OF THE YEAR
GUITAR PART magazine, January 2006
Finally Normal ?
Few Musicians in the nowdays plain musical field seem as iconoclastic as Bumblefoot. The New York guitarist comes back with his 6th album, « Normal », more normal than ever. Is Bumblefoot finally normal ?
Sunday, 6PM, in a far sunset, a group dressed up in a bizarre way seem to wander. As they are approaching, it gets established that the queer fishes are all wearing, strait jackets. In the middle, Ron Thal seems visibly insane. « You’re lucky ! The haven’t had to wear their restraint masks today ! » laughs the manager.
A few minutes later, we’re all at the table of a restaurant. Sitting in his chair, arms hobbled by his strait jacket, Ron Thal tries to eat the mic as a snack. « Normal is the story of a guy who takes medication to become normal. But, as the treatment gets efficient, he can’t make music anymore. The music he had in his head is now silent. » Easy to think then that Normal is an autobiographical album. « The majority of the songs on the album are a reference to the time when I was taking meds to get my brain normal. At that time I was experiencing normal life. The problem was that I couldn’t compose anymore. It was as if someone had pushed a pause button in my head. During that time I was producing other people’s music only. It reached a point where I had to choose between living a normal life, but without music, or choose the life of music. And here we are. Once I had stopped the medication, I finished making the album. » And when I ask him if it was a necessary pause, he hesitates : « Well, it was a compromise... May be it was necessary ».
A little bit scared, the waitress arrives to take the order. Among the 6 albums he has written, « Normal » is probably the most wholly accessible, and let’s say, the most achieved. Though, Ron Thal doesn’t consider it in a different way than the previous ones : « There are all like my babies, “Normal“ is as important as the others, no more no less. I always give my best for any album, and hope to have a more numerous family in the future. I didn’t try to make an ‘accessible’ album, whatever comes out comes out. » More homogeneous, « Normal » sounds also sometimes more serious than the previous albums, maybe because of the main theme, normality. But here again, Ron’s vision is slightly different : « On 9/11, you had seriousness with songs like Time, some songs more light-hearted... it’s the same with “Normal,“ there are some happy moments, some sad moments... ,just like in real life. »
Nevertheless, the album deals with a strong questioning about normality : « Trying to be ‘normal’ is just like trying to be ‘perfect,’ it can’t be done. The only worthwhile goal is to be yourself. » A questioning deeper than the weird and mad surface shown by the man. And, as soon as we talk about some songs like The Color Of Justice, he sounds more outraged, disenchanted and in a way, more cynical... Like a contained anger.
The first course arrives... Still in his strait jacket, Ron dives, nose first, in his plate of steamed vegetables and grabs a broccoli that he swallows almost without chewing. It’s time for questions about solos. The album is full of them... But they are always with a purpose. No wanking : « I don’t really compose my solos. I think them, and then I play. If I like, I keep and double them. If I don’t like them I don’t keep. It’s very simple. And I don’t write them, because a solo is a moment of spontaneity, a moment of truth. »
After struggling with the veggies, it’s time for onion soup. Here, hands are required. Releasing « Normal » was an obstacle course. Some difficulties Ron imposed on himself as he’s very demanding... with himself ! He dealt with everything from the artwork to the mastering which was a real jigsaw : « I had it mastered five times and spent a lot of money trying to get the right sound. I was so close to it, I didn’t trust what I was hearing. So I tried two mastering studios in New York, but still wasn’t happy with the results. In the end I finished it myself. »
The dinner ends, the character bustles and rises again to the surface and when I ask him if he has one word to add, he answers « One last word…? Pelf (then spelling it) P-E-L-F. I don’t think it’s a word, it probably doesn’t mean anything. »
The Rockstar-For-A-Day Interview
« What kind of products do you use for your hair »
I use a product called Bedhead - helps with the frizzies.
What kind of clothes do you wear ?
Mainly strait jackets
What’s your reaction with not being seen in Britney’s company ?
(burping) That’s my reaction. Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Who are you ?
(upset / joking) What !! ? You don’t know ? You should !! Everybody knows… !!
What’s you’re favorite color ?
Blue, no Yell-- aaaaaaaaaaahhhh !! (Monty Python’s Holy Grail…)