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Putting the "MENTAL" in instrumental guitar!

 
An Interview with Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

Bumblefoot_-_20090415_-_Engl_photo_shoot_by_Stephanie_Cabral
 

IC: Since it is officially 2010, do you have any New Year's Resolutions?

BBF: Got a few little things, and I've already started.  I have stacks of old CDRs with old albums I've recorded, mine and other bands. I managed to find all my old software and plugins from 1999 and loaded them onto a computer and have been making mix stems of every track of every song, with the existing fx and automation. Need to do it before the software is too out-of-date to run, and before the CDRs turn into dust.

IC: You've had an involvement in the instrumental guitar community ever since your very first release on the now-classic underground guitar compilation, "Ominous Guitarists From the Unknown."  Bringing things full-circle, in recent years, you produced a fantastic virtuoso guitar compilation entitled, "Guitars That Ate My Brain." Could you talk a little bit about your involvement on that project?

BBF: It was 2 years ago, Pete at Magna Carta had half the tracks and asked if I would finish the other half of the album. I hired Jeremy Krull to write songs in the vibe of different metal artists, I co-wrote some, Dennis Leeflang laid drums at my studio with Jeremy engineering. For Shane Gibson's song Dennis laid drum tracks at his studio.  Then the performers were matched up with songs, they laid their guitar solos and sent tracks to me, (I did my solos at my place), then mixing began - I mixed drums, Jeremy re-amped guitars and mixed music stems at his place and sent tracks to me, and mixes were completed. I got the rest of the tracks from Pete and did the mastering. It's a pretty cool guitar cd, great players.

IC: You've done frequent lessons for guitar magazines over the years, and even worked as a transcriber much earlier in your career.  Do you have plans to ever release an instructional DVD, tab book, or anything of the sort?

BBF: Man, every year I say 'This year I'm finally gonna do instructional videos..."  Been saying that for 8 years, but there's never enough time with touring and studio work.  I have a bunch of instructional ideas ready to go, just need time, never enough time...    would like to do TAB books for all my albums, but it's the same obstacle, time time time......!   Always racing against the clock.  AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IC: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring musicians who look up to you as a guitar player?

BBF: A quick 10  off the top of my head: 1 - take care of your teeth and gums.  2 - take care of your feet.  3 - wait for no one, get things done yourself, now.  4 - it's an endless battle up a muddy hill while the world throws stones at you. Don't think about it, just keep pushing yourself forward.  5 - you don't get a 2nd brain, body and spirit. Treat yours well. Treat others' well.  6 - don't just play guitar parts on your guitar - play music, songs, include multiple melodies.  7 - experience all you can in life, have greater stories to tell in your music.  8 - unexpected things aren't necessarily bad things. Give up control and learn to roll with it.  9 - bad things are the push to make touching songs, use them.  10 - forgive your own mistakes and become a better person.  Do good things.

IC: For years, your debut solo album, "The Adventures of Bumblefoot," has been out-of-print, with original copies sometimes seen on eBay, selling for hundreds of dollars.  However, it would appear that it is finally available again, only this time with some bonus material?

BBF: Yes, Shrapnel is re-releasing the album after 15 years, and we're adding a few extra tracks from a video game I did music for around the time the album was first released.  I spent 6 months transcribing the album, as detailed as possible.  Notation, TAB, fingers, picking, everything the hands do on every guitar track for every song (the 12 songs, not the bonus tracks)  It's about 200 pages, all I have to do is add some text info, photos, tweak the layout and get 'em printed. Hope to have it available by mid-2010.


IC: In the past, you've played swiss cheese, hands, the infamous "Flying Foot" guitar, as well as your fretless endeavors.  But more recently, Vigier Guitars released the Limited Edition Bumblefoot model.  Could you tell us a bit about the unique features built into that signature model, and where you first got the idea to use a thimble in your playing?

BBF: The thimble (metal cap that goes over the finger) started in the late 80s, I was looking for a way to get the notes on the string that continued past the fretboard.  I keep a thimble on my picking hand little finger and tap on the string with it to get those extra notes. A good way to find those notes is with simple math. The higher octave of any note can be found at the half-way point between the note and the bridge. The fifth above any note can be found at one-third, its octave at the 2nd third (which is the half-way point of the 1st third, hence its octave)  Make sense?   And of course, use your ears!

About the guitar - starting with the neck, it has 24 frets, it has a 'zero fret', and there's no truss rod - instead there's a strip of graphite rock going through the neck, and these necks *never* need adjusting. I've beaten them up on tour, changes in temperature and humidity, and the things have *never* warped or needed any adjusting. The body - two pickups, a DiMarzio Tone Zone at the bridge and a Chopper at the neck, with a 5-way toggle switch - bridge, bridge split-coil, bridge & neck, bridge & neck out-of-phase for that quacky piercing tone, and neck position. There's a Floyd Rose with custom pole pieces that make it smoother, the bridge is hard against the body so it only bend down, not up (this way the guitar stays in tune if you break a string). There's a magnetized hole on the body that houses the thimble. More technical info here. Last year we made a special 2009 edition, with a gritty black textured finish and a kill-switch.

IC: Your last solo album, "Abnormal," was released back in '08, and is even available as an instrumental mix through iTunes.  What's next for you as far as solo releases go? 

BBF: I honestly don't know. When I'm touring, the writing goes dry. And there's plenty of touring planned for the near future.  I'm not gonna force it, just gonna see where things go.  Would love to do "How To Play [Album]" DVDs and TAB books for every album, breaking down the how-and-why of everything for each album.  Maybe I can use those stems I'm making of the old recordings for Rock Band versions of the songs, or my own "Make Your Own Mix Of [Song]" where you can set your own levels and make your own versions of the songs.  Hmmmm...

IC: You've done various clinic tours and master-classes all over the world, including appearances at IA's Freak Guitar Camp, your Live at The RMA DVD, and so on.  Now that you're working with GN'R, do you still have time to perform as a solo artist?

BBF: Because of the touring, life has gotten really backed up, I have a ToDo list that has about 4 years of work waiting to get done on it.  And I love the studio so much more, when I have time I'd rather spend it in the studio creating.  I got this old house that I've been slowly turning into a studio over the last few years. A place where you go to record, but it's like home - a place where you can live without distractions when you go there to record your album.  Maybe after I get some things off the To-Do list I can think about doing solo gigs again.
 

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IC: The "Abnormal" album featured a song of yours called "Simple Days" (also heard on "Barefoot"), which has one of the most memorable solos I've ever heard.  Do you have any particular process for writing guitar solos? 

BBF: Thank you!  Usually solos are played spontaneously in the rough tracks, and I use them as is or tweak them for the final tracks. That solo was a spontaneous one. It's funny, I think a lot of the melodic stuff on the album goes unnoticed sometimes, cool ya pointed that one out..  :)

IC: Final question… You do a lot of fundraising, through various benefit concerts, the "9.11" album, and even a portion of your signature guitar cable sales going to charity.  What foundations are you most closely associated with, and what could your fans do to help out?

BFF: Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation, www.msrf.org started by my good friend Ralph Rosa.  He was a guitar player and friend that was diagnosed with MS in 1997.  He started a non-profit organization, with the support of friends and family. We would hold dinner/comedy events, concerts, and 100% of the proceeds went to researchers and labs working towards a cure. We did our homework and found the researchers we believed in, visited the labs, would get updates on progress. Ralph's physical condition reached a point where we had to cut back on events and just accept donations. I donate money from my autographed cds and merch. What can fans do to help?  Just be good to each other, be strong honorable people - if y'all do that, the world will be a little better. That's what you can do to help.

Thanks Dave and everyone at InstruMental Case!

IC: Thank you, Ron!

adventu

Check out Ron’s albums at The Bumblefoot Store!

Or visit:
www.bumblefoot.com

 

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Originally posted at: http://www.instrumentalcase.net/interviews.html#Bumblefoot