(2008 - 2010)
Guns N' Roses: “Sou nerd e com orgulho” declara
Quando foi indicado por Joe Satriani para substituir Buckethead no Guns N’ Roses em 2006, Ron Thal era apenas um excêntrico guitarrista virtuose conhecido por um pequeno grupo de fãs que admirava incrivelmente suas músicas, técnicas, extravagâncias e inusitadas guitarras “queijo suíço” e “pé de abelha”. Sem grandes repercussões, o novaiorquino seguia uma carreira solo que dava o que falar, principalmente por trabalhos como “The Adventures Of Bumblefoot” (1995), “Hands” (1998) e “Uncool” (2000).
Aprovado por Axl Rose, ele se lançou ao estrelato ocupando o posto que fora de Slash em um dos maiores grupos da história, o Guns N’ Roses. Depois de algumas turnês e da desova do discutido “Chinese Democracy” (2008), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal conquistou em definitivo o respeito dos aficionados pela lendária banda tanto por suas atuações ao vivo quanto pela maneira de interagir com os fãs.
A caminho da América do Sul, onde se apresentará pela primeira vez, ele promete mostrar aos brasileiros o porquê de os estrangeiros nutrirem tamanha admiração por um cara que, até outro dia, era conhecido apenas como o substituto de um dos maiores ícones do Rock e da guitarra nas décadas de setenta e oitenta.
É ótimo falar com você novamente, Ron. Como estão os preparativos do Guns N' Roses para a turnê no Brasil?
Ron Thal: Nós encerramos uma ótima semana de shows acústicos surpresa em Nova York e agora falta realmente pouco para a turnê sul-americana. Será a minha primeira vez tocando em seu país, mas após anos de contato e apoio de todos aí, sinto que vou me encontrar com pessoas que já conheço. Existe uma forte ligação entre nós. Estou ansioso para conhecê-los e para que possamos nos divertir juntos.
Você acompanhou as apresentações passadas do Guns N' Roses em nosso país?
Ron Thal: Acompanhei e sei que há um elo especial e diferente entre os fãs brasileiros e o Guns N' Roses. Mantenho contato com muitas pessoas do Brasil e agradeço-os pelo apoio, tanto a mim quanto à banda. Mal posso esperar para celebrar “Chinese Democracy” com vocês!!!
Antes de iniciar carreira solo, você esteve em uma banda que tocava covers do Guns N' Roses, certo? Conte-nos mais sobre este grupo.
Ron Thal: (risos) É verdade. Eu tinha uma banda cover com Leonard Nimoy e alguns outros amigos. Nós tocamos algumas músicas do Guns na época em que “Appetite For Destruction” (1987) foi lançado. Tocávamos “Mr. Brownstone” e “My Michelle”.
Então, você acompanhou o Guns N' Roses desde o início da carreira da banda. Você tem ideia de quando os ouviu pela primeira vez?
Ron Thal: Sim! Lembro-me perfeitamente. A primeira vez que ouvi uma música do Guns foi às três horas da manhã com o videoclipe de “Welcome To The Jungle” na MTV. Eu me recordo de assistir àquilo e pensar: 'esses caras serão grandes'.
Menos de vinte anos depois e você foi integrado à banda. Como você soube que Joe Satriani o havia indicado a Axl Rose?
Ron Thal: A indicação ocorreu em meados de 2004. Eu e Joe Satriani tínhamos planos de fazer uma jam quando ele viesse a Nova York e sempre nos falávamos. Então, um dia ele me enviou um e-mail dizendo que havia me indicado para o Guns N' Roses. Foi um aviso para que eu não duvidasse caso eles me ligassem. Eu o agradeci pela recomendação e me prontifiquei para trabalhar. Porém, sem tensão. Procurei ficar bem relaxado para que, quando eles me procurassem, eu pudesse fazer o melhor.
Qual foi o primeiro membro do Guns N' Roses com quem você teve contato após a indicação de Joe Satriani?
Ron Thal: Meu querido amigo Chris Pitman (teclado, guitarra, backing vocals). Ele soube da indicação e me procurou. Começamos a conversar. Pouco depois os empresários do Guns me procuraram e acertamos todos os detalhes.
Como foi o seu teste para entrar para a banda? O que vocês tocaram?
Ron Thal: Meu teste foi logo após o fim de uma turnê da banda. Não me lembro exatamente todas as músicas que tocamos. Sei que não havia pressão e que “Paradise City” e “Welcome To The Jungle” estavam entre as canções que ensaiamos. Foi bem tranquilo, rápido e sem grandes pressões. No primeiro dia, tocamos três músicas, voltei no dia seguinte, e tocamos mais três músicas; duas semanas depois, estávamos na estrada.
Você fala que fez tudo de forma bem relaxada, mas como é possível não haver pressão em uma audição para um grupo como o Guns N' Roses?
Ron Thal: Eu tentei não pensar muito no fato de estar fazendo um teste para o Guns N' Roses e, além disso, todos os músicos foram receptivos e fizeram com que eu me sentisse bem confortável para a audição. Deixei as coisas fluírem, busquei aprender e compreender todo o processo sem colocar a banda em um pedestal e evitando pré-julgamentos. Naquela época, eu estava satisfeito com minhas atividades, produzindo músicos, compondo meus próprios CDs, fazendo turnês solo, gravando músicas para a TV. Minha preocupação, na verdade, estava voltada à vida pessoal, pois eu sabia que, uma vez no Guns, não haveria mais tempo para outros trabalhos e eu precisaria abrir mão de muita coisa do meu dia-a-dia.
No Guns, você ocupa o posto que foi de Slash e Buckethead. Qual foi o seu maior desafio ao assumir esta função, substituindo músicos deste nível?
Ron Thal: Evitei e evito pensar nisso. O único desafio que mantenho é comigo mesmo e é o desafio de ser melhor hoje do que fui ontem. Não posso mudar o passado e não quero fazer isso. Quando toco com o Guns, dou o que tenho de melhor para honrar e respeitar o passado e a música da banda, porém, também adicionar coisas novas ao grupo. Seja no âmbito pessoal, com um contato mais próximo com os fãs, ou no musical, com o som da guitarra fretless. Sou apenas eu mesmo e me dedico aos fãs. Eles merecem o que temos de melhor.
Por falar em ex-guitarristas do Guns N' Roses, entrevistei Izzy Stradlin há um ano e meio, mais ou menos, e ele se mostrou favorável à nova formação da banda. Você já tocou com ele e eu gostaria que nos falasse um pouco do contato entre vocês e da experiência de tocar com Izzy.
Ron Thal: Eu me diverti muito tocando com Izzy Stradlin. Juntos nós trabalhamos em uma versão para “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” (N. do R.: da Charlie Daniels Band) e queríamos muito ter detonado ao vivo com o que criamos nessa música (risos). Fica para a próxima.
Você mencionou o fato de respeitar e honrar o passado da banda. Há músicas que você sente que é impossível rearranjar ou nas quais, em sua opinião, não seria correto fazer testes e/ou improvisar?
Ron Thal: Há determinadas partes de guitarra que são importantes demais para as músicas e mudá-las seria como alterar uma melodia vocal ou as letras de uma canção. Em “Sweet Child O' Mine”, por exemplo, o riff inicial tem que ser tocado com absoluta precisão, nota por nota. No entanto, nos solos mais ao final, os mais rápidos, há espaço para que eu faça algo próprio e possa criar.
Havia alguma música do Guns que você não gostava? Qual é o momento do show que mais lhe agrada?
Ron Thal: Sinceramente, eu nunca toquei uma música do Guns sem curtir. Ou eu adoro a música ou então curto muito tocá-la, não importa a razão. É sempre divertido. Porém, o melhor de estar em uma banda como esta é o contato com os fãs. A melhor parte do show do Guns para mim é quando tocamos “Don't Cry” e ouvimos a plateia cantando conosco. Tudo para mim gira em torno deste vínculo entre o grupo e os fãs.
O que você diria da reação do público às músicas de “Chinese Democracy”?
Ron Thal: As respostas a “Chinese Democracy” são muito positivas, desde a época em que tocávamos apenas duas ou três músicas ao vivo, variando principalmente entre “Madagascar”, “Better”, “I.R.S.”, “Street Of Dreams (The Blues)” e a faixa-título. Acho que “Sorry”, “Scraped” e “This I Love” realmente mexem muito com os fãs. São destaques para mim.
No que diz respeito às gravações de estúdio, quais são as faixas que mais lhe chamam a atenção em “Chinese Democracy”?
Ron Thal: Gosto muito de “Catcher In The Rye”, especialmente pela parte final com o encontro de guitarras e vocais. “Scraped” é um Rock pujante com riffs muito legais de guitarra. “This I Love” é belíssima, uma balada maravilhosa. “Sorry” é uma canção mais lenta, ainda assim vigorosa e com um ótimo refrão. “Shackler's Revenge” tem uma energia incrível e eu adorei ter feito todo o solo dela. O disco mescla boas coisas de Classic Rock com excelentes passagens Hard e Heavy.
Por falar em “Shackler's Revenge”, ela é uma das poucas músicas do disco com participação efetiva sua inclusive na criação. Como você se sentiu não podendo opinar tanto, uma vez que acabara de se juntar ao grupo? O que você procurou acrescentar às composições já finalizadas de “Chinese Democracy”?
Ron Thal: Em todas as músicas, o que busquei acrescentar foi uma pegada mais pesada, Rock! Às vezes, nós guitarristas focamo-nos demais nos solos e esquecemos que o essencial realmente são as guitarras base. Não compus tanto, mas toquei em todas as faixas e fiz o melhor que pude para dar um ar mais “sujo” e Rock às guitarras. Não me senti mal com o fato de não ter participado de todo o processo de criação. Não preciso escrever uma música para amá-la. Além do mais, o fato é que experimentamos em todas as composições por horas e horas; dos riffs e ritmos na guitarra fretless acompanhando os vocais de Axl em “Chinese Democracy” aos solos de “Shackler's Revenge”. Procurei, a todo o momento, solos, ritmos e riffs diferentes para o que já estava escrito.
O “Chinese Democracy” que você ouviu quando entrou para o Guns N' Roses é muito diferente deste que foi lançado e que todos nós ouvimos? Houve grandes mudanças?
Ron Thal: As mudanças talvez não tenham sido enormes ou óbvias, mas foram muitíssimo importantes. Ocorreram inúmeras alterações, principalmente na pegada e na sonoridade das músicas. O “Chinese Democracy” que todos ouviram é mais pesado e orientado à guitarra do que o álbum que ouvi inicialmente.
Como admirador que ouve a banda desde “Appetite For Destruction”, qual foi a sua reação ao ouvir as então novas músicas pela primeira vez?
Ron Thal: Achei fascinante ouvir a maneira como as coisas haviam avançado. Se você prestar atenção ao crescimento do grupo de “Appetite For Destruction” para “Use Your Illusion I” (1991) e “Use Your Illusion II” (1991), e perceber que as músicas estavam ficando mais completas e bem compostas, verá que, com alguns anos mais de tecnologia e músicos diferentes, aquela tendência apenas continuou em “Chinese Democracy”. O álbum tem um som único do início ao fim, das composições à produção.
Considerando-se que o Guns N’ Roses levou dezessete anos para lançar um álbum novo, qual é a sua expectativa em relação a gravar novo material com a banda? Há esperança?
Ron Thal: Claro! Não posso prever o futuro, mas eu gostaria de escrever algumas coisas com o Guns N’ Roses sim. Em “Abnormal” (2008) (N. do R.: trabalho solo de inéditas de Ron Thal, lançado sob seu famoso cognome Bumblefoot), há uma música chamada “Simple Days” que penso que soaria incrível na voz de Axl Rose. Até cheguei a pensar em mostrá-la para a banda e ver a opinião deles.
Se você saísse do Guns N’ Roses hoje, quais seriam os maiores ensinamentos que levaria consigo?
Ron Thal: Como compositor, certamente minha grande lição teria a ver com melodia. Mais melodias nas guitarras e nos vocais, sem limites para isso. Como artista no palco, é uma aula de como se entregar totalmente, de forma apaixonada e dedicada. De uma maneira geral, o principal que eu tiraria dessa experiência é a lembrança de que você determina suas próprias regras, deve fazer as suas coisas, e almejar o mais alto que puder. Sabemos de tudo isso, mas o Guns N’ Roses me faz querer superar meus limites, e ser melhor do que fui um dia. Devo isso aos fãs do Guns, a meus colegas de banda e a mim mesmo.
Você falou do aprendizado que teve como compositor e de não haver limites para as melodias. Uma das críticas mais pesadas em relação a “Chinese Democracy” foi no que diz respeito à suposta megalomonia que teria tomado conta de todo o processo de criação do disco, numa total falta de limites inclusive na produção. Como você vê isso?
Ron Thal: Em algumas passagens, o disco parece composto como uma orquestra. A produção é muito bem-cuidada. Foram anos de trabalho em cima disso e é inegável que é algo detalhado e bonito. Não há nada errado nisso. Em 1975, o Queen lançou “A Night At The Opera”, uma obra-prima de produção e composição, à época aos boatos de ter sido o álbum mais caro de todos os tempos. “Chinese Democracy” deveria ter sido apresentado ao mundo como o “A Night At The Opera” do Guns N’ Roses ou como o “White Album” (N. do R.: fazendo menção ao álbum dos Beatles de 1968). As pessoas estavam esperando um “Appetite For Destruction II”, e talvez elas precisem de um tempo para se ajustar e escutar algo tão diferente daquilo que esperavam.
Você não acha que o criticismo acerca do álbum vai um pouco além? Digo, não teria isso a ver com toda a novela que cercou o lançamento?
Ron Thal: Sem dúvida alguma. Há muita história sobre este álbum que pode ser usada pelos críticos. Mudança de formação da banda, atrasos no lançamento, Demos que vazaram. Porém, sinceramente penso que o longo e turbulento caminho percorrido para que este disco fosse lançado é o que faz dele tão único. Nenhum álbum passou por tanta coisa, por toda essa história; a combinação de tudo isso faz de “Chinese Democracy” algo que ninguém testemunhará outra vez no mundo. Em vinte anos, quando a espera por “Chinese Democracy” já for uma coisa do passado, as pessoas ouvirão o álbum com menos pré-julgamentos. Essas são as resenhas que de fato importarão.
Pelo que conversamos, uma coisa clara é que “Chinese Democracy” não é um álbum simples. Acho, inclusive, que ele é pouco acessível. É claro que “Appetite For Destruction” foi uma história totalmente diferente, mas você não acha que teria sido difícil o Guns N’ Roses alcançar o nível de popularidade que alcançou caso tivesse estreado com “Chinese Democracy”?
Ron Thal: É como comparar o “White Album” e o primeiro álbum dos Beatles. Sendo assim, eu respondo que se os Beatles tivessem estreado com o “White Album” certamente não teriam alcançado a popularidade que alcançaram. Contudo, lançar aquele disco quando eles o lançaram fez do legado deles tudo isso que vemos, mostrando-nos uma banda que experimentou, evoluiu e trouxe sons inesperados para o ouvido das pessoas como nenhum outro grupo o fez.
Quais foram as melhores vivências que você teve com o Guns N’ Roses em turnê?
Ron Thal: Cara, são tantas experiências boas que tivemos... Uma das minhas favoritas é a forma como terminamos a turnê em 2007. Eu, Axl Rose e um monte de amigos fomos a um bar que estava fechado para nós. Os donos nos trouxeram alguns equipamentos e instrumentos e tocamos a noite toda músicas do Guns N’ Roses, do AC/DC; apenas nos divertimos até cedo, quando fui para o hotel pegar minhas coisas e voltar para casa. Tocar no Madison Square Garden foi outro momento mágico. Para quem cresceu em Nova York como eu, tocar lá é um sonho. O primeiro show que vi foi lá, do Kiss em 1979, com os membros da formação original usando maquiagem. Jamais me esqueci daquilo e sempre sonhei em estar naquele palco com as grandes luzes dos shows e pirotecnia. Em 2006, realizei esse sonho nos mínimos detalhes com o Guns N’ Roses. Naquele dia, meu solo de guitarra foi o solo de Ace Frehley em “Alive!” (1975) do Kiss. Um tributo aos herois que vi em 1979.
O fanatismo dos fãs pelo Guns N’ Roses é algo marcante. Qual foi a maior loucura que você viu um admirador da banda fazer durante todas essas turnês?
Ron Thal: Olha, foi algo que aconteceu antes de um show na Noruega. Nós nos preparávamos para o show no backstage e de repente ouvimos um estrondo de alguma coisa caindo ou quebrando. O segurança abriu a porta de uma das salas ao lado e deparamo-nos com um cara no chão entre escombros. Ele olhou para nós e disse “Oi”. Ele havia rastejado pelos dutos de ar da casa de espetáculos para chegar ao backstage, e caiu do teto (risos).
Em 2006, logo que você entrou para a banda, houve um incidente entre Axl Rose e um policial sueco, e Axl acabou detido pelas autoridades locais. Você escreveu um longo comunicado explicando que não havia participado do incidente. Como foi aquilo?
Ron Thal: Nada de incomum para mim. Já vi coisas piores (risos). O fato é que a imprensa local falou que toda a banda havia solicitado a presença de loiras suecas. Isso não ocorreu. Como eu disse à época, não uso drogas, não fico bêbado, e respeito a mulher que está comigo. O problema foi com um guarda sueco e é uma pena eu não ter acompanhado o que ocorreu. Pelo que me disseram, Axl fez pouco. Eu não teria batido nele como Axl fez. Eu o teria comido. Sempre levo molhos bem apimentados nas viagens comigo e certamente eles ficariam ótimos com a perna sueca que eu arrancaria (gargalhadas).
Sexo, drogas e rock ‘n’ roll... o que é real e o que é obra do imaginário dos fãs em relação a isso em uma banda como o Guns N’ Roses?
Ron Thal: Pelo que vi, músicos que trabalham e se dedicam realmente tomam conta de si; comem e dormem bem. Não há como resistir aos estresses da vida em turnê se você cai na gandaia toda noite. O “clichê” do “sexo, drogas e rock ‘n’ roll” é para os roadies e para a equipe se divertirem.
Nos anos oitenta e noventa, o Guns N’ Roses ficou famoso por atitudes explosivas de seus membros, brigas com fãs, policiais, uso de drogas, abuso de álcool, fãs loucas e apaixonadas, groupies, entre outras coisas. Por essas e outras, a banda chegou a ser rotulada e anunciada como “a banda mais perigosa do mundo”. Você não usa drogas, não fica bêbado, respeita e se comunica com os fãs pela Internet e pessoalmente, não trai a namorada, gosta de vídeo-games, tem Blog, vive no computador. O atual guitarrista daquela que um dia foi chamada “a banda mais perigosa do mundo” é aquilo que há algum tempo atrás chamaríamos de nerd?
Ron Thal: Eu vivo com dignidade e respeito e faço tudo o que você falou, logo, sim, sou nerd e com orgulho. Porém, este é apenas um lado da moeda, e é o que acontece quando lidamos com pessoas decentes. Com o restante, prefiro não comentar. Para mim, viver perigosamente não é usar drogas e ir a festas. Isso é fácil. Perigo real são as coisas das quais não falo.
Ron, duas perguntas antes de finalizarmos. Você tinha uma banda chamada Awol que lançou um EP em 1987, certo? Como você descreveria o som deste grupo?
Ron Thal: O Awol era a minha banda quando eu tinha dezesseis anos. Fizemos o EP em 1986, em um estúdio no Brooklyn. Não havia espaço nem para respirarmos e eu e o baterista fizemos praticamente tudo em um só ‘take’. Para mim, o Awol é como uma mistura de Manowar, Van Halen e Loudness. Eu escutava muito essas bandas naquela época. Ainda hoje sou um grande fã de Manowar.
Diga-nos uma banda que lhe chamou a atenção recentemente.
Ron Thal: Muse. Quando ouvi aquele álbum “Absolution” (2003), tive a sensação de estar escutando uma das melhores coisas criadas e produzidas nos últimos tempos. É uma verdadeira obra-prima.
Agradeço-o pela entrevista e peço para que você deixe uma mensagem aos seus fãs no Brasil e nos fale do que aprendeu acerca do que realmente é o Guns N’ Roses.
Ron Thal: Eu diria que o Guns N’ Roses é uma banda que vive suas próprias regras e tem seu próprio mundo. Uma mensagem? Bem, como sempre digo: cada um leva a vida que quer. Vivam como quiserem, e que se foda o que quer que as pessoas lhe digam que é a maneira certa de fazer as coisas. Estou ansioso para os shows no Brasil. Em breve estaremos aí. A gente se vê! Obrigado por tudo!
Originally posted at:
Original English interviews...
FEB 18, 2010
FEB 17, 2010
We Will Rock You
JAN 1, 2009
Hahaha!! It's all true, haha!! (No..........)
- What was your response when Joe Satriani said he recommended you to Guns N' Roses? (did you believe you could be contacted? What were your feelings back then?)
I think my response was something like "cool, thanks", haha. I was pretty relaxed about it, I figured if they got in touch, we'd chat and see where it went from there.
- We asked you if you did an audition to join the band and you said: "Yes, when the tour was confirmed we started jamming. I came in and played 3 songs, came back the next day with another 3, and after 2 weeks we hit the road." I'm quite sure you remember the songs you played. Could you tell us which songs you played on the first and second days? (tell us how you felt about your performance on those auditions).
I don't remember, I think it was Paradise, Jungle... don't remember what else. We just jammed, no pressure.
- You said: "When I play with Guns, I do my best to honor the past and respect the music, and bring something new to the band, whether it's a close connection to fans, or the sound of the fretless guitar." What do you think that the sound of the fretless guitar added to Guns N' Roses? (tell us a bit about how the sound of this instrument can change the textures of a song, the vibe etc. For the most of people, fretless guitar is still enigmatic)
Fretless guitar adds a tension and dissonance that you don't get with a fretted guitar. It's still a guitar, so it's not making a drastic change to the sound of the songs, but it adds a little something...
- When you play old-Guns N' Roses stuff, do you think that it's important to keep almost everything true to the original recordings or do you like changing things here and there?
A little of both. Some guitar parts are important to the song itself, where changing them would be like changing a vocal melody or lyrics. In a song like Sweet Child, the opening riff should be played precisely, note-for-note. But in some of the soloing towards the end of the song, some of the faster runs, that would be a spot to do more of your own thing. It's gotta be about doing what's right for the song.
- This question kind of got lost in the interview... Were there major changes in the "Chinese Democracy" you listened to in 2006 when you joined the band up to the tracks that appear on the album?
The changes may not have been huge obvious ones, but they were important ones. Changes in the overall sound and vibe of the songs, they became more like guitar-driven rock songs.
- One of the tracks that you highlighted from the album was "Shackler's Revenge". What did you want to add to it with your guitar? What was your "concept" and "approach" for the solos of this song (the first and the second)?
For every song on the album, I wanted to make the vibe more 'rock'. We focus so much on the solos, but the rhythms are what make the whole song what it is. I played on every song and did my best to add more 'sleazy' rock guitar into the songs. For the solos, it depends on the emotion of the song. For a high-energy song like Shackler's, we went over-the-top with the fretless soloing and everything else. In Catcher, we went more melodic with it. Depends on the song.
- I believe that "Shackler's Revenge", "Better" etc. are some of the best tracks of the album. To me, it's the epitome of how Guns N' Roses updated itself on "Chinese Democracy" without compromising old-characteristic-founding elements of the band. Do you see things this way too? Share your thoughts on this with us.
I like those songs too, haha...
- Bearing in mind what we said about "Shackler's Revenge", don't you think that old-die-hard-Guns N' Roses fans can still enjoy the album since and if they listen to it not expecting to listen to the Guns N' Roses of 17, 20 years ago? (I believe that they might get frustrated listening to it and trying to find the Guns N' Roses of the 80's or 90's)
Like any album, some people will love it, some won't. Some old fans will love it, some won't. Some new fans will like it more than the past music. Nobody's 'wrong', everyone has the right to feel how they feel. If ya like it, great, if not, the world is full of other things to listen to, not a problem. Just listen to what you enjoy, and the rest is for others to enjoy.
- If you were about to left Guns N' Roses today, what would had been the most important thing you would have taken from this experience as a composer? (Considering that your songwriting-style - the one we know from listening to your records - is quite different from the songwriting-style of Guns. Can we listen to some results of your experience with Guns already on "Abnormal"?)
As a composer, it would be about melody - more melody in the guitar and vocals, no limit to it... as a performer, to be passionate and giving, to hold nothing back... overall, it would be the reminder that you make your own rules, you should do your own thing, and aim as high as you can. These are things we already know, but GNR makes me want to push my own limits, and to be better than I was before. I owe that to GNR fans, to my bandmates and to myself.
- There's a part of "Chinese Democracy" (from "Street Of Dreams" to "Catcher In The Rye") in particular that makes me think that Guns N' Roses comes up as a more Classic-Modern-Rock band on this album than as a Hard Rock band. Do you agree with this?
That's one part of the sound, yes. But then there's songs like Shackler's, Scraped, Riad, Chinese, heavier stuff too...
- I've read many critics saying that this album is all about megalomania. From it's conception and endless-songwriting process up to the tracks on it, and to the production. Indeed there are many things on this album that sound big with very detailed and rich arrangements, especially on the tracks that I highlighted in the previous question, besides "Sorry", "Madagascar", and other songs. In your opinion, is "Chinese Democracy" megalomaniac or grandiose? Or none of those things? Please, explain your point of view.
Is it grandiose? At times yes, at times it's composed like an orchestra. And the years of care that went into the production, it's undeniable, and beautiful. This isn't a bad thing. In 1975 Queen released 'A Night At the Opera' , it was a masterpiece of production and composition, at the time it was reported to be the most expensive album ever made. 'Chinese Democracy' should be presented to the world as GNR's Night At the Opera, or White Album - people were expecting 'Appetite II', and they might need a minute to adjust to hearing something so different from what they expected.
- How do you see this criticism over the album? Don't you think that the soap-opera that surrounded the release of this album throughout all those years may have get the critics ready to just pull the trigger once the album was released? (sometimes with not really educated and grounded criticism)
Absolutely - there's a lot of history that came with this album that critics can use... changing band members, delayed releases, leaked demos... but really, the long turbulent path the album took is part of what makes it unique. No other album has gone through so much, and all that history, all those combined spirits in the music, make it something that no one will ever witness again. And in 20 years, when the 'waiting for Chinese Democracy' is something of the past, people will listen with less prejudice. Those are the reviews that will matter.
- You've been playing songs from "Chinese Democracy" since you joined the band. You already told us about how great it is to play "Don't Cry" and have the crowd singing along Axl. Which songs of "Chinese Democracy" have been getting the most positive responses live from the way you see things? Are there songs of this album that simply change and get bigger and maybe even more intense live?
Live, we've mostly played Chinese, Madagascar, Better, Blues, and IRS. Haven't noticed a drastic difference in audience reaction between the songs, but I have ideas about what other songs may have a big reaction. Just my own thoughts, but I think Sorry, Scraped and This I Love are going to get strong emotions from the crowd.
- We are talking about the grandiosity of this album. I don't think that it's as accessible as "Appetite For Destruction". Those albums are completely different from each other. Different times too. However, would you say that Guns N' Roses could have become as big as it became if it released a diverse and not-so-accessible as "Chinese Democracy" as its debut (at any time in history)?
It's like comparing the Beatles' White Album to their first album. If the Beatles came out with the White Album as their first album, no. But by coming out with it when thy did, it made their legacy what it is, as a band that experimented and evolved and brought unexpected sounds to people's ears, like no other band could.
- What do you think of the episode you experienced with Guns N' Roses and Axl's arrest in Sweden in 2006? You had just joined the band. How was that for you and what have you learned from it?
Nothing unusual to me, I've seen worse, haha. We had just left the place we were hanging at, and that's when that bullshit happened. A shame I wasn't there - I wouldn't have bitten the guard. I would have eaten him. I have a special hot sauce I take on tour with me, would have been perfect with Scandinavian guard leg.
- Before you joined Guns N' Roses, back in 2004 (I'm not sure), asked by me about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, you said: "From what I've seen, real hard-working musicians take good care of themselves - they eat right, sleep regularly, etc. There's no way to withstand the stresses of touring if you're partying every night. The cliche is for the roadies and crew to enjoy." Later on, there was this incident involving Axl and you released your statement. You are nice to people, you are online almost every day, you have a Blog, you keep a MySpace page, you participate in your own forum, you interact with your fans live and online, you respect people, you don't get late to shows, you don't cheat on your wife/girlfriend, you seem to enjoy computers and videogames, you don't use drugs. Is the guitar player of the once-most-dangerous band in the world what we would call a nerd years or a decade ago? (maybe still today. Please Ron, don't get me bad. This is no offense. I know who you are and I truly admire you. You know that. I'm trying to show our readers a bit about of your personality, and a bit of how times, people, and even bands change).
I live with honor and give respect, so yes, I'm a proud nerd. But that's just one side of things, that's when you're dealing with decent people. The other side, I don't talk about. To me, living dangerously isn't doing drugs and partying, that's easy. Real danger is about the things I don't discuss.
- After two years of daily experiences with Guns N' Roses, how big would you say that Guns N' Roses truly is? In your opinion, is it still the biggest-Rock 'N' Roll band in the world?
I'd have to say, GNR is its own band that lives by its own rules, and has its own world. I always say, your life is yours, live how you want, and fuck whatever people tell you is the proper way things are done.
NOV 17, 2008
I have a hard time writing on tour. I don't know, maybe it's just "music overload", but the writing goes dry when touring. The only song I wrote on tour was "Simple Days", most of the other songs came to me a few months after the touring ended.&n bsp; Everything usually just hits me out of nowhere, one big flash, and songs start pouring out. It always happens this way, my brain explodes and half the album is written in two days.
- The first thing that drew my attention on “Abnormal” was its top-notch production. This album sounds much better than your previous ones (to my ears, at least). How was the work on the production of this album? What did you try to highlight on the songs production-wise?
Thank you! Yes, I tried a lot of different techniques for this album. I "reamped" the guitars, a process where you record the raw guitar before it reaches the amp, and then send the recorded track of raw guitar to the amp. Normally, you record the sound coming out of the amp, and your preformance and guitar sound are bound to each other. But when you reamp the raw track, you have the performance by itself and can experiment and send it to different amps, different mics, different rooms... you can spend more time on the guitar sounds you want. For the vocals, instead of working on one song at a time and focusing on one verse, one chorus, I w ould sing the entire album all the way through, from beginning to end, without stopping, without listening back, and always with people watching, so I'd "ham it up" a little extra, haha. I did this for a month, spontaneous moments developed into parts of the songs, the voice became physically comfortable with each song, I gave more thought to breath control and how much air to let through to shape the tone of the voice. And in the end, I'd pick the best take of each song. I made videos of the recording process, they're at http://www.bumblefoot.com/videos.php
- Although there are Classic Rock passages, and some Modern/Alternative Rock moments, “Abnormal” shows you in a “punkier” direction. What took you to this direction this time? (Tell us if you agree that this album is more punk-oriented, and let us know about your feelings while composing this album – things that may have taken you to the Punk style, and about your inspirations when it comes to Punk music – bands and artists you like).
I think touring with Guns for two years brought out my attitude a little more. Life has become more intense,20and so has the music. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower. And when it came time to write and sing these songs, it showed. As a kid I listened to a lot of Ramones, Sex Pistols, some Dead Kennedys... this album still ventures into strange territory like the other albums do, haha, but this album has a stronger foundation of punk and classic rock, which essentally is my own foundation, what I listened to as I first started playing guitar and making music.
- On your previous album, I could listen to many guitarists, but I had never felt the Brian May influence so present on a Bumblefoot album before. There are some more sentimental tracks on this one, besides grandiose passages, some choirs etc. Do you believe that this may have open doors to you to show this other side of yours and to work on more Classic Rock-inspired-solos-and-themes? (Share also on your thoughts on Brian May, Queen).
Brian May has made some of the most beautiful melodic music ever made in rock guitar. From the first time you hear Queen, it stays with you, forever. And when you're making melodies and harmonizing them, there's a good chance t hat Brian May is inspiring you. I've always been a Queen fan, a Brian May fan, always will be, and will always be inspired by them.
- By the way, out of curiosity, as a fan, what do you think of this Queen return as Queen + Paul Rodgers?
I think it's great that they're out there. They're honoring the past, and doing something special for the future.
- How was this work with choirs and also with female vocals? (What can women add to Rock ‘N’ Roll in your point of view?)
I ran a contest, and had people send me entertaining videos of themselves singing opera. The winners of the contest sang the opera on the album. It was a fun way to make it happen. What can women add to Rock N' Roll? A LOT. Find me a man that can sing Barracuda like Ann Wilson.&nb sp; Man, I had the biggest crush on the Wilson sisters - I was 7, they were my first crush.
- Since “911”, we’ve been seeing more clearly that you are focusing on writing better songs rather than shredding, although “Hands” still is my-favorite-Bumblefoot album (great songwriting on it, in my opinion). Would you say that you became a better composer? (Why? What did change for the best in you as a composer? How would you analyze your development as composer explaining your stance and thoughts by commenting on each of your solo albums up to “Abnormal”?)
I don't know if I'm writing better songs, but I think as I've become more comfortable in my own skin, the songs have become easier to connect to, to relate to. I don't hear the songs the way someone else would, I'm too close to them. I think the older albums were more goofy and awkward, and so was I, to be harsh about it. Wh en I look at the albums, when I listen to them, it's like looking at old pictures and I remember the events and emotions at the time of making each album.
- However, maybe you changed your style a little bit after “911”, writing more memorable melodies, and some easy-listening, pop-alternative-flavored songs. Is this also part of your development as a composer? (just a change in musical direction and in what you’ve been admiring the most in music nowadays?)
Do you think the style changed a lot? I don't know, did it? Maybe certain eccentric moments are more subtle now. I think the instrumental songs like "Guitars Still Suck" and "Spaghetti" fit well with the songs from 14 years ago on the first "Adventures Of Bumblefoot" CD, or some of the ones from the "9.11" CD. But the vocal songs are easier to digest. So maybe I'm more "polar" than I used to be, where the vocal songs are more to-the-point, and the instrumental songs are wackier. I try not think about it too much - I do better when I don't overthink and just do things from the gut.
- On this new album, we listen to some more Modern songs. The old-Faith-No-More-influenced tunes that we would listen on “Hands” or “Uncool” sound more like Rage Against The Machine or System Of A Down tunes; a bit more straight, although still funky, wacky and twisted. Do you see this change? Are there current bands; new bands which really made it after the mid-90’s that draw your attention? (If possible, mention some bands, make comments on them, besides making comments on the bands that were mentioned in the question).
The one band that really drew my attention was "Muse". I heard the Absolution album and thought this was the greatest thing I had heard in recent years. It's truly a masterpiece.
- Bearing in mind that you will probably have a lot of commitments with Guns N’ Roses and everything surrounding the band and “Chinese Democracy”, would you say to the fans of your solo career to sit and wait, because it may take a while until you release a new solo effort? Which are your plans for your solo career?
After finishing the Abnormal CD, I knew Chinese Democracy was on its way, and so was a deeper commitment of time to GN'R. So rather than going on tour for Abnormal, I went right back into the studio and started working on an acoustic album. I want to get as much music out as I can, while I can. I took songs from Abnormal and Normal and made stripped-down versions of them, one rhythm and one lead acoustic, a bass, and one vocal. I've never done acoustic versions of my own songs before, it was like doing covers of my own songs, finding new ways of playing parts of songs to fit the acoustic instruments. For the final song, I asked the members of my forum http://www.bumblefoot.com/forum/ what song they'd like to hear. They gave their thoughts and I recorded the song of their choice as the last one for the album. Only 5 acoustic songs, and20an old clean-electric stripped version of a song from a few years ago. Just a little EP. Going to include instrumental versions as well - people liked having them available, I'd like to keep including them. Will hopefully have the CD available by mid-December. I think it's some of my best singing and playing, it's dynamic and emotional, I hope people enjoy it.
- “Abnormal” is the first album you release that can be described as “the solo album of Guns N’ Roses’ guitarist”. What would you say about people’s curiosity and interest in this album? Has the curiosity increased? (Is this already your best-selling-solo album?)
Each album would sell more than the last, but "Abnormal" definitely took a bigger jump. It did better than expected from the beginning, we were moving more CDs and merch than we could keep up with. I wasn't expecting it to make a difference, but I guess the exposure, more people being aware of what I was doing, it seems to have made an inevitable difference. =0 A
- How have you been seeing the responses of Guns N’ Roses fans who didn’t know you to your solo material, mainly “Abnormal”?
Some became interested in what I was doing solo-wise. I was on their radar now, so it was a new chunk of population checking out what I was doing, but I think the response was the same as everyone else's - some like it, some don't, some are indifferent. It's like this for any band, any album.
- On the other hand, how do the fans of your solo career respond to the Guns N’ Roses gig? (Have there been negative, disillusional and angry responses from some old-die-hard fans of yours to the Guns N’ Roses gig?)
There were some at first that couldn't picture it being a natural fit, but they said later that they were surprised to see how well it worked. I have to say, the old-die-hards, the folks on my Forum, they were always thoughtful, respectful, intelligent, insightful, supportive, open-minded and very talented. I'm glad they've stuck around.
- Let us know a bit more about your partnership with and support to non-profit organizations and how much your fans and Guns N’ Roses fans can help other people by buying “Abnormal”.
If you'd like a personalized autographed CD or photo, I'm charging extra for these items and donating $5 from each item to the Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation http://www.msrf.org/ ; . It's a small non-profit organization that I've been personally involved with for years, run by a group of friends and family that all volunteer their time, and 100% of donations go to MS research, directly to the researchers. The organization was started by a good friend of mine Ralph Rosa, guitarist in a band in Puerto Rico - he was diagnosed with MS20just as the band started gaining success. He started this organization to help work towards a cure. I don't know why these things happen to good people, he's truly one of the kindest people I've ever known. Maybe because a good person like him will get motivated to do something positive. He'll always have my friendship and support, and it's the least I can do to help him and so many others.
GUNS N’ ROSES – CHINESE DEMOCRACY – AWOL QUESTIONS
- We’ve talked to each other many times since you joined Guns N’ Roses, but this is the first time I do an interview with you since you joined Axl & Co. So, let’s just start at the beginning. I heard the connection between you and Guns N’ Roses was made by Joe Satriani. How was this? (tell us about your connection with Joe Satriani, and what he told you when he recommended you to Guns N’ Roses).
Yes, it was the Summer of 2004, Joe Satriani emailed me. He and I had plans to jam when he came into town in a few weeks, he sent me an email that he recommended me to GN'R, just so I knew it was legit if they got in touch.
- What was your first response to the idea of joining Guns N’ Roses? (Were you positive about it? Frightened, unsure? Were you up for the challenge from the very start or did you get used to the idea as time passed by?)
I didn't over-think it, I figure I'd check it out, and see what it's about before making any judgments. I was enjoying having my life where I wanted it, doing what I want when I wanted, teaching, producing, recording and touring on my own, writing for TV shows... I knew there wouldn't be as much time and I'd be giving up a lot of things, so that was a concern.
- Which member of the band did you first talk to after you were recommended by Joe Satriani? (How was this first contact with the band? How was the contact with the band’s management as well?)
My good friend, Mr. Chris Pitman reached out and we started chatting. Soon after I was chatting with management and we were making some tentative plans.
- Did you do an audition to join the band? What do you remember from this audition? (Which songs did you play? Was the whole band in the room playing the songs? What did you feel playing with all those guys for the first time?)
Yes, when the tour was confirmed we started jamming. I came in and played 3 songs, came back the next day with another 3, and after 2 weeks we hit the road.
- Keeping in mind what they did with Guns N’ Roses, what was the most challenging thing about replacing Buckethead, and what was the most challenging thing about replacing Slash? (naturally, people still see anyone who joins Guns N’ Roses as a lead guitarist as a replacement for Slash as well, no matter if there were other guitarists in the band. On this question about the challenge of replacing Slash, I’d like you to explain a bit about the difficulties or facilities you found playing what he wrote and recorded. He is not a top-shredder, but sometimes what seems simple is way harder than the most complex things).
The only challenge I feel is with myself, to be better than I was yesterday. I can't change the past, and I don't want to. When I play with Guns, I do my best to honor the past and respect the music, and bring something new to the band, whether it's a close connection to fans, or the sound of the fretless guitar. I'm just being myself an d giving my best for the fans, they deserve 100%.
- You obviously listened to the “Chinese Democracy” they had recorded and composed when you joined the band in 2006. Were there major changes in this material from then up to the tracks that appear on the album? How did you follow and see the development in the songwriting and in the songs of “Chinese Democracy”?
The thing about an album is that it is *never* done. You simply pick a point where you stop working on it. This is how I look at it, my own opinion. Even after you release an album, you still continue to hear lines you want to re-sing, changes you want to make in the mix, this process never ends. I can't listen to my albums, I'm haunted by the changes I want to make.
- Were all the songs that appear on the album already composed? What did you think of them when you first listened to the material? (Was it what you were expecting from Guns N’ Roses?)
I didn't know what to expect. I found it fascinating to hear the direction the music moved into. If you listen to the growth from Appetite to Illusions, the way songs were becoming more composed, continue that direction and add years of new technology to it, and more band members... it's a unique sound, from composition to production.
- What did it mean to you to record your guitars for the album and to be part of “Chinese Democracy”? (tell us a bit about your perception on your role on the album, and the feeling of recording your guitars for an album that will be in every book telling the history of Guns N’ Roses, consequently in every book telling the history of Rock ‘N’ Roll).
It was a pleasure to be part of the journey. It is historic, no other album has gone through what this one has, from everyone who added to the music, to the events leading up to its release. 20The journey is part of what makes this a one-of-a-kind album.
- You are part of “Chinese Democracy”, however, once you joined the band when they already had things composed, I believe you didn’t have much of a say on the album (tell me if I’m right or wrong). Did this bother you somehow? Was there something you would have made different if you could have more of a say on the album?
I don't need to write a song to love it, to enjoy playing it, to be creative with it. We'd hang in the studio and I'd come up with different rhythms, riffs, solos, whether it was the fretless guitar riffs and rhythms going with Axl's vocals in the title track "Chinese Democracy", or doing all the soloing throughout "Shackler's Revenge". We'd experiment for hours, and in the end decisions would be made on what was best for each song.
- Former Hanoi Rocks and Electric Boys guitarist Conny Bloom once said: “One good guitar makes enough noise on its own. Two guitars sometimes work great, but three is just a waste of space”. On “Chinese Democracy”, there are tracks in which we can find 3, 4, 5 guitarists playing at the same time. Is this a “waste of space”? What would you say about the guitar work on “Chinese Democracy”?
If 3, 4, 5 guitars going on at once is a waste of space, then you better shut off your radio when you hear Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queen, Boston, the Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, Skynyrd, Radiohead... the guitars, vocals, keys, rhythms, everything on Chinese Democracy compliments each other so well. There are some beautiful songs on the album.
- Being on the road with Guns N’ Roses, you must have witnessed things that we can’t ever imagine, especially when it comes to the relationship between the fans and the band – mainly with Axl. What was the craziest thing you’ve witnessed so far on the road with Guns?
It was before a show in Norway, we're all hangin' out backstage getting ready, and we hear a crashing sound. A security guard opens a door to one of the other rooms and there's a guy standing there covered in dust and debris, the guy just says "Hi." He was crawling through the air ducts of the venue trying to get backstage, and fell through the ceiling, haha!
- Share some memories with us about two or three of your best and worst moments live since you joined Guns N’ Roses.
Man, so many good memories... One of my favorites was the way we ended the 2007 tour - me and Axl and a bunch of friends went to a bar after they had closed, someone brought some music gear, and we jammed all night to AC/DC, Guns, just jammin' and having a good time hangin'. Played until it was time to get my stuff at the hotel in the morning and leave for the airport headin' home. Playing Madison Square Garden was another meaningful moment. Growing up in New York City, it's a dream to play MSG someday. I saw my first concert there, KISS in '79 with the original members wearing make-up, and I always hoped to someday play there, with the big light show and the pyro. Got to play there with Guns in 2006, big light show, pyro and all. For my guitar solo I played Ace Frehley's guitar solo from the KISS Alive album, as a tribute.
- I recently talked to Izzy Stradlin and he was very positive about the current line-up of Guns N’ Roses. How was it like playing with Izzy? How was the contact with him on a personal level? (Have you ever talked to other members of the original line-up? Who? How was it? What did they tell you about this current line-up?)
Had a great time hangin' with Izzy on tour. He and I had worked out a version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" together, we were thinkin' of busting it out at one of the shows, haha.
- On the other hand, I’m sure you received a lot of support from fans of Guns N’ Roses that didn’t even know who you were before you joined the band. Tell us about the meetings and the support of those fans and how important they are to you. (Have you ever thought in givin’ up due to the huge pressure there’s on you and on the current line-up?)
GN'R fans have been great. Some have made art and sent it to me, gifts, kind messages, but they don't need to do anything, just enjoy the album, enjoy the shows. My favorite part of GN'R shows was playing Don't Cry and the audience singin' along, it's all about connecting with them, ya know?
- Every time and artist releases a new album, we ask him to pick five songs (not necessarily your favorites) out of his new release to make comments on them. Could you do that for us with five songs from “Chinese Democracy”, highlighting what you like the most about those tracks, telling about your feelings and observations about them etc.?
This I Love - such a beautiful song, beautiful ballad. Sorry - nice slow-groovin' powerful song, great chorus. Shackler's - high-energy song, did all the soloing in it. Catcher - the way the vocals and guitars play off each other in the end. Scraped - a great drivin' rock song, cool guitar riffs...
- Considering that it took seventeen years for Guns N’ Roses to release an album of brand-new-all-original songs, what’s your perspective in terms of recording with the band in the future? Would you like to write songs for a Guns N’ Roses album? (Have you already written songs or have worked on ideas that you thought would be maybe more useful to Guns N’ Roses than to your solo career, and that you would like to see on Guns N’ Roses record?)
There was a song on the Abnormal CD, "Simple Days" that I thought would sound great with Axl singin' it, and the thought crossed my mind about bringing it to the band to see what they thought. I can't predict the future, but I'd like to see some writing together happening...
- After all those tours you did with Guns N’ Roses, your relationship, perception and feelings towards the band’s material must have changed. Were there GN’R’s songs or solos that you were not much into before you joined the band and that you now like and truly enjoy playing? (Tell us a story on that).
There was nothing that I didn't enjoy, honestly. Whether it was the song itself, or maybe it was a fun song to play, or maybe just that I enjoy playing, I've never played a Guns song I didn't enjoy.
- Three questions before concluding. Is it true that when you were young you were member of a band that used to play Guns N’ Roses’ songs? (Which songs did you use to play? What was the name of this band? What was Guns N’ Roses to you at that time?)
Haha, yeah, I had a cover band with some friends called Leonard Nimoy - we did a few songs off Appetite when it first came out, I think we did Brownstone, Jungle and Michelle... I remember the first time hearing Guns - it was 3am and I caught the Jungle video on MTV. I remember thinkin', "this is gonna be BIG..."
- You were member of a band that released just one EP. Tell us about this band. What was Awol all about? When you look back and think of the Ron Thal in that band, who do you see (musically-wise, personally-wise etc.)?
Awol was my band when I was 16, turning 17. We made that EP in 1986, recorded at a studio in Brooklyn on 2" tape. I had the Swiss cheese guitar and a Marshall combo, the drummer had a big TAMA kit - we pretty much did everything one take and kept whatever we did. I forgot my guitar strap so we played everything, just me and the drummer facing each other with my foot up on his kick drum and guitar resting on my knee. Overdubbed bass, maybe a 2nd guitar in spots on a few songs, vocals one take, a few doubles or harmonies, done in a day. Mixed the next day.
- Which were the bands you were into at that time? The sound of Awol has progressive elements, but it’s still very Metal (it doesn’t remind me in any form the punk-style of “Abnormal”, nor the Hard Rock/Industrial sophisticated things of “Chinese Democracy”).
To me it sounds like a mix of Manowar, Loudness, and Van Halen - was listening to a lot of that at the time. I'm still a big Manowar fan.
- Thanks a lot for your time, Ron. Unfortunately you haven’t visited Brazil yet, and you were not part of Guns N’ Roses when the band played here at Rock In Rio III. However, you probably remember that show and know about the big connection between the Brazilian fans and Guns N’ Roses, don’t you? Tell us a bit about how you see this and leave a message to your Brazilian fans. Thanks!
There's a special bond between GN'R and Brazil. I've been in touch with Brazilian fans, and am grateful for the support they've given me and the band. I can't wait to celebrate the release of Chinese Democracy with you all. Thank you for everything!
|(em português / In Portuguese)|