ROCK magazine (Poland)
Bumblefoot interview / "Abnormal" CD review
translation by Justyna G. (thank you!)
Guns N' Roses / Bumblefoot
Waiting for Chinese Democracy feels like forever. So we called Ron Thal at his house in New Jersey to find out whatís up with Guns N' Roses. Anyway there was an additional pretext. Ron, known as Bumblefoot, just released a new solo album called Abnormal.
Interview with Ron Thal by Michał Kirmuć
You visited Poland with Guns N'Roses in 2006Ö
Yeah, in June 2006.
How do you remember your stay in Warsaw?
When we arrived at the venue there were roses everywhere. It looked beautiful, it was very moving. So the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of our stay in Poland, is that we were warmly greeted there. I remember my good friend Metal Mike, that's Mike Chłaściak from Sebastian Bachís band, was extremely excited about the show togather in Warsaw. This was gonna be his first gig ever in Poland. He's Polish, so for him this was something extra special. I also remember, that in Poland we found the best Mexican food! (laughs).
Yes! I know, it's pretty unexpected. But near the hotel we were staying at, right across the street there was a Mexican restaurant. Our drummer, Frank Ferrer, who is Cuban ordered some black bean soup. Now usually you expect to just get a bunch of beans, but at this place it was this smooth bean puree. He gave us a taste, it was delicious. He said how his mom, or grandmother, anyway someone from his family, used to make the soup the exact same way. He was pretty happy. These are the things I remember the most. I could obviously say I remember the venue, or monuments on the streets, but the truth is that the most personal memories connected with Poland are those I just mentioned. Great people and great food.
How did you get to Guns N'Roses?
Everything started about four years ago. In July 2004 I got an e-mail from Joe Satriani. Heís a great guy. He wrote me saying he recommended me to Axl, he knew they were looking for a guitarist. Then Chris Pitman, the keyboard player, sent me a funny e-mail reachin' out. Shortly after we spoke on the phone. Also management got in touch with me. Talk with the engineers working on Chinese Democracy also started then. Two years later we started touring. And now in a few weeks a new Guns N' Roses song called Shackler's Revenge will appear on the Rock Band 2 game. Very cool rock song. Finally, some new Guns N' Roses comin' out - it's a good thing. (laughs).
How did situation look on Chinese Democracy, when you joined Guns N' Roses and how it looks today?
Well, today thereís a lot of my guitars on it (laughs). There's so much great music on this record. Really excellent songs that nobody's heard before. I canít wait 'til people get to hear the whole thing. Hopefully management will get all the deals worked out and the album will come out soon.
So in this case, whatís the stage of Chinese Democracy today? Is the material being mixed already?
Last I checked it was mixed. All sounded great, so hopefully that part of things is finished.
In the late 90ís it was said, that album will be very industrial, close to this, what does Nine Inch Nails or Ministry. Later Axl described it so: This will be a very complex album, as I try to do something different. Some of arrangements will sound like Queen. Some people may say: "This doesnít sound like Axl Rose, then it doesnít sound like Guns N'RosesĒ. But you will like at least several songs. Sebastian Bach added, that this will sound very contemporarily. And how you would describe contents of Chinese Democracy?
Yeah, there are are songs that have an industrial foundation to them, yet as soon as Axl's voice appears, it's all Guns N' Roses. When you hear Axl singing, you feel like you're listening to Guns N' Roses. Iím not saying that this sounds like Appetite For Destruction, it definitely doesn't. Technology has changed a lot. Today you can do so more more than you could twenty years ago. So things are gonna sound different. There's loops, orchestra, keys, a wall of guitars and harmonies. The sound is powerful. Every band evolves. Look at The Beatles, between 1963 and 1970. They started with lighter songs and in the end were playing some pretty heavy rock. That was an extreme change in just 7 years. So think how much things can grow in 20 years. This album will be something completely different from what the group was in the beginning. It sounds modern, but you can't put a time-stamp on it. With everything Axl does, it's like this, it's timeless. If you listen to Appetite For Destruction today, it still sounds fresh. There are some timeless albums - like Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf. That album could have come out at any time. Great songs, independent from the time when they appear, they are equally exceptional. I think the same works with Guns N' Roses albums. You listen to them today the same way you did twenty years ago. I think with Chinese Democracy it'll be the same. When it comes out, of course some people will want to hate it just because they had to wait so long. But the truth is, there are really exceptional songs on this record. Timeless, like those from Appetite For Destruction, and epic like those from Use Your Illusion. When you listen intently into this epic music from Use Your Illusion, you will perceive direction of Chinese Democracy. One will be amazed by this album, others will hate it, and there will be those not interest with it at all. This however doesnít matter. You create music for people who need this kind of music. You know, I'm not a big fan of dance music. This doesnít mean however, that dance music should stop existing. There are people who need it. It's the same thing with every band. One should not bend to people, who donít want to listen to you, because you donít interest them anyway.
Who is actually the producer of the album? Information which appeared in the Internet was that Mike Clink, Roy Thomas Baker, Bob Ezrin or Sean Beavan work with you?
All of them were at some moment involved into making this album. But first of all, Axlís vision matters most. If you want to know exactly how the credits will read, you'll have to wait until album comes out.
So you will not say me, if Dave Navarro and Brian May played on it?
I don't wanna say too much - I donít want also to rise someoneís expectations, who might later be disappointed. When album will come out, then we can talk in detail.
OK, then I will not be asking you about Guns N' Roses any more, but Ö
Tell me what do you think about Doctor Pepper manufacturerís offer?
That was odd and surprising to wake up to. At first I thought it's some kinda joke. I got in touch with Dr Pepperís people asked: Is this for real, or is it a joke? It turned out that the person who thought this up is a Guns N' Roses fan. He wrote me back, that if we will release the album in 2008, they'll spend 20 million dollars giving every person in the US a free can of Dr Pepper. I think it may have to do with an online coupon you can download, register and so on. Yes, it was surprising. But gave us a lot of joy.
Let's leave Guns N' Roses. You released recently a solo album called Abnormal. I have to admit, that when I heard the opening title track, I was surprised a bit. On the one hand there is punkish energy, on the other it catches attention with the virtuosity of guitar parts. A bit like Sex Pistolsí track was played by Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. I had the same feelings while listening to short Conspiracy. What do you think about this?
(laughs) I agree with you. These tracks have in them the energy and the attitude of old punk rock. But at the same time I play the guitar, the way I play. Sometimes I simply play too many notes at once (laughs).
Youíve said about Abnormal thatís a sequel of the Normal album. Does this mean that you recorded a concept album?
I don't know if it should be called a concept album. Itís more like a continuation of a very personal tale. If Normal was the first chapter, then Abnormal is the second chapter of the same book. Normal was a tale about how my life looked three years ago. Abnormal is a tale about my life three years later, after touring with Guns N' Roses and after all these things that changed my life. I do not know, if it can be called a sequel. Itís more like yin and yang. Abnormal is the next element of a puzzle, which permits to get to know better the painting sketched at Normal.
Can we expect next chapters of this tale?
I hope so (laughs). I think about next title connected with word "normalĒ. Maybe ďparanormalĒÖ
This is not however homogeneous album in relation of its atmosphere. For example in Simple Days you present delicate face. Is it a truth, that you wrote this song being on tour with Guns N' Roses and you wanted even to propose it to the band?
Yes, I wrote it during the tour. Observing different people in their everyday life. And when I finished, I imagined it in Axlís and the guysí performance. But in the end I decided to leave it for myself. However there is no problem, there is many other songs which I can record with Guns.
I like Objectify tune, particularly this amazing chorus Ö
At first, I had written down how the media can treat a person like an object and go after them like there's a bounty on their head. Completely the same as in the Middle Ages, when hunting for witches were executed. When I thought about this, I decided to fit music into it.
The most crazy compositions on this album however are Guitars Still Suck and Spaghetti. What wonder me, from where comes the idea for such a crazy tracks?
I create a lot of similar music for games. I used to record such music on my instrumental albums long time ago. How you can see, there are still such sounds in my heart. When I stop singing, sounds begin to be very crazy. When I donít sing, music becomes extreme (laughs).
In one of the recent interviews you said: I hate all of my motherfucker songs. What did you mean?
When I work on an album, when I record, mix, remix the tracksÖ This process seems not to have an end Ė thereís always something to improve. You have to be able to say myself: stop. I know, that this isnít finished, but it will never be so. So one should say: itís enough, itís time to let it go and to occupy oneself with something different. However this process continues, even after you release the album. Itís happening in your head. When I hear my album, I tell myself: I should have sung this better or treat that in the mix differently. This happens with every album. Maybe I am able to be happy with it a week or so and than I start hearing things which I should have changed. This never ends.
Youíve said recently, that when tour ends, getting back to normal life it is not easy. Glad To Be Here is about thisÖ
When you're on tour, your days have order and structure. You know exactly, what and when you have to do, where you have to be. Moreover you know exactly, what your purpose is. One simple purpose. And when you come back home, that all disappears. Understanding what your purpose is takes weeks, why you're here, what you should do here. For many persons return from a tour is something, which reminds exit from a prison or from army. Where what you had to do then was to be a soldier. After the tour itís really hard to find yourself in normal world. Many people has problems with this.
Supposedly, inspiration for writing a song Redeye was a true history, which happened to you in Tokyo Ö
We were in a club, me, my wife, the band, friendsÖ It was really dark there and only light was red. We sat there and with some Japanese girl. It was nice, someone took a picture. Then we came back to the hotel and we went to sleep. And then an earthquake in Tokyo began. So we stood with my wife in the bathroom doorway, waiting for it to end. The next day we met and spoke with friends about this earthquake. A friend asked if I saw this Japanese girlís eye? I said: No, why? Then he took out the picture on which she had this really red eye. The camera had flash lamp and while doing the pic it lit up her eyes so, that they looked horrifying. They were rare red. Itís even hard to describe. This picture was terrifying. Like from horror. Because there was red light in club, it was not visible, that she had red eyes. I thought philosophically that if we got lost in that earthquake then, we would never have found out that this girl had a big red eye. I thought, what would people have learned the day after their death, if they wouldn't have died. I do not know if this is not too deep thought for a usual song, but I thought about this, what it was each of us could have found out, if could live one day longer. Unfortunately, all I would have learned, was that some girl in Japan had a big red eye (laughs).
On this song guitar parts sound, as Brian May from Queen was main inspiration for youÖ
I adore Queen! Brian May is definitely one of my inspirations. Queen is for me an incarnation of a perfect rock group. If there is some unequalled pattern of rock band, than this must be Queen. There will never be second such a group.
In turn about track The Day After youíve said, that The Beatlesí Strawberry Fieleds Forever and Black Diamond by Kiss were the source of inspiration for you.
Thatís right. While being a child, I listened to the first Kissí album. I heard the end of Black Diamond and I was hypnotized. That one chord and Peter Crisis counting on hi-hat more and more slowly: one, two, three, four Ö All slows down and soundproofs. I adore this. Itís similar with Strawberry Fields, where everything is slower, sounding out last longer. These are sounds, which you can not reach in reality. To accelerate itís always possible, but to slow down - only while playing with the recording. Thatís why while creating The Day After I wanted to reach similar effect. I recorded drums on accelerated revs. Then after slowing down to normal pace, all sounding out had such long time, as I wanted. The same we experienced, when we stood in these doors in Tokyo, waiting until the earthquake finishes. The only thing, which you feels in such a moment is that you donít have your life in your hands and only what remains then is hope. You can not fight, adrenaline wonít work here. We can not fight with earthquake. You can not run away, when you are on the highest storey of the building. You can only stand and wait. This lasted surely around fourty seconds. But this time went on in infinity. Time lengthened. The same how you lengthens drums sound.
Is that a truth, that inspiration on writing a song Dash was the funeral of someone close to you and for which you could not go?
Yes a member of my family. This happened already earlier. When you're on tour, life goes on. Though youíre not there. While on tour, I missed a lot funerals and similar things. Family asked me once if I could write a few words, which they could read during the ceremony. And this inspired me to writing Dash, which means just dash. On the tombstone there's the date of birth, a 'dash' and the date of death. When ya think about it, that dash marks a person's whole life. All in this small line. When you look on the tombstone your eye usually concentrates on the dates. And this small line, which is so important for the given person, is imperceptible. So I wrote a song about this. Because in total we are just a dash. And we can hope that in the end when people are looking at our grave, when they see the dash, they remember many good and pleasant things.
REVIEW of Abnormal by Michał Kirmuć
Under odd pseudonym Bumblefoot hides Ron Thal, guitarist, who we had opportunity to admire two years ago during Guns N' Roses concert in Warsaw. Ron however, yet before he joined Axlís band, recorded his solo albums. Abnormal is a kind of continuation of released three years ago album called Normal. Ron plays alone almost on all the instruments. With small exception for drums, because he claims that, heís the worst drummer in the world. First of all, in what he does, thereís a lot of energy. Such a punkish one. While listening to songs like Abnormal, Redeye, or Conspiracy, one can brought back impression that Bumblefoot is being inspired by artists in kind of Sex Pistols at first place. But we have to add, that Thal is a superb guitarist. There are also quite good achievements in his compositions, when it walks about guitar parts. Moreover, Ron likes playing with arrangements. Objectify is the best example. On the one side we have here punk energy and on the other, change of mood and the insertion of odd chorus. He applied similar interventions in Piranha. Weíve got all in this song, anyway: choruses, ska, guitar shows and such a powerful riff like one of the Rage Against The Machineís. Though he funded us the most odd trips in Spaghetti and first of all in Guitars Still Suck. This second tune this something like Bring Back That Leroy Brown in the repertoire of Queen. And since we are near Queen already, it is easy to notice, that Brian May is one of Ronís inspirations. This most distinctly can be heard in insertions in song Redeye.
Music, which proposes us the Gunsí guitarist, have a load of positive assertiveness. Like in Some Other Guy, Last Time or a lot calmer Simple Days. In this multitude of aggressive and winding sounds Thal is also funding us a bit of rest in the superb ballad Green or in charming Misery, the nod on side of Thalís fascination by The Beatles. Amazing charm has also instrumental, slowed down, piercing The Day After. Being a superb introduction to Dash, one of the best parts of the album. All we had becomes a dash Ö Sad but true statement.
Superb album. Ron showed, how amazing and varied ideas are whirling in his head. Wow, Axl gained really talented and extraordinary artist to his band!