Exclusive interview with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal
May 18, 2012
Today we have the honour of interviewing guitar virtuoso, The
man, the myth, the Maverick Ron ‘Bumblefoot’
Ron is a prolific solo artist, producer and guitarist of
Guns N Roses.
Currently on a 3 month tour of Europe with GnR, Ron
kindly took sometime out to complete an interview for
I would like to introduce
you all to Guns N Roses guitarist and general Avant
Garde genius Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal.
Welcome Ron it is a
pleasure to have this interview with you, I hope all is
well and good in your world!
Heeeeeey! All is well, thanks! On a plane heading to
Moscow at the moment, starting up a European Summer tour
You were a prolific
recording artist and producer before you joined Guns N
Roses, but how did you end up playing in the band?
Joe Satriani recommended me, this was back in 2004.
From there we started having conversations about
touring, recording, making plans, feeling each other
out, this went on for about two months. I went to go
play in Moscow (somethin’ about Moscow…!), came back and
recorded the Normal album, toured Europe twice and did
some NY & LA shows, produced a bunch of bands, taught
music production at SUNY Purchase College, then in 2006
Guns had a tour lined up and we picked up where we left
off. I had seven rehearsals with them and hit the road.
How was the transition
from Avant Garde guitar cult hero to stadium rock
Playing is playing, I realized. You close your
eyes and you’re doing what you do, could be at a local
bar or at a huge festival, you’re still doing what you
do, you’re making music. That’s what it’s about.
The Chinese Democracy tour
has been going on for sometime now! How has this been
and what are the most memorable moments of this tour?
Is it still the Chinese Democracy tour? I don’t know, I
think it’s kinda just ‘the tour’ at this point, haha.
So many wonderful memories. And other memories that
must stay buried or I’ll be curled up in a ball in the
corner of the room, haha. Most of my favorite memories
on tour were the moments outside of the shows, things
like going to the top of a snowy mountain at 5am after a
show to watch the sun rise in a giant jacuzzi. There’s
been some funny show memories too – last tour, while I
was playing Axl snuck behind me and tied me up in orange
tape, haha! Couldn’t break free… playing Madison
Square Garden was special, saw my first concert there,
Kiss back in the ’70s. Was a personal milestone to play
When touring with GnR do
you miss not singing lead? Not only are you an awesome
guitar player you also have a cracking voice!
I thank you kindly….! I love singing, but it’s tough
singing on tour. One vocally-abusive night and you’re
in trouble for the next dozen shows. Catch a cold and
sing a whole show and it becomes bronchitis that keeps
getting worse. I’ve been through that – it’s like the
first time you get really bad food poisoning from fish,
you’ll never wanna eat fish again. Singing when your
sick every night is like eating poisonous fish every
night, it destroys you – you’ll be reluctant to risk
ever going through that again. Ahh, but when my throat
isn’t ‘poison fish’, yeah I love singing.
Has there been any talk in
the band of a new Guns N Roses album any time soon?
The band is full of strong writers, we’d make a
great album together, but we’re still in tour mode, and
the tour’s are going well…
On to your solo music now,
you have released 9 singles recently, are there any
plans of these being put on one CD and is there any news
on a new solo album?
I’ve thought about putting them on CD, it’s an option.
I’ve been so busy between touring and producing that I
just don’t have nine months to go make an album. That’s
why I released the singles last year, one each month,
for as long as I could until I had to hit the road
again. I was able to release songs as I finished them,
keeping a steady stream of music. Was able to get nine
songs out, where if I was waiting to release a dozen or
more as an album all at once, there would be nothing any
time soon, with all the touring. I’m so glad I released
them the way I did, even released the version of “The
Pink Panther Theme” I play live as my solo with Guns,
and my GNR bandmates played on it. The songs were more
than just an MP3 each month – each was released with
options of different hi-resolution formats, instrumental
mixes, lead guitar transcriptions with backing tracks
and reference mixes, and recording stems so people can
make their own mixes. (www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php)
It was the best way to release the music, I was able to
give a lot more with each song.
Where do you find your
inspirations to create music and write lyrics? Songs for
like Dash, More, Thank You and Ronald’s Comin’ Back Now
all sound like they come from a personal place.
It’s all personal – most songs are, I think…
story-telling and reactions to what we feel, what we
The most important
question of the day is……
When will you be returning
to the UK to do a solo tour? I would literally give a
limb to see that!
Hard to say, from here I can only see as far as the Guns
Summer tour, not sure what happens after that…
You are revered as one of
the friendliest men in the rock world, never too busy to
pose for a picture, sign an autograph or comment on a
post on Facebook. Do you feel it is
important to stay connected with the fans and does it
help you to keep a level head and keep you on a plain of
normality when touring.
This is how I am. I’m nice to people when they’re nice,
and I make as much time as I can for people. It’s
definitely out of control though, I have to ease up.
Think of it this way – if 36,000 Facebook followers each
send you only 1 message a year, that’s 100 messages a
day. Some will write 5x a day, some not at all, but you
get the general idea. Then there’s Twitter, email,
Google+, forums and whatever else. I was at the eye
doctor before leaving for the airport today and was
answering Facebook messages on my phone while getting
the exam, trying to keep up with them all and answer as
many people as I can. But I’m not being fair to myself,
and I’m not being nearly as productive. I have to force
myself to ease up.
Also you must be one of
the busiest men in music, touring with GnR, releasing
solo albums, producing many artists albums. How do you
fit it all in? Does Bumblefoot have more
than 24 hours in this day?
Ah, and answering those Facebook messages, haha. The
key to it is trusting yourself and not over-thinking
things and second-guessing yourself too much. Do well,
and move on. Don’t analyze and obsess, you’ll lose a
lot of valuable time, and build an inefficient operating
What artists are you
digging at the moment that the readers at What-Music.com
should check out?
Thank You Scientist. (www.thankyouscientist.net)
I love this band. My vague description would be Dave
Matthews meets Dream Theater, with inspirations of
Incubus. Their music makes me smile.
Chopin’s Fantasie Impromtu
is my favourite piece of piano work, what possessed you
to play this on guitar and how did this come about?
I was watching the TV show ‘Taxi’ as a kid, an episode
where one of the characters got behind a piano and
played it unexpectedly. I didn’t know anything about
the piano piece, just that I loved it and never forgot
it. Years later when I was getting to know more about
classical music and composers, I came up with a way to
play it on guitar. When I was offered my first real
release of music in ’91 as part of a comp CD, I recorded
a version of it.
You are a man of many
unique guitars!In total, how many guitars do you own and
what is you most prized axe?
Not sure how many I have, it isn’t a lot
though. I was never a real guitar collector, I just had
what I needed. Probably around 15 guitars? As a kid I
really got into guitar building and made some strange
My favorite guitar was the “Swiss Cheese” guitar, until
the “Flying Foot” came along, now it’s the Vigier (www.vigierguitars.com)
fretted/fretless double-neck – I’m truly spoiled by it,
it’s everything I need.
Was there a specific event
that made you think ‘thats what I want to do’ and pick
up the guitar? Did you not originally want to be a bass
It was hearing the Kiss “Alive!”
album when I was 5. That did it. I liked Gene Simmons’
character and wanted to be a bassist like him, but I was
way too young. So I started on guitar, and stuck with
it. Eventually I was able to play the bass too.
How would you describe
your guitar playing style?
‘Fart in a bottle’. Man, I have
no idea, it’s like the playing is part of the song which
is part of the person. I guess it’s a li’l piece of me,
inspired by all the bands and guitarists I loved growing
up….? Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Jimi Hendrix, Randy
Rhoads. It’s a list that can go on and on…..
What is you secret of
becoming a guitar god? Did it come naturally or was it
from epic amounts of practice?
Don’t think too much. And don’t
ever think you’re more, or less, than just a person.
The age old question…..
desert island….. one album….. what would it be and why?
Yes “Going For the One”
What would you rate as
your top 5 guitar solos?
‘My’ top 5 solos as in ones I
played…? Not in any order, and I’m gonna think quick or
I won’t be able to answer this – “Turn Around” (Normal
CD), “Guitars Still Suck” (Abnormal CD), “Breaking”
(Normal CD), “Vomit” (Hands CD), “There’s A Kind Of
Hush” (2011 single)
Who are you top 5 fellow
guitarist since 1980? My personal list would be Omar
Rodrequiez-Lopez, John Frusciante, Buckethead, Kirk
Hammett and your dear self.
Since 1980? Hmmm… ok same idea,
no order, thinking fast and without taking anyone you
already mentioned – Guthrie Govan, Christophe Godin,
Vinnie Moore, Mattias Eklundh, Shawn Lane.
If you could construct the
ultimate touring band with any musician dead or alive,
who would you recruit?
Neil Peart (drums), Flea (bass),
John Sykes (guitar/vocals), Jordan Rudess (keys), Tony
Harnell (vocals). And I wouldn’t play a damn thing, I’d
just sit back and listen to them.
What is Ron’s one piece of
advice for 2012 for the the readers at What-Music.com?
Support local farms.
That’s a rap folks, I
would just like to thank the wonderful god like guitar
genius know as Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal for taking time out
of his busy schedule to complete this interview, it has
been a pleasure and an honour and we would all like to
wish you and the rest of the band all the best for the
upcoming European tour. Good day to you sir!
Thank you for all!! Been a
~ Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal