Paul Brandon Gilbert (born November 6, 1966) is an American instrumental rock guitarist. He is best known for being in the bands Racer X and Mr. Big, but has released several solo albums, and featured in numerous collaborations and guest appearances on other musicians' albums.
Gilbert has been voted fourth-best on GuitarOne magazine's "Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time". He has also ranked in Guitar World's "50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time" list.
Gilbert was raised mostly in the small Pittsburgh suburb of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He began playing music at age five; by age 15, he was touring local clubs with his band (Tau Zero), and had been featured in Guitar Player magazine (alongside fellow up-and-comer Yngwie Malmsteen). Around 1981, Gilbert first contacted Mike Varney (founder of Shrapnel Records), asking for a gig with metal mega-star Ozzy Osbourne. At the time, Varney couldn't think why Osbourne would want a 15-year-old guitarist; but after listening to Gilbert's demo tape, he changed his mind. They continued talking over the next 3 years, culminating in Gilbert's 1984 cross-country move to Los Angeles to attend the GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology). He was hired as a GIT instructor in 1985, and recorded Racer X's debut album Street Lethal soon after.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, Racer X was originally composed of Paul Gilbert (lead guitar), Juan Alderete (bass guitar), 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 (who would later become Judas Priest's drummer) in 1986; and, Bruce Bouillet was added as a second guitarist, deftly complementing Gilbert's always-challenging phrases. Gilbert gained recognition as one of the world's fastest guitarists due to incredibly technical pieces like "Technical Difficulties"; "Frenzy"; "Scarified"; "Y.R.O."; and "Scit Scat Wah".
Gilbert left Racer X in 1988, but reformed it after the 1996 breakup of Mr. Big. Paul contacted the members of Racer X, and all but Bruce Bouillet agreed to return. In mid-1999 the band recorded the album Technical Difficulties which went gold in Japan. Racer X's new record label requested a follow-up; so, in late-2000, they released Superheroes, mixed by Bouillet.
To further capitalize on their new-found success in Japan, Universal Japan requested that the band perform for a live-album CD and DVD. On May 25, 2001, the band played their first live performance in thirteen years, to a sold-out crowd, at the world-famous "The Whisky" (Whisky a Go Go) in Los Angeles. The resulting CD and DVD were released in 2002 under the title 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. The tour's final show, in Yokohama, was hastily recorded in two tracks on the sound board and 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 than a conventional 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 consisted of Paul Gilbert, Scott Travis, Jeff Martin and John Alderete.
When bass guitarist Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth's solo band in 1988, he and Gilbert co-founded Mr. Big (with Pat Torpey on drums, and lead singer Eric Martin). The band was initially a huge success in Japan, but achieved international stardom with the 1991 release of their second studio album, Lean Into It. This album featured the acoustic ballad "To Be With You", which received strong play on radio stations and MTV, rising to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The band broke up around 1996, and Gilbert launched his solo album career. When it quickly reformed soon after, Gilbert (already committed to his own record contract by then) was replaced by Richie Kotzen. Mr. Big disbanded again in 2002, but Gilbert reunited the original members in June 2009 for a world-wide reunion tour. They even recorded a new album, with producer Kevin Shirley. titled What If.... The album was released in Japan on Dec. 15th, 2010, in Europe on Jan. 21st, 2011 and in the U.S. in Feb. 2011. A tour to support the album kicked off at the Hollywood location of The House of Blues on April 2, 2011, followed by several dates in Japan later that month. In May and June 2011, the tour continued in China, Korea, The Philippines, and Europe.
In May 2003 he played in an only twice-performing project called Yellow Matter Custard, a Beatles cover band consisting also of Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard), and Matt Bissonette. In February 2011 Yellow Matter Custard re-formed for 3 Nights Across America. Kasim Sulton replaced Matt Bissonette in the 2011 shows due to other commitments. They took their name from a Beatles lyric in "I Am the Walrus": "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye".
He rejoined Portnoy along with Dave LaRue and Daniel Gildenlöw 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.
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.
On June 30, 2010, Gilbert's new album Fuzz Universe was released in Japan, with a release in America and Europe soon after. It is Paul's 3rd solo album being entirely instrumental. A cover of Johnny Cash's "Leave That Junk Alone" is featured as a Japanese bonus track.
On June 25, 2014 Gilbert released his latest studio album, Stone Pushing Uphill Man. Initially, made available only in Japan. The album was later released in the United States on August 12, 2014.
Influences And Style
When interviewed about his musical and stylistic influences, Paul Gilbert mentions many different artists, including: Randy Rhoads; Kim Mitchell; Eddie Van Halen; Yngwie Malmsteen; Tony Iommi; Alex Lifeson; Jimmy Page; Robin Trower; Ritchie Blackmore; Pat Travers; Gary Moore; Michael Schenker; Judas Priest; Akira Takasaki; Steve Clark; Jimi Hendrix; Kiss; and The Ramones. On many occasions, Gilbert has stated that his uncle Jimi Kidd was vital in heavily fueling Gilbert's childhood interest in playing guitar. Gilbert is also a great fan of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. He stated 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.
Paul Gilbert composes music in a wide variety of styles, including pop; rock; metal; blues; and funk. However, Gilbert is perhaps best known for his hand speed and stylistic versatility. He is noted in particular for his efficient, staccato-like picking technique: playing extremely complicated passages of music at blindingly fast speeds without relying on legato to do so (unlike many other guitarists).
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 straitjacket and having presents thrown at him by members of the film crew. Paul also was, for a short time, the guitar teacher of Buckethead, Joey Tafolla, Russ Parrish (A.K.A. Satchel from Steel Panther), Michelle Meldrum (The late wife of Europe guitarist John Norum) and Nicole Couch of Phantom Blue. Gilbert now writes a column for Premier Guitar entitled "Shred Your Enthusiasm". In May, 2012 he launched the Online Rock Guitar School with Paul Gilbert as a part of the ArtistWorks Guitar Campus.
In August 2014, Gilbert will be participating in the G4 Experience—a week long guitar camp—with fellow guitarists Joe Satriani, Andy Timmons, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally.
Paul Gilbert primarily uses his Ibanez PGM signature series guitars, identified by the unique painted on "F-holes". Although earlier PGM models featured the Ibanez Lo-Pro/Edge double locking tremolo system, many of his guitars (such as his main PGM300) were modified to accommodate a fixed bridge after he stopped using whammy bars in the early 90s, hence the Ibanez PGM301 guitar. Along with his signature guitars, Gilbert often uses his sticker-covered "Dino" Ibanez RG750, in addition to a wide variety of Ibanez solidbody and semi-hollow electric guitars. Recently, Gilbert has been using Ibanez "Fireman" (a reversed-body Ibanez Iceman with single-coil pickups and an extra cutaway) guitars, which he designed himself. A red version The Ibanez Fireman is to be mass-produced for consumers at a more affordable price than the Ibanez PGMFRM1 (current Paul Gilbert signature Fireman) in Fall 2011.
Regarding amplifiers, Gilbert used A/DA preamps (A/DA MP-1) and rack effects units early in his career prior to switching to Laney amplifiers. He praised the Laney amps as having "the best natural distorted sound of any tube amp ever heard" Since the G3 2007 tour however, Gilbert stated that playing with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci inspired him to take a closer look at his own guitar sound. As a result of his search he found the Marshall Vintage Modern series. He currently uses the Marshall Vintage Modern 2266c combo amps. Paul now uses the Marshall JMD:1 (specifically JMD501) amplifier along with his Vintage Modern amplifier. Paul uses Jim Dunlop Tortex picks, of which he prefers the orange (.60mm) picks. As far as cables Paul uses Bullet Cable 30' Coiled Cables, Bullet Cable SLUG DIY solderless patch cables for his pedalboard and effects.
Paul has been known to use the following effects:
Paul also used a modified vintage A/DA Flanger from the 1980s (source: Berlin VIP session interview). You can hear it on tracks like 'Bucket of Rocks', and he also uses it on the 'Snowball of Doom' DVD. Paul stated the flanger had been modified. He would set the flanger to self oscillate, which would make the pitch of the resulting signal alternate up and down to create a sound similar to a dive bomb or a pull up on a whammy bar. Unfortunately, during Paul's 2008 European tour, his original A/DA Flanger broke. Thankfully, before the pedal broke, he and Ibanez collaborated to make a similar pedal, with both a regular flanger mode and a mode which can be set to create a close approximation of the A/DA pedal's sound, and the pedal has been released as the Ibanez Paul Gilbert AF-2 Airplane Flanger. He also uses the Psilocybe phaser and THC chorus pedals from Home Brew Electronics.
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. A noteworthy 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.
In 2011, Ibanez released a new model for Gilbert the FRM100. The design of the FRM100 was inspired by many hours of playing and performance by Paul Gilbert with the original Ibanez Fireman model featuring a distinctive reverse Iceman body outline.
In 2014, Paul announced his new Ibanez signature model guitar, FRM250MF, at NAMM 2014.
Guitar rig and signal flow
A detailed gear diagram of Paul Gilbert's 2000 guitar rig is well-documented.
Gilbert currently resides in Los Angeles, California with his second wife, Emi Gilbert (née Yamamoto), whom he married in 2005. Prior to this, Gilbert was married from between 1993 to 1998 to Patricia Patterson. On 24 August 2014 Gilbert's wife Emi gave birth to their son, Marlon Kanzan Gilbert.
- Intense Rock Jams - Sequences & Techniques VHS version (1988)
- Intense Rock II featuring Paul Gilbert VHS version (1991)
- Guitars from Mars Japanese DVD release
- Guitars from Mars II Japanese DVD release
- Terrifying Guitar Trip VHS version
- Eleven Thousand Notes DVD
- Guitar Wars DVD
- Space Ship Live DVD (2005)
- Complete Intense Rock DVD (2006)
- Terrifying Guitar Trip DVD (2006)
- Get Out Of My City Guitar Instructional DVD/VCD (2007)
- One Night In New York City - Yellow Matter Custard (2003)
- Two Nights In North America - Hammer Of The Gods (2006)
- One Night In Chicago - Cygnus And The Sea Monsters (2006)
- One Night In New York City - Amazing Journey (2007)
- Silence Followed By A Deafening Roar Guitar Instructional DVD And Shred Annex (2008)
- The Last Note of Freedom