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Paul Brandon Gilbert (born November 6, 1966 in Illinois, USA) is an American guitarist. He is well known for his guitar work with Racer X and Mr. Big, as well as many solo albums. He also joined Joe Satriani and John Petrucci on the 2007 G3 tour.
He has been voted number 4 on a list in GuitarOne magazine of the "Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time", as well as a spot in Guitar World's 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time list.
Around 1981-82 Paul first contacted Mike Varney, founder of Shrapnel Records, asking for a gig with Ozzy Osbourne. At the time, Varney couldn't think why Osbourne would want a 15 year old guitarist, but after listening to his demo he changed his mind. They talked for the next 3 years, until Paul came to L.A for the GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology), and then was ready to record Racer X's debut album Street Lethal.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, Racer X originally comprised Paul Gilbert (guitar), Juan Alderete (bass), Harry Gschoesser (drums) and Jeff Martin (vocals). They were heavily influenced by Judas Priest and Gilbert's playing was reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen, displaying fast-driven solos with extreme-level technique. Gschoesser was replaced by Scott Travis (later known for being the drummer for Judas Priest) in 1986, and Bruce Bouillet was added as a second guitar player. Bouillet was a very skilled player, as he had to play over Gilbert's always difficult and challenging phrases. Paul Gilbert gained recognition as one of the fastest guitar players in the world due to incredibly technical pieces like "Frenzy", "Scarified", "Y.R.O." and "Scit Scat Wah". Gilbert left Racer X in 1988. Racer X carried on for a short time with guitarist (and fellow GIT alum) Chris Arvin and vocalist Oni Logan (later of George Lynch's Lynch Mob) when singer Jeff Martin departed to play drums in Jake E. Lee's Badlands, in which he replaced Eric Singer who left to join Alice Cooper. Shortly thereafter, the members of the re-invented Racer X went their separate ways. The original band would eventually reform (although without Bruce Bouillet, who in-turn did produce the first reunion record).
Paul contacted the members of Racer X, and all agreed to return, with the exception of Bruce Bouillet. In mid-1999 the band recorded the album Technical Difficulties. Technical Difficulties went gold in Japan, and Racer X's new record label requested a follow-up. In late 2000, the band released another album, Superheroes. The record was mixed by former Racer X guitarist, Bruce Bouillet.
In order to further capitalize on their new-found success in Japan, Universal Japan requested that the band record a live show for another live CD and DVD. On May 25, 2001, the band played their first live performance in thirteen years to a sold-out crowd at the famed Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. The show was recorded for both audio and video, and in 2002, both the CD and DVD were released under the name Snowball of Doom.
In January 2002, in support of Superheroes and Snowball of Doom, Racer X toured Japan and Taiwan. The band performed these shows in their Superheroes costumes, and the final show, in Yokohama, was hastily recorded in two tracks on the sound board and was to be later released as Snowball of Doom 2. Later that year, Universal Japan pushed for another Racer X release. In October 2002, all four members of Racer X gathered at Gilbert's house in Las Vegas to record Getting Heavier, which was sold alongside Snowball of Doom 2 in a package deal. Although the album was a successful release in Japan, some fans were disappointed with the lighter tracks, which resembled a Paul Gilbert solo album more so than a traditional Racer X album.
Racer X performed at the 2009 NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Andy Timmons and his band opened the show, followed by a solo set from Paul Gilbert, and finally Racer X. The Racer X lineup consists of Paul Gilbert, Scott Travis, Jeff Martin and John Alderete.
When Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth's band in 1988, he joined with Paul Gilbert, who had left his former band, Racer X. They founded Mr. Big, with Pat Torpey on drums and singer Eric Martin. The band was initially a huge success in Japan, and became famous internationally in 1991, with the release of their second album, Lean Into It. This album featured the ballad "To Be With You", which received strong media play and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Gilbert continued playing in Mr. Big until the late 1990s. He left the band in 1997 to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Richie Kotzen. Mr. Big disbanded in 2002.
In June 2009, Paul Gilbert reunited with the rest of the original Mr. Big bandmembers for a reunion world tour. As of September 2010, Mr. Big is still together and they are currently recording a new album with producer Kevin Shirley.
He rejoined Portnoy along with Dave LaRue and Daniel Gildenl÷w for a Led Zeppelin tribute band called Hammer of the Gods in November 2003. The same year, he toured Japan with Linus Of Hollywood, TJ Helmerich, and Scot Coogan in support of his solo albums Burning Organ, Paul the Young Dude/The Best of Paul Gilbert, and Gilbert Hotel. In September 2005, he joined Portnoy, Sean Malone, and Jason McMaster in the Rush tribute band Cygnus and the Sea Monsters. In May 2006, he joined Portnoy, Gary Cherone, and Billy Sheehan to form Amazing Journey: A Tribute to The Who, playing three shows. The band (excluding Sheehan) destroyed their equipment after the show in homage.
He was also revealed to be the guest guitarist on the Neal Morse solo album, Sola Scriptura. In 2007, Paul Gilbert toured with Bruce Bouillet for promotion of his first instrumental album, Get Out of My Yard, which was released in 2006. Also joining him was his wife, Emi Gilbert, on keyboards. Paul Gilbert also joined Joe Satriani and John Petrucci in the 2007 G3 tour. This was the 5th North American G3 run and the 12th tour worldwide since its inception.
On January 23, 2008, Paul released an instrumental CD titled Silence Followed By A Deafening Roar. It was released in Europe on March 31, 2008, and in America on April 8, 2008. This is Paul's second instrumental album.
On October 22, 2008, Paul released an album with vocalist Freddie Nelson entitled United States. The collaboration has been described as a cross of Queen and Mr. Big. They will be playing their first live shows in the first days of February 2009, with more dates to be announced.
Paul with Racer X performed at the 2009 NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Andy Timmons and his band opened the show, followed by a solo set from Gilbert, and finally Racer X. This Racer X lineup consisted of Gilbert, Scott Travis, Jeff Martin and John Alderete.
Gilbert also joined George Lynch and Richie Kotzen on the Guitar Generation tour.
Paul's appearance at the 2009 Tuska Open Air Metal Festival was cancelled.
On June 30, 2010, Gilbert's new album Fuzz Universe will be released in Japan, with a release in America and Europe soon after. It will be Paul's 3rd solo album being entirely instrumental. A cover of Johnny Cash's "Leave That Junk Alone" will be featured as a Japanese bonus track.
Influences and Style
Talking about his influences, Paul mentions many different artists, including: Michael Schenker, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony Iommi, Alex Lifeson, Jimmy Page, Robin Trower, Pat Travers, Judas Priest, Akira Takasaki, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, and The Ramones. Paul has stated many times that he was heavily influenced by his uncle Jimi Kidd who was instrumental in getting Paul interested in playing the guitar. He is also a great fan of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. He states on the Space Ship Live DVD that George Harrison is one of his favorite guitar players. Guitar World magazine declared him one of 50 of the world's fastest guitarists of all time, along with Buckethead, Eddie Van Halen, and Yngwie Malmsteen.
Gilbert composes music in a wide variety of styles including pop, rock, metal, blues, funk and European classical music, but is perhaps best known for his versatility and speed. He is noted in particular for his efficient picking and his tendency to pick many notes rather than relying too heavily on legato for fast passages.
Paul Gilbert wrote his own section of the British guitar magazine, Total Guitar, where he normally demonstrated guitar techniques in the magazine and accompanying CD. Even before that, he contributed instructional articles to Guitar Player Magazine in a late 1980s/early 1990s series entitled "Terrifying Guitar 101". His period of working with Total Guitar spanned thirty-one issues until the November 2006 issue. Paul also teaches at the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) regularly, and is also an "honorary dean" of the GIT division in Japan. Paul visits Japan, enjoying the lifestyle like his Shrapnel labelmate Marty Friedman, who still lives in Japan and speaks Japanese fluently. Gilbert is known for his instructional videos, which are often comical in nature. One of his instructional videos includes him pulling a rabbit out of his guitar, putting his guitar in a straightjacket and having presents thrown at him by members of the film crew. Gilbert now writes a column for Guitar World entitled "Shred Alert".
In the intro to "Get Out Of My Yard" Paul uses a Boss DD-3 Delay pedal to achieve the altered pitch looped effect at the beginning of the track. This was also demonstrated by Paul on the instructional DVD of the same name.
He is also famous for using a Makita cordless drill with three picks mounted on the end of it, which he used most famously on the Mr. Big track "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy".
In 2009, Ibanez released a new PGM model, the Ibanez PGM401, which is rather different from most of Paul's previous models, with an ash body (most of his previous models were made of basswood, although his PGM800 guitar was made of lightweight ash, a similar but different wood than that used in the PGM401), Trifade Burst finish, Cosmo Black hardware and a regular headstock replacing the reversed one of the previous models. Also, rather than the DiMarzio PAF Pro, Tone Zone and Super Distortion pickups used in his previous models, the PGM401 comes with Paul's favorite humbucker model for the past five years, the DiMarzio Air Classic, arranged in a dual humbucker arrangement. Paul has stated that he had the bridge pickup moved 1mm closer to the neck, which he said results in a warmer and thicker sound, particularly for the high notes he often uses in soloing. The F-holes are 3% smaller, to make the look more balanced with the pickup mounting rings. But perhaps the biggest difference from other current Ibanez guitar models, is that the PGM401 uses the old late-1980s neckjoint, which is thicker than the current neckjoints on other Ibanez guitars.