Excerpts from interview with Ron Thal, by Ben
When Guitarist caught up with Ron Thal on the Vigier stand at the Music Live show (Birmingham UK, Nov 2000) we could guess that it would be the start of something big. Any guy who plays a guitar with no frets and another in the shape of a Bumblefoot (whatever the hell that is) must have hidden depths.
We were lucky enough to join Thal for a jam and was blown away by the stunt guitar he played over my jazzed up blues changes, but nothing is more impressive than watching a capable guitarist playing Spinal Tap's Stonehenge including mandolin solo. Pure magic.
If you caught him demonstrating Vigier guitars at the show you'd already know about his thumb talons, whacky dress sense and use of a pinky thimble (liberated from his Mum's sewing box). But if you've never experienced Ron Thal before, either in the flesh or on record, picture if you will Beavis and Butt-Head, Steve Vai, Leslie Neilsen, The Muppets, Tom Jones and Araya stepping into one of those genetic splicing machines on The Fly. That's pretty much Thal.
Allow us to introduce you to one of the most
talented, funny, fast, outrageous
webmasters the world has known, if he ever gets off the phone...
Are you ready to talk to Guitarist
Hell yeah! How're ya doing'? I was actually just talking to the CEO of this hip-hop label. We're working together to build a recording studio in New York City that's just gonna be for his artists and for my band. I'll be laying down all the guitar tracks for his hip-hop stuff. We're just working out plans for it.
Bumblefoot got back from Paris last night. We did a big show in France, it was amazing. Man, it was the sickest thing I've ever experienced, we were completely sold-out at this place. It wasn't a huge place, like maybe 500 people in there. It was jam-packed and when these people screamed it sounded like an arena. I mean, they knew the words to every song. You picture 500 people screaming the words to your songs with ya and just body surfing and a hundred kids sitting out in the rain hoping to get in. I'd never felt any love like that before!
We're working on a tour, and we're trying to hook up something for England. I certainly hope that can happen because I had a fantastic time in Birmingham; everybody was so cool. I can't wait to go back.
We know that you're a pretty wild guitar player
but folk might not realize that you do vocal gymnastics, too.
I've always sung. When I was signed to Shrapnel (late eighties/early nineties label) they put a very short leash on me and said: 'Don't sing so much, don't do so much.' Even on the 'Hands' CD which was my first time off the leash, I was still staying kind of reserved with what I did vocally. And finally on the 'Uncool' CD I just stopped caring about any rules about what I should do and shouldn't do and I just said I'm gonna do what I like to do and make music to the fullest.
Which vocalists have influenced your
Let me see... I like Busta Rhymes and the singer of Manowar (Eric Adams). I love Manowar, the loudest. Old Judas Priest, Rob Halford. That's probably the main ones and er, Engelbert Humperdinck - and of course Tom Jones. Y'know the whole thing for 'Uncool' - that we were this old crooner band, this lounge band trying to play heavy stuff. That's really all just for fun, almost like a Spinal Tap type joke.
Your lyrics are pretty funny. How do you go about describing a comical scene?
I try and write straight from what's in my head to what's in the song. A lot of times I'll get the picture in my head of something and I'll try to describe it through the music, so that you see what I see. Our brains connect.
And the hip-hop connection?
I connect with the freedom that you find in the background hip-hop music. I mean they can use whatever the f**k they want, whether it's Jay-Z using show tunes or classical pieces or stuff like that. What I like to do when I work with these guys is to create the illusion of one of those things without having to sample something. I use my guitar synth and run it through filters to create the feeling like you're listening to something that was sampled from some old thirties record. I use a Roland GR-30 and GK2 pickup. I love the thing. I mean you can do so much with it.
We've given up trying to count how many different
styles of music you mix...
Kind of schizophrenic, yeah. I love a lot of different types of music and music is like a personality, I guess, describing the artist. There are many aspects to a person's personality, y'know? Basically I'm fighting the internal fight between the hostility and making jokes of it. To me, music should have no rules and I refuse to follow any. You make it how you want to make it.
Who influenced your heavy
Actually, George Martin's work with The Beatles. Even though he's not considered heavy, the intensity of the music he added to the Beatles songs y'know, like those cello lines form the Magical Mystery Tour Album are so dark and deep. They just go straight into you. To me that level of intensity is really very inspiring. That and listening to Kiss when I was five.
Who's responsible for your comedy website? It's
Actually, that's me. Thank you. It was just another way of denying myself a good night's sleep. First with recording I was getting four hours sleep a night and now with the website it's down to two hours. Sleep deprivation is better than drugs if you want to get creative. You start hallucinating. There's just not enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do. Not enough years in a life to be able to do it all. I'm just trying to do as much as I can before the safe drops on my head.
I'm sure a lot of people would love to write music
for a computer game. What was it like working on Sega's Wild Woody?
That was fun. I had one month to write and record 28 songs. They had to be two minutes long and each one had to have the correct theme. I enjoyed it. I'd love to do a movie soundtrack. You get into composing and enhancing the mood of what you're seeing.
If you could have been involved in the music to any movie which one would you choose?
Either The Matrix - what a f***ing amazing movie - or Austin Powers.
You can find out more by visiting http://www.vigierguitars.com/ or http://www.bumblefoot.com/