Chinese Democracy. Those two words have become synonymous with one of the most anticipated, legendary and mythical albums in rock history. Fourteen years in the making, by the time 2005 rolled around, production costs for the album reached $13 million and counting (according to a New York Times article published in March of that year.) All for an album few thought, aside from perhaps members of the band and die hard Guns N' Roses fans, would ever see the light of day - at least in official form.
Truth be told, many simply stopped caring after many years of numerous
delays and false reporting of release dates which came and went with
no payoff, save for the odd track such as "Oh My God", a rumored song
from the album which was released as part of the soundtrack to the
1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick 'End Of Days'.
So it was with hardened and cynical ears the rock world heard of an
actual November 2008 release date set for this white elephant of an
album. But also with such scepticism came curiosity. If indeed it
actually saw the light of day, what songs would be on the final
listing? Would the tracks be the same as the ones leaked onto the
Internet numerous times? Which musicians of the seemingly cast of
thousands (actually a little more than twenty) would appear? Would GNR
mastermind and sole original member Axl Rose pull the plug on the
whole thing altogether at the last minute?
All such questions were duly answered when lo and behold, in late
November 2008, the album finally hit store shelves exclusively at Best
Buy here in the United States. While no album could possibly have
lived up to the huge expectation surrounding the release, amazingly it
holds up as a cohesive, logical progression from the band's last full
length offerings, 'Use Your Illusion Pt 1 & 2'. While seeming to
polarize long term fans expecting another 'Appetite For Destruction',
more open-minded listeners will find the album to be, despite the odds
against it being so - one damn fine rock record which gets better with
One of the major components in the creation of the album is Brooklyn
born guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, who on the recommendation of Joe
Satriani, joined the band in mid 2006. The only axeman to appear on
all tracks of the release, either via rhythm parts or lead work, his
talent cuts through the thick, at times grandiose production,
displaying the guitar wizardry which has been evident over the course
of a decade-plus long recording career, prior to his hooking up with
Axl Rose & Co.
Nine CD's, a live DVD, numerous appearances on various compilations
and being a guest performer on other artists' work have established
him as a force to be reckoned with within the guitar community. The
exposure afforded to him by recording and touring world - wide with
one of the most high profile bands of the past 20 years is sure to
spread the word on this humble, down to earth yet technically
Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Thal just outside of
Los Angeles at the Burbank Airport, for a candid conversation
punctuated from time to time with the sounds of jets taking off.
Topics discussed included the aforementioned 'Chinese Democracy', the
guitarist's new solo release 'Barefoot : The Acoustic Sessions', how
being in one of the biggest bands in rock has changed his life, his
philosophy on making music and much more.
Special thanks to Barbara Lysiak for coordinating, and a very BIG
thanks to Ron Thal for doing this interview with Nightwatcher's House
Interview and text by Nightwatcher © 2009
May 31, 2009
Nightwatcher's House Of Rock : You
have a new EP 'Barefoot : The Acoustic Sessions' out which consists of
acoustic versions of songs from earlier albums. Why do an acoustic
album now? How do you feel that came out?
Ron Thal : I'll tell you, it's
something that I never did before. Yet, most of the time when I'm just
noodling around on guitar, I'm on an acoustic, doing versions of
whatever I hear. So it just seemed like something good to do. Plus,
'Chinese Democracy' was on its way towards coming out, and I didn't
know what the schedule was going to be like... whether we were going
to be touring, or what was going to be happening. I thought, let me
just do this. Let me just start banging out some songs. It was great,
because it was like doing cover versions of my own shit. (Laughs)
I was reinterpreting parts. Figuring out... okay, I've got this part
that's all tapping, a high energy guitar part. How can I translate
that to an acoustic instrument? I was just getting creative with it
that way. Dynamically it was great. Vocally I didn't have to be so
loud. I personally feel that it's the best thing I've ever done. The
best guitar playing, the best singing and the best versions of the
songs that I've ever done.
NHOR : Was it liberating for you to be able to revisit those songs and
change them up a bit?
RT : Yeah it was. It was really
a damn cool thing. I'd love to do a few more of those kinds of things.
To do it again, grab another batch of songs, twist 'em up and make
them look pretty. (Laughs)
NHOR : Are you pleased with the
response you've received for it so far?
RT : Yes, but it's the kind of
thing with every album you put out. You want people to freak out over
it and go, "Oh that's the greatest thing I've ever heard in my life!"
And I don't think I pushed it enough to the right audience. I think my
audience, which is used to noodly noodly guitar shit, I don't know if
they get it completely. I think a lot of them do, but then again a lot
of them just want to hear a bunch of pyrotechnics and that kind of
stuff. So I think it's going to be a slow move as the audience for it
But it's happening. I'm finding every once in awhile that someone will
come to me and say, "Hey, I heard your acoustic stuff. I play acoustic
guitar too, and I really liked it. I never heard your music before and
it's really cool." So that's good when you know that it's reaching the
right ears that will appreciate that kind of stuff. That's what it's
about. The whole world isn't supposed to like any piece of music. You
just have to find the people that it was meant for, and make sure they
get it. That they're aware of it, check it out, and decide whether or
not it's for them.
NHOR : You had an online poll on your
web site where fans could choose which songs were to be included on
the release. How important is that sort of interaction with your
audience to you, and what influence does it have in regards to what
RT : It's very important. It's everything. Because of course
you do this for yourself, and for your own satisfaction because you
have to. You'll die if you don't. But it's for them. Once you start
getting a core audience, start knowing these people, and they're your
musical family, you're making it for them too. I like having them be
part of it. The 'Abnormal' album was the same way. I did things to
include them in different ways. I definitely wanted to do that. I had
a batch of songs, and I said, "I have time for one more song, and I
want you guys to choose it." I kept it really simple. "What song would
you like to hear?" They all kept blurting out a list of songs, someone
compiled that list, and the one mentioned the most was the one that I
did. I went in and recorded that one and started the album with it.
NHOR : You just mentioned your last
full studio release 'Abnormal'. That was, as are all of your solo
works, a very eclectic offering, running the gamut from the very heavy
to progressive, to even pop-like qualities. How important do you feel
it is for a player to listen to a diverse cross section of music?
RT : I don't know if it's
important in the sense of it being mandatory, like they should, and if
they don't they'll lose something. But I personally think that the
more you know the better you are. That's true for anything in life.
Education and knowledge never hurts. Experience never hurts. Well,
sometimes it hurts, but it's still good for you in the end. But the
more you explore the more it broadens you as a person. Then when you
go to make music you're drawing from a broader place. There's just
more to express. There's a fine line between being focused and...
I find usually I end up having three hats that I'm wearing per album.
One is the crazy guitar oriented stuff, one is super heavy, and the
other one is the pretty songs. Those are the three things you're going
to find on any of my albums. You can make three columns and divide up
the album. These songs are in this column, those songs are in that
column, and these are in this column. It just works out that way. I
don't plan it that way, but it always seems to be that way. I'm not
going to try and fight it. I'm just going to let whatever it is come
out. Keep it pure, for better or worse. I just want it to be as honest
and legitimate as I can. If I would've tried to sell more records by
forcing something more focused, perhaps that would've happened, but I
feel like I just need to be who I am right now.
NHOR : Along those same lines... In
terms of being an artist, what effect has playing in Guns N' Roses had
on you, either creatively or commercially speaking?
RT : Well, let's just say the
roller coaster has sped up. (Laughs) Gone through bigger turns, twists
and ups and downs... everything's been much more intense since
joining. So I think it's reflected a bit in the music, whether there's
a little more energy or edginess to it, I think I've become a bit more
energetic and edgy as a person. (Laughs)
NHOR : Do you feel playing the Guns
songs a lot has had an influence on your own music, structure-wise, at
RT : I think so. Anything, if
you keep playing it, and it becomes part of what you do, as soon as
you go to create or embellish... whatever you draw from in your
approach... definitely I could feel that in a lot of my songs I was
putting in guitar melodies that dance around, compliment or contrast
the vocal lines in a way that a couple of years ago I may not have. I
think it would have been impossible for it not to have had an effect
after playing the songs hundreds of times.
NHOR : Regarding your own playing,
technique-wise, how would you rate it? Are you satisfied with your
progression as a guitarist?
RT : I'll never be satisfied.
That's true of most guitar players. No matter how good you did that
night, and you have someone come up to you and say man, you kicked ass
that night! You'll be like, yeah, but I fucked up this one solo... I
wasn't tight on this part... man, I've got to go practice more. Then
you'll lock yourself in a room all depressed, starve yourself and play
guitar for 10 hours. (Laughs) That never changes. And the day it does
change, and you become complacent, is the day you start losing your
NHOR : Do you think that there's anywhere to go with the guitar that
hasn't been gone already?
RT : Probably. Where that is,
I'm not quite sure. I think that Eddie Van Halen was kind of like the
Thomas Edison of the guitar. What can be done now past what he's done?
Sound-wise, playing-wise? That little fretless thing was kind of cool,
but in the sense that a fretless guitar is almost like a different
instrument. It plays so differently, playing along the strings as
opposed to bending them. What can be done? I guess we'll find out over
the next twenty years.
Usually technology plays a major role in that. There's a lot of things
which wouldn't have happened if the amps didn't have enough drive to
allow that sound to come out. Whether it has to do with harmonics or
sustain. So I guess it would depend on where technology goes. That
will definitely play at least a partial role in what comes next.
NHOR : In your personal opinion do you
feel that there will be another player who will come along and
revolutionize the way the instrument is played the way Hendrix or Van
RT : I hope so. That would be
kind of cool. I look back at people who died back around when I was
born, and they were putting out their best work then, and there's a
certain thing that makes them feel like more of a legend. I never got
to see them, and I wish I could've. Then you meet someone who did, and
you're like, "Wow, what was it like to see them live?!" That kind of
thing's part of it. The fact that it's gone.
I suppose twenty years from now we'll be looking back and recognizing
the legends of today who we might not be realizing are right now.
There will be people who inspire, who innovate. But I think we may
need a bit of time for hindsight, to be able to look back on it when
we're not immersed in it in the moment. At that time when we look to
see who did it, it'll probably be pretty clear.
NHOR : Are there any other guitarists
or bands these days that have caught your ear who are innovative that
perhaps people should know about?
RT : Yeah. I'll mention
Matthias Eklundh. Definitely he is. For physical prowess and
technique, I'd have to say my good buddy Guthrie Govan. I think
actually that there's a whole generation of guitar players who sprung
up in the early 90's that probably didn't get as much notice because
guitar wasn't quite the favorable thing during the days of grunge. I
think guys like me, Buckethead, Matthias and those kind of guys came
from that school of having a bit of a fusion background, a lot of
technique, with a twisted, quirky vibe. I figure it took around 10 to
15 years for everyone to get on the map and get noticed. Only a few
people were aware of what we were doing back in the early 90's. There
was some very interesting shit that hopefully kids will get a chance
to look back on now and rediscover and appreciate it.
NHOR : You're featured on a new
compilation on Magna Carta, 'Guitars That Ate My Brain', which besides
yourself also features Chris Poland, Devin Townsend and James Murphy
among others, and it seems as if this is a throwback to the days of
Shrapnel, or the Guitar World compilations which were prevalent back
in the 80's and early-to-mid 90's. How did you come about being
involved in the album?
RT : It was pretty interesting.
I was talking with Pete Morticelli, who runs Magna Carta, and he was
teling me how Shane Gibson from KoRn was originally writing a lot of
the music for it. Actually he's another phenomenal player that
deserves mention. He's a monster player. What happened was he wanted
to finish up the album, and he had this idea for having a bunch of
songs written in different styles of metal. One that sounds somewhat
like Sabbath, one that sounds like Maiden, one that sounds maybe like
Opeth. Things like that. I helped him get it all together.
I hired a young guy, an up and coming producer, a really good guitar
player by the name of Jeremy Krull. He wrote a bunch of songs and took
care of a lot of the recording. I had my own drummer who plays on all
my stuff, Dennis Leeflang, he laid down a whole bunch of drum parts,
and we did about a half dozen songs. Then we got in touch with James
and had all the players laying solos down. It was really cool. I got
in touch with Mike Orlando, and to me, he's the highlight of the
album. I've known him since we went to high school together, so we've
known each other for a good twenty years. My drummer Dennis plays with
him also when he plays live, I've played guest solos on his album, so
it's like everyone's connected. But he's another player who deserves
mention. He's a fucking monster on guitar. It's sick to watch him.
With his hands, it's like watching someone in fast motion. He's just a
sick, sick player. Then other guys who had their songs already mixed
and ready to go brought theirs in.
Guys like Kris Norris and all those guys brought in their own stuff.
We mixed it, I took care of the mastering and we got it out there. It
was a really fun project. It took a while for it to come together,
getting songs from people. Other people were planning to do it, then
at the last minute couldn't. It probably took a year longer than we
intended it to. It was kind of like the 'Chinese Democracy' of guitar
albums. (Laughs) I think it took a total of a year, year and a half
total to get it all together. There wasn't even that much stuff to do,
it's just the more people that were involved, with 12 guitarists
involved there was a lot of coordinating. Each one slowed things down
a little bit (Laughs) Not by choice, it just happens that way. I found
that when it comes to making music, however long you think something's
going to take, multiply that by three, and that's realistically how
long it's going to take.
NHOR : You were recommended to Axl and
Guns N' Roses by Joe Satriani, then they sent you an email, which led
to you eventually joining the band. Being an independent artist, did
you ever have any trepidation regarding joining the band?
RT : And I'm still pissed at
him about it. (Laughs) I did have some hesitation at first, because I
had just got my life where I was completely master of my own domain in
every way. My life was totally mine, and I had it balanced perfectly
between teaching music at the college, doing guest gigs, putting out
my own albums and touring with that. Producing other people, doing
things in the studio, I had a million things going on. I had it
perfectly balanced, and I just knew that if I joined Guns that the
majority of those things would have to stop because I wouldn't
physically be there to do it, and it wasn't something I could do on
It was a question of, do I want to give up all of these things? Even
though playing with GNR is a much bigger thing, it's all about
happiness, satisfaction and gratification. A lot of things that mean
more than being on the map, fame or whatever else. Not that I ever did
it for that. It was more like I met with them, we jammed and hit it
off. Once that happened, I had a personal connection towards it, and
we just kept it going.
NHOR : You were preceded in the band
by Slash, and then Buckethead. Was one of the prerequisites to you
being asked to join Guns N' Roses, besides your obvious talent, having
RT : You know... I don't know.
I've been asked that question so many times, do you have to have a
fucked up name to be considered for the band? And, I'm starting to
wonder if maybe I only got the gig because of my name. Maybe they
think I suck. (Laughs) Maybe they think, hey the guy sucks, he's a
jerk to play with but... he's got a stupid name, so let's keep him.
NHOR : What would you say was the
biggest adjustment for you in terms of being well known pretty much
only in the 'shred guitar underground' then going to one of the
biggest bands in the world?
RT : Some of the biggest
adjustments were not having to lug my own gear. That was the first
thing. At the end of every GNR show, the first thing that I'd do was
I'd grab my amp and start bringing it towards the back. All the crew
members are like, "Let go of that. That's our job." So, I'm like, what
am I supposed to do with myself? The gig isn't done until you throw
your shit in the van or the car. (Laughs) So there was that kind of
thing. You know, you're used to roughing it for 30 years, then
suddenly it's made so easy, you're thinking what am I getting paid
for? You mean just to perform? That's not enough. I need to break my
back. I need to hurt myself. Jokingly of course, although it's
partially true. You mean all I have to do is show up and play guitar?
I don't have to go fight with the club owner for money? (Laughs)
It's just a totally different situation than anything I'd ever done
before. Because it's the only time I've been in a band other than my
own. There were situations where I was offered to play in other things
and I turned it down, going back to when I was 17. But there's just
something about this. A little voice in my head said check it out and
see how it goes. Here we are three years later... actually it's five
years later since we all first spoke and started making plans. Now
'Chinese Democracy' is done and out and hopefully we'll get on the
road in the not too distant future and start playing the shit out of
NHOR : Any plans yet for touring that
you're aware of?
RT : Right now nothing is
confirmed. Nothing is definite. If pieces fall into place, it could
happen. That's the most political way I can say I know nothing.
(Laughs) In other words, it could happen, I hope it happens, maybe
it'll happen, I'd like for it to happen. I know a lot of other people
who would like for it to happen, and if everything works out it will
happen. But there are a lot of variables involved, down to every
little thing to making sure that all the pieces are in place so that
we can do this the right way.
NHOR : That's a very skillful way of
dodging that question, I'm impressed....
RT : Thank you. I'm getting
good at this. I think I'm going to run for mayor soon. I've had years
of practice now. (Laughs)
NHOR : Now that 'Chinese Democracy'
has been released, are you relieved that at last you don't have to
continually answer the question, "When is the album coming out?"
RT : No, because now everyone's
saying, "When's the next album coming out?" (Laughs)
NHOR : So... when's the next Guns
album coming out?
RT : There ya go. I think it
was about two days before people starting coming up and asking me,
"So, when's the next album coming out?" Man, give us a chance.
NHOR : Are you satisfied with your
performances on 'Chinese Democracy', or are there some that you wish
you could go back and change?
RT : I'm as satisfied as I'm
capable of being. Because no matter what I do, within a week I'm
hearing all the things that I'd want to do differently. What I'd want
to add, change the tone, or replay. That's always how it is. Because
with any album, the mixing process is never done. It continues for
years after the album's out, it's just happening in your head. And the
stuff that's in your head, you can't do anything about it. You're
haunted by it. So within a week of anything I do, whether it's my
album or 'Chinese Democracy', I start getting haunted by little
things. Like, how I bent that note, man I should've got more of a
squeal out of it. Or, shit, I should've put a harmony on this. I
could've had a better melody for that. Whatever it is. So I am as
happy as I'm capable of being.
NHOR : Your solo albums and with your
band Bumblefoot are very non-commercial in relation to what gets
played on radio these days. Whereas with Guns there's a much better
chance something you've played will be played on radio. How did you
feel hearing something you've played on, such as the new GNR, on the
radio for the first time?
RT : I think I felt hungry. I
was on my way to dinner. (Laughs) It was cool. The first time I heard
it there was a feeling of relief. Not just for myself, but there were
so many GNR fans who were waiting for so long for music to be
legitimately released. It was a feeling of being happy for them, that
they finally got that, after such a long wait and sticking it out,
that something was finally out there. I was pretty damn happy.
NHOR : The album recently was
certified platinum here in the United States. Amongst the Guns camp,
is there satisfaction in how the album has sold thus far?
RT : It's hard to say. I think
it's pretty much a given, with pretty much any musician, no matter how
much it sells, you're going to want to sell more. Those are the
driving forces that keep musicians going. The constant striving to do
more, do better, to up it even more. That's just something which is
inherent in every musician's nature. So I never really asked them. I
never said, "Hey Axl, are you happy with this shit?" (Laughs) We don't
talk about that stuff. We talk about stupid movies, crack jokes and
stuff like that.
But I could only assume that most people feel like I do. I would love
to do more videos, and just shove it down the world's throat even
more. I would love to get out there and play for every person that has
ears and do whatever we can. Because you know, when you put out an
album, it's like having a baby. You want to raise that baby for the
most life that it can have. You want to do what you can for it. So
it's that kind of thing. What can I do to give this baby a better
life? That's pretty much how it is. So no matter how well it's doing
you always want more for it. It's the paternal instinct.
NHOR : What is the one thing that people would be surprised to know
RT : I don't know. I find that
people that don't know him are the ones that have all these crazy
ideas about him. The people that do know him have a lot of good things
to say about him. He's got some really nice friends who have become my
friends. I've crossed the line from people that don't know him to one
who does, and I don't know what people know or don't know anymore. I
do know that there's a lot of wrong information about him out there.
It kind of bums me out to see and read things that I know are totally
NHOR : A lot of people have this
conception of the new Guns N' Roses just being Axl and the rest of you
being hired hands, which I'm sure you're aware of. How much of a band
is this configuration?
RT : That's just part of the
whole negative crap that's part of the baggage of being a new Guns N'
Roses. That whole thing of blah blah blah, they're just hired guns...
blah blah blah... they're not the original members blah blah blah
you're not my real mommy, blah blah blah. (Laughs)
Considering there are guys in the band who have been there 18 years to
whatever amount of time it is, and considering that we see each other
on a daily basis, and when we're not, we're speaking to each other all
the time, hanging out and doing things together, jamming and playing
on each other's albums, and doing everything band members do... I'd
say it's pretty much a band. Whether people want to acknowledge that
or not, that's up to them, and whatever floats their boat. It doesn't
change the truth.
NHOR : How would it compare in those
terms to your solo band?
RT : I would say that it's more
of a band than my own band. Absolutely. In my own band, it is
everything that people want to say negatively about GNR. (Laughs) My
band is really me, who writes all the songs, then Dennis comes in and
kicks ass on them, but then I go and play bass and rhythm guitar and
do everything else besides the drumming. Then when I do play live, I
do hire friends or whoever to play bass and rhythm guitar. So in my
case they are a bunch of hired guns, other than Dennis, who is really
more of my right hand guy. We work together, and I do things for him
as well. We just have a musical relationship that's gone on for years.
NHOR : Growing up as you did in
Brooklyn, I'm sure you went to many concerts at Madison Square Garden.
What was it like for you to finally be playing there as a headliner?
Did you ever think you'd be playing there?
RT : It's one of those things
where as a child you see KISS there, with the makeup, and the bombs,
the spitting of blood and everything, the fire, the smoking guitar,
and you say to yourself, "Man, someday I want to do this." Then after
decades of life kicking your ass, your goal is more of, "I just want
to pay my rent and it'll be cool." (Laughs)
Then when it finally happens, and you set foot on that stage playing,
and you've finished the show, you're like, "Alright, I did it". I
pretty much remember saying that I could retire now happily. If it all
ended here, I would be okay. Because it was that one lifelong thing
that every New York musician wishes for. "Someday I'm going to play
The Garden." To finally do it was one of those things where you feel
like you've been climbing a mountain for 30 years, then you finally
reach the top, and you get to stick a little flag in it.
NHOR : Going to the other extreme, what has been your most
embarrassing moment onstage?
RT : One that comes to mind was when my 'Foot' guitar broke in front
of 10,000 people. It was either in Greece or Turkey. I go to hit the
bar, the wings start flapping, and then a bunch of wood just fell from
the bottom of the guitar and landed on my feet. The bottom wing just
kind of fell down and stuck there. I'm like, awww shit. I had about
three seconds to absorb the whole situation of, "Oh shit my favorite
guitar just died" and "Oh shit, it just died while everyone's staring
at me." This is supposed to be my guitar solo, I'm standing alone
onstage, and I'm supposed to play for the next five minutes, with a
wing hanging down. I don't know if it was embarrassing as much as one
of those "Oh shit" moments. It takes a lot to get me embarrassed, but
I'd say that was one where things didn't go as planned. (Laughs)
NHOR : As a solo artist you've long
embraced the Internet as a way to get your music out, even going as
far in the days of Napster to putting your own tracks on the service
for people to download for free. How do you reconcile your very
liberal attitude towards downloading with the obvious commercial
concerns of being on a huge release such as Guns N' Roses?
RT : Here's how I feel about
it. File sharing is a wonderful thing, as long as an artist has a
choice in the matter. That's really what it's about. When I did it, it
was by choice. It's one thing if you want to give people something,
but it's another thing if people take from you, and you feel that your
freedom has been taken away. To give or not give. To me, that's part
of the issue. People should have the right to give away and share
their music for free, or at any price. That's pretty much where I'm
at. I think that when people steal the music, if it were a way for
them to discover new music they probably wouldn't have bought anyway,
it's not like you're losing a sale, because they had no intention of
buying it anyway. If they liked it that much, and felt supportive
enough of the artist, they'll spend the $10 dollars and buy the damn
thing. If they really don't give a shit, they never would have bought
it. For them to hear it on their own computer by stealing it, as
opposed to hearing it over at a friend's house and still not buying
it, or borrowing it from someone just to check it out, I don't think
you're losing a sale. It's just that it's all right in our faces now,
and it becomes an issue of being violated before your own eyes.
There's nothing you can do about it, but at the same time I think it
has reached some sort of epidemic proportions to the point where it
used to be just major bands that people were trading. Now a band that
is just barely supporting themselves, an indie band that supports
themselves by releasing albums, and has spent thousands of dollars out
of their own pocket, and people are taking it... nothing is safe
anymore, and I think it's hurting a lot of bands that aren't getting
the support they would have if people weren't stealing their shit.
There are a lot of small indie bands who are being hurt by this.
NHOR : Even big bands are being
affected by it. Do you have any estimate on how many sales were lost
by GNR for 'Chinese Democracy' due to illegal downloads?
RT : I don't know. All I know
is that my last CD 'Abnormal', about three weeks after I released it
was when I first started finding torrent files of it. I checked one,
and there had been 1,500 downloads just of that torrent of it. That
file was on the Internet for about a week. So it's at a point now
where I don't think you can fairly assess the success of an album
anymore by its sales. You have to assess it by its downloads. You have
to start asking the philosophical question, is it how many albums you
sell, or is it how many copies people have? How do you assess it now?
Is it only SoundScan that you're going to consider legitimate? Because
if that's the case, yeah, GNR went Platinum, but if you go by how many
people just torrented a copy as well, it's probably quadruple
NHOR : How long do you give the music
industry as it has been of surviving? Do you feel it's on its last
RT : I've always said that the
music industry is a flawed system and it needs to go. It hurt artists,
and nobody was benefitting. I know artists weren't happy, and the
labels weren't happy either, so it wasn't working for anybody.
Something needed to change. I would like to see what I've always
wanted to see, and that's a more direct connection between the artists
and the fans. To cut out as many middlemen as possible, and keep it
like that. That's what I started doing, as soon as the technology
allowed it. Just get on the Internet and go directly to people.
NHOR : With your reputation in the
guitar scene, and the past several years now in Guns N' Roses, having
three signature guitars and being featured in all the guitar
magazines, undoubtedly I'm sure you have many aspiring, and even more
experienced players coming up to you asking for advice. What is the
biggest aspect you get asked regarding your playing?
RT : I guess it would be, "How do you get those high, squeaky
notes?" (Laughs) Then I show them the whole thimble technique of just
having the metal cap on your finger so when you tap with it, it's
almost like, instead of fretting down on the neck you're past the neck
and it's like having your finger act like a fret, and pressing it
against the string for notes that are beyond the fretboard. That's one
thing that a lot of them ask about.
NHOR : What advice would you give to a
young player just starting out?
RT : As far as playing, I'd say
be happy. Do it because you enjoy it, and let that be the main goal.
Don't be too concerned about being successful, being famous, getting
laid, or whatever. Other toxic goals might interfere with the purity
of spirit that you should have when you're making art. Keep it real.
Keep it honest, do what you love and express yourself. Fuck what
anybody else thinks. Just do it because you enjoy it. If you enjoy it,
there will be other people who will find your music and enjoy it as
well. Remember that you're making it for those people. Don't start
making it for the people who don't like it, do it for the people who
Think of it like a menu. There's some guy who doesn't like lobster,
but you keep it on the menu for the people who do. You don't remove it
for the people who don't. Make music for the people that do like it,
and for all the ones who don't, they're going to voice their opinion
and who gives a shit? Their opinion means nothing, because it's not
meant for them. They're giving an opinion on something that they don't
like. So what's the point? It's pointless. So that would be my advice,
to not let all the naysayers and people who do nothing get in the way.
Don't let them take away your happiness.
NHOR : Is there anything else you'd
like to say to all your fans?
RT : Thank you for keeping an
open mind with all the wacky things I've done. Whether it's chopping
guitars down into strange things, or making strange music, or playing
with Guns N' Roses, I hope they enjoy it, and I hope to see them all
soon and share the experience together.
For more information on Ron Thal go to this location
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