BEFORE HE DESIGNED iconic instruments for Ibanez, Yamaha, Modulus, Vox, and others, Rich Lasner played guitar full time. In 1982 he sent a cassette to Mike Varney, who tapped Lasner for the November ’82 Spotlight column.
“Very late one night in 1982 in Philly,” says Lasner, “my phone rang. When I answered it, the voice on the other end said, ‘Hi, I’m Mike Varney. You submitted a tape to my Spotlight column and I want to put you in Guitar Player. I have no idea what to make of your music except that you are ridiculously clean and fast and the band is beyond tight.’ I was stunned, as I had imagined Mike was looking for the next Michael Schenker or Eddie Van Halen. Luckily for me, he liked my idea of Heavy Wood—a genre of heavy acoustic music I conceived to describe my band— and the description of my band’s music as Mahavishnu Orchestra playing during a power failure.
“Being in Spotlight was a tremendous calling card for me. I was amazed at gigs all over the world that people would come up to me with a copy of the article and say they knew about me through Varney. Mike was super supportive of me after I decided to pursue guitar design and artist relations at Ibanez instead of playing full time. He called me up and said that if I could help his young players get good guitars and solid backup, he’d feel comfortable sending many of his guys my way. He did, and the rest is rock guitar history, as I signed Steve Vai—who led me to Joe Satriani—Paul Gilbert, Scott Henderson, Vinnie Moore, Joey Tafolla, and a host of other Shrapnel kids, as we called them.
“Due in no small part to Mike’s cooperation, I built a multi-decades-long career in guitar design and artist relations. Currently, I am Vice President of Vox Guitar R&D in Novato, California, where Mike Varney is a neighbor.”