20 Questions With Ron Thal

Guitare Xtreme magazine (France)
Issue # 35, JAN 2010

1 - Your music is often very deep and soulful, but in the other hand, people can easily miss this side of your art, because you have the image of a funny guy, with the Swiss cheese guitar, the bee guitar, etc… Is it sometimes a problem for you ?

If I'm speaking with someone about what a song means, it's ok because we can exchange ideas and share what we get from the song. People have their own limit to how deep they want to explore, and people only take the parts they want. If there's a deeper message, but someone doesn't want to hear it, it's ok. I would only have a problem if I didn't say what I meant to say.

2 – In the same idea, some of your tracks can be very dark, others are pretty happy… What is your real personality (in the real life) ?

It's the same as the music. Every person is made of extremes, and everything in-between - music is the same way.

3 – Sadly, many musicians drink or take drugs. Have you ever been through this yourself ?

No. I've never had a problem with addiction or abuse of alcohol, recreational drugs, anything like that. I had the experience of being on anti-depressants, but this wasn't for fun, and they weren't mis-used or abused.

4 - Is it true that on one of your old songs, you played by tapping the strings of your guitar with your penis ? Which song was it ? Does that sounded great ? Was it erected or soft ?

Hahaha, it was a song called 'Backfur'. It wasn't very musical. My penis isn't very musical.

5 – Where does the idea of the Swiss cheese guitar comes from ? Was it hard to match the exact same color of the Swiss cheese ?

I used to build my own guitars and experiment a lot with body shapes. I originally wanted it to look like there was a 'bite' missing out of the guitar, and it wasn't turning out the way I envisioned it. I just started drilling and hacking up the body, and when I was done, it looked like Swiss cheese. So I took a slice of cheese to a paint store, slapped it on the counter and asked if they had that color. They took the cheese into a back room and mixed a custom color to match it.

6 – This strange foot with a wasp's body and wings, that we can see on the cover of your first album… Is it a vision that you had in a dream?

More like a nightmare, haha... no, I was completely coherent, and take full responsibility. I think it's from watching too much Monty Python as a kid.

7 – Patrice Vigier has made a guitar for you, the Foot Guitar0 What was your réaction when you have saw it for the first time ?

I was amazed, and amused, haha. I loved it - the mechanism that made the wings move, the curves, and most importantly it played great. Felt great on the hands. All Vigier guitars do.

8 – Is it true that the « hand guitar » is the exact replica of your own hand ? Whey don’t you play this guitar anymore ? Who made it ?

A friend in New Jersey named Tom Cannalonga built guitars and had a business called "Custom Ax", he built it. I traced my hand on grid paper to use as a guide and we expanded the scale to the size of the guitar body. Tom used mandolin frets and made a neck extension going up to the 37th fret. Tom is an amazing guy. He's now making sports equipment and accessories for people with physical challenges - check out his website at www.sitski.com ; I don't play a lot of the older custom guitars anymore, they've been beaten and banged up enough, they've earned a nice deserved rest...

9 – If one day you have to stop playing the guitar, what kind of job would you do ?

I'd become a bassist.

10 - What freaks you out the most in life ? Do you have any phobias ? Obsessions ?

Wasting time. Time *only runs out*, you can't get more of it, and life is a race against time to get things done. What freaks me out is when other people don't realize this, and waste my time. After I'm gone, I'll be leaving the world with less, because of these people that didn't value time, and wasted mine.

11 - Is it true that you were a hyperactive child ? Is it why you have begun to play guitar ? Are you still hyperactive ?

No, I was a very calm child, but had a very active mind. I was a sponge for knowledge and would sit around when I was 5 years old reading encyclopedias and trying to build things, trying to design car engines that were more efficient.

12 - You have released several years ago your 9.11 cd, a tribute to the 9.11 victims. Today, more and more people think that these attacks were a big conspiracy… What is your own opinion about that ?

There is no truth, only perception. And people prefer entertainment over reality. I only discuss it with people that know what the air there [in NYC] smelled like, to those people it's reality. To the rest, it's just entertainment.

13 – You often say in your interviews, as an advice for the young players : “ don’t practice too much ”. Isn’t it an exaggeration ? I can easily imagine that for building your amazing chops, you have work on your guitar thousand millions of hours…

Not an exaggeration, I mean it. Don't be obsessed, and don't deny yourself a life full of experiences. Living your life will make your music more interesting, not practicing scales in your room for 10 hours a day. The mind and body can only expand a finite amount in-between sleep cycles, so spend 2 hours focusing on practice, then *do something else*. Do something that adds other layers to who you are.

14 – Does G'n'RR still exist ? Will there be a tour ?

The band still exists, I've spent much of 2009 in rehearsal rooms with them, preparing for tours that unfortunately didn't happen. We have shows planned for Japan, Korea and Taiwan in December '09, hopefully everything will work out.

15 – Are you still proud about the G’n’R album ?

I'm proud to have been part of making 'Chinese Democracy', and mostly I'm happy for the fans that were waiting so long for the album to be released.

16 – What was your reaction when you have seen the issue of Guitare Xtreme with you and Slash on the cover ?

I was very surprised, and grateful for the support. But...... I must be honest, I was concerned that it might be presenting a rivalry between past and present that doesn't have to exist. I see myself as being part of GNR's history, and this doesn't take away the accomplishments of anyone else. There have been a dozen years and half-a-dozen other guitarists between Slash's and my time in the band - if it was based on my philosophy about making music, we would be standing side-by-side along with all the other guitarists that were part of the band's history. I make music to bring people together, I'm not competing with the past, I'm just trying to keep a future going so we can celebrate 20 years of GNR music at shows with fans. With all that said, *thank you very much* for including me on the cover, I greatly appreciate it...!

17 –The title songs of your first album were animal diseases. If you could be reincarnated in an animal, which would you choose ? Why ?

Animals are too into self-absorbed sustenance and socializing... I'd want a simple life, a direct connection to nature and the planet, to be less viral and more of a provider - I would want to come back as algae. Either that or a pizza.

18 - How old did were you when you lose your virginity? Is it a good remember ?

A gentleman never tells...! I had just turned 15, that's all I'll say about it, haha.

19 - if you had to choose between playing with Ace Frehley, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen, which would you choose ?

All are heroes of mine - I think I'd go with Jimmy. With Eddie and Ace, I'd stop playing and just watch them the whole time, but with Jimmy Page I think we'd get deep into the songs, the music.

20 – You have become a great reference in the guitar world. Is there another dream you want to accomplish?

Thank you! But I feel like I'm not done yet with the first dream, still more work to be done before I can pursue other interests. And there's never enough time...

4 OCT 2009