Interview - Noise magazine (France)
In case thatís possible, could you introduce yourself to people that donít already know you? (only for Noise of course)
Hello everyone - I'm a singer/guitarist from NYC named Bumblefoot. I have a hard time describing myself, and I try not to. So I'll tell you what other people have told me. Alot of people hear Mr. Bungle, Primus, and the Chili Peppers in my music, some compare it to Frank Zappa. Some hear inspirations of the Beatles in some melodies. I've been told I look like Scott Ian from Anthrax, Charles Manson, and Jim Morrison when he got fat. One friend said the sound of my voice reminds him of the TV puppet "Alf" (did you have this show in France?) I love sushi, Thai food, Mexican food, and some people said my appetite reminds them of a human garbage-pail or a bottomless pit. I've worn the same pair of sneakers for 5 years and they barely function anymore. My sneakers and I shared so many experiences together, and I don't think anyone can relate to me and understand me like my sneakers do. We've walked the same path.
Why did you change your name? Did you marry Mr Foot - we wish you a lot of happiness - and you didnít want to keep your maiden name? But more seriously, arenít you afraid to disturb your long-time fans?
I really didn't change my name. I released 2 CDs for Shrapnel Records under the name Ron Thal, and when I left the label, I started my life as Bumblefoot. Everyone still knew me as Ron Thal, and Bumblefoot was more like a nickname. I always try to disturb my fans. I hope that changing my name is another way I can confuse them. Life is unpredictable, and I'm just part of life.
Letís come back to your music, your private life is none of our business. Youíve released Uncool last yearÖ What happened since?
I released Uncool in France and started gigging around NY and did some touring in France. After the touring, I put a new recording studio together, and concentrated on recording the new CD...
Youíve made some tours in 2001. How was it? I think itís the first time you played so many times in France.
Touring is also a unique experience. It requires a militant discipline - a few hours sleep, a quick breakfast, travel for hours, load the equipment into the venue, soundcheck, a quick bite to eat, check-into the hotel and hopefully get to shower, go to the venue and wait to go onstage, play the show, hang out with people that came to the show, grab some food, load the truck, go to the hotel, sleep for a few hours. Same every day. When you finish touring, after having such a structured life, it's difficult to return to life off the stage. Life feels "wrong", like you're not living your life with a purpose if you're not onstage, and you don't know what to do with your time if you're not touring. It takes weeks to adjust. It's like suddenly being connected into a different "Matrix".
Youíre here to talk about 9.11, your new CD. Could you tell us a little bit more about it? (The changes for the name of the CD, the topics, the American Red Cross, etc.).
I finished the CD, and was going to call the CD "Guitars Suck" - the title reflects how "guitar-heroes" don't have the same value in music that they did 15 years ago, and how the obstacles in trying to have a music career have sometimes made me wish I never picked up the instrument. But the vocal songs on the CD all had a common theme that defined the CD more than the "guitar" reference did - the lyrics speak of how we plan our life, and suddenly everything changes - it could be a person that enters your life and fucks it up, a car accident, anything. It seems we try to control the environment we're surrounded by, when the only thing we can control is how we react to the environment. And we're forced to change our plans to overcome new obstacles we weren't expecting. I wanted to find a CD title to reflect all of this. After September 11th I suddenly found answers to so many questions. I sometimes questioned if I was wasting my life being a musician, and was searching for a purpose to continue. Then I realized how important it is - when the world becomes ugly, it takes each of us to balance the world in the direction of beauty. That's the musician's role in this world - to make the world a better place, and out-weigh the ugliness of the world, by filling the world with beauty. And I have a chance to help people with my music, when they need it. So I'm donating all the money I receive for the 9.11 CD to the Red Cross. I don't want money. I need air, water, food, a bathroom, some sleep, but most of all *a reason to be alive* - helping people is my reason, and I only want enough money to maintain myself so I can continue serving my duty - to add something positive to the world.
Who is playing with you? Is it the same band that made Uncool?
I did most of the music myself, but had some guests play on the CD, and I thank them for the generosity of their time and talent. LaFrae Olivia Sci played some of the drum tracks, Swedish guitarist Mattias Eklundh, from Freak Kitchen played a solo on a song, and Dweezil Zappa also played a solo on a song. Then a guitarist friend Joboj left a message on my answering-machine saying how "guitars SUCK" and I named a song after his phone call and included the message at the start of the song. Sony Studios in NYC did the mastering (they also did the Hands CD) and I thank them also for a great job.
How did you meet them ?
How did you choose Mattias and Dweezil ?
I met Dweezil earlier this year, at the NAMM show in Los Angeles. I've known Mattias for a few years, emailing back and forth. I chose both of them because they're talented and have a good perspective on adding something interesting to the music, but most of all they're nice people.
What are the main differences between Uncool and 9.11?
Uncool had a funny theme with all the cheesy 70's Vegas lounge music. 9.11 is quite different - half the songs are instrumental, the lyrics are serious, the vocal style isn't crooning like on Uncool and the guitar is a bigger part of the songs - long guitar solos, more technical playing.
Could you talk about the new songs? Describe them to make people want to buy 9.11.
Every time I try to be a salesman, I feel dirty. I can't make people want to buy 9.11 - the only thing I can say is that if someone buys the CD, their money will be used to help people that need it most.
1) Fly In The Batter - the opening track. If
you let people into your life that ruin what you're trying to achieve, it's your
mistake for letting them into your life and not being more selective. All
of us have experienced this in some way.
"It doesn't matter - I wave my hands and they all scatter
Flies in the batter - they take the rise out of my cake
It doesn't matter - I've eaten shit that's gone much flatter
Flies in the batter - I let them in - it's my mistake"
2) Lost - a song about how we plan our life, but it doesn't matter, as fate does what it wants. Based on the idea "We make plans, God laughs" The music goes through different changes of intensity and rhythm, like flipping through chapters of our life.
3) RayGun - a slow droning bluesy jam on the Vigier fretless guitar to make old 50's sci-fi ray gun sounds. Took an unaccompanied guitar solo at the end of the song, something I don't do very much. At the end of the song, when I finished the solo, I lowered my guitar volume and spontaneously made a small song as the tape was rolling, and called it "Hole In the Sky", (track 4).
5) Children Of Sierra Leone - (instrumental) Vernon Reid (guitarist of Living Colour) was going to be a guest on this track, but with the Living Colour tour our schedules wouldn't allow it. We were discussing his plans to make a fundraising CD for the refugee children of Sierra Leone. I dedicated this song to them. The deep marching drums were recorded by mic'ing the 100-foot hallway outside my studio door. The studio is in an old cultural center built in 1833 as the final resting place for dying sailors, surrounded by nature trails, duck ponds, botanical gardens and a Chinese sculpture garden.
6) Don Pardo Pimpwagon - (instrumental) fast funky song that feels like a mix of a high-speed car-chase and a 70's TV game show. The song is very raw - drums, bass, and one guitar, with occasional horn hits. Mattias played a solo in this song.
7) Legend Of Van Cleef - (instrumental) This song has a musical theme fit for a Spaghetti Western. (for those who don't know, "spaghetti westerns" refer to movies made in the 60's by European directors, about the American "old West") One of the actors in these films was named Lee Van Cleef, born in NJ not far from my home.
8) Guitars SUCK - (instrumental) Originally a song I wrote for my first trip to Holland to play a guitar show in September 1998, I never had a name for it. It has that neo-classical guitar-hero sound, and earned the title "Guitars Suck". They truly do suck. When Joboj left me that harassing phone message, I had to start the song with it.
9) Hall Of Souls - (instrumental) When people first visit my studio they have a strange reaction - the feeling like there are spirits everywhere. They feel this *before* I tell them the history of the place, how it was a place people were sent to die for 150 years, and then they freak out. One morning, I arrived at 7am with an old nylon string guitar, put a mic in the hallway, and half-asleep I played this flamenco style song I had just written. The sound of the echo in the hallway is so strong, it almost has it's own life to it.
10) Top Of The World - a doo-wop inspired song about a young girl that jumps from "on top of the world" to her death. Dweezil took a guitar solo in this song.
11) R2 (instrumental) - the name R2 refers to my friend Ralph Rosa, who started the MS Research Foundation (www.msrf.org), an organization that arranges shows and donates all the money to Multiple Sclerosis research.
12) Time - I wrote this song at the home of Chris Godin, the night before we would play together at the Astaffort music festival in February 1999. At that time, many people in my life were dying, getting sick, and some just "went bad" - the song is directed at someone who made bad choices, and is now at the mercy of time.
"You killed time, you got time,
Now it's your time, and you gotta find a way to stop time..."
Is it a CD for guitar geeks?
I think so. Drum geeks too, I think. And vocal geeks - I'm singing more opera on the CD, in the background as parts of choirs...
Do you plan to promote 9.11 on stage?
I'd like to play live to support 9.11, playing songs from Hands, Uncool also. But I think I can do small shows at music schools playing the instrumental songs as well, something I stopped doing with Uncool.
Do you have other plans? Other CDs on their way? Etc. Iíve been told of the new version of Uncool and Thumbs DownÖ
LaFrae is recording some new drum parts to some songs on Uncool, and I'm remixing the CD. I think the CD needs to be more focused musically and I'm taking off any songs that aren't completely cheesy. I may add some new songs as well. Then I will release Thumbs Down, a CD containing all the songs that were never good enough to be on any of the CDs. It will contain all of my worst music from the past 7 years. Which for all I know might be my best music. There is no best and worst music - it's all individual opinions...
Do you think itíll be welcome by your fans? Itís very different from what youíve done beforeÖ
I think somebody will like it, somewhere. I think that anyone who has my other CDs knows that they should always expect something different from the last. Life keeps changing, and the music keeps telling new stories as they happen.
And the last one: if you were not a musician, what would you do?
I would continue my life as a ghost, searching for answers...