Racer X is an American heavy metal band formed in 1985 by guitarist Paul Gilbert. The band's name was taken from a character in the 1960s Japanese anime Speed Racer series and partly signifies the speed of their music. The group has produced 9 albums of which 4 are live albums.

Biography

The first line-up formed when Gilbert started to attend the Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles and met bass player and fellow student John Alderete. The two quickly became friends and started looking for a drummer. After Scott Travis of the band Hawk declined, the pair found fellow student Harry Gschoesser. In the search for a lead singer the band finally settled on Jeff Martin, who had just left his band Surgical Steel.

With Martin still living in Phoenix and the rest of Racer X living in L.A, the band began recording their first album, Street Lethal. The album was released on Januari 1st 1986 under the Shrapnel Records label owned by Mike Varney, who had already scouted Gilbert at the age of 16.

After the release Gilbert gained much mainstream attention in magazines. His style was compared to that of virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Roads of Black Sabbath, both of which had been major influences for Paul. Incidentally, Malmsteen once agreed to participate on the song 'Viking Kong', but didn't keep to his promise.

Teaching at GIT, Gilbert discovered great talent in his student Bruce Bouillet and asked him to join Racer X. When Gschoesser's visa expired he returned to Austria and started a succesful pay-per-call phone service. He was eventually replaced by Scott Travis.

The band proceeded to record their ground-breaking second album 'Second Heat', which is widely regarded as their best album. It featured covers of David Bowie's Moonage Daydream and of Heart of A Lion, a song that hadn't made it to Judas Priest's Turbo album. The song was gifted by Judas Priest's guitarist as a birthday present to Jeff Martin.

Playing many live shows, the band gained a lot of popularity but wasn't able to get signed by a major label, leaving the members very frustrated. Two consecutive shows were recorded and later released as Live Extreme Volumes 1 & 2.  Both albums feature many songs that were originally planned for a third album.

When bass player Billy Sheehan approached Gilbert and asked him to join Mr. Big, tensions in Racer X were already present, and this caused Gilbert and Martin to leave the band the same day. After that, the band quickly dismantled.

Drummer Travis quickly realized his childhood dream and started drumming for Judas Priest. Alderete and Bouillet would form The Scream.

After leaving Mr. Big, Paul started a solo career and played mainly pop songs, inspired by his love for The Beatles. Many fans were disappointed, some even felt betrayed. When an Australian fan going by the name Snakebyte described his anger in a mail to Gilbert, the guitarist started considering reforming Racer X and called the other members, asking them if they felt like recording another album.

In 1999, all except Bruce were well on their way recording Technical Difficulties under the label Paul was already signed under, Universal Japan. When released, the album quickly went gold in Japan, and Universal demanded a follow-up.

The follow-up came late 2000 and was titled Superheroes. Many fans consider it to be the band's best effort to date. I prefer the older albums, however. They don't have that hermetic clean sound to them.

After this second success the label saw dollar signs and requested the band to record two live albums, which were titled Snowball of Doom 1 & 2. The title referred to the fact they had been going strong for 15 years, but still hadn't attracted a major American label. This tragedy remains to this day.

In 2002, the last studio album, Getting Heavier, was released in a package deal, together with Snowball of Doom 2. It was the only album the band has recorded where all members were present at the recording at the same time. Many fans don't seem to like this album, as they feel it's softer and tends towards Gilbert's solo work.

Shortly after this release the band split up again and each member went his own way. It is unclear whether Racer X has a future, but Gilbert has expressed optimism in multiple interviews.

Character

One of the reasons I like this band so much is that it's members seem to be having fun doing what they do, especially Gilbert. If you're curious, check out his website linked below.

For the Superheroes album, all the active band members were given a superhero identity. Martin was named Motorman, due to his love for motorcycles. "I like working on old English and other vintage Motorcycles and riding them. the faster the better," He stated in an interview with Online Metal Magazine. This love was also covered in the similarly named song on the second heat album, which features the lyrics:

Mirrored reflections in your frames
Your tack is racing
10-40 weight runs in your veins
Your heart is pacing

Another song on the Superheroes album, Evil Joe, features samples from a prank call made by a friend of Gilbert in which he pretends to be a brother from the ghetto that responds to an ad by Joe, who looks to form a black metal band.

Sound

Think of your typical eighties metal sound, throw in a bit of classical influence, a pinch of humor and a bucket of creativity. If you're not a fan of shred guitar, explosive drums and screaming vocals, then this is not the band for you. If you do, then I recommend you listen to the Second Heat album first.

Members

Current

  • Jeff Martin - vocals (1985-1989, 1999-present)

  • Paul Gilbert - lead and rhythm guitar (1985-1989, 1999-present)

  • John Alderete - bass guitar (1985-1989, 1999-present)

  • Scott Travis - drums (1986-1989, 1999-present)

 

Former

  • Bruce Bouillet - lead and rhythm guitar (1986-1989)

  • Harry Gschoesser - drums (1985-1986)

  • Chris Arvan - lead and rhythm guitar (1989)

 

Discography

Studio Albums

  • Street Lethal (1986)

  • Second Heat (1988)

  • Technical Difficulties (1999)

  • Superheroes (2000)

  • Getting Heavier (2002)

 

Live Albums

  • Live Extreme, Vol. 1 (1988)

  • Live Extreme, Vol. 2 (1992)

  • Snowball of Doom (2002)

  • Snowball of Doom 2 (2002)

 

 

Paul Gilbert's website: www.paulgilbert.com

 

References:

Racer X - The Band, www.racerxband.com/band.htm, retrieved on Nov 7, 2008

Racer X (band) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racer_X_(band), retrieved on Nov 7, 2008

Online Metal Magazine - Infernal Scream - Interview with Jeff Martin (Racer X), http://infernalscream.com/v1/content/view/13/28/, retrieved on Nov 8, 2008

 

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