“Some people equate shred with speed, but that's narrow-minded. The haters will hate because they can't do it themselves”: With Shrapnel Records, Mike Varney invented the technical guitar scene. He reflects on his legacy and the virtuosos of today

(from left to right) Marty Friedman, Richie Kotzen, Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert, four legendary guitarists who got their start with Shrapnel Records
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the late 1980s, supercharged guitar theatrics were at their height. Most remember the soaring solos and rainbow-tinged guitars, backed by stacks of sizzling amps. But if we dial back the clock just a few years, the beginning of the '80s looked very different – and considerably less colorful.

Nevertheless, a lot of heat was boiling beneath the surface, and thankfully, Shrapnel Records founder Mike Varney was there to play point guard.

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Andrew Daly

Andrew Daly is an iced-coffee-addicted, oddball Telecaster-playing, alfredo pasta-loving journalist from Long Island, NY, who, in addition to being a contributing writer for Guitar World, scribes for Rock Candy, Bass Player, Total Guitar, and Classic Rock History. Andrew has interviewed favorites like Ace Frehley, Johnny Marr, Vito Bratta, Bruce Kulick, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Rich Robinson, and Paul Stanley, while his all-time favorite (rhythm player), Keith Richards, continues to elude him.