GnREvolution Q&A with Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal
Who are some of your favorite guitarists..past and present. and for
our resident U2 fanatic...what do you think of The Edge as a guitar
player? Is there any musician out there who you'd dream of doing a
solo collaboration with but thus far haven't?
Bumblefoot: The Edge always did
the perfect thing for the song, always the right
atmosphere and energy. Some of my favorite
guitarists... Angus Young, Jimi Hendrix, Ace Frehley,
Eddie Van Halen, and as far as guitarist's guitarists,
guys like Al DiMeola, Allan Holdsworth... so many
inspirational players out there... Would love to do
some kinda band with John Sykes. My friend Mattias
Eklundh from the Swedish band 'Freak Kitchen' and I have
been talking for years about doing some kind of album
together but neither of us ever have enough time to get
If the opportunity arose, would you ever collaborate with former GnR
members such as Slash, Izzy, Duff, Buckethead, etc....either in or
out of GNR. If such a collaboration could happen with you
maintaining your position in GNR.
Bumblefoot: Jammed with Izzy plenty of times,
and we worked out a nice version of 'The Devil Went Down To
Georgia', does that count? Haha... Bucket and I talked
before he joined GNR about me singing on his stuff, way back
when - generally, if someone's cool and there's no issues, I
give things a chance. You can always find a reason to not do
things, I say fuck it and just play... but there are people
in my history I'd never play with again no matter what, so I
understand anyone feeling that way about anyone. And it's
best not to get in the middle of those situations.
(edit: for the
Bucket fans out there ... I asked Ron when these BBF/BH
collaboration talks took place, and he told me that it was early
GnREvolution: Which tracks on Abnormal feature the
Bumblefoot: The main guitar in 'Jenny B' is
all fretless. Some little noises in the breakdown of 'Last
Time', the 'siren' sound in the last verse of 'Abnormal',
middle solo after the speed-up part in 'Guitars Still Suck',
2nd solo in 'Redeye'.
What equipment did you use on Chinese Democracy.
Bumblefoot: Les Pauls, the Vigier fretless,
Vox or a Cry Baby wah pedal, Marshall heads and cabs,
sometimes a Boss Blues Driver pedal for extra juice.
Brought down my old JCM800 for some stuff...
What songs (and in what ways) did you retool guitar work on to add
your touch to for each respective song. can you tell us what guitar
parts (Rhythm's, leads, riffs) are yours on the album?
Bumblefoot: If I can remember, been years...
in most of the songs I put in loose riffy rhythms, I think
it freed everything up a bit. On top of that, song by song,
in 'Chinese' the fretless in the verses, 'Shacklers' the
solos, 'Better' some little noodly stuff in the end of the
2nd verse, some little melodic lines in the rhythms in
'Dreams', solos in 'Catcher', 'Scraped' and 'Riad', the rest
I don't remember. Like trying to remember how many sprinkles
ya put on an ice cream cone 3 years ago...
What was your process for recording solos? Were you given any advice
as to the type of solo to play/tone etc, was it all improvised or
were you asked to replicate but add your stamp to some existing
melodies etc. (Like how Brain was asked to re-do the notes Freese
hit but with Brain's feel etc) and generally any other suitable
stories or tidbits that relate to the great work you've done on your
Bumblefoot: I'd spend 14 hours laying down
every type of thing I could, different directions in rhythms
and solos, as well as different guitars, pickups, amp
settings, ways of playing. All my own parts, didn't re-play
anyone else's, but there was also a collaborative input.
Decisions would be made for what they thought was best,
using what where and when. Chi Dem is not your typical
album, there's no other that's gone through the journey that
album did, and no other probably ever will. It's not a
simple 'play what ya want on your own song how ya want it
and no one else gets a say in it'. My own albums are like
that, this one is about being a piece of a very big musical
picture. Where else will you hear me and Bucket and Frank
and Brain and Robin and Richard and Axl and Sebastian and
Dizzy and Chris and Tommy and Paul in songs together? It's a
one of a kind, the rules don't apply.
I would like to ask if your solos on Shacklers and Riad were
influenced at all by Buckethead and did you secretly try to out do
Bumblefoot: Hahaha, no and no. Listen to my
demos from 20 years ago and you'll find that I play the way
I play, long before there were buckets on anyone's head or
bumbles on anyone's feet. Guys from the same era like me,
Bucket, Mattias Eklundh, Christophe Godin, Guthrie Govan,
and plenty more, all have a similar thread in the spirit of
what we do. No one's copying each other, the same way most
70's blues rock guitarists aren't copying each other - but
there was something in the air at the time their cast was
solidifying, that affected how they expressed themselves.
This happens throughout every era of music, and in our case,
the transition from the fun gluttonous 80s into the
tighten-your-belt 90s, a time when cultures began to merge,
big hair rock turned toward funk rock, grunge, rap rock...
there was an open-mindedness, more of a multi-mindedness
that occurred. Listen to any of our solo albums, you'll
hear what I mean.
Are there any songs on Chinese Democracy that nearly didn't make it?
What can you tell us about the alternate album artwork and CD
Bumblefoot: Ah man, I never get into things
that haven't happened - it can affect the final outcome of
things, ya can't do that. It's like going up to a stranger
and saying, 'In 10 seconds I'm gonna try to steal your
car.' Guaranteed, the outcome won't be the same. So I never
talk about plans, things that haven't happened yet - also,
as I'm here typing this, managers could be walking out of a
meeting in LA, and I don't know what's up until they tell
me. Anything I'd say would be mis-information until it's so
absolutely undeniably definite, in which case you'd probably
find out from them soon after I did. In my own band,
there's less riding on things, it's ok to open the window
and let everyone see inside. And I enjoy that, making videos
in the studio as an album's being recorded, letting people
know what I'm planning for myself - no biggie, if the plans
don't happen, it's not like multi-million dollar companies
have invested time and the work of hundreds of people are
affected by the change. There's a need for protection and
privacy when it comes to GNR bizz, or anything on that
level. I know it can make you feel frustrated, invisible,
abandoned - even though it sucks, I hope you understand that
there's too much at stake to risk being irresponsible with
Do you have anything to say about the chemistry of the members of
Guns N Roses, either person to person, or as a whole group? and what
the hell happened with Robin, its so weird he left on the eve of the
Bumblefoot: I can't and won't speak on Robin's
behalf, it's totally up to him if he wants to share anything
about it. Me, I'm in touch almost daily with members of the
band and crew, we hang when we can. I see Frank most often
because we live near each other on the East Coast. But we
all have phones, email, we're in touch pretty often.
What has been your most frustrating moment with GNR and what's been
the best moment?
Bumblefoot: Most frustrating moments are when
plans are delayed or canceled while waiting for 'the pieces
to fall into place' as I like to word it... you guys have
dealt with a whole lot of that, and I apologize for any of
it on my end. We were gonna do videos answering fan
questions, had every intention of doing it, had mine all
planned out - I was gonna soft-spokenly answer every
question, very calmly, while 20 feet behind me there's a
woman screaming bloody murder, giving birth. It was really
fucking disturbing, and so contrasted and bizarre, it was
just really fucked up. That's how your mind works after
months of rehearsals and living in the same hotel room for
almost 100 days. The band accomplished plenty in that time
- new guitar rigs, new guitars, new gear all getting worked
out, new songs being worked on and sounding better than we
ever have, DJ being a great guy and a wonderful bandmate,
but the rehearsals ended before I could get everything and
everyone together to make my video happen. I'm sorry about
leading y'all on and not getting it done.
What is your opinion on the reception of the album and singles in
the media, and within the fanbase. Whats up with the music video for
Better? Will we see a 3rd single from this album?
Bumblefoot: I can't say what the future holds,
like what I was saying before - some things are unfinished
bizz, other things I don't know the most-current status of,
and I'm content often with *not* knowing - I don't want to
micro-manage GNR, I want to write, record, perform,
connect... that should be my place. My opinion on the
album promotion? I don't want to say things that can be
twisted into a blame game towards anyone, it's not about
that. I just wish those 'pieces' were all in place, where
we could have had a strong personal connection to the fans
over the last year. I mean face-to-face. I did what I
could, happily, when the album came out - going to the
listening party in NYC and hanging with everyone, doing days
of interviews in Europe, it would have felt unnatural to not
do all that. It should have been a celebration, nothing
less. And it was good to celebrate with everyone at the
listening party, thanks to those who were there.
What is your favorite song on Chinese Democracy and which song from
the album do you most look forward to playing live.
Bumblefoot: Right now I'd say This I Love,
Sorry, Scraped... would love to play Scraped and Shackler's
When Guns N Roses tour next will Brain and Frank both in? will we
see 2 drummers on stage at the same time? Are you looking forward to
playing with DJ Ashba in a live setting?
Bumblefoot: Definitely have been looking
forward to hitting the stage with DJ, and everyone. The
two-drummer thing? Don't have an answer...
Did you work on any of these tracks which Axl confirmed as working
titles of future GnR Material or was your involvement in the
recording process strictly limited to the songs which appear on
Chinese Democracy? (Ides Of March, Berlin (Oklahoma), Atlas
Shrugged, Oh My God, Silkworms, Down By The Ocean, Soul Monster
(Leave Me Alone), Seven, The General, Thyme, Quick Song, Zodiac).
Did you contribute to writing any new material for GNR that we won't
hear until some possible future album? is the material you've heard
for the follow up albums heavier or is it pretty much the same
ballad to rocker ratio as appears on CD? Basically anything you can
tell us about any future GnR Material would be appreciated...
Bumblefoot: I played on a good handful of
songs that weren't on Chi Dem. Can't predict what the fate
of any of those songs will be. I haven't written any new
songs with GNR, would like to see it get to that point.
www.gnrevolution.com perceived by the band (if at all)?
Bumblefoot: Couldn't tell ya what everyone
else thinks about the boards or any specific one. To me
you're all GNR fans, I don't divide you guys into specific
boards - when I talk to one of ya, I'm talking to all of ya.
The boards are your playground, have fun in them. :)
Just don't do any illegal, you crazy fuckers, lol. What do
I think? Like any cluster of people, there are good people,
and there are jerkoffs. I'll leave that to you guys to
decide who's who, haha. Maybe make a poll, 'Biggest jerkoff
on the board', haha. I've actually met some great people
through these boards, all over the world, people anyone
would be blessed to know.
Thanks for the questions. And if ya say 'great, another
interview where a bandmember tells us nothing' I'm gonna
reach through the computer and punch you in the balls.
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