Editor Tanya Vece's interview with Bumblefoot of Guns N' Roses!
TV: Tanya Vece
TV: Ron Thal, where did
"Bumblefoot" come in. I know it was a band name that became a nick
name, but how did the name itself come about?
RT: It was the early 90s, my girlfriend was in veterinary school
and I was helping her study. One of the diseases was Ulcerative
Pododermatitis, also known as Bumblefoot. It was a disease that
turkeys get, and one of the treatments was to rub hemorrhoid creme
on its feet. It inspired me to write a song for my band at the
time about a superhero called Bumblefoot, and when I had my first
record deal in the mid-90's, I called the debut album "The
Adventures Of Bumblefoot", with an album cover showing this
apocalyptic scene of mayhem and destruction with this winged
striped foot flying overhead. When the deal finished I started my
own band, called it "Bumblefoot", that was around '97, '98. Over
the next 10 years of putting out albums and touring, the name
'Bumblefoot' was connected to everything I was doing musically,
and it went from band-name to nickname.
TV: There is a couple of
lines in your biography "They tried to medicate me - I threw the
shit out. I cured myself by doing the opposite of what I was
telling myself to do. If I didn't want to talk, I'd call a friend.
If I didn't want to go out, I'd hit the mall.". This caught my
attention because I feel it captures what a lot of teenagers have
but don't have the balls to do, such as yourself. I find myself
often doing the same thing. MS challenges me daily with
depression. I find myself having to force myself to call friends,
or go out. Do you think a lot of people, musicians, writers,
artists, share this experience and choose to self-medicate oppose
to taking the prescribed drugs or cutting themselves off from the
world? AND if so, what do you think is the more evil of the
RT: It's hard to say what's best overall, it's up to the
individual, and if there's something more going on than an
emotional thang, if it's a chemical balance issue. There are
things beyond our control, and beyond our ability to fix with just
the power of positive thinking. I'm no expert, I'm no
spokesperson, but my 2-cent opinion would be to try and have as
much faith in yourself and acceptance of the world for all its
good and bad, don't care about anything *too* much to the point it
cripples you, and *stay busy*. Build things, have interests,
educate yourself, exercise, put time and energy into things that
you'll benefit from in the future. And if you're at the point
where you're exhausted from fighting some unrelenting internal
agony you can't pinpoint but just feel, and are ready to end it
all, talk to a pro - ya may need meds to get through it. There's
no shame in that - sometimes a cold kicks your ass for a week and
then it's gone, other times it ends up being something more and ya
hit the doctor and get meds. Same thing. Making art is a healthy
way to take in the bad, sort it out and make something good of it.
Lemonade is the best revenge against the lemons, haha.
TV: To quote your biography
again, "I tasted reality: there's no such thing as job security
and stability." .What would you say to those who have been working
at music for a long time now , toggling that day job and working
gigs at night, and are feeling the frustration of not getting
their music careers to where they want them to be? What advice or
insight could you offer to my readers who are going through this?
RT: You're not alone. Keep going. The day you're complacent and
"where you wanna be" is the day you start to lose your edge, your
spirit. Everything in life is an endless road, and life itself is
a challenge to see how far you can get on that road. It's a
challenge we propose to ourselves. Enjoy the journey, don't give
yourself a final destination point, there *is* no end point, the
journey is the destination. Just keep going, and leave your mark
as you go, do good things along the way.
TV: Your work with M.S.R.F.
has a special meaning to me. I have Relapsing Remitting MS and am
sure you know the challenges people with MS go through. One day
you look fine, the next day your blind, the next day ok. It is a
tough disease. Your on the board of M.S.R.F.and have raised a lot
of money for the cause and for a cure. As a touring musician do
you talk to a lot of people with MS? Have you found being an
advocate who doesn't have MS challenging? Do you have plans for
any future fundraiser's my readers may want to be a part of or
RT: MS makes its own rules, it's so unpredictable, not easy. I
don't try to speak for people with MS, this isn't about me - if
anything I'm just one person in the group of millions who has
someone in their life they care about that has MS. All I can do is
give my support and do what I can when I can. I'll keep donating
from autographed CDs and photos to MS research, and soon I'd like
to auction off a guitar for MS research. Hopefully I'll be able to
do more than that in the future.
TV: For the Normal Album, you
state you couldn't write due to the meds you were on and then were
able to write for yourself and the album once they left your
system. Would it be fair to say the Normal Album was truly about
finding your true self? If so, then what would you attribute the
"Abnormal" title to, which followed the "Normal" disc Do you
believe creativity really is what is behind what clinicians
classify as bi-polar and other disorders and it is not understood
by those lacking creativity and magical thinking (the majority of
society) so the pill is not suppressing a disorder, but
suppressing true artistry?
RT: The Normal album touched on making the choice, whether to
continue on meds and sacrifice creativity, or get off them so I
can do what I love, making music, at the risk falling back into
Hell. In the end you realize you're not powerless, it starts with
your perception of things and how you choose to react to
everything. It's where life was at self-discovery-wise, learning
to give up control and not try to change what we can't, and to
just roll with it all, to learn, and draw from your experiences. I
think an emotional charge can push creative moments, I think it's
a personal expression, a look inside a person, I think free
thinking helps creativity flow, but I don't think artistry
completely coincides with mental disorder. But I'm the wrong guy
to ask, haha. Abnormal was the second chapter, it touches on where
life is at now, with the intensity knob turned up, some of the new
highs and lows that come with being in a band with name
recognition, and how the world suddenly sees you differently.
TV: Who are the top 3 bands
you think influenced your style today, and who are the top 3 bands
that currently get played the most in your house?
RT: That's a tough one, there are so many! Guitar-wise, the main
influences were Angus Young, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen.
Musically, the Beatles are up there, and KISS were the inspiration
to play music as a kid, hearing the KISS Alive album for the first
time when I was 5. The last things I listened to in the house were
Queensryche, Manowar, and Judas Priest. I'm an old-school
TV: How did you end up
getting the GNR gig? and is Axl easy to work with? Did you have
creative input while working with GNR, or was all the creative
juice reserved for the Abnormal disc?
RT: In the Summer of 2004 I started talking with the GNR folks
about getting together, started touring in May 2006. Axl's a
friend, always havin' a great time on and off the road. People
have so many assumptions, people always want to think the worst.
They don't want truth, they want entertainment. I can talk 'til
I'm blue in the face about how I was brought into GNR to be
myself, and that's what I do, I do my thing, I speak my own words,
no puppeteer with a hand in my back, yet anything I say and do
there are those who respond with "oh, he *has* to say that", haha.
Ya can't win, haha. I've been completely creative in GNR. In my
solo band, where I write everything, play everything, sing
everything, sure I have more to add, but that's because it's a
solo effort, not a band. GNR is a band, where everybody does what
they do, together. I gotta say, it's been a fuckking blast.
TV: Is it challenging to work
on the GNR album and release Abnormal?
RT: It wasn't a problem, was able to juggle it all and make it
work. The GNR bizz folks were busy taking care of bizz, and I was
able to lock myself in the studio and bust out the 'Abnormal'
album, and an EP of acoustic versions of songs from my last few
albums. Calling the album 'Barefoot', should be available before
the year is up.
TV: What do you think has
been your biggest learning experience musically within the last
five years? Musically?
RT: hmmm.... well, in the studio, it was about finding ways to
make things sound less sterile, more alive. Ribbon mics will
capture the true tone of your amps, and room mics in a good
sounding room will keep your drums as powerful in a recording as
they are in real life. It's so important. What else... comparing a
concert for an audience of 20 people to an audience of 150,000, it
upped my appreciation for what you can give at each. There's the
personal bonding experience you can have at a small show, there's
the pyro and light show and big stage to run around on at a big
show. And at both, you're doing the exact same thing, it still
comes from within, you're opening yourself up to connect with
everyone. With playing so many different types of shows over the
last few years, with GNR and on my own, now I know what it's like
to play on all types of stages, the big and the small, and they're
all a good time. I've learned that you have as good a time as you
TV: As a writer of music,
what has been your biggest challenge? Some say writers block,
others say life getting in the way, is there one defining thing
that has always been a distraction from writing?
RT: Writing for my own albums has always been a strange thing. I'd
be dry for a year, no ideas, I'd spend the time touring, producing
other bands, writing for or co-writing with other artists, laying
guest solos on other albums, a guest guitarist at other people's
shows, writing music for TV shows, just keeping real busy doing
things other than for my own albums. Then suddenly it would all
hit at once, like a bright pale white flash, and half-a-dozen
songs start flying out of my head, complete, arranged,
instrumentation, melodies, beats, everything. I'd spend two days
in the studio writing down the lyrics and demoing the songs, then
over the next month I write the rest of the album as I'm laying
the tracks to the first half-a-dozen songs. It's been like that
for years. The same challenges are there though, trying to stay
focused while being bombarded with distractions.
TV: What is your favorite
guitar to play live with?
RT: Favorite used to be the "Flying Foot" guitar (
) , but lately it's been the Signature Series guitar...
TV: How can my readers hear
samples of your music, or buy one of your CDs?
RT:You can hear it all and get it all at my site,
www.bumblefoot.com CDs, photos, shirts, stickers, guitar
picks, mini- collectible models of my weird guitars, and new items
on the way... you can hear more music at the official MySpace
www.myspace.com/bumblefoot . CDs and soundclips are also at
cdbaby.com and amazon.com , do a "Bumblefoot" search and the
albums will pop up. Retail shops like Best Buy and FYE have my
albums as well - if your local store doesn't have the CDs in
stock, they can get them from BCD Distro in North America,
Multicom Distro in France, Plastic Head Distro for the rest of
Europe, Disk Union in Japan.
TV: Can you note any
December or January gigs where the readers can see or meet you?
RT: Usually appearances
come together at the last minute, people can always check my site
- latest gigs/appearances are on the main page
You can find out more information about MS, and Ron's organization
by visiting: www.msrf.org
Check out Bumblefoot's solo music at