Young Guitar magazine (Japan)
8-page Interview / Lesson
Original text sent to magazine:
[About the BUMBLEFOOT album "Normal" (released in Dec. 2005 in U.S.A./unreleased in Japan)]
Q) First of all, it has been a long time for you to have the interview with YOUNG GUITAR. So, could you talk about your musical activities in recent years as solo (BUMBLEFOOT)?
It's a pleasure to talk with you guys again, been a long time! Been keeping busy - I started my own label in the late 90's and released 5 albums, I have a studio in NJ where I produce other bands, and make music for TV shows. I'm a member of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation - we make fundraising shows and all the profits go to medical research. I've been touring Europe for almost 10 years with my band, and I teach music production at a University in NY when I'm not touring. For the past year, I've been playing guitar in Guns N' Roses, and will hopefully be seeing you in Japan soon on tour with them!
Q) The "9.11" album has some guest appearances of Mattias "IA" Eklundh and Dweezl Zappa. You also have toured with Mattias, haven't you? How was it?
Touring with Mattias is always wonderful. Anything with Mattias is always wonderful - he has a great spirit, and not only is he an amazing songwriter, guitarist and singer, he's mostly an amazing person. I've visited his Freak Guitar Camp in Sweden and had the greatest time, it's a wonderful atmosphere there, very inspiring. Two years ago we did 4 days of master-classes and performances at the Raleigh Music Academy in North Carolina, it was hysterical! A lot of laughter, a lot of great musical moments, a very memorable experience. We did a mini-tour together in 2005, my band and Freak Kitchen, all of us in a van driving around France and Switzerland in snow storms, haha, it was great! I miss those guys!
Q) You might have toured with each albums ("HANDS","9.11", "UNCOOL"). Who were other band members?
For the past five years the drummer is Dennis Leeflang, ( www.dennisleeflang.com ) a great drummer and friend. He's from The Netherlands, living in NYC now. We met while I was touring Europe in 2000/2001 - during that tour, the drummer was Lafrae Olivia Sci, she's stayed a close friend of mine. The bassist "Elmobo" and guitarist "Fanalo" were from the band Plug-In, ( www.plugin-band.com ) we played together with Dennis until the last tour in late 2005, when their band got busy with recording and touring. They were a great team to play with, their band Plug-In is fantastic. For that last tour, to support the "Normal" CD, it was bassist Joe Nerve and Randy Nerve, from a band I had recorded at my studio called The Nerve. They're in the music video to the song "Real", from the Normal CD. (Available at "video" section of www.bumblefoot.com )
Q) About your latest album as BUMBLEFOOT, "normal". How did you record this? Was it a band recording or all by yourself with computer for drum and bass parts?
I took a different approach with this album. I wrote all the songs on an acoustic guitar, just singing and strumming chords. Would hang out with Dennis, play the songs that way, he would listen and start tapping out beats and ideas with his hands in the room. The next step was playing them with Dennis on the drums, me on guitar and vocals, getting comfortable with how we would re-interpret the songs onto louder instruments, adding more style to the songs. Then we started recording, my tracks were as a reference, drum tracks were to keep. We'd record songs, live with them for a few days as we started the process with other songs. Then we'd go back and re-record drums with new ideas, and continued this way for all the songs. As we'd commit to drum tracks, I'd lay bass, then my guitars and vocals. I was recording 24-7 Spyz' album "Face The Day" ( www.24-7spyz.com ) at my studio while working on my album, they would lay backing vocals on my album, I would lay backing vocals on theirs. I like having a big musical family, made of the bands I worked with at the studio, band members I toured with, it's like a family that keeps growing, and everyone is supportive of each other. I started working with an electronic-rock artist named Q*Ball ( www.qballmusic.com ) about ten years ago, now he runs the label my albums are on, Bald Freak Music ( www.baldfreak.com ). Dennis Leeflang, Joe Nerve and I have been Q*Ball's band for live shows, I co-write songs, play guitar and record Q*Ball's albums. The first drummer for Q*Ball was Chris Pennie, from Dillinger Escape Plan, also Coheed & Cambria. They've started a new band together with guitarist Bret Aveni, from a band Q*Ball used to play keyboards in, called Getaway Car. I'm helping them with the recording and Q's vocal arrangements. The growing family - everyone helps everyone. And in the end, each person's contribution makes a significant difference, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With the right people on board, it always is.
Q) To me, this album has the same feeling of the Ron Thal world as what I felt from the past albums in terms of pursuing the ability for the guitar to express and the songwriting based on that expression. I guess that's the base of the whole concept, isn't that?
Honestly, I try not to think about it, I just let everything happen without guidelines, boundaries. I want the music to be as honest as possible, so in a way it's like throwing paint at a canvas, and looking at it after it's done to understand what it is. I don't think about technique, I write the songs in my head before ever touching the guitar, and when I play the guitar I try to think about the attitude and character of the song, and sing and play with that attitude. I've recorded songs, and even if the performance was perfect, if I felt like the emotional message was not delivered properly, or it was not the exact message, I would start over. The most important think is making someone feel what you feel, when they listen to the song. This is my biggest concern. The recordings must capture the right imperfections to make them human and alive, like capturing the perfect still photograph of a moving image, I get very obsessive over it. You might listen and say "Relax, it's just a song, and certainly not a masterpiece...!" Yes, but that's because I'm not a masterpiece - I'm just a flawed living thing striving to leave the world with the best contribution I can make. Once you give a song to the world, it can live forever. If I'm going to do this, I feel an obligation and responsibility to give my best. And to me, what makes it best is how it makes people feel, how it medicates a person's soul, even if only for a moment, but hopefully as a lasting feeling.
Q) So, this album is the gathering of unique and totally unexpected tracks. Why did you name title this "normal"? Is that some kind of joke with anti-thesis of "In this current world, who can say what is normal?" or something like that?
"Normal" is a true story of a musician who was suffering from depression. He starts taking medicine, and for the first time in his life, he feels "normal". The only problem, he soon realizes, is that the medicine is blocking his ability to write music, his head was once filled with music, and it's now silent. Through the album he evaluates different parts of his life from a new perspective. Eventually, he feels he must choose what's more important to him - the happiness with silence, or music. In the end, he chooses music, but takes with him everything he just experienced, everything he realized about life, that there is no "normal", there just is what is, and what we make of what is.
Q) Are there any other concepts for this album?
The album is about *balance*, realizing that good and bad are only ideas, they only exist in our perception, and they are interlocking pieces that complete each other, creating the whole. They're one and the same, a piece of one in the other, and they only exist as what we choose to see them as. Getting to experience the same life from two opposite points of view make you realize, there is no pretty, no ugly, it's how we choose to process what we see - the object doesn't change, how we objectify it is what changes. And it is something we absolutely choose. We can't control what we will encounter in life, we can only control our reactions to it.
Q) As far as the guitar playing technique, There were amazing moments like twin harmony in "Overloaded", tapping phrase in "Turn Around", etc. But I guess the most difficult recording process must have been "The Color Of Justice". How was that?
It's a pattern that expands from main riff ( B A# B C B A# B C B A# B C D D# E F ), first by adding a Major 7th after each note, then variation with diminished 5ths. Trying to make it feel like a panic attack, that evolves into a throbbing headache and tightness in the jaw, with steady stabbing and crunching sounds, and lastly a sense of having no control. (File of transcription attached...) Rest your 1st finger across the strings to dampen them, then hammer-on notes with your other fingers. In the first two measures, the first two notes are played with your fretting hand, the next two notes are tapped with your picking hand, and they alternate back-and-forth. In the third and fourth measures, you tap a chord and pull-off onto harmonics on the 9th fret, where you're resting your 1st finger on the neck. Technique in the last two measures is similar to the first two measures.
Q) Just before the solo of "Real", suddenly the tempo of the song gets faster. I thought this should be one of the difficult techniques (no matter you are playing with computer or band members). What do you think?
Haha, yes, it's not easy to stay tight with the rhythm that speeds up like that! It's important to always listen to the drummer, and follow his lead. Always. The guitar is not the leader, the drums are. The main riff in "Real" is a chicken-pickin' riff, picking the down-beats, finger-picking the up-beats... (File of transcription attached...)
Q) On the other hand, I felt the Beatles influence from "Pretty Ugly" and "Breaking". In "Breaking", I also thought it is a little bit like QUEEN, too, in a nice way. Am I correct?
Yes, I love Queen, and The Beatles! Their inspiration and influence shows on those songs, and "Shadow".
Q) In the song "Shadow" there is an improvisational solo. Is that correct? Were the most guitar tracks arranged carefully before the recording?
I almost always improvise solos, make them up as I'm recording. I'll hit record, play a solo, maybe keep it up to a certain point, then punch in the rest, or re-record some ideas that develop, but I usually don't plan solos ahead of time. Spontaneity is important. On Normal, I planned things out in "The Color Of Justice", where the song didn't call for an improvised type of solo, and the tapping section in the solo of "Turn Around". (File of transcription attached...)
Q) Please let me know which guitars and equipment(amps, effects) you have used in "normal".
I used the Vigier Foot guitar, with DiMarzio pickups (Tone Zone at the bridge, Chopper at the neck) and the Line6 Vetta2 amp, with all the effects from the amp. I think I only used the wah-pedal, maybe some delay and reverb for ambience.
Q) It seems like the "VIGIER" is your main guitar. How come did you start to play that? In that guitar, what do you like the most?
Vigier guitars are my favorite. I met them I was touring in France in 1997, the guys from Vigier came to a show and brought me a guitar to try out. I loved it, it was the first time I played a guitar that felt more comfortable than the guitars I was playing, ones I had built and customized myself. (Information about guitars at the "gear" section of bumblefoot.com) Since then, I've been using their guitars - we even made a signature series, it's pretty cool. Nothing crazy, not shaped like a giant foot or anything, haha, just a well-made guitar. DiMarzio pickups with a cool configuration that includes an out-of-phase setting, there's even a magnetized hole to keep your thimble in...! I keep a metal thimble on my picking-hand 4th finger to tap notes higher than the fretboard - check out the song "Guitars Suck" on the 9.11 album to hear an example of it... (File of transcription attached...) What I love most about Vigier guitars are the necks. They're perfect. They never warp, they never need adjusting, doesn't matter what the temperature or humidity is, or if you switch the gauge of strings, the neck is consistently perfect every time you take the guitar out of the case. They use a strip of graphite running through the neck instead of a metal truss rod, and after 10 years of touring with them, the necks feel as good as the first time I played them.
Q) Did you play the fretless guitar in "normal"? What's your favorite thing in the fretless guitars?
I didn't play much fretless on the Normal CD, there's a lot on the '9.11" and "Forgotten Anthology" CDs, some moments on the "Uncool" CD too. I love the freedom, there are techniques only possible on a fretless, like dragging and sliding harmonics and pinched harmonics, there's a dissonance and tension that can only be made on a fretless. Vigier's fretless has a metal fretboard that brings out sustain better than the others with wood necks. Vigiers are the best.
Q) Currently you are collecting ideas of the designs for your new guitar as "Foot Guitar v2 contest". Have you got anything interesting?
A lot of people have submitted designs, but we haven't found the winning design yet. We're going to continue the contest until we do. Looking for something different from the first Foot guitar. Something that isn't as obvious, it shouldn't look like a giant human foot, the way the first guitar did. Something less comical this time, something that shows a different side.
Q) Are you using the "Vetta II" by Line 6 for the guitar amp? Which modeling amp patches did you use?
Yes, I'm using the Vetta2 combo at home, and on tour I use a Vetta2 head and Marshall 4x12 cab. The patches I use are a simulation of an old Marshall and a simulated Deizel mixed together.
Q) Could you tell more details about the "Vetta II" patch settings including built-in cabinet, mic type, effects, etc.?
Amp1 is the "03 Deity Lead" (Drive knob set at 4 o'clock, Bass at 11 o'clock, Mid at 2 o'clock, Treble at 1 o'clock, Presence at 9 o'clock and Volume at 1 o'clock), Amp2 is the "87 Brit Gain J-800" (Drive at 2 o'clock, Bass at 3 o'clock, Mid at 2 o'clock, Treble at 1 o'clock, Presence at 11 o'clock, Volume at 2 o'clock). For both amp 1 and 2, I set the compressor at -12dB Threshold, +10dB Gain, 2.0:1 Ratio, a 4ms Attack to keep the notes punchy, and a fast 20ms Release to keep the notes up-front. The cab simulation for amp1 is "4x12 Green 25", for amp2 it's "4x12 Line6". I use the global EQ to give an extra boost to the mids, to bring out more tone. For amp1, I add +2dB Gain at 400Hz with a width of .5q, and +2dB Gain at 2000Hz with a wider .2q width. For amp2, +2dB at 440Hz with 1.0q, and +2dB at 5000Hz with .2q. One of my favorite stomp box settings on the Vetta2 is the Synth/Filter "Auto-Wah", a wah controlled by the dynamics you hit the notes with. I set the Sensitivity at 10 o'clock and the Q at 1 o'clock. Another is the "Reverse Delay", set at 1000ms Time, 100% Mix, 0% Feedback. Everything you play comes out reversed in 1000ms intervals.
Q) Do you have any idea for the next album?
Yes, I was thinking of a double album, calling it "Pretty Ugly". One disc would be more melodic songs, the other disc would be more intense and over-the-top. So far I've written some of the melodic songs, and hopefully will have enough time to finish writing and get everything recorded this year.
Q) From now on, how will you do make balance between GUNS 'N' ROSES and your solo projects?
It's not a problem, everything works out the way it's meant to. Always does.
[About GUNS 'N' ROSES(GN'R)]
Q) First, how did you join the band? When did you get this offer?
Joe Satriani recommended me to them in the Summer of 2004. During that time, GnR and I spoke a bit, but didn't get active until late April 2006.
Q) Did you take any audition? If yes, how was the situation of it?
We started jamming late April, early May 2006. Each day we'd play a few more songs, after two weeks we started doing shows.
Q) Do you know how the situation of GN'R at that time(how other members were doing, the working situation as a band)?
At the time I didn't know much about anything, the members, or what they had been doing. I've enjoyed getting to know the band, the crew, their families and friends. I didn't know what the situation would be, but that's ok. It's best to not try to control things and expect things, it's better to accept things as they are, and find your place.
Q) My guess is the music of GN'R is pretty much different from your creative guitar world. But honestly, what do you think about their music?
The new GnR music is very creative, very involved. The songs are composed and detailed. Drums, bass, three guitarists, two keyboardists, vocals, backing vocals, loops and samples, endless possibilities.
Q) Back in the year of 1987, what was your impression for "APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION"?
I remember as a teenager watching MTV late one night, seeing the video to "Welcome To The Jungle" for the first time, saying to myself "This is something special..." My friends and I all bought the album, some of us had a cover band for fun and played a few songs off it - everyone loved it. The album made an impact like no other.
Q) After joining the band, what was the first thing to do for the band ? Was it the rehearsal for the live or the recording of the new album?
We rehearsed for the two weeks and immediately started touring, from May through December 2006. In between, I'd go into the studio and lay tracks for the album.
Q) What does Axl Rose expect from you? What do you think?
I'd think it would be the same things I expect of myself, and what GnR fans would expect of me. To care, to be myself and be real, to appreciate, honor and respect the music and give all I can give, to be thoughtful and considerate and do what's best for the band. This is what I ask from the people in my solo band, this is what I ask of myself in GnR.
Q) With keeping that in mind, what do you think about your role in current GN'R?
I'm very happy with it. I'm part of a great team.
Q) When was the first live as GN'R? When was it?
May 12, 2006, in NYC.
Q) How do you feel it?
I was having fun, but had to concentrate on song arrangements. I was still learning songs a few hours before going on stage, I had songs written out in my pocket, haha. But I had faith that everything would be ok, I accepted that everything would happen as it was meant to.
Q) When you play the past stuff, do other members, Axl for example, tell you how to play the song or certain phrases?
Everyone has freedom to be themselves and play their own way. We'll make suggestions to each other, share thoughts and ideas, but there are no dictators. It's quite the opposite, we're supportive of each other's individuality.
Q) Is there anything you specially care when playing the past songs?
I think of the spirit of the song, the energy, the drive, the way the song makes people feel.
Q) In live, you have your own solo time. What kind of play do you do? Do you play in your own style?
I try to make it fun. I play an instrumental version of "Don't Cry" and the audience sings along. But I mix it up, I've played Van Halen's "Eruption", at Christmas I sang and played "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch", Ace Frehley's solo from the Kiss Alive! album, sometimes just technical tapping and speed soloing. Yeah, I just have fun with it.
Q) According to the official site, the new album is nearly finished. Has the recording already been done?
I finished laying guitar tracks in January, and everything is moving forward, they're mixing the album right now.
Q) Please let me know as far as you can tell. First, when and where did the recording start?
Ooh, I don't know exactly. Long before I joined...
Q) Other guitarists are Robin Finck and Richard Fortus. Are there any changes?
No changes, everything is solid, happy to say.
Q) Do three of you divide the guitar plays?
We play together, complimenting each other, harmonizing each other's solos and rhythms.
Q) During the album recording, how did you contribute as a guitarist?
A bit of everything. Sometimes it would be a crazy fretless solo, sometimes I'd just play a new rhythm track that's loose and free, with more fills, I'd try to make a cool riff out of the rhythm. For most of the songs, I tried to add a vibe, an attitude to the guitars.
Q) Did you join the songwriting and/or making guitar riffs?
The songs were already written by the time I joined the band, but I tried to add new ideas to the songs wherever it fit. Like in the title track "Chinese Democracy", the fretless guitar in the verses.
Q) Musically and sonically, what is the album like?
I haven't heard the final mixes yet, but from what I've heard, it's very intense and in-your-face. There are some great songs on the album, that I think will surprise people.
Q) In GN'R ,you are playing the Les Paul guitar. Do you have any reasons for that?
It fits the band. I also use the Vigier fretless, Vigier Bumblefoot Signature Series guitar, and Parkwood acoustic guitars, but for most of the concert I'm playing a Paul.
Q) What other guitars, amps and effects did you use on GN'R recording?
In the recording I used a Les Paul, and the Vigier fretless. We used a few different Marshall amps and cabinets, a wah pedal, but most of the stuff was pretty raw, not a lot of effects.
Q) Did you try to differentiate the guitar sound between GN'R and your solo project?
In GnR, I have more of a distorted classic-rock sound, with the solo stuff I use cleaner single-coil guitar sounds. I don't think the sound I use for my solo music would cut through the wall of guitars and keys in GNR, I go with a thicker sound for GnR.
Q) Do you plan using "BUMBLEFOOT GUITAR" or "B.B.F.S.C.G." on stage as GN'R?
I used to use the Foot guitar ( http://www.bumblefoot.com/gear/guitar08.htm ) for my main solo with GnR, but during the Summer '06 European tour, the guitar suffered some damage, a problem with the wings, so I stopped using it. Maybe I'll bring out the Swiss Cheese guitar for one of the tours...?
Q) If the recordings finally gets released, this is going to be a big surprise after the "USE YOUR ILLUSION I" and "USE YOUR ILLUSION II" in 1991. How do you feel of joining to play on this memorable album?
I'm VERY proud to be part of the album.
Q) In the end of the last year, Axl Rose was telling that the new album is going to be in store on March 6th, 2007 even though it's still not 100% sure yet. How high is the possibility of it?
If it isn't March 6th, it shouldn't be long after. Very soon.
Q) Axl is also telling that the title would be "CHINESE DEMOCRACY". Have you heard what that title means?
Hmmmm, we should probably wait to find out the full meaning after the album is released... :)
Q) Also, GN'R Japan tour has been announced and it'll be in April!!
Yes! I'm so happy!! We're very excited to come to Japan!!
Q) I'm looking forward to getting the new album and Japan concerts!
Thank you very much for your contribution.
It's my pleasure, thank you! And thank you to all the Young Guitar readers, I hope to see everyone soon!
22 FEB 2007