Guns N' Roses guitarist

(Fall 2007) by George Dionne

Ron Thal is more accomplished than you might think. In the 1990's alone he released seven albums and a live DVD. In addition to that he's appeared as a guest musician on numerous albums, contributed as a studio musician, composed soundtracks and jingles, produced and engineered albums, composed classic orchestral pieces, and much, much more. Ron doesn't limit himself to one genre either, you can find him playing, pop, rock, hip-hop, alternative, progressive, and anything else he's in the mood for.

Thal recently started his own record label with his good buddy Ron Scalzo (Q*Ball) called Bald Freak Music, which employs musicians just as diverse as Bumblefoot himself. Thal recently landed a gig as touring guitarist for the current Guns N' Roses line-up. After their tour of Europe, Thal took a break to give a guitar clinic and impromptu performance at LocoFest in Mansfield, Massachusetts. That's where we caught up with him.

RIL: If I knew absolutely nothing about Bumblefoot, how would you describe your music to me?
BF: Iím the wrong guy to ask.  I would just be like, "it's pure crap, donít listen to it, run the other wayÖ."  Well, a lot of people say it reminds them a bit of Mike Patton-y ďFaith no MoreĒ type stuff. Itís a little quirky and slightlyÖÖ

RIL: A little left of the dial?
BF: Yeah

RIL: Would you say itís a little Primus like?
BF: Yeah, itís got some funky moments. If you listen to Primus and you listen to Faith No More, things like that, thereís a chance that you might find something that you like in what Iím doing.

RIL: If I were to buy your current album Normal, what songs should I pay particular attention to and why?
BF: I'd say you gotta listen to the whole thing and take in the whole thing as one entire story from beginning to end to really get the vibe and get the whole side of whatís happening here. As for one song, I donít know, I might have to say the song ďRealĒ the second song, the one we did the video to. Did that video in my studio...

RIL: Bumblefoot isnít just the name of the band, itís also the moniker you go by. How did you come up with the name?
BF: Bumblefoot actually means ulcerative pododermatitis, itís an animal disease. My wife was studying to become a veterinarian and I was helping her and we saw it in there. I thought it was such a silly name I wanted to write a song about it and eventually it became the name of the band and shortly after people started to call me ďBumblefootĒ.

RIL: You actually have a guitar that is a foot mixed with a bumblebee. Does such a guitar get you a lot of strange looks or comments?
BF: Oh yeah, you should see in airports putting that thing on the conveyer belt. It stops and comes back out a few times. Then security looks at me and looks at the guitar then at me again.

RIL: Has anyone from Stryper contacted you about the guitar?
BF: (Laughs) yeah, I get it, yellow and black attack...

RIL: How did you land the gig as the guitarist for Guns Ní Roses?
BF: It was actually Joe Satrani that shot me an e-mail and said that they were looking for somebody, and recommended me to them. We eventually got in touch started talking and then we started touring and recording and here we are now.

RIL: Were you a student of Satrianiís?
BF: No, just a friend.

RIL: Was it tough to follow in the footsteps of the great Buckethead? I mean Slash.
BF: (Laughs) All I can say is that I hope people enjoy the shows and like what they are hearing and like what they are seeing.

RIL: Do you think there is a bit of pressure put on you because the band has changed members and the fans are expecting one thing and getting another?
BF:  There is no pressure on me, I have music to make I donít worry about that shit.

RIL: Axl Rose has the reputation for being a very private person. Do you get much time to hang out together?
BF: I really enjoy his company; I like hanging out with him.

RIL: You guys just got off a tour in Europe right?
BF: We did, actually we just finished a tour in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Was a lot of fun.

RIL: Do you think the fans over seas are a little crazier for heavy metal music than they are here in the states?
BF: I donít know, we have some crazy mother fuckers here today. (Laughs)

RIL: Have you learned anything from Axl?
BF: Yeah definitely. I donít know if I can ever be as pro, I mean the things that he can do; I wouldnít last 5 minutes in his shoes. For 2 and a half hours of entertaining the fuck out of people, and the energy that guy has, I donít have a tenth of it. I donít know how the hell he does it, it amazes me, and just to watch him do his thing is like, itís some good shit.

RIL: Do you know whatís holding up the release of Chinese Democracy?
BF: (Laughs) Next question, I donít talk business.

RIL: Youíre a co-founder of Bald Freak Records, how did that venture get started?
BF: I was recording an album with Q*Ball, he was having a bit of success, and he decided to legitimize and do it for real. He was putting out his stuff so we said let's also put out mine. We then met these crazy pirates (Swashbuckle) down in Jersey when I was checking out a friend playing, saw these guys playing and called up Q*Ball and said "you got to check these guys out," and here we are today.

RIL: When they hit the stage, how do they perform?
BF: Itís the most intense mind blowing fucking shit. They completely rip this place to shit when they play.

RIL: What was your worst on stage experience?
BF: Going back a few years ago I was playing with Q*Ball at Six Flags and we were going to open for Avril Lavigne, she ended up canceling for some reason, and Mya ended up playing.  With Mya we weren't musically matched.  So being the total wise ass that I am, I went on stage just in my boxers. It was a hip-hop audience, I walk out there, and I'm looking at them thinking "Iím gonna just nail this coffin shut" and said ďwhatís up everybody, Iím Mya, and itís great to be hereĒ. There was just dead silence from the audience. (Laughs).

RIL: And you got out of there alive?
BF: (Laughs) Yeah they threw a couple of pens and some threw coins, but I had worse shit thrown at me at Guns N' Roses shows.

RIL: What was your best show?
BF: It had to be Madison Square Garden.  I saw Kiss there as a kid, I was inspired by that and strived to make it there myself one day. And finally getting to do it was a big thing.

RIL: Now getting back to opening for Avril Lavigne; you played guitar on a Jessica Simpson single...did you get to meet her?
BF: It was really cool. I didnít get to meet her. The guy who was doing it was a friend, and I laid all the guitar parts for everything, and we spent 2 or 3 days together mixing it. He went to the studio himself and got the vocals, and brought them back.

RIL: Whatís next as far as your Guns N Roses work is concerned?
BF: Iím sure there will be good things in the future.

Ron is also on the Board of Directors for the MS Research Foundation; an non-profit organization for Multiple Sclerosis research. Ron and I had talked about his work with them, but the interview was drowned out by the concert performance in the background. Click here for more into on the MS Research Foundation.