An Invitation from Paul Gilbert
Fellow guitar players! I’d like you to join me for PAUL GILBERT’S GREAT GUITAR ESCAPE: SHRAPNEL AND BEYOND, taking place July 6-10, 2020 at the beautiful Glen Cove Mansion in Glen Cove, NY. Musicians of all skill levels, ages, and interests are welcome to join me and some of my favorite guitarists of all time for four days of workshops, mentor sessions, all-star jams, and so much more.
The theme for this camp is SHRAPNEL AND BEYOND so we’re going to be focusing on the immense legacy and impact of Shrapnel Records and its founder, Mike Varney. They both played a big part in my personal and professional history and certainly the same can be said about most of the players joining us at Great Guitar Escape.
When Mike started Shrapnel in the early 80s, it really changed the way people viewed the guitar. There had been guitar players over the years that really blew people’s minds with what they could do musically and also athletically – obviously Jimi Hendrix but especially Eddie Van Halen. Van Halen inspired the idea that the classical virtuoso musician could play with the fire and creativity of a rock musician. Mike Varney did an amazing job of looking at the post-Van Halen world and finding all of these inspired young players, people like me that had practiced eight hours a day for their entire high school existence. Mike gave us a platform. He helped us find other musicians to play with, he helped put a musical frame around this new approach. And of course it just blew everybody’s mind!
We’ve put together an amazing group of guitarists for this camp, all of whom have significant history with Shrapnel and the music it inspired. It’s always exciting for me to see how everyone has branched out and grown over the past 30 years. I grew up with 60s and 70s rock, but its “I hope I die before I get old” philosophy cut a lot of careers short! My peers at Shrapnel, who were in it for the music rather than the lifestyle, have had a chance to grow and expand their musical horizons over decades. Everyone’s had a chance to widen his or her musical areas of expertise. It’s rather amazing to witness.
Mike Varney ads: “I’m so excited about the Great Guitar Escape. It’s almost like a high school reunion or something for me. Paul Gilbert is one of my all time, highest esteemed artists. We first met when he was 15; he submitted a tape to me with a letter asking if I could get him an audition with Ozzy Osbourne. I listened and thought, let’s find out more about this guy. He sounded really good. I reached out and said, tell me about yourself. He told me he was 15 and I said, Well, that might be a hard pitch at this point but why don’t we keep in touch? Paul kept sending me tapes and about three years later we started making records. Not only do I get to see Paul and a bunch of my favorite guitarists, I’m also curious to meet some of the people who have been inspired by Shrapnel. Being around people that are interested in the same thing that I’ve devoted my life to is something I don’t have a chance to do very often. It’ll be cool to go back and kind of relive certain moments. There will definitely be stories, lots of stories! Paul and I are also going to listen to music by some of the camp attendees, offer our honest evaluations. I’m really looking forward to it and hope you’ll join us.”
The Great Guitar Escape is not like simply going to a gig or even a clinic. This is about community and interaction between musicians, whatever your age or skill level. When I was growing up, starting to play guitar, I’d look at the back covers of my albums and read rock magazines, but it wasn’t really until I became a professional musician myself that I was in a position to meet some of my heroes. I mean, it would have been unthinkable and really kind of scary.
A typical clinic might be two hours, but the Great Guitar Escape takes place over four days. This takes some allows everyone to get comfortable and enjoy hanging out. With the standard VIP experience, you might have 15 minutes to spend with somebody that you really want to meet. But with Great Guitar Escape, we have a chance to go much deeper together. We’re able to relate in a very normal way, where it’s not just I’m on stage and you’re the audience. It’s much more like, “Hey this is good bacon! What kind of amp did you use on the first Racer X album? Can you pass the orange juice?”
That’s one of the things I like most about doing camps. It allows aspiring guitarists a chance to really get close to professional musicians. My uncle was a pro level guitar player and being around him when I was a kid, gave me such a specific idea of what I needed to pull out my instrument. It was beyond what would you could get from explaining something in words. It was a very concrete picture: That’s what I have to do. That’s how I have to attack my instrument. It’s something that you get when you’re close up, and I try to give everyone at the camp that kind of opportunity.
At Great Guitar Escape, you’re not just close to one player but a whole group of players. And not just any players but some of the best guitarists who have ever picked up the instrument! That proximity is what makes this camp such a unique experience.
Make no mistake; these will be four busy days. We’ll do clinics and we’ll do concerts, there will be one-on-one lessons, jam sessions, and more. I like to organize jams where every camper can play with me (and have someone nearby who can capture the jam on your phone!) I also really enjoy the concerts at night. I take care in choosing the guests/teachers at my camps, because I’m a fan too! These guys are amazing! We’re all guaranteed to see some incredible shows, with the rare opportunity to see these people from so close up.
It’s funny – as a professional musician, when you go home and you’re with your family, there can be a pressure to put the guitar down and just be a husband or wife, a mom or a dad. But at the camp, everyone is free to rekindle your original passion for music and the guitar. For me, The Great Guitar Escape rekindles the spirit and love of music. When you go home after, you’ll definitely be full of inspiration and fire. In fact, we’ll all leave Great Guitar Escape with a renewed sense of musical mission, some useful musical philosophies, and some amazing licks to work on!
See you in 2020!