet and Malmsteen, with Waldo contributing to several tracks.

The band’s debut album, No Parole From Rock ‘n’ Roll was released in late 1983 on Rocshire Records. Decent support was given by MTV to the lead single, “Island In The Sun”, which showed a heavy Rainbow influence. Despite the commercial nature of the song, it received little radio play. The album nonetheless spent 18 weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at No. 128. A second video released in 1984 for “Hiroshima Mon Amour” became popular in Japan.

Rochsire then released Live Sentence (1984), a concert recording with songs from both concerts of the recent tour of Japan at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo on January 28, 1984. Being discontent with the sonic qualities of the recording, Malmsteen tried to prevent the release of the album but failed. Some Rainbow covers were included, including “Since You Been Gone”. The album peaked at No. 133 in the US. A live video concert was also produced. During this period, internal turmoil began surfacing within the band, between Malmsteen and Bonnet. According to Malmsteen, Bonnet had become fed up with the attention drawn to his guitar playing from fans over Bonnet‘s vocals. According to Malmsteen, their professional relationship ended with the two having an altercation on stage after Bonnet allegedly tampered with Malmsteen‘s amplifiers during a guitar solo and “Since You’ve Been Gone” at a show in Oklahoma. This resulted in Malmsteen yelling at and arguing with Bonnet, Bonnet poking Malmsteen in the stomach with his microphone stand, and finally with Malmsteen punching Bonnet, all taking place on stage. Following this, Malmsteen left Alcatrazz and created his own band called Rising Force, who signed with Polydor Records and released a successful self-titled debut album.”

Alcatrazz‘s “Island In The Sun” video (from No Parole From Rock ‘n’ Roll album):