Mike Varney


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Mike Varney is an American record producer and music publisher. He is the founder of the Shrapnel Label Group, which includes Shrapnel Records, Tone Center Records, and Blues Bureau International. He also has a 50% stake in Magna Carta Records, a New York-based label.[1] Varney is often credited with being the individual most responsible for popularizing the mid-1980s shred guitar boom,[2] and has continuously specialized in producing musicians within the genres of instrumental rock, hard rock, jazz, jazz fusion, blues, blues-rock, progressive metal, and speed metal.

Mike Varney
GenresInstrumental rock, hard rock, progressive metal, speed metal, blues rock, blues, jazz, jazz fusion, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Record producer
Years active1980–present
LabelsShrapnel, Tone Center, Blues Bureau, Magna Carta

Early lifeEdit

Mike Varney grew up in Novato, California, located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to forming Shrapnel Records, Varney played extensively with the pre-punk San Francisco band, The Nuns. The Nuns were one of the most successful bands in the Bay Area at that time, regularly selling out at the local venues and clubs.[2] He co-wrote and performed "Rock Justice" along with Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship's Marty Balin, released by EMI in 1980.[3] Varney also led his own band, Cinema, which received wide recognition in the San Francisco Bay Area.[citation needed] He was known for searing lead guitar runs performed on his collection of Gibson SG guitars.[citation needed]

Shrapnel RecordsEdit

Shrapnel Records was founded in 1980 by Mike Varney at the age of 22. It was the first record company in the USA strictly dedicated to heavy metal.[citation needed] As other labels followed suit, Shrapnel was at the forefront of the neo-classical electric guitar and shred movements. Shrapnel Records was the first label to bring guitarists to world attention such as Yngwie Malmsteen (Steeler), Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Racer X, Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen, John5 and many others. Today Shrapnel continues to record guitarists and has also returned, in part, to its metal roots in releasing some classic metal and hard rock records due to a resurgent market interest.[4]

Guitar Player Magazine's Spotlight columnEdit

Mike Varney began his "Spotlight" column in Guitar Player magazine in 1982 as a vehicle for discovering talent among the magazine's readership. His monthly column featured many so-called hometown heroes who sent in demos to showcase their abilities. Several players who were featured received opportunities to record with Shrapnel Records.[2]

Blues Bureau InternationalEdit

Blues Bureau International, founded in 1991, is a label that has focused its attention on the blues rock genre. Through the years the label has recorded many artists including twelve Pat Travers records, six Rick Derringer records, as well as records by other rock blues artists such as Eric Gales, five records, Scott Henderson, solo records and with his group "Tribal Tech", Glenn Hughes, two records with Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, five records with Chris Duarte, Neal Schon, The Outlaws, Joe Louis Walker, etc. The label continues to record artists in the electric blues style.

Tone CenterEdit

Tone Center Records, founded in 1997, is an independent record company owned by Varney, dedicated to recording high level, jazz, jazz/rock and fusion music. The roster is made up of some the most well known names in the instrumental jazz/rock/fusion world. This labels records include performances by musicians such as Frank Gambale, Eric Johnson, Warren Haynes, Steve Morse, Victor Wooten and Mike Stern.

Music collection and archiveEdit

Mike Varney began collecting recordings prior to the beginning of his career in 1980. His current collection includes over 40,000 LPs and CDs, extensively covering the hard rock, metal, progressive rock, blues-rock and jazz-fusion genres and subgenres.[5]

Partial list of artists who have appeared on releases on Mike Varney's record labelsEdit

Shrapnel RecordsEdit


Tone Center RecordsEdit


Blues Bureau RecordsEdit


Magna Carta RecordsEdit



  1. ^ Studio Expresso Producer Profile, http://www.studioexpresso.com/profiles/mikevarney.htm
  2. ^ a b c Guitar World Magazine, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Rock Justice Review, http://www.answers.com/topic/rock-justice-1980-album-by-various-artists
  4. ^ Shrapnel Records Website About Section, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 8, 2009. Retrieved May 26, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Modern Guitars Magazine, October 11, 2007, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 29, 2010. Retrieved May 26, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c Shrapnel Records Website Store, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 6, 2010. Retrieved May 26, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ http://www.dave-goodman.info/ Dave Goodman
  8. ^ Magna Carta Records Website Online Catalog, http://www.magnacarta.net/Catalog/1.html Archived June 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit

  • The Shrapnel Label Group
  • Shrapnel Records Official MySpace Site
  • Official site for Jason Becker
  • Magna Carta Records Website
  • Bernd Steidl interview, 1993