Original interview in English
(June 2, 2010):
“The Adventures Of Bumblefoot” was originally released by Shrapnel Records in 1995. It's a guitar-oriented instrumental CD, originally with 12 songs and 2 additional bonus tracks. The concept for the album started a few years before... my girlfriend was in school to become a veterinarian, I was helping her study - one of the animal diseases was 'Ulcerative Pododermatitis', also known as 'Bumblefoot'. One of the treatments for this illness was to apply hemorrhoid ointment to the patient's foot and wrap it in a ball bandage. There was something absurd, yet entertaining about all of this information, haha. I immediately pictured a super-hero that looked like a giant foot morphed with a bee, and I wrote a song that sounded like a theme song for this character – like a cartoon of a 'bumbling' fictional 60's spy character, sort of like the Pink Panther, but a little more quirky. I called the song 'Bumblefoot' and it was released on a comp CD of instrumental guitar music called 'Guitars On the Edge, Vol. 4' (Legato Records, released Feb. 1994). When I signed my record deal with Shrapnel Records a few months later, this song inspired the concept for that album. I called the album 'The Adventures Of Bumblefoot', the 'Bumblefoot' song would be the opening track, followed by other songs also named after animal diseases. The album art had the image of the 'Bumblefoot' in my head I had at the very beginning, the 'flying foot' with black & yellow stripes, wings, a stinger, and five toes... I also made other characters that represented each of the songs, scattered throughout the album art. Not your usual concept for an album, haha... it was something different.
Soon after its release, the album was out-of-print, not available any more. The only way to get it was to find a copy in a record store that carried rare albums, or on eBay. I've seen people sell copies of it for as much as $600. And now 15 years later, Shrapnel is re-releasing it. I worked with Shrapnel on the re-release, I updated the artwork and added 5 additional bonus tracks from a videogame soundtrack I did back then, around the same time the album first came out. I'll be selling autographed copies of the CD at www.baldfreak.com - it's the official webstore for all my CDs & merch. And I'll be donating $5 from every autographed album to Multiple Sclerosis research. I also made a transcription book of the album - it took 6 months to write out, it's 200 pages. It has every detail of what I played on the album – notes, fingers, picking, tablature... that will be at the webstore too.
What was the philosophy for the guitars on "THE ADVENTURES OF BUMBLEFOOT"? Did you get the idea instantly or has been in your mind for years? Did you have an overarching goal in terms of feel or tones when you began this project?
It all started with the 'Bumblefoot' song, and I think it set a direction for the album... rock music with some experimental, progressive, jazz ideas... the songs would begin in different ways – sometimes a drum beat, where the accents in the rhythm would lead to a guitar riff. Or it would start with a melody, but mostly it was an overall feeling I was trying to give... people often compared the music on this album and the next few albums that followed it to Frank Zappa, the way the music had complexity and also humor. It was serious music that didn't take itself too seriously.
How many takes did you do and what equipment did you use during "THE ADVENTURES OF BUMBLEFOOT" recording session? And how do you feel about it now?
Most of the album was recorded in the Summer of 1994. I used my home-made Swiss Cheese guitar for all the electric guitar tracks ( http://www.bumblefoot.com/gear/04-swiss-cheese-guitar.php ) into a Marshall head & cabinet. My recording gear was two ADAT digital tape recorders and a Mackie 24-channel board, 2 Alesis 3630 compressors, a Boss SE-50 multi-FX unit and an Alesis Midiverb. I laid drum tracks first, with an Alesis HR16 drum machine. I didn't have my own studio, everything was set up in the basement of my parent's house. It was a very simple home studio. My equipment was 5 feet away from the central air-conditioner for the house - every time it went on, it was too noisy to record and I'd have to stop and wait for it to shut off. I had a foot-switch I used to punch-in any overdubs and re-takes. The foot-switch had a slight delay to it, so I would have to hit it early, at the 'wrong' time, in order for it to activate at the right time. I didn't have studio speakers, so I recorded and mixed the entire album using an old cheap pair of headphones that I was familiar with. Some things would be good on the first take, others would take repeated takes until it had the right feel. Listening back, I'm happy with the album the way it is.
Now let's talk about your days with GNR. How did Axl make contact with you? Were you a fan of GNR before joining them?
I remember hearing Guns N' Roses for the first time, when they first released the 'Appetite' album. I was watching MTV at 3am and the video to 'Jungle' came on, and I thought 'this band is something special'. I first started talking with GNR in July 2004. I got an email from Joe Satriani, saying he recommended me to the gig. A band member, the manager, and the producer got in touch soon after and we started making plans. It wasn't until 2006 that we made it official, hit the road and started recording together.
How do things work in GNR? Has your life changed a lot since becoming a member of GNR? Is Axl easy to work with?
The only change in life is that time is more scarce. Doing so much more touring now with GNR, I'm always racing against the clock to catch up on everything else I need to do. Everybody in GNR is easy to work with, and everybody is free to be who they are, that's very cool.
Guitarwise, What do you think has been your biggest learning experience while touring with GNR?
I think I learned how important guitar tone really is. The tone makes all the difference in how pleasant the listening experience is, and should never be neglected. When I first joined GNR in '06 we jumped right into touring and I didn't have time to experiment with heads, speakers, microphones... by the time we started to tour again in '09, I had put time into every aspect of the tone, and it made a big difference. That was my biggest lesson – don't neglect your tone.
Between you and DJ Ashba, how do you work together? Is there any kind of formula to how you decide who plays what?
DJ is a tasteful melodic player. Often he takes on these guitar parts and I do more of the technical parts, but there's no solid rule to it, we just take each song and think about what would compliment it best.
How has it been to recreate GNR old songs, do you try to emulate Slash's sound? Or you have your own formula?
I try to respect what he wrote for the songs. I don't want to re-write the songs, I want to play the songs the best I can, and give the audience the song in the way they would know it and want it. For fast phrases in the solos I may give it my own thing, but I keep the melodies the same.
What are the most your GNR's favorite songs to play live?
I love playing the big hits, because the audience loves it. But also I love the newer songs, like Shackler's Revenge, Scraped... in the newer songs I play parts that I wrote and recorded, switching back and forth between the fretted and fretless on the double-neck... ( http://www.bumblefoot.com/gear/15-vigier-doubleneck.php )
Gearwise, can you detail your stage-gear (with GNR), what’s your signal chain? How much does the live set-up differ from country to country? How many times do you have to switch guitars? And how many guitars do you normally take out on the road?
On stage with GNR, I'm using the Vigier GV single-cutaway guitar, 2 custom-built Vigier fretted/fretless double-neck guitars, a Parkwood PW370M acoustic guitar, and a Godin nylon-string electric. The Vigier's go to an Engl Invader 100W head, with a Dunlop wah and a TC Electronic 'Nova' multi-FX unit in the amp's FX loop. From there the head goes to a 4x12 'Hermit' iso-cab ( www.hermitcab.com ) loaded with Celestion speakers, mic'd with two AT4050's going to the Front Of House... I use this in every country. In total I bring 7 guitars – the double-neck and a backup, the GV and a backup (the backup is a Gibson Les Paul '59 re-issue from '89), the acoustic and a backup, and the Godin nylon string. Depending on the order of songs in the set, I could sometimes use the same guitar for a few songs, other times I'm changing every song. (It would be possible to do all the electric guitar parts on the double-neck, if I drop-D tune for some of the 'Chinese Democracy' songs...)
Slash and his band will come to Jakarta-Indonesia for a concert on 3 August, any possibility to see GNR too?
I would *love* to, but I don't think we have any confirmed shows there yet. I hope I can come there with GNR, or with my solo music, I'd be very happy....!
Thank you Mudya, and the readers of GitarPlus - it's always a pleasure!!