GitarPlus magazine (Indonesia)
NOV 2009

Cover article/interview

Original interview in English:

1. Congratulations on the release of "Abnormal". What was the inspiration for making this record? How would you describe the different, between this new CD and "Normal"?

Thank you! Inspiration usually happens the same way - I start getting this feeling that something's about to happen, it builds over days, maybe weeks, and then it's like a bomb goes off in my head and the album begins. Just like the Bumblefoot 'Abnormal' album art, the guy's head is a bomb, with his fingers in his ears bracing for the explosion.  All the events leading up to that moment, everything I've been feeling, everything I've seen, they all come out at once in the form of half an album worth of songs, and I start recording them while writing the other half of the album.

The 'Normal' CD (2005) was like one chapter of life, and 'Abnormal' was the next chapter. Normal had a definite theme throughout, about taking depression medication, losing a piece of yourself but gaining another. For me, I gained inner peace, but lost the music in my head, I couldn't write music the same way, if at all. I had to make a choice of what I wanted, and I chose the music. The 'Abnormal' CD (2008) is about the new experiences that happened after 'Normal', joining Guns N' Roses and watching the world change. 'Abnormal' is like 'Normal' with the intensity knob turned up, which is pretty accurate about how life has become.
2. When writing "Abnormal", do you generally start with melody? Or riffs...? How do you approach constructing your guitar solos? Did you have your solos prepared before you went into the studio or did you improvise some things?

It's different for every song, they can start with a word, melody, drum beat, guitar riff, or just a feeling you have. Most of the solos are improvised, only a song like 'Guitars Still Suck' is planned out. But even that song, the middle fretless solo is improvised. I prefer being spontaneous and natural, not thinking too much, just going by instincts. Often the first take is the best, it has the most imperfect human honesty to it. A lot of times the scratch track for the vocals ends up being the one for the album.
3. Name some of your songs from "Abnormal" that you think are the most perfectly built/constructed, and proud you the most - guitarwise?

That's a tough one - usually after an album is out for a week I start hearing things I would change in the mix, performance, tone, phrasing...   I'll go song-by-song and point out what I like best, ok?  :)  

Abnormal - the guitar melody that comes in at 2:11, it works well musically with the bass and rhythm guitar melody while not interfering with the vocals, and as the drums intensify with each round, it helps the closure that's building toward the end of the song.

Glad To Be Here - the clean rhythm had just the right 'quack' in the tone, tightness and dynamics, the slight shuffle in the rhythm, and where the notes landed in the drum pattern. And with every verse, something about it would build. I like when a song takes you on a ride, having the right ups and downs and turns to take you where you were meant to go.

Objectify - the chord voicings in the verses, the strong unison and octave melodies with the opera singers, and the *space* between the phrases at 1:34 - where you don't play can mean more than where you do. You can't have impact without space.  The distant high melody in the last verse at 2:27 definitely gave it the lift it needed. And the way the progression at the end part of the song (starting at 3:24) resolves within itself, where it didn't the first time in the song (at 1:34). Yet in its entirety it ends unresolved, to imply that the subject of the song lyrics remains unsolved.

Some Other Guy - I love the way the verse octave riff and the drums connect, how the verse idea expands into the chord progression of the chorus, and how tight the stops are in the chorus progression.  It reminds me of 'Ladies In Waiting' from the Kiss 'Dressed To Kill' album. As a kid, I'd focus completely on the tightness of the space between the chords in the verses of that song - again, it's the space that gives the impact. I tried to get that same feeling in the way I played the chorus to 'Some Other Guy'. And the way the bass follows the guitar in the 2nd verse, where it rode the E in the 1st verse, yeah man. The clean wah guitar behind the solo melody at 1:32.

Jenny B - all the main soloing guitar is on the fretless - the vocals were the scratch track, most things were improvised, very spontaneous song. I like how at 1:14, while the solo is doing something 'out there', the bass and rhythm guitar lift up and do something melodic. Little things like that to keep the music 'musical' when you want it to be. Same thing happened in the song 'Breaking' on the Normal CD; when the solo really got to its craziest point (at 2:43), the rhythm guitar started making the melody.

Last Time - guitars do exactly want they should in this one, they give a solid foundation for the vocal melodies, played with conviction, steady with the drums and bass. Just the right amount of pulling back on the volume knob for that middle bridge (at 1:32) into the solo. As the choruses build to the end of the song, the rhythm and lead guitars harmonize the vocals to add that peak to the final vocal repetition at 3:25, nice...

Simple Days - the tightness of the verse, the light acoustic in the pre-chorus, the intensity of the doubled octaves in the choruses, singable moments in the solo, the way the end chorus lifts to Major (at 3:35) with the high guitar melody behind it...  the way everything empties and simplifies into the very last line of the song, where it's like really being alone.

Conspiracy - the out-of-tune bass bend at the beginning and at 0:24, haha. And the complete contrast (at 1:04) with that horrible out-of-tune jazzy ending, haha!  Total obnoxiousness, haha...

Piranha - the solo (at 1:19) was just right to give it that anxiety-ridden out-of-control feeling, like racing down a hill with no brakes.

Guitars Still Suck - ok, this is one of the songs I'm most proud of guitar-wise, arrangement and composition, everything. And the drumming is absolutely phenomenal!  Dennis Leeflang played drums on the 'Abnormal' album and the 'Normal' album - his drumming really stands out and makes the music that much better.

Green - the clean guitar finger-picked melody, the slight tremolo, real nice. Very happy with this one...  this song took me a long time to write lyrics for, years before I felt like the words were what they should be.

Spaghetti - when I don't have a title for a song, the working title would usually be 'Spaghetti', until I found a title. I never found a name for this song and just went with that. (I guess from now on every song I write without a title is gonna be called 'Lasagna'.)  This one is another that I'm feeling good about guitar-wise - the main melodic theme, the punchy clean tones, the surf-meets-spaghetti-western vibe, the build from verse to verse, everything composition-wise about it.

Misery - very happy with this one too. The 2nd guitar (at 0:33) adding support with the tapped harmonics, the false start of the solo at 1:06, haha...   my favorite is the guitar that kicks in at 1:46 - was totally going for the solo guitar sound from the Beatles' song 'Nowhere Man', that piercing twang, dragging in the strumming...  I feel like I got what I was picturing.

Redeye - the start of the solo (at 1:53), it has this soprano vocal sound to it, that sounds almost 'mocking'. Got it by hitting the notes down with the picking hand fingers, while keeping the strings muted and adding vibrato with the fretting hand. Know what I mean? You tap a note and hold it down while vibrating the string with the other hand somewhere down the neck...

The Day After - completely happy with this one as well, it came out just the way I pictured it. Melody and soloing over a repetitive progression, somewhat of a funeral durge.  I put this together after being in an Earthquake in Japan, I wrote about it here:

Dash - I like how before each verse there's a second rhythm guitar that plays along, it fills in the holes and completes the chords that the first rhythm guitar is playing throughout the verses. I like the way the solo (at 2:28) takes the song to a whole other place, and how it eases into the final section of the song (at 3:05), which is a variation of the chorus theme, stretched out, with acoustic guitars and a melodic guitar solo. I think the guitar-playing on the album has a good mix of melody and technical moments. If I had to pick one that I'm most proud of guitar-wise and composition-wise, I'd go with 'Guitars Still Suck'.

4. Your style are pretty adventurous and you have a very unique guitar voice. Some people tend to sharping their style in certain area. What's your main vision when writing?

When writing, I think about how the song makes you feel, and the best way to get people feel it to, to connect and share that feeling. Then it's about the lyrics, rhythms, instrumentation, the spirit that everything is performed with. People should play the way they play and express themselves truthfully, be free with what you feel, be yourself, and give all of yourself to the listener.  It's not about technique or notes or style, it's about the feeling a song gives you, and making the connection with people through the music.
5. Your music background/experiences combine many elements, so how would you describe your style and where do you see it heading towards in the future?

I don't have a plan where things will go next musically - could be more melodic, or more metal, more instrumental, more progressive...  It depends where life goes, that will influence where the music goes.
6. What are some of the main elements of your guitar sound today? And tell me about your Vigier guitar, and the double-neck (with fretless) one...

I keep it simple, usually just the guitar, a wah pedal, maybe a delay pedal, and the amp. The Vigier guitars have DiMarzio pickups, a Tone Zone in the bridge and a Chopper in the neck, with some single-coil and out-of-phase settings in the 5-way toggle switch. I've used Line6 Vetta2 and SpiderValve tube amps, and have started playing Engl amps. I had a custom rig built to use with Guns N' Roses - it has an Engl E580 midi tube preamp, and an Engl E850 100W power amp with 6L6 tubes in the left channel and EL34's in the right. On tour with Lita Ford this Summer I used the Engl Invader 100W head for some European festivals.
7. Some guitarists seem to concentrate upon being extremely technical within their playing, but don't concentrate upon writing a good tune. Do you agree with that statements?

I think that's true for some, when their intention is mostly to showcase their technique. But that's ok, they're doing what they want, and there are plenty of people who enjoy listening, they should do it. And if that's their intention, then they *are* writing a good tune, good for that direction of music.
8. Looking back to the days when you first began play guitar, were you one of those players who would sit in their room and run through scales for hours on end or did learn more from playing along to records? And can you recall any methods or techniques being particularly beneficial to your progress?

I studied reading and music theory, practiced rhythm and scales with a metronome, for years. One thing I used to do on my own was to pick an album and learn the whole album in a day. I'd pick an AC/DC album, Judas Priest, Ozzy, even Tchaikovsky, and would drop the needle on the turntable for a few seconds, lift it and play what I heard, and keep going until I learned the whole album. It was great for ear training, learning new guitar riffs and knowing a lot of songs.
9. Which guitarists had the most impact on you when you first started playing? When your fans approach you and ask about your all times favorite riffs/solo or techniques, what do you say in response?

In the beginning it was Ace Frehley - KISS was the reason I got into playing music, and Ace's solos were the best part of the songs to me. There was also Angus Young and Jimi Hendrix, but it was hearing Eddie Van Halen the first time that changed the way I viewed playing guitar. That's when I started getting into building my own guitars and thinking beyond the usual way of doing things.

10. What are your the most favourite albums? Especially non-rock guitar oriented? Why?

Some of my first albums are my favorites...  Yes 'Going For the One'. Billy Joel 'The Stranger'. Boston's first album. Every Beatles album. Every Led Zeppelin album. Blondie 'Parallel Lines'.  Jethro Tull 'Aqualung'. Every Kiss album up to KISS Alive II. Ace's solo album. New England's debut album. Sex Pistols 'Never Mind the Bullocks'. Al DiMeola 'Electric Rendezvous'. Squeeze '45s and Under'. Every Soundgarden album. Every Rage Against the Machine album. Every Faith No More album. Ramones, Stones, Who, Queen...  Manowar 'Battle Hymns'. And lots of Motown hits, favorites from Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops.
11. If you could do a once-off album project with any musician in the world, who would it be?

John Sykes, and Dave Grohl.

Thank you, and the readers of GitarPlus!