Guitarlords Interview (Mexico)
1- The amazing Ron Thal (aka Bumblefoot) !!,
thanks for your time!
It's my pleasure - thank YOU for the opportunity to say hello to all the guitarists of Mexico!
2- Please tell us about your personal history and background for the guitar fans at Mexico
Well, let's see. Back in the late 1800's, in Lithuania, a woman named Ida married a man named Morris. They had 10 kids, one named Razel, who married a man named Julius. They moved to Poland, changed their names to escape to America and landed in Brooklyn NY, where they had two kids, Hy and Sol. Meanwhile in another part of Brooklyn, Alex and Hattie had two daughters, Sandy and Judy. Hy met Judy after coming back from Europe where he was stationed in the military and they got married in 1960. Barry Manilow was at the wedding. 7 years later Jeff was born. 2 years later I was born. In case you were wondering, Sandy begot June and Terri, Terri met Steve and they begot Valerie. (That's what you meant by "personal history", right??)
3- What motivated you to want to learn to play the guitar?
I was 6 years old and was not getting any sex from the girls in school. I thought maybe if I learned to play guitar I'd get some.
4- I always figured you could play pretty much any style you wanted, but what do you like to play a lot?
I like to play card games a lot, like Poker or Black Jack. And some video games - Pong, Space Invaders... never was a big fan of Pacman.
5- All of the music within your repertoire showcases your depth as a musician and your strong technique as a gifted guitar player. Tell us about your technique and how you developed it?
Honestly, I didn't try to develop technique, it just happened over the years. What worked for me was to play as if I was unable to speak and it was my only way to communicate. I didn't focus on technique, didn't practice scales over and over - that will make you better at playing scales, but it doesn't connect your playing to your heart and your thoughts and feelings. I'd turn on the radio to any station, any style of music, and try to play along, try to compliment the vocals, try to develop intuition for where the song might be going. Don't concern yourself with technique, just play to add a guitar part to the music.
6- Who are your main influences?
Eddie Van Halen had the biggest influence on me. I was also very influenced by George Martin, producer of the Beatles - the string lines and instrumentation he'd add to the Beatles' songs were genius.
7- Who is your favorite guitar player?
Guthrie Govan is one of my favorites... he's an old friend from before the days of email - he lived in the UK, I lived in NYC and we'd write back and forth. Incredible player!
8- Which is your approach or inspiration to write a song? Tell us in details.
It's always different - it can start with a drum rhythm, lyrics, a guitar riff, melody... sometimes an entire song will just pop into my head completely arranged, like a flash when you remember an entire event in one blast. Songs mostly come to me when I'm nowhere near an instrument - the whole process happens in my head. Inspiration comes from living life - going out and experiencing all you can. Ok, picture writing a story about something interesting that happened to you. The story probably wouldn't be about your guitar-practice regiment - probably something broader and more profound. The kind of events that would inspire you to write them down in words are the same events that should stir you up internally to make a song. Let your music tell who you are.
9- What equipment are you currently using? How does the choice of equipment influence your music?
Line6 Vetta II combo, Vigier guitars. The fretless guitar has had more of an influence on my music - it's like learning to speak a new language. I love the fretless...
10- What projects are you currently working on?
I just completed re-finishing the stairs at the studio. Stained them a dark red mahogany color and a glossy polyurethane finish - they look beautiful! Now I'm laying a new floor in the downstairs rooms.
Musically? A lot of producing. Producing is my favorite thing...
11- You are a very diverse, creative force. Tell us about some of the more diverse projects that you have collaborated on?
Thank you sir. hmmmmmmm... I once recorded a religious Nigerian singing group, also produced a 13-piece Mexican band - they didn't speak English, I didn't speak Spanish. Produced some hip-hop and R&B, jazz, classical, opera, punk... every group I work with is unique, it feels like every time I work with someone it's something new. Which is one of the many things I enjoy about the studio. At the University where I teach music production, every student is unique and special - I have them each producing a song for a Caribbean-flavored acoustic rock singer. That might be one of the most diverse things I'm doing, because there are so many people bringing ideas to the music. Very cool. The singer is a professional video editor and was just nominated for an Emmy - talented guy!
12- Do you love doing live performances?
I enjoy performing when I'm on stage, but when I'm off stage I don't enjoy the idea of performing as much as the actual performance. That didn't make sense, did it...? My heart is more in the creation of music - that's why I love the studio and producing. Performing is fun, but I don't look forward to it as much as I do producing.
13- Where is the line between performer and musician for you?
Good question! :) Musicians do the creating, performers deliver it to the world. A person can be a musician and a performer, but I don't think the drive for each comes from the exact same place. For me, I could live without performing as long as I was creating. But I couldn't live with performing and not creating. Everyone is different... Some people would be most happy sight-reading symphonies in an orchestra, or gigging all the time - others would rather be locked away in a studio writing, recording, producing... hmmm... the physical act of playing music could be considered performing, even if nobody else is there to see and hear it. Soooooooooo, I guess being a musician is what happens when you extend yourself inward, and being a performer is what happens when you extend yourself outward. That's it. Being a musician is an internal connection, being a performer is an external connection.
14- How can a guitar player transform his technical potential in music with melodies and structures and not only exercises?
The best way is to write a lot of music. Not just guitar riffs. The technique will happen when the guitarist plays the song, but the guitarist shouldn't spend more time practicing technique than playing music. Play what you want to hear, not just what's fun for the fingers.
15- When you were a kid, did you ever think that you would someday be considered one of the best guitar players of the world?
Haha, where is this world you speak of??? Me??? No way!! THANK YOU for the kind thought :)
16- Have you ever done a song or album that you wish you could go back in time and un-do? If so, which one, and why?
Every single one. I feel like the music represents me at the time, then months later I feel like I need to modify the song to make it fit the newer vision I have for the music. Once I finish an album I never listen to it again.
17- What are your thoughts on the state of instrumental guitar these days?
In the 80's people would hear it on albums and the radio, in the 90's on TV (theme songs like Beverly Hills 90210, commercials like the Sony one with Satch's song...) Now, I don't know. I don't hear guitar in the front of a song as often, but I'm noticing more guitar being used - kinda cool to hear guitar solos in pop and hip-hop.
18- What do you think about the new crop of talented Guitar player's that are currently out there making music?
Definitely some great players out there. Each generation picks up some new additional perspective and I like hearing what they add. It went from just speed picking to tapping, to 7-string guitars, to more synth-guitar and fx. Once a style is born, it never dies. I like seeing how a piece of it lives on as guitar playing continues to evolve.
19- Which is in your opinion the best way for an undiscovered artist to be less unknown with his music?
The INTERNET. The best method of connecting to people. You don't have to depend on worldwide promoters and retail distro, you can make a website and sell your CDs online. All art should have the right to live - independent music finally has the opportunity to have a life.
20- When all is said and done, years from now, how would you want people to remember Ron Thal?
As much taller and thinner than I actually am.
21- What will be next for Bumblefoot?
Lunch, in about an hour.
22- and can we expect a new album soon?
I'm so busy working on other people's albums that the time keeps slipping by. I have songs and a concept for the next CD, but it's all in my head and doesn't want to come out... meanwhile I'm doing some guest appearances on other people's albums. I'll post a few on bumblefoot.com after they've been released.
23- If you want to add something more for the site, please feel free to say what you want!
Here's a riff for ya.
24- Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. We wish you all the best for your music career you are a really GREAT guitar player!. Please keep Guitar Lords up to date on the goings on with you and the band.
Thank YOU!! Best wishes to you and everybody reading this. Take care!
4 MAR 2004