see also: Bumblefoot - Hands (CD Review)
Bumblefoot - 9/11 (CD Review)
Bumblefoot - Uncool (CD Review)

~interview by Eric Rasmussen

This month we decided to brave the turbulent seas of... er... just you try coming up with an analogy that works with "Bumblefoot." How's this: We're branching out into the land of honey and striped-feet to bring you an interview with one of music's most innovative and downright wacky artists - the inimitable Bumblefoot.

Eric: We should get the basics out of the way first - what are your biggest musical influences? Have you pretty much always been into music?

Bumblefoot: Hello sir.  The basics - yep, always into music.  Grew up on the Beatles and old Kiss, alot of metal Manowar, Maiden, 70s prog stuff like Yes...  not alot of guitar music though.  Also listened to alot of punk music and was in a punk band as a kid.  The closest thing to guitar music I really was into was Van Halen.  Listened to early Malmsteen, but my biggest influence was George Martin, the Beatles' producer that flavored up all their stuff with cellos and sheeit...

Eric: How did you start developing your unique guitar style? Were there any particular guitarists or other musicians that inspired your guitar lunacy?

Bumblefoot: The eye-opening moment that fucked me up for life was the first time I heard the intro to "Mean Streets" from Van Halen.  Didn't know what tapping was before then...    but mostly, it all happened from *not* listening to what guitarists were doing, and just entertaining myself.  I had an overactive brain and too much time.  So I'd try and play all the parts to a song at the same time, and that pretty much did it...

Eric: What sort of music do you listen to in your spare time?

Bumblefoot: Alot of old Motown stuff - the Four Tops, Smokey, Foundations...

Eric: Alright, let's move on to your second Bumblefoot album. Uncool features a lot of your great singing and vocal harmonies - the diversity of vocal styles across songs and even within them is impressive. How do you decide what types of styles to fit into each song?

Bumblefoot: I don't set any guidelines or make any rules - art is the only place where you don't have to have rules.  It's a necessary balance for how structured life can get.  So I just picture something in my head and try to translate it into music, trying to capture the same feeling.  I write everything in my head without touching the guitar - this way I think about the song as its own thang without getting caught up in the self-indulgence that can happen when it becomes about the physical playing of the song.

Eric: Your latest album, 9/11, was a big departure from Uncool and was a lot more guitar oriented. Songs like "Lost" and "Raygun" feature solos that make sounds that you'd expect from synthesizers, not guitars. What do you think is the most important thing when writing a solo?

Bumblefoot: Most important thing is to listen.  Be a listener when you're playin'.  I don't write solos - I keep em spontaneous so they stay more of a true expression.  The end of "Raygun" is about as close as I get to planning a solo - even the song after it was made up on the spot as I was recording.  It becomes a problem later on when people wanna hear the solo note for note and I have no idea what I did.  Then I have to go back and figure it out and practice it for a month or two.

Eric: Can you give us some insight into your live performances? How much do you stick to the original music? I've only heard the free "T-Jonez" unplugged mp3 to judge your live music by - and I still don't know what to think! Where did the punk song come from?

Bumblefoot: The live shows are always more gritty and raw.  It's never been about guitar to me, it's about the songs and pushing the most energy out of 'em.  Alot of times we'd just bust out an old metal cover or a hardcore version of a Britney Spears song or whatever we feel at that moment.  Now I'm playing with different bands in different countries - it's very cool.  Each band interprets the music their own way and gives the music its own sound.  In Holland I just toured with the musicians from Sun Caged, a prog metal band - drums, bass and keyboards.  In France it's the musicians from the band Plug-In, an instrumental rock band with drums bass and guitar.  I play sing and play guitar synth (all the horn hits, flute solos, etc.) and fretless guitar.

Eric: Are there any guitar pieces you're incapable of playing? Curiosity demands that I ask this, but don't worry, I won't list any answers in the reviews. "Hey everyone, listen to Bumblefoot! He can't play any of the following songs..."

Bumblefoot: Sure, there's tons of stuff out there.  But I'm not out to prove anything to anyone.   I mean, anyone can do anything if they dedicate themselves.  But given the choice of spending quality time with people I love or learning an Alan Holdsworth solo note-for-note, I'm not gonna work on the solo...

Eric: Have you ever considered a career in opera?

Bumblefoot: I've thought about it.   But I think I look like a fat opera singer more than I sound like one.

Eric: Let's recap: the first Bumblefoot CD was Hands, and it was full of quality experimental rock music with impossible guitar solos. Then came Uncool, a largely indescribable experimental rock meets 70's lounge album; and it was focused on your singing. Lastly we've got 9/11, a mostly guitar oriented foray into strange music. I have no idea what you might come up with next. Have you started work on new material? What can you tell us about it?

Bumblefoot: Actually, there was a re-release of the Uncool CD after 9/11, in Feb 2002.  The first version (released in France only, Sept 2000) was more the vision of the French label that released it - the new version is more of how I saw the CD.   Now I'm working on a "crapology" cd of unreleased songs dating back to 94.  I have my own studio now, in Princeton NJ and am finishing incomplete recordings of old songs - should be out by early 2003.  Also doing alot of producing - hardcore bands, punk bands, folk, pop and hiphop artists.  This year I got into writing for TV and film, mostly punk, metal and rap. I'm a fukkin workaholic - I'm in a race against time to get as much music into the world as I can.  Not sure what new B'foot music is gonna sound like.  I won't plan it - as the song says, "we make plans, God laughs" - just gotta capture the moment when it happens.  Don't know what it'll sound like - all a question of what happens in life from now till then...

Eric: Is there anything else you'd like to share with your fans/critics/bemused-observers?

Bumblefoot: Yeah - visit - my best friend Ralph was hit with Multiple Sclerosis in 97 - it ended his music career.  Instead of giving up, he started a fundraising group run entirely by volunteers and all the money goes to research - for real - he's not looking to get rich, he's looking to walk again.  Go to the site, get to know him, then email him and let him know ya care.  He's my inspiration - he proves that your spirit doesn't break unless you let it.

Conclusion bit:
We owe Bumblefoot a big thanks for indulging our questions. If this interview hasn't inspired you to go listen to Bumblefoot, maybe a more direct approach will: you're missing out if you don't visit