Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal of Guns N' Roses
26 November 2009
Written by Gus
There aren’t many times where you get to talk to a real
genuine person who cares not only his work but the people who he
works with and is involved with on a daily basis. Ron “Bumblefoot”
Thal is definitely one of those people. I met Ron back in July when
he was touring with Lita and at that time we talked bout doing an
interview. Not only did Ron stick to his word, he couldn’t be more
accommodating to do it. We talked about how he got involved with Axl
and GNR to his involvement with raising awareness for Multiple
Sclerosis. Didn’t Axl sing “We got your disease?” Well, we have your
disease right here live in the flesh, an interview with “Bumblefoot!”
For more information on Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, you can go to:
www.bumblefoot.com or for information on Guns and Roses and
their current tourdates, you can go to:
Gus: Where did the name “Bumblefoot” really
Ron: That name goes back to the early 1990’s when
my wife was in veterinary school. She was studying to be a
veterinarian and one time I was helping her study and that was one
of the diseases. It’s called Bumblefoot or the technical term
“ulcerative pododermatitis.” It was such a silly name and I was
thinking to myself that would be a cool idea for a song. So I wrote
a little song called “Bumblefoot.” Then when I had my first record
deal in the mid 1990’s, my first record was called ‘The Adventures
of Bumblefoot.’ It was this big apocalyptic cover of death and
destruction with this big winged foot flying overhead. After that I
started a band called ‘Bumblefoot’ and that’s kind of what did it.
Having the band since 1997 and putting out ‘Bumblefoot albums’ it
just became a thing where when people met me and I introduced myself
as Ron, they would go oh yeah, “Bumblefoot!” It kind of became the
nickname from doing the band because the band was pretty much a solo
thing. I wrote everything and it was my guitar and singing.
Gus: Never heard of pododermatitis?
Ron: laughs. Umm.. Who gets that? Lets see…birds,
rats, and ferrets. If they have a dirty cage and get a cut that can
lead to a staph infection which can lead to an abscess or another
Gus: Is your wife still a vet?
Ron: She sure is. She’s a fantastic surgeon and a
damn good vet. She is a traveling Vet out of a bunch of different
places around New Jersey.
Gus: One of the big CD’s that came out late last
year was ‘Chinese Democracy.’ It was a huge buzz surrounding the
release of the CD. Why did it take the band so long to tour in
support of the record?
Ron: There were other possible or potential tours
or itineraries in the works that just didn’t happen for whatever
reason. This one did though. Why? (laughs) I don’t try to know
anything. My philosophy as time goes on is swinging more towards
'ignorance is bliss.' The less I know the happier I am. I don’t want
to know a damn thing except tell me when to get on stage and play.
Gus: Guns N’ Roses are scheduled to perform in
Japan in December. I’m sure your looking forward to it. What can the
fans expect when you guys do perform live?
Ron: I can't give anything away as we are trying to
keep it a surprise until we do it. We will be playing a lot of old
stuff, newer stuff, a lot of bombs n' pyro (laughs.) I'm dodging the
question – you know, the stuff you see at a big rock show.
Gus: You just wrapped up doing rehearsals and you
have anew guitar partner in DJ Ashba. How did your rehearsals go
Ron: It went great! He is a damn good guy to be in
a band with. He gives a lot of himself and adds a lot of himself to
every aspect of it. He gets involved artistically. He’s a damn good
guy. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him and playing with him. And
working through the insanity of getting the stuff down with him.
Now, I’m just really looking forward to getting on stage with him.
Gus: So he is fitting in quite well and fitting in
nicely with everybody?
Ron: He’s good to go!
Gus: That’s good to hear. How did you originally
get involved with one of the biggest marquee name bands in the
Ron: It was about 5 years ago. I got an email from
Joe Satriani to tell me he recommended me for the gig (Guns N’
Roses) so if someone did reach out that I knew it wasn’t a joke or
something. Very soon after, one of the guys from the band emailed me
and we started talking. I started talking to guys working on the
album about recording and then spoke to management. Eventually we
hit the road and started touring and in between legs of the tour
started recording tracks for the album, putting my 2 cents into it.
That was it, and here we are.
Gus: Looking back since the release of Chinese
Democracy, are you happy with the finished product or would there be
something you would change?
Ron: On my behalf, I’m as happy as I possibly can
be. Which goes like, I’m happy for a week, and then I start hearing
all the things I would like to change. That’s the way I am with all
my own albums too. Anything I’m involved with I’m like that. The
honeymoon period lasts for about a week, then the little things
start to haunt ya (laughs.) It’s always like that but I've gotten
better at rolling with it and now it doesn’t drive me as crazy.
You've got to treat it like a moment and that moment was captured,
and then move on to the next moment.
Gus: In 2008, you released 2 solo CD’s ‘Barefoot,’
which is a collection of acoustic songs and ‘Abnormal,” which is a
continuation of your previous solo effort ‘Normal.’ Are you working
on any future solo material?
Ron: I've been so focused on all the GNR stuff for
the whole year that I really haven’t been able to. Hopefully next
year I will be able to write some stuff, and I wouldn’t mind getting
more into writing for films and stuff like that.
Gus: That also was one of my later questions but I
will jump right to that now. Your involved with other projects like
creating the theme song to VH1’s ‘That Classic Metal Show’ and did
some other recordings for Fuse’s ‘Talking Metal’ Any future projects
that you are involved the fans should be aware of?
Ron: Well, there's a band called ‘Return to Earth’
which is the drummer Chris Pennie formerly of Dillinger Escape Plan.
Now he's with Coheed and Cambria. I worked on their first album
doing the mixing and mastering as well as a little engineering. Now,
I’m working on their 2nd album doing the mixing and some production
tweaks and stuff. We're finishing up their 2nd album and are mixing
the last song for it. That should be out hopefully early next year.
Other than that, there is a ton of stuff, I can’t even keep track of
it all (laughs.) If I’m not staring at my computer looking at a list
of stuff I don't know, too much to keep in my brain. Yeah, there is
always shit going on (laughs.)
Gus: So the fans can expect a busy year from you in
Ron: Yeah. If I’m not touring I will be in the
studio. It will be one or the other.
Gus: Vigier designed the flying foot guitar as it’s
all over the internet as well as you used this guitar to perform
live. Will this guitar be used on stage with Guns N’ Roses?
Ron: I brought that thing out in the first year of
touring. It’s the kind of guitar you either love it or you hate it.
It’s probably best to leave it out of the GNR thing and use it for
my own wacky bizarre music where it makes more sense and is more
fitting. The company Vigier, they are good. They made a new
doubleneck guitar for me with a fretless neck and a fretted neck.
I'll be using that a lot on the new GNR tour.
Gus: So that is your endorser correct?
Ron: Yeah, I’ve been with them for about a dozen
Gus: This past summer I met you while you were on
tour with Lita Ford. How did you get involved with Lita?
Ron: I met her a couple of times and hung out over
a year before we started playing together. We would hang at mutual
friends’ barbeques or the Chiller Exposition (being in the same
room.) They are such a trip. Lita and the family are great! I had so
much fun on tour with them. On how I got involved, she just did
Sweden Rock and she called me right from there and asked me if I was
going to be free? By coincidence we were taking a break for the
summer from GNR and I was like 'I can definitely do the summer with
ya.' She gave me a list of songs and had 2 days to bang it out and
learn all the stuff. We had one rehearsal at her house and went
through all the stuff and we hit the road. That was probably some of
the most fun I had while on tour.
Gus: You have the early part of next year booked
with GNR but can you see touring with her again at some point?
Ron: If schedules allow for it.
Gus: Do you think she will do a full tour in
support of her latest release ‘Wicked Wonderland?’
Ron: I hope so.
Gus: Did you lay on tracks down for Wicked
Ron: No. I think everything was done before I was
doing shows with her. She definitely should get out there and tour,
bring the kids and have a blast!
Gus: In reading your biography, there was funny
story about how you saved up this money to be able to buy your first
guitar, which was a Black Ibanez Roadstar. Then you took it home and
drilled holes in it and painted it yellow. What possessed you to do
something like that?
Ron: The guitar was just $140.00 bucks. I’m
telling you man, some of those guitars that are $100-$200 bucks, if
you find the right one, that will be your main guitar for 20 years.
For some reason, I don’t know why but my gut was telling me to hack
it up into little pieces and I did and somehow it turned into the
Swiss Cheese guitar and it ended up being my main guitar for a good
dozen years or so.
Gus: We now know you use Vigier. Any other guitars
you use while out on tour?
Ron: I use Gibsons. I have a 1989 Les Paul that was
a reissue of the 1959 for its 30 year anniversary. I played that one
in the 2006 GNR tour. There was a real nice custom Flying V that I
was using a lot in 2007. Then there’s Parkwood who are a really good
acoustic guitar company. I use them for all the live stuff with GNR
and on my acoustic album. They're a good company to check out.
Gus: You do a lot of charity work, especially for
the Multiple Sclerosis which should be noted. How did you get
involved with this?
Ron: A good friend of mine named Ralph Rosa who was
a guitar player and the most wonderful guy. He got diagnosed in 1997
with M.S. You wonder why does it happen to the good ones? He
definitely is one of the best people I have ever known. I still
scratch my head, why him? He has one of the slow progressive types
that slowly chips away at ya. When he first got it, it was just
dizzy spells and numbness but he knew where it was heading. So he
started this non-profit organization MS Research Foundation,
www.msrf.org where you can do
events and come up with things to raise money for research. All his
friends and family are the staff. All volunteers, no one gets paid
and every dime goes where it’s supposed to go. No one is giving
themselves a salary or anything. We would do dinner and comedy
events and concerts and things like that. We did that as long as we
could to where it was just too difficult with Ralph’s physical
condition and the stress organizing that stuff, and with me being on
tour it was just too much. Now, we just do what we can. We still
accept donations. It all goes right to the labs. When we were
looking for researchers we checked out everybody's research. We went
to the labs and looked through the microscopes and made sure
everything with the staff was legit and that we believed it was
heading in the right direction. The funds still go there. So now if
someone wants autographed merchandise at
bumblefoot.com, $5.00 of
anything goes to research.
Gus: Are you involved in some other charities as
Ron: I am but take them as they come.
Gus: Some local stuff?
Ron: Yeah. I have to believe in it and be convinced
it's not someone trying to make money off of everyone else’s good
nature. There is a lot of that. You would be surprised how much
corruption there is in the charity 'business'. I've seen it a couple
of times and its really not fucking cool.
Gus: So there isn’t anything coming up we should be
Ron: There is a group of physicians who are
musicians as well and they have a band called ‘The Scrubs’ (laughs.)
They play in the Westchester NY area, that's right above the Bronx.
They do a lot of stuff. Every once in awhile I go out and play with
them at different fundraisers. Some of that stuff is coming up but
nothing that I've been able to confirm being part of. But they're
definitely worth checking out. They do a lot of classic rock stuff
and always have a lot of cool guests.
Gus: You have taught guitar and have held guitar
clinics. Do you see yourself going back to that and just be a
Ron: Oh Yeah! Man, I really miss teaching. I really
do. A lot of people ask me “Are you giving guitar lessons?” I
always tell them I've got no time. The last student I really tried
to schedule was about 2 years of canceling and rebooking and
canceling because I'd always be on tour or some traveling would
happen. The schedule is too erratic and I can rarely commit to being
in one place at any time. So, it’s impossible to teach at this
point. When I’m done touring, and my knees are all busted up and my
back is too sore then I will get back to teaching, and get into all
Gus: What can the fans expect from Bumblefoot the
rest of this year and going into next year besides the dates with
Ron: Besides that?? Hmm Watch me sleep? (laughs!)
The only thing right now is GNR. That's it. We will be in Asia then
we will have a couple of weeks off in between the Canada dates so I
will just have enough time to take care of...life. While you’re
touring, your non-touring life is still going on and still requires
maintenance. You’re just not there to maintain it and you fall
behind. Then when you get home for a couple of weeks you have to
squeeze a couple of months of life into that space. These two weeks
that I’m home from rehearsals before going out on tour has
everything from getting a new car, overseeing renovations on the
studio, doing jury duty, medical stuff, seeing family, trips to the
accountant to get tax stuff ready, and whatever else. All that
normal life stuff you've got to do. And there are always the little
surprises, like yesterday I went to the studio and went into the
basement and it was completely infested with ladybugs.
Gus: This is the season for them to find there way
Ron: Man, I went down to the basement and they
were there in every single corner of every doorway and wall.
Everything had a mass of a dozen or more ladybugs and random ones
all around. I went through everywhere with an industrial vacuum,
then took it outside and emptied it out. It sucks when you're
infested with ladybugs and you have to do something about it
(laughs.) You do what you gotta do unfortunately.
Gus: Thanks for taking the time in talking with us
and good luck on the upcoming tour!
Ron: Thanks and no problem!
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