Bumblefoot, GNR guitarist and hot sauce maker, is all set to rock Nazrul Mancha on June 15
Thal, lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses will play a special set with
the Dubai-based rock band Point of View on June 15 at Nazrul Mancha.
You are going to do a special set with Dubai-based band Point of View at Nazrul Manch on June 15. What are your thoughts on that? What can we expect from the show?
The band Point Of View (www.pointofviewonline.net) have become good friends of mine, they're a great band. They're also smart, kind, responsible, hard-working, socially conscious - they deserve support. They've actually inspired me to pursue something bigger. I want to create festivals that support local artists around the world, something similar to what we (Point Of View & I) are doing together. It's too soon to give details, but it's something I'm going to try my best to make happen.
Would you like to say anything about Calcutta?
A pleasure to make your acquaintance. I look forward to spending time with you, learning about you, and learning from you. I want to see the landscape, taste the food, visit the temples, see the historical sites, and meet you all. Will do as much as I can in the time I'm there, and will come home with wonderful inspiring memories. :)
You write in your bio, “Kept hoping for a band that would have a long life together but never could find people that would dedicate as much as was necessary.” Since you are part of GNR now, have you found what you were looking for?
No band can be everything for everyone. And you can't expect it to be - a band should do one thing well, and not be pushed to be more than that. Guns doesn't do a lot of writing and recording, but I release lots of my own music (www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php), I write and record with Tony Harnell (http://itunes.apple.com/album/tony-harnell-wildflowers-feat./id653702708), I co-write with artists I produce (http://itunes.apple.com/album/rise-above/id529724762), I'm a guest on lots of albums (www.bumblefoot.com/discography-guest.php), write music for TV shows and movies, I teach, I visit schools and jam with the students (www2.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/News/en-us/Bumblefoot-Helps-Little-Kids-Rock.aspx), I do lots of charity and fundraising (www.bumblefoot.com/press/20130504_-_rollingstone/20130504_-_rollingstone.htm)... the next workshops I'll be doing will be for a week on the Greek Island of Corfu, August 10th - 17th (www.corfurockschool.com) In Guns N’ Roses I don’t get to sing a lot but in my solo shows I sing lead, with Tony Harnell acoustic shows I get to harmonize vocally. Guns N' Roses stays close to the setlist, with Tony Harnell or my solo shows we spontaneously break into songs we've never even played before. I don’t get to play as many melodic guitar lines in Guns N’ Roses but I do in my own shows. With Guns N' Roses we can headline a festival with an audience of 100,000. With Tony Harnell I walk in with an acoustic guitar and that's all my gear. I get something different out of each situation. And when you put it all together, my world is complete. :) Guns, Tony, myself, we're all completely dedicated to what we do, so yes, I do have that, finally. :)
How is it like performing with Axl Rose?
He's like no one I've ever known, a unique spirit & energy. It's a pleasure making music with him, a lot of good times.
You write that it was a “life-long goal” to perform at Madison Square Garden, with “the lights, the flames, the bombs, the volume”? In November ’06, you performed at the Madison Square Garden with GNR. How did it feel?
It felt like climbing a mountain for years, and finally reaching the top. And then you start looking for the next mountain...
How, and when, did you get the call to join GNR?
It was the Summer of 2004, Joe Satriani emailed me to let me know he recommended me to them, they reached out a few hours later and we started the 'getting-to-know-you' process...
When did you play with GNR for the first time?
In late April 2006. The GNR tour was ready to go, and we got together in NYC and jammed a few songs. Did that 7 times and then we hit the road all over Europe for 3 months.
How is the band different from what it used to be in the 1990s?
Different in so many ways. Different personnel obviously, haha, but everyone has more life experience and has grown from who they were at half their age. The production of GNR's has changed with the changes in technology, you can hear those building-blocks in the newer songs.
You have been performing with GNR for six years now. Can you mention some of your favourite moments with them, on and off stage, so far?
Over seven years, but who's counting? Haha. One of my favorite moments on stage was playing an acoustic show for Neil Young's annual Bridge School benefit concert, and having dinner at Neil's house in northern California, and getting to know his family. There's been so many wild moments on and off stage, most I should save for another time, haha.
Give an example...
One time that always comes to mind... in Prague, after a show, I'll give the quick version. A bar opened for us at 4 in the morning to all hang out in, there was one guy that went in and wouldn't leave and was telling people he was the band's manager (he didn't know but he was telling this TO the band's manager.) So you have guys from the band Nazareth with us at bar talking music (someone asks them a random question about show tunes and they're like "What????"), I'm next to them with two European models who are teaching me how to speak Slovakian, and next to me is a brutal bar fight with the guy that won't leave who starts swinging at the manager, literally blood splatter on the walls, while all being served varieties of local versions of Jagermeister. We go upstairs to keep partying in the hotel suite, and the guy who was fighting us is waiting for us upstairs, bruised up, with his family, and a camera, all with big smiles. He wanted autographs and photos. We took pics, we then went upstairs and hung out for about 20 hours until I had to leave and get on a plane for the next show. That's a typical night out.
Chinese Democracy came out in 2008. When is the next GNR album coming out?
The most-asked question, yes. I can't predict that, and I'm not going to try to predict that. What I've wanted to do was put out one song every time we do a leg of touring - get together in the studio a week before, write and record a song, release it, play it on that tour, and do that every time. We would have had an album of music released by now if we did that, a little at a time, where it's easier to take on those small pieces than bite off the entire album-creating process at once. If I controlled the Universe that's what I'd have us do, haha.
Are you guys working on a new GNR album?
We're all songwriters. Hopefully this year we'll be able to put our ideas together and make a new album. We all talk about doing it, and are looking forward to it.
Are you touring with the band now?
Yes, we just headlined Rocklahoma and River City Rockfest, played Houston last night, playing Dallas tonight. As soon as we finish our last show in NYC I hop on a plane to come see you all in India. :)
Tell us about your experience recording for the album, Chinese Democracy.
Between touring we'd get together at studios in NY and LA, in October 2006 and January 2007. I'd spend 10 to 14 hours each day in the studio laying tracks with different guitars, amps, settings, for every song. I'd lay things that were more about groove, or more melodic, or more technical. For one song I might lay 100 ideas down, and then decisions would be made about what should be used in the song.
What kind of things inspires you to create music nowadays?
It's usually an event that inspires me emotionally, and the feeling turns into music. An idea can happen over the course of years, perfecting it in my head. Or it can happen in a few minutes with guitar in hand. It's always different, every time.
What do you think of the music scene in LA?
I'm an East Coast guy from Brooklyn, I could tell you more about the NY scene than the LA scene. There's a lot of talented bands with depth around NY... I couldn't tell you much about the LA scene.
What guitars do you use?
I play Vigier (www.vigierguitrs.com) guitars with DiMarzio (www.dimarzio.com) pickups. My main guitar is a custom fretless/fretted doubleneck. (Video at http://youtu.be/ePt2KhXdhM8?t=33s) I also play Parkwood (www.parkwoodguitars.com) acoustic guitars.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the music industry?
Hi-speed internet changed everything. Everything is online - your videos, your music, your info, your store, your contact, even your shows when streaming... it allows any band to have a world-wide virtual presence. For this reason, you no longer need to sell your soul to a record label like we use to, 15 or more years ago.
You performed in Mumbai last year. Did you get a chance to travel? What did you do the last time?
We did so much! We visited the Dhobi Ghat laundry bay, we ate at local restaurants, we visited some Hindu temples, went to shopping malls and I bought my wife a sari, we even played in the toy store at Mumbai airport, haha (http://instagram.com/p/TzOQMokX-b/) It was a wonderful time :)
What are your favourite Indian dishes?
Chicken Vindaloo, and a special Phaal curry I get in NY. It's said to be the hottest curry in NY. They have a contest - I won it twice, happily. (http://twitpic.com/21oc75) I LOVE spicy food. So much that I teamed up with the fiery food experts at Cajohns.com to release a line of Bumblefoot hot sauces, ranging from mild cherry-bourbon-chipotle “Bumblicious!” to extreme-heat hi-eneregy “BumbleF**KED”. The sauces actually won awards, I'm glad people are enjoying them! (http://bit.ly/bumblefkd)
What made you take up the guitar as your main instrument?
It was hearing KISS for the first time when I was 5 years old. By the time I was 6 I had a band, we were making our own demos, playing shows, making merch, doing everything a band does. And never stopped.
Which musicians have influenced your playing?
Ace Frehley (KISS), Angus Young (AC/DC), Jimi Hendrix, Brian May (Queen), some jazz and classical as well. But it was hearing Eddie Van Halen for the first time that had the most impact. It changed the way I thought about guitar and made me think of it as more than something you use to play songs, but also something you can express your individuality with. I love Chopin & Tchaikovsky, lounge music, '70s progressive, TV cartoon music, everything inspires.
What do you think of the records you have made so far and which one satisfies you the most? Why?
“Normal” (http://itunes.apple.com/album/normal/id125019479) and “Abnormal” (http://itunes.apple.com/album/abnormal/id282987232). “Normal” tells the story of a musician who took depression medication to become ‘normal’. The only downside was that he lost the music in his head and couldn’t write songs anymore. Eventually he had to choose between being normal and being musical. He chose music, went off the medication... and wrote this album. “Abnormal” was the follow-up album, written after joining Guns N' Roses, and the intensity that it added to my life. All the albums have personal moments but those two albums reflect two very special times in my life.
Have you been listening to musicians from India? Do you have any particular favourites?
Not enough. I get so wrapped up in recording and touring that the world starts to pass me by and I slowly lose awareness of what's going on in the world musically. I try to do my homework. Funky worldy “Something Relevant”, bluesy rock “The Mavyns”, alt-rock “The Color Compound” with their nice vocal melodies... “Peter Cat Recording Co.” is really unique! I listen & watch our opening acts. “Thermal And A Quarter” (www.thermalandaquarter.com) and Goddess Gagged (www.goddessgagged.com) were both fantastic. There's a very talented jazz fusion group I like, “Adil & Vasundhara” (www.oklisten.com/adilvasundhara) OK, I guess I know a few bands in India... :)
What are your forthcoming plans?
More of everything...! I'm collaborating with EastSport (www.eastsport.com) to release a line of guitar cases, some are specifically designed to make carrying guitars easier. I'm going to need that as I hope to keep visiting India! The guitar cases should be out by the end of the year, will keep you posted!
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal
Edited version posted at www.telegraphindia.com/1130605/jsp/t2/story_16970867.jsp