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Shrapnel Records Founder Slams Modern Shred Guitarists: “I Don’t Enjoy It”


Shrapnel Records is probably the most important record label of all time when speaking about the development of the shred style of guitar playing. Founded in the ’80s, Shrapnel released albums from a veritable who’s who of the style, including Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Yngwie Malmsteen and plenty of others. These musicians pushed the boundaries of guitar playing and found new approaches to the instrument, in some cases to a detrimental level says Shrapnel founder Mike Varney.

In a new interview with Guitar World, Varney broke down his issues. The first? It sounds like a rehash to him.

“I still love technical guitar playing, but I listen to many other kinds of music, too. It’s tough for me to listen to many of the newer technical players out there today as either they are just rehashing things Shrapnel artists did 40 years ago, or they’ve gotten faster and are playing seven and eight-string guitars.”

The second? He doesn’t know why it exists other than to be flashy.

“I can appreciate some of that stuff, but I don’t enjoy it, as a lot of it sounds as if its sole reason for existing is to facilitate crazier guitar playing. I’m not looking for anything faster than the fastest things we put out, or that has so many time changes in it that they appear to exist to try to make something sound as complex as possible. I think part of it is my age.”

Guitar World notes that, in the interview (not published in full), Varney explains that his criteria for Shrapnel-worthy talent was “cool songs”, “played undeniably great”, and “wanted to play guitar as a vocation and not as a hobby.”

I’m a nut for some of the albums released via Shrapnel—Speed Metal Symphony, anyone?—and would call it my favorite era of guitar-centric heavy music but it sounds like Varney’s personal biases are showing pretty hard here. As great as guitarists like Friedman, Becker and Gilbert are and were in their prime, genres evolve and things change. That’s why we have Tomb Mold and Tomb of the Mutilated.

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