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Born in Carbondale, Illinois, he started playing guitar at the age of 5, but soon gave up, becoming frustrated with just learning simple nursery rhymes. Around age 11, he took up the guitar again, but with a skewed memory of the technique; he played only with upstrokes, and only used his middle finger to fret notes. Frustrated after trying to play a fast metal song with a galloping rhythm using this technique, he took lessons, and his teacher explained the error of his ways. His technique corrected, Gilbert continued practicing, and by the age of 15 he was not only touring local clubs with his band Tau Zero but was even spotlighted in Guitar Player alongside fellow up-and-comer Yngwie Malmsteen. Now, he is recognized as one of the best metal guitar players, a status due to his undeniably amazing technique, clarity, creativity and versatility.
Talking about his influences, Paul mentions many different artists, including Judas Priest, KISS, Van Halen and, rather surprisingly for a guitar shredder, the Ramones. He is also a great fan of Green Day.