Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal interview for Merlin'in Kazani (Turkey)
by Mahmut Saral

1. Would you tell us some about how you join to Guns N' Roses? What has changed in your life?

It was 5 years ago, Summer of 2004, Joe Satriani got in touch with me, he said they were looking for a guitarist and recommended me. Soon after, one of the band members got in touch, the manager, we also started talking and feeling it out. Before GNR I was writing, recording, engineering and producing, teaching, releasing albums, touring, playing as a guest on other people's albums and shows. Now I don't have time to do everything I used to do, being out of town for rehearsals and tours. It's not a bad thing, just a trade-off. If I could be in two places at once, I'd be happy. No, I wouldn't be happy, I'd be wishing I could be in three places at once, haha...

2. Was there any guitarists when you start playing, who became role models for you?


There were many, starting with Ace Frehley from KISS. Hearing the KISS Alive! album when I was 5 years old made me want to be in a band, and do what they were doing. Ace was an icon, and deservedly so. His guitar solos were the most singable parts of KISS songs. Then there was Angus Young - pure, relentless energy, no-bullshit rock-n-roll. I remember being 10 years old, was a bit of a punk at heart into the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, and I was jamming with some other kids, I took a solo and felt like I was tapping the spirits of Angus and GG Allin, was just going off, was shaking my head, jumping around, spitting all over. The other kids didn't get it, and it bummed me out. I felt stupid for giving that much, only to feel frustrated and misunderstood - I wasn't old enough to have that attitude where if you get under someone's skin, you go deeper, haha. Hell, you're supposed to get a rise out of people...!  I think that moment jamming in my basement may have altered the direction I was heading as a performer, but maybe for the better, haha, I don't know...   I was a fan of Hendrix too, I liked guitarists that experimented and did their own thing. It was hearing Eddie Van Halen that really had the greatest impact on how I looked at playing guitar. He was a real inspiration. I started fooling around with guitar building and modifying, and finding unconventional ways to get sounds out of the strings. Guys like Eddie, Yngwie, they made guitar playing exciting, challenging, like a puzzle you were solving.

3. What was the brand and model of your first guitar?

My very first electric guitar was a Les Paul knock-off, from a company called 'Pace'.  I think it was $80. Before that I was playing on a kid-size nylon-string acoustic for 2 years, just waiting for the day I could get my first electric. The guitar had a black pickguard - I got a sheet of reflective 'prism tape' and cut out the shape of the pickguard in forward and reverse, and put them on the guitar covering the pickguard and on the other side of the pickups like a mirror image. I guess I always had the guitar-modifying bug, even when I was 8, haha.  Here's a pic of the guitar...

4. After a long wait Chinese Democracy has come out, the output of millions of GN'R fans, include me, took the album. In my opinion, it was totally worth waiting for, but why it took so long?


I don't know all the reasons why it took so long, I wasn't there for much of those years.  I started recording guitar parts in '06 and the album was released in '08.  It's a unique album, a lot of musical information in those songs.

5. Which one is your favorite song on the album?

I like 'Scraped', I think it would be great live...  'This I Love' and 'Catcher In the Rye' have some beautiful moments...

6. Although the album came out a long time ago why the videoclip didnít? Obviously we want a new videoclip.

I'd love to see videos happen for those songs too...  

7. Do you like video games? What's your favorite game?

I love old vintage games...  Atari 2600 'Adventure', haha...! Do a Google search, check it out...  http://www.google.com/search?q=atari+2600+adventure  All the secret codes, the dragons looked like ducks, the bat would steal your stuff and was such a pain-in-the-ass...  there was a charm to the lo-res pixelated graphics and lo-bit sounds. The simplicity was a doorway, your imagination would do the rest.

8. In recent years, music-themed games are becoming increasingly common. Guitar Hero and Rock Band series are of the most important of them. In these games players can play guitar, do karaoke by creating their own bands. What do you think about these games?


I love them, getting to physically connect to decades of different music. Beatles Rock Band is fantastic. I'm a big Beatles fan, and experiencing the music this way is something really special...

9. The new albums, can be downloaded digitally, and added to games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Do you believe contribution of music-themed games to music industry?

I think it's a good thing. I'd love to make Rock Band versions of all the Bumblefoot albums.

10. Chinese Democracy album, was added to new Rock Band game. So, players could play new Guns N 'Roses album. As a group, what comments did you receive? Did you have the opportunity to play?

Yes, it was fun trying to play it, and screwing it up, haha...!  I've gotten positive feedback about it, the GNR fans that played it seemed to have enjoyed it.

11. Is there any offer for making a game that bears the name ďGuns Ní RosesĒ? Such as Guitar Hero: Guns Ní Roses?

Would be cool if something like that happens.... sounds good to me...  :)

12. Your latest come to Istanbul was in 2006 (Kurucesme Arena/Turkey). That was a great night. November Rainís solo was the top point. The attendance were very good at accompanying the songs. What do you think about this concert and Istanbul? Do you want to come again? Because the Turkish GN'R fans, are impatiently waiting for it.

Thanks!  That was a fun show, the audience was real good to us. Turkey has such deep history and diversity, beautiful architecture, and *great food*, haha!  Love the food...  People were very welcoming, they made us feel at home...   would love to come back.

13. You worked together with Fahir Atakoglu for performing a music to CNNTurk . How did you meet? How did this happen? How to perform?

I met Fahir through a mutual friend in NYC. I also played guitar with him for a concert he arranged in Washington DC in late '99, to raise funds for victims of the the big earthquake in Turkey that year. His composing is intense, it's intellectual and equally passionate - I enjoyed working with him.

14. What's your favorite guitar and why?


Right now, my favorite guitar is the custom double-neck built by Vigier guitars in France ( www.vigierguitars.com )  One neck is fretless, one fretted - I've been using it a lot with GNR and my own music.

15. What do you think about Gibson guitars?

Ah man, Gibson is the definition of classic rock guitar - Angus Young's SG, Ace Frehley's Les Paul, I was raised on guitar players that played Gibsons.

16. I think you have a guitar modification interest? Do you have guitars which are in a shape of hand and foot. How did this passion start? Could you please mention a little?


I'd read interviews with Eddie Van Halen in Guitar World magazine in the early 80's, about the way he'd dip pickups in wax, things like that. It inspired me to start experimenting with guitar modifications, internal and external.  I'd try different pickups and wiring, different body shapes, it was another artistic outlet besides making music. I have pictures and stories about the guitars I mod'ed, before and after pics, on my site at http://www.bumblefoot.com/gear.php   Eventually I slowed down with it, now I leave it to the professionals, DiMarzio pickups ( www.dimarzio.com ) and Vigier guitars, they do a much better job than I ever did...!

17. You can play Fretless guitar. Has a great sound, but what are the disadvantages? Which guitars did you use for Chinese Democracy album? Did you use Fretless?

I used a good amount of fretless guitar on Chinese Democracy. You can hear it in the title track, in the verses, those low chords dragging around...  in the next song Shackler's Revenge the first guitar solo is on the fretless, the solo in Scraped is on fretless, there's a little break in Better with fretless.  I used the Vigier fretless guitar, some Gibson Les Pauls and plugged 'em into a Marshall stack. The challenge with fretless guitar is like that of a cello or violin, where your fingers need to be in the exact right spot on the neck or the notes won't be in tune.  It makes chords more difficult - but like anything, give it a little practice and you'll be on your way.

18. Your song Mafalda has an interesting story. Do you have any other songs based on real stories like this? Or/and do you plan to make more?


Most of my songs are based on real things I've experienced or felt. I've put out 9 albums in the last 15 years, most of the songs have vocals and a story to them. Here are some stories for a few of the songs from the 'Abnormal' album...  http://www.bumblefoot.com/press/20080630-antimusic-bumblefoot-week/20080630-antimusic-bumblefoot-week.htm

19. It's known that your voice is pretty good. Why werenít you on the back vocal in Chinese Democracy? Will you be in future songs?


I offered, haha.  I'll be singing back-ups live.

20. How is it to share the same stage with Axl Rose, and to work with him? How do you feel?

Being on stage with Axl, as well as everyone in the band, and the crew, they're all good talented people that give a lot of themselves - it's great.  But looking out at the crowd, seeing them really getting into it, that's the best part of it.  GNR's fans make playing in GNR special.

Ron
10 OCT 2009


Originally posted at: http://www.merlininkazani.com/review_screen.asp?GID=3402 (in Turkish)