Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal of Guns N' Roses (1/31/13)
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal has long been known to me. First entering my radar as quirky guitar wizard (9.11), then winning me over with his exaggerated Tom Jones-inspired singing style (Uncool), I quickly became attached to his unique music and personality. After releasing an array of stunning solo albums under the name Bumblefoot, Ron Thal proceeded to join Guns N' Roses in 2006, and has been a member of the band ever since. He played on the long awaited Chinese Democracy album, toured the world, and rocked the stages and hearts of countless fans (who he's won over with his talent and pre-concert acoustic hotel performances). More recently he's joined forces with Tony Harnell (of TNT), with whom he's working on an acoustic album, and released his own line of hot sauces. Ron was kind enough to answer some questions that I, as well as members of his web forum, wrote up for him. Let us see what he had to say!
You're well known as a connoisseur of hot sauces and spicy foods. Recently, you created your own line of hot sauces in cooperation with CaJohns Fiery Foods! In this world full of spice, what inspired the flavors that you chose to share with us?
Flavors were inspired by life & experiences. Not unlike music & songs. Tasting local cuisines all over the world, I started thinking about what would be a complement to those dishes. For example, “Uncool”, with cumin and curry, goes great with Indian, Thai, Indonesian – that sauce is like a chameleon, it almost has a pesto flavor with certain dishes, very flavorful. I like when the sauce reacts differently to different foods. As one person posted about the “Normal” sauce, “the flavor starts like a salsa, but right after I noticed the smoky chipotle chile peppers with a little garlic maybe and ground cloves and turmeric. Nice mild flavor that starts as one flavor and changes into a great spicier flavor so felt like two in one like hot sauce was wrapped in salsa, given it a double kick!”
A percentage of the sales from your BumbleBabe hot sauce are donated to help fight breast cancer. You've always been an advocate of charity, giving proceeds from the album “9.11” to disaster relief funds, and donating proceeds from your autographed albums to charity. What has made you so focused on contributing to charities, and how do you decide which ones to give to?
If something can have a greater value to this world, it should. Music for the sake of music is fine, but there's an opportunity for all of us to help each other. All I do is initiate, it's *you* that takes it to the next level through your support, *thank you*!! It's also life experiences how I've chosen who to donate to. When a close friend was diagnosed with MS, I started donating autographed items to MS research. When 9-11 happened I donated all profits from that album to disaster relief. The acoustic album with Tony Harnell (www.pledgemusic.com/projects/tonyharnell), he's donating to Metavivor - Metistatic Breast Cancer Research. Proceeds from the chocolate cherry “BumbleBabe” sauce will be donated to women's health organizations as well.
Do you have a favorite sauce of the ones you've released? And do you have a favorite recipe that you like to use that sauce in?
I like them all! But if I'm having a steak and am adding the sauces on it, it's usually “Bumblicious!” and “Abnormal”.
After your extensive touring throughout the years, you must have experienced quite a list of local cuisine. Where did you have the best meals you can remember?
Indonesia – the spices & preparations the give to meat, fish, vegetables, I love what they do with food. Japan - my last trip to Japan a friend brought me to his favorite sushi restaurant, absolutely the BEST sushi I ever ate in my life. Brazilian BBQ - if you were going to have your last meal on Earth, it should be Brazilian BBQ. Korea - bibimbap, BBQ, it's wonderful. Israel - the freshest fish and vegetables, you feel good eating it. And the hummus, with the fresh paprika, marinated mushrooms, it's not like what we get in the US, it's a whole other quality experience. Greece& Turkey - the sweet desserts, the spicy meat with cooling yogurt, wonderful! I could go on and on........
"Most of all, don't overthink - everything you do should be from the heart."
You're working with original TNT frontman, Tony Harnell, on an acoustic album at the moment. I know you two met at NAMM last year at a show he did, but what was the moment that you both said, “We need to do this. We need to work on an album together”? And for that matter, why strictly acoustic?
Tony was doing acoustic shows in NY, I went to one and it was the best show I had ever seen - so pure, authentic, it was all about the music, I loved it. Came up and did a song, and we it grew from there... he was already working on the album and I started writing music, adding guitar to the other songs, backing vocals. After the acoustic music, there's always the possibility to put a band together.
You originally began talks with Guns N' Roses in 2004, finally joining the band in 2006. You're almost into your seventh year with them! How would you describe the time you've spent with the band? How have things changed since you began playing with them?
Things have changed a lot from where it began, for everyone I think. We're more unified than we were in the beginning. I've learned a lot and grown a lot, the growth was a bumpy ride, but I haven't lost who I am in the process. If I had to describe the last seven years, it's been like surfing on a runaway train, haha.
One fan would like to know: pants or shorts?
I see beards on the rise around me. Yourself, as well, have grown quite a handsome chin-warmer. At the moment, you seem to have it under wraps. Is this to make it more controllable? Do you have any recommendations or warnings for fellow beard enthusiasts?
Always use conditioner.
While we're on the subject of “not music”, do you have a favorite 1980s-or-earlier arcade game?
Atari 2600, totally. Yar's Revenge, Adventure, Atari 2600 was the best! :D
You're a very accomplished vocalist, in addition to being the mind-bending guitar player you're known for. How did you develop your singing voice, and do you have any tips for musicians who are having trouble singing while they play?
Thank you! Take lessons, learn the right way physically to sing - breath control, relaxation & muscle control. Most of all, don't overthink - everything you do should be from the heart.
B#: On recent releases your music has become more punk rock in nature compared to your earlier albums. Is this due to particular influences that have pushed you towards this style? Are there any styles you've yet to explore that you see yourself visiting in the near future?
I think the more recent punkier music isn't that far off from the earlier music like “Swatting Flies” or “Shrunk” on the Hands album. That all comes from listening to Ramones & Sex Pistols as a kid, always connected to that kind of energy.
Everyone is very interested in to know about the possibilities of a Bumblefoot Band World Tour. What are the chances?
The problem is that GNR books things on short notice, making it very difficult to make other plans.
You've mentioned in other interviews the advantage of putting out a song digitally, month by month, instead of waiting for a year or more for a physical album or CD. For a while you were releasing digital singles and cover songs, including different packages with extras such as backing tracks and tablatures for them. When can we expect more Bumblefoot material to surface?
I no longer make any plans. And the best way for something to NOT happen is to talk about it before you do it. When I put out more music, it'll happen in its own way.
From myself and all the other Bumblefoot & Guns N' Roses fans, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. Whether it's solo or with GNR, I'm happy you're able to write and play music with so many people and for so many people. Do you have anything I've forgotten to touch on that you'd like people to know about?
Thanks so much :) Final thought? Eat grass-fed beef.
~ Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal