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Mike Varney

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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

Michael “Mike” Varney (born 1958) 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 owns 50% of Magna Carta Records, a New York–based label.[1] Varney is often credited with 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.

Early life[edit]

Mike Varney grew up in Novato, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before forming Shrapnel Records, Varney played extensively with the pre-punk 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 band, Cinema, which received wide recognition in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was known for searing lead guitar runs performed on his collection of Gibson SG guitars.


Shrapnel Records[edit]

Shrapnel Records was founded in 1980 by Mike Varney at the age of 22. It was the first record company in the U.S. strictly dedicated to heavy metal. Shrapnel was at the forefront of the neo-classical electric guitar and shred movements. Shrapnel Records was the first label to bring world attention to guitarists 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 to his metal roots by releasing some classic metal and hard rock records due to a resurgence in interest.[4]

Guitar Player's Spotlight column[edit]

Mike Varney began his "Spotlight" column in Guitar Player magazine in 1982 as a vehicle for discovering talent among the magazine's audience. 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 International[edit]

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 Pat Travers, Rick Derringer, Eric Gales, Scott Henderson's solo records as well as records from his group "Tribal Tech", Glenn Hughes, Marc Ford, Chris Duarte, Neal Schon, The Outlaws, Joe Louis Walker, etc. The label continues to record artists in the electric blues style.

Tone Center[edit]

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 of the most well-known names in the instrumental jazz/rock/fusion world. The label's records include performances by Frank Gambale, Eric Johnson, Warren Haynes, Steve Morse, Victor Wooten and Mike Stern.

Partial list of artists who have appeared on releases on Varney's record labels[edit]

Shrapnel Records[edit]


Tone Center Records[edit]


Blues Bureau Records[edit]


Magna Carta Records[edit]



  1. ^ "Studioexpresso - producer Mike Varney". July 31, 2010. Archived from the original on July 31, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "Guitar World : Dawn of the Shred" (PDF). pp. 71–76. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  3. ^ "Rock Justice: Information from Answers.com". Answers.com. November 8, 2012. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  4. ^ "About The Shrapnel Label Group". August 8, 2009. Archived from the original on August 8, 2009. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "The Shrapnel Label Group". March 6, 2010. Archived from the original on March 6, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  6. ^ "WELCOME TO MAGNA CARTA". June 20, 2010. Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2023.

External links[edit]