Interviewed by Hervé Allesant - JULY 2002
You release 'Adventures Of Bumblefoot and other tales of woe...' with Shrapnel.
That CD puts you on the map as 'the most innovative guitarist since Steve Vai's
Flexable'. It seems you dislike this guitar hero image. What would you do if you
had another shot?
If given a chance to do it all again, I would have released it myself. That's the only thing I would have done differently. My advice to bands, artists, guitarists is... DO NOT wait to release your first album through a record label!!! 1) artists need the experience of promoting a record to better understand the job of a record label, 2) artists should keep the rights to their music - don't give it to a label that does nothing valuable with those rights, 3) once an artist manages their own music career and has an existing album, they have more equity to negotiate with a label with. I would have released the CD myself and sold it on the internet, had the internet been more popular in 1994...
You fingerpick your way on that CD's 'limberneck' and you play a flamenco tune on '9-11' do you have other styles that you secretly master?
Yes, but if I tell you it won't be a *secret*...
In the French magazine 'guitar and bass' you said your high school music teacher gave you exercises that pretty much shaped your technical level. What would you recommend for the young practicing guitarists out there that wish to reach your level?
Many times, the translation of my words aren't correct. My High School teacher gave me classical pieces to work on, but nothing more. I took jazz lessons from a private teacher while in High School - the teacher made me play scales at 40bpm's to teach me discipline. My recommendation to young guitarists is *DON'T PRACTICE TOO MUCH!!!* I always say this, because it's the most important lesson... If you spend your time analyzing life instead of living it, you will be a boring artist. Technique will develop over time - what you do with your ability will be the extension of who you are. So you must BE WHO YOU ARE - develop who you are and you will automatically approach guitar the way you approach life.
We were talking about classes. You were advertised in a 'guitar on the edge' CD as a 8 finger tapping book writer (for the shrapnel university) and you currently have a CD-rom project for chopsfromhell.com. Is pedagogy one of your battlehorses?
The "8-finger tapping" book was nothing interesting. It was boring exercises in a booklet with a boring tape of me saying "OK, now put your finger here..." Shrapnel tried to make it sound impressive with the title "Octo-digital Technique" - I felt this was deceitful - "2-handed tapping" was a more honest description. None of the courses from "Shrapnel University" were published because Shrapnel couldn't find a publisher that would do business with them. As for ChopsFromHell, it will probably be two years before I do a video, if ever. They said I can do videos on any subject - I just need time to do it and there's never enough time... that's why I stopped teaching in 2000 - not enough time. I'm ok with "pedagogy", as long as people don't act snobby about what they've learned - intelligence is a tool to build yourself, not a weapon to break others...
Talking about chops, what did you want for your bumblefoot guitar (except its outrageous shape :) ) Do you have specifications to play at that level?
Nothing unusual (other than wings...) 24 frets and a Floyd Rose that only bends down, not up. There's nothing worse than breaking a string in the middle of a song and the whole guitar goes out of tune - since the bridge resists bending up, the tension doesn't change when a string breaks...
We can hear the fretless Vigier Surfreter more and more. What did that instrument inspire you, technically, and compositionally?
It allows me to explore dissonance in new ways. Combining frequencies that aren't very gentle on the psyche... There's also a more expressive reaction to dynamics - when you're sliding notes on the fretless, the decay of overtones is more sensitive to the attack of the pick, giving a more living inconsistency to the notes. Everything is a little more precious, because there's less chance of delivering the music with the exact same expression.
How do you write your tunes, especially the 'weird ones' with time changes and/or styles changes? Do you actually hear them, or do you work with a pen and paper?
I never write music with a pen and paper. I write all the music in my head, the arrangements, instrumentation, usually with no instruments nearby. I listen to the music first in my head, and if I feel something from the music, then I play it.
There were horns on 'bumblefoot' a cello on 'hermit' and a flute on 'uncool'. How do you choose those instruments? Do you arrange their parts yourself?
I guess, the way painters go through "periods" where they feel certain colors, musicians go through similar periods, with instrumentation as the colors. Yeah, it sounds "artsy-fartsy" but it's true. I do all the arranging for all that stuff.
You own a midi guitar, and a Surfrettter. Are you interested in 7 strings?
I get too confused with 7 strings. I get too confused with 6 strings. I was thinking of cutting off one of my strings and playing a 5-string guitar. Trying to simplify my life. Could work, if it's tuned in ascending 5ths...
You produce lots of groups, you write for TV, you play for friends, for charity, do you still have time to work on a CD for us, guitarists?
No, I don't... but I'm trying to change that. I've been searching for months to find a permanent location where I can work 24/7. Somewhere to record my own music, produce bands, rehearse... This way I can keep constant momentum and not have to ever stop to eat, sleep, or shit... When I have a location and it's fully functional, I'll post information on bumblefoot.com
How about your French tour?
It was difficult to arrange shows for September 2002, so we're working on November and I can only hope that everything works out :) The tour company is at the mercy of club owners who wait till the last minute to sign agreements, and if they decide to not sign at the last moment, there is little time to find a new venue and advertise. For this tour, I'm having the audience choose the songs. They email me with a list of 15 songs they most want to hear, and I will play the most popular 25 or 30 songs. It's been interesting to see what people prefer - now I know which songs people like, and which ones *suck* :) I think they all suck. I'd rather play all old-school metal covers. Maiden, Manowar... hmmmmmmm... maybe for the next tour.....