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 This History Of Racer X 
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Post This History Of Racer X
This is the original version posted on Wikipedia. All personal stories and quotes were obtained through hours of interviewing of the band members. This version, has since been revised and "cleaned", to the point where there are many historical errors. Therefore, I no longer recommend reading the Wikipedia version, due to these errors.

Racer X is a U.S. heavy metal band formed in 1985 in Los Angeles, California. The name is both a reference to a character in Speed Racer, and the speed that was an integral part of their music. Virtuoso, neoclassical guitar playing was the main focus of their style. The group was founded by guitarist Paul Gilbert, who later went on to achieve great success with the multi platinum-selling hard rock band, Mr. Big.


Guitarist Paul Gilbert first gained notoriety when he was featured in Mike Varney’s Spotlight Column in the February 1983 issue of Guitar Player Magazine. Paul was 15 years old and living in Greensburg, Pennsylvania at the time. Paul would later relocate to Los Angeles and enroll at what was then known as GIT(Guitar Institute Of Technology), but is now known as the Musicians Institute. After graduating from the school Paul was hired as an instructor. While at GIT Paul met fellow student John Alderete (Bass) and the two became friends and realized that with their talents, they could form a band like no other on the LA Strip at the time. Meanwhile, Scott Travis (Drums) was living in Virginia, when a local friend went to Los Angeles for his own career and returned with a cassette for Travis that he had received from Varney. The cassette turned out to be Gilbert’s demo tape, which included an early version of the instrumental "Frenzy". Travis sent them a video of his playing, but he had already committed to playing in the L.A. band Hawk after answering a 1/2 page ad in BAM Magazine placed by "Metal Method" guitar instructor Doug Marks. Money from his Metal Method tapes allowed Marks to offer Scott a salary that was too good to pass up. So Gilbert and Alderete turned to fellow GIT student Harry Gschoesser to play drums, but now the band needed a lead singer.

Gilbert asked Varney for assistance to find a lead singer. The final two candidates were Mark Slaughter, later of the band Slaughter and Jeff Martin of the Phoenix area metal band, Surgical Steel. Surgical Steel had a strong following in the Phoenix area, and it was during this time that Rob Halford, who lived in the area, befriended the band. After appearing in the movie Thunder Alley, (with Leif Garrett) as a fictional band of the same name, the band began to fall apart.

Gilbert and Alderete settled on Martin as the vocalist for their high-octane band. On Jeff's first drive from Phoenix to LA to meet with the band, Jeff wrote the lyrics to the first Racer X song. While listening to Bruce Springsteen on the radio, Jeff pulled over and wrote "Blowin' Up The Radio." The band began writing tracks almost immediately, even though 3 members of the band were in LA and Martin still resided in Phoenix. Gilbert would send Martin cassette tapes of the various riffs and guitar tracks he had recorded. Jeff would send back another cassette tape with lyrics. This process is how most of their first release would be written. In late 1985, the members went to Varney's studio and recorded Street Lethal. The album would be released in early 1986 on Varney’s Shrapnel Records label.

With the release of the first album, Gilbert suddenly burst into the mainstream as one of the members of a new genre of guitar style, known as shredding. A new genre of guitar music was gaining popularity, known as neo-classical metal. While Racer X was not playing Neo-classical pieces per se, Gilbert was often mentioned in the same breath as Yngwie Malmsteen in many of the guitar/music magazines. Malmsteen was, in fact, an early influence for Paul, as Mike Varney would play Yngwie’s demo tapes to Paul over the phone while he was still living in Pennsylvania. Paul would subtly acknowledge his debt to Malmsteen on the Street Lethal album with the neoclassical instrumental Y.R.O. The song’s title was an acronym for Yngwie Rip Off. This was one of the first signs of Paul’s unique sense of humor, and other "rip off" songs would appear later in his career (B.R.O. = Bach Rip Off, G.V.R.O. = Goldberg Variation Rip Off).

After the release of the first album, Gilbert was still teaching at the GIT to earn a living. One student among all the students at the GIT stood out, his name was Bruce Bouillet. Gilbert realizing that Bruce had equally exceptional skills, also realized that Bruce had the ability to push Racer X to an entirely new level. . Meanwhile, Racer X was rapidly becoming a hugely popular live act on the Sunset Strip. Paul also secured an endorsement deal with Ibanez guitars and was featured in full page advertisements in every major guitar magazine. The song "Getaway" from Street Lethal was getting limited airplay on L.A.’s Heavy metal radio station KNAC.

Gschoesser decided to move back to his own country, Austria. While in America, Harry had noticed the blooming popularity of the new "976" telephone services. Harry returned to Austria, and became quite wealthy bringing "976" to Europe. But now Racer X needed a new drummer. They initially replaced Harry with Todd(Vito) DeVito. DeVito was the son of the owner of DanMar drum accessories. While at a show at Waters Club, Travis showed up to watch the band play with DeVito on drums. After the show, Travis approached Alderete and Gilbert again, and they agreed to finally play together. After the one rehearsal, Travis replaced DeVito in the band. DeVito went onto to become the drum tech for Mikkey Dee of Motörhead.

The band immediately headed to Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati, to record their second album. While recording in the studio, George Lynch was in another studio recording a compilation album for Varney. Evidently someone heard something through the wall, as there is clearly a Lynch lick in Bruce's solo in the song Lady Killer.

The July 1987 issue of Guitar Player Magazine featured a full page Ibanez ad which featured Paul, Bruce, and John. Accompanying the ad was a plastic "Soundpage" record which contained the Street Lethal track "Frenzy" and an unreleased instrumental track "Scarified" from the upcoming second album, Second Heat. This was first time Racer X’s new twin guitar attack was heard on a national level and guitar players across the country took notice, winning Racer X a new legion of fans.

Second Heat was released in February of 1988. The release was ground breaking and was hailed as Racer X's most jaw dropping record. The band took the double lead solo to a level never before achieved. While most people were familiar with fairly simple double leads by bands like Judas Priest, Ratt and KISS's Detroit Rock City. Racer X began playing extremely complex double lead solos using advanced techniques like Alternate-Picking, Two-Handed tapping, Legato, Sweep-picking and Arpeggios. The previously mentioned track “Scarified” epitomized Racer X’s unparalleled harmonized lead guitar virtuosity. Shred guitar fans continue to discuss and debate how the song was played by Paul and Bruce, and it remains to this day the most requested song whenever Paul performs. The track is also interesting, because Gilbert used a small portion of JC Bach's Harpsichord Concerto in A major in the solo.

The album also has two tracks written by other artists. Moonage Daydream, was a remake of a David Bowie song. Interestingly, during a CBS Showcase show an AR rep commented to the band that their lyrics were strange.."I'm an Alligator...I'm a Mamma Pappa coming for you"? The band told him...that it wasn't their song. He said, well then who's is it? They replied David Bowie. This goes to show, what do AR guys know?! The other song was Heart Of A Lion, which was a Judas Priest song dropped from the Turbo album. Going back to their Phoenix days, Rob Halford had invited Jeff and his wife to Nassau, Bahamas while Priest was there recording the album. Jeff had heard the song there, and would later ask Rob if Racer X could record the song. Rob would give the track to Jeff as a birthday gift. As posted by Martin on the band website, it's rumored that Glenn Tipton wasn't pleased with Halford giving Martin the song. Rob would eventually re-record the track with his band Halford.

While the LA scene was at the peak for glam metal, Racer X, with Bouillet were reaching the height of their popularity in their live shows. The band was selling out and packing their usual rotation of The Roxy Theatre, Troubadour, and the Country Club in Reseda, Los Angeles, California. The band would often say, "Poison can make girls cum in their pants, but we make girls shit in their pants." In order to pull of their guitar wizardry off Second Heat live, Paul and Bruce were practicing up to 8 hours a day together, before Scott and Jeff would even show up.

While their legendary musicianship exceeded all of their peers at the time, and the band was selling out every show, they were not generating any major label interest. They had several showcase shows, the most famous being the CBS Showcase show mentioned above. But none of the AR folks "got" Racer X. There was always some excuse...either the songs weren't girl friendly enough, or the band didn't look right or stupid things like Jeff's hair was too short. But one problem that would have been obvious back in 1988, was that even though the shows were constant sell-outs, the crowds weren't crazy party crowds. The typical Racer X crowd was a bunch of musicians, with arms folded studying the band and in a state of shock over their musical abilities. They became a victim of their own success.

Their last gasp came with 2 nights of back to back live shows at the Country Club, which would be released as Live Extreme Volume I. The album included many Racer X classics as well as solos from Paul, Bruce, John, and Scott. Also on the album were several new songs which had been originally intended for a third studio recording, including "She Wants Control", "Set The World On Fire", and the instrumental "Scit Scat Wah." But even as that album was getting ready for release, the dismantling of the band was near. Many musicians were common sights at Racer X shows, including David Lee Roth, Steve Vai, and Billy Sheehan. Billy would eventually approach Paul about creating a new band, and Paul seeing that Racer X was not going to get signed was intrigued. By the release of Live Extreme Volume I, Paul had already checked out mentally from Racer X during the last few shows. The rest of the band, was searching for a reason for the lack of major label interest, focused their frustration on Martin. But it was too late, Paul had already formed Mr. Big and the 2 left Racer X on the same day.

Alderete, Bouillet and Travis tried to carry on as Racer X briefly by bringing in Guitar Spotlight player Chris Arvan and performed a couple shows, one with Oni Logan from Lynch Mob. But it was really just a last gasp. Racer X was done, but these guys were too good of musicians to disappear.

After Gilbert left for Mr. Big, other members also went on to other known projects. Jeff Martin went on to replace Eric Singer in Jake E. Lee's band, Badlands. John Alderete, Bruce Bouillet, John Corabi and Scott Travis joined together to form the band Black Cloud. The four played 1 show at the Troubadour. Just after forming, Jeff Martin learned from his friend Rob Halford that Judas Priest was looking to replace the recently departed Dave Holland. Jeff contacted Scott, and after an audition, Scott fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming the drummer for Judas Priest. Meanwhile, Corabi, Alderete and Bouillet replaced Travis and changed into the critically acclaimed, but poorly timed band The Scream.

In 1992, Shrapnel released a CD of left-over unreleased live tracks from the 1988 Country Club shows in the form of Live Extreme Volume II. Like the first live record, it included several previously unreleased songs like "Poison Eyes" and "Give It To Me." This release did give die hard Racer X fans hope that new material was on the way, but it was just a money making release for Shrapnel. The one notable track is Racer X covering KISS's Detroit Rock City. What makes that interesting is, that while the famous double lead solo is simple, Gilbert and Bouillet found a way to "Racer X" the song. For the solo, Gilbert and Bouillet stood side by side, and played the famous solo with their teeth! One other KISS song was played the night before, Cold Gin, but it never made either of the live releases.

After departing Mr. Big in 1997, Gilbert started a solo career. Heavily influenced by The Beatles, Gilbert's solo career, often with Martin on drums, revolved around particularly pop oriented tunes. This alienated many of his guitar playing fans, who felt betrayed by his abandonment of a genre he helped create with Racer X. In 1998, this displeasure came to head when an Australian fan, using the name Snakebyte, sent Gilbert a scathing e-mail which "colorfully" told him he sold out. After receiving the e-mail, Paul floated the idea of reforming Racer X with his Japanese label, Universal Japan and the other members of Racer X, except Bouillet. All agreed, and in 1999 the band recorded the album Technical Difficulties. The CD contained studio versions of "Poison Eyes" and "Give It To Me", which had previously appeared on the Extreme Volume II live record. Several other tunes that were originally intended for the never released third studio album were also included, such as "Fire of Rock" and "Miss Mistreater." The title track was an instrumental which had previously been heard in a slightly different form on Paul’s guitar instructional video Terrifying Guitar Trip as the song "Metal Dog." Also on the album, was a track written by Martin about panic attacks entitled Snakebyte as an ode to the Australian fan. A cover of the Black Sabbath tune "Children Of The Grave" closed the CD. The album would later be released in the U.S. without the Sabbath cover tune.

The album went gold in Japan, and Universal requested a follow-up. In December 2000, the band released what is recognized by many fans as their best album to date, Superheroes. The album’s packaging featured pictures of the band members dressed as superheroes ... Paul was the Electric Bat, Jeff was Motorman, John was the X-tinguisher, and Scott was Cowboy Axe. The record was mixed by former Racer X guitar player Bruce Bouillet. In addition to the high energy title track, other highlights included an amazing cover of the Blue Öyster Cult classic "Godzilla" and two instrumental tracks "King Of The Monsters" and "Viking Kong." The Viking in question was none other than Yngwie Malmsteen. Paul had written the song with the intention that he would have Yngwie play on the track with him. Malmsteen originally agreed, but on the day he was supposed to come, he failed to show. Paul ended up playing both parts, which created another Gilbert guitar classic that equaled "Scarified".

In order to further capitalize on their new found success in Japan, Universal requested that the band record a live show for another live CD and DVD. On May 25, 2001, the band played their first live performance in 13 years to a sell-out crowd at the famed Whisky A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. The show was recorded for both audio and video, and in 2001 both CD and DVD of the same name, Snowball Of Doom was released. Named by Martin, the title refers the fact the band is still rolling along after all these years, but still was unable to secure an American record contract. 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 final show in Yokohama, was hastily recorded in 2 tracks on the sound board.

Gilbert returned to his solo career, recording the album Burning Organ. However, in 2002, Universal Japan was eager for another Racer X release. So in October 2002, all 4 members of Racer X went to Gilbert's house in Las Vegas to record a new CD. It was the first time in the history of the band, that all 4 members were together at the same time to record a Racer X CD. The outcome of the recording was the semi-controversial release Getting Heavier.

While recording Getting Heavier, Universal Japan notified the band that they would really push the release in Japan by adding an "Official" bootleg recording of the Yokohama show. In December 2002, Getting Heavier was released in Japan along with live recording, Snowball Of Doom 2. The CD was a successful release in Japan, but the title of the CD left some fans confused. The CD's title was not in reference to the music, but in reference to that it's Getting Heavier all the time.

Since the release of Getting Heavier, all has been quiet on the Racer X front. Judas Priest toured with Ozzfest in 2004 and recorded Angel Of Retribution, but Travis has had many extended breaks. Martin has recorded and toured with George Lynch, Kevin DuBrow, and Michael Schenker, but he has also had lots of free time. John Alderete in 2003 joined the band The Mars Volta, which has toured regularly and recorded several albums. But he too has also had plenty of downtime for a Racer X project. Paul Gilbert has released several solo albums, a live album, an acoustic album, a DVD and 4 Tribute projects with Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater.

Fans of the band remain hopeful that they will once again record new material and do what they do best, but far too live.

Ken Hower Wrote: My advice to everyone.....DO NOT purchase any of these photographs....Tim Findlay can jack off to his hearts content over his killer pictures...alone.


Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:10 am
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