Ron 'Bumblefoot 'Thal (GUNS N' ROSES): Chinese Democracy, such a unique album   Ron 'Bumblefoot 'Thal (GUNS N' ROSES): Chinese Democracy, un album unic
MAY 22, 2012

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, the solo guitarist of Guns N'Roses was kind enough and he responded to an interview for Metalfan Romania. Bumblefoot spoke about the concert the band will perform in this summer in Bucharest at Rock the City festival, about Chinese Democracy, the future plans of the band, but also about his solo projects and about the gratitude for Joe Satriani's gate for that to be recommended when Guns N 'Roses where looking for a new guitarist. Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal is a musician who would should receive more attention from the public and the public would must understand that Guns N 'Roses remains Guns N'Roses regardless the lineup.
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, chitaristul solo al trupei Guns N'Roses a avut amabilitatea si a raspuns unui interviu pentru Metalfan Romania. Bumblefoot a vorbit despre concertul pe care trupa il va sustine in aceasta vara in Bucuresti in cadrul festivalului Rock the City, despre discul Chinese Democracy, planurile de viitor ale trupei, dar si despre proiectele sale solo si despre recunostinta pe care i-o poarta lui Joe Satriani pentru faptul ca l-a recomandat atunci cand Guns N'Roses se aflau in cautarea unui nou chitarist. Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal este un muzician ce ar trebuii sa primeasca mai multa atentie din partea publicului, iar publicul ar trebuii sa inteleaga faptul ca Guns N'Roses ramane Guns N'Roses indiferent de componenta.
Metalfan: Hello Ron and welcome to Metalfan!
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: My pleasure, thank you!

Metalfan: How did you get the nickname?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: The nickname was my band name, releasing 'Bumblefoot' music for the last 15 years.  Before the band, it was the name of my first album The Adventures of Bumblefoot on Shrapnel Records in the mid- 90s...   that album title came from a song called Bumblefoot that was on a guitar comp CD in the early 90s and became the title track of the album...   I wrote the song when I was helping my girlfriend study, she was in veterinary school, and Bumblefoot, aka Ulcerative Pododermatitis was one of the animal diseases she was learning about...

Metalfan: This summer Guns N' Roses will come back to Romania to play at the Tuborg Green Fest. Do you remember anything in particular from the previous show in Romania? It happened in 2010.

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I remember the show two years ago, fun show!  Great crowd  :)  I remember the food.  I always remember the food, haha...   wish we could have spent more time there.

Metalfan: You joined the band back in 2006. How did you get this job?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I was recommended by Joe Satriani eight years ago. I was busy with my own albums and tours and producing and teaching music production at a University in NY, it was a year-and-a-half before we (me & Guns) started playing together in 2006.

Metalfan: Two years after you joined, in 2008, the band released Chinese Democracy. Most of the songs if not all of them were already completed a long time before, so it's safe to presume you didn't get to have a say in the songwriting, but you took part in the recording. Can you tell us a bit more about that, what exactly was your part in all this and how did this things go recording-wise?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I didn't write the songs, they were there from years before I was.  I wrote my own guitar parts for the songs, I played on every song, a good amount of fretless guitar on the album.  We'd spend 14 hours a day in the studio every day for weeks and I'd lay literally 100 different ideas for a song and see what worked the best, what fit best with the other melodies...
  Metalfan: Salut, Ron si bine ai venit in paginile Metalfan!
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Placerea e de partea mea, multumesc!

Metalfan: Cum te-ai ales cu porecla asta?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Porecla e de fapt numele trupei mele, am tot facut muzica Bumblefoot in ultimii 15 ani. Inainte sa devina numele formatiei, a fost numele primului meu album: The Adventures of Bumblefoot, aparut la Shrapnel Records la mijlocul anilor ‘90...   Titlul materialului vine de la un cantec numit Bumblefoot care s-a regasit pe un CD-compilatie cu mai multi chitaristi, lansat la inceputul anilor ’90. Piesa asta a dat numele albumului. Am scris-o cand o ajutam pe prietena mea sa invete; ea era la medicina veterinara si bumblefoot, cunoscuta sub denumirea stiintifica de pododermatitis ulcerosa, era une dintre bolile de animale despre care invata ea.

Metalfan: Vara asta Guns N' Roses se vor intoarce in Romania sa cante la Tuborg Green Fest. Iti amintesti ceva special legat de primul spectacol din tara asta? A fost in 2010.

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Imi amintesc de concertul de acum doi ani, ne-am distrat! Un public extraordinar! Si imi amintesc mancarea. Eu mereu imi amintesc mancarea, haha... Mi-am dorit sa fi putut sta mai mult timp pe-acolo...

Metalfan: Te-ai alaturat formatiei in 2006. Cum ai obtinut postul?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Joe Satriani m-a recomandat in urma cu opt ani. Eram ocupat cu propriile albume, eram ocupat cu turneele, cu productia muzicala si chiar predam productie muzicala la o universitate din New York. Asta se intampla cu un an si jumatate inainte ca noi (eu si Guns) sa incepem sa cantam impreuna in 2006.

La doi ani dupa ce ai intrat in formatie ati lansat Chinese Democracy. Majoritatea pieselor (daca nu chiar toate) erau finalizate demult, deci putem presupune ca n-ai avut un aport prea mare in compunerea lor, insa ai avut o contributie la inregistrari. Poti sa ne dai detalii despre aceste subiecte, cat ai contribuit la compozitie si cum s-au desfasurat inregistrarile?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: N-am scris eu cantecele, erau gata cu multi ani inainte sa apar eu. Mi-am scris pasajele de chitara, am cantat fiecare piesa; e multa chitara fretless pe albumul asta. Petreceam zilnic cam 14 ore in studio – timp de mai multe saptamani – si veneam cu (la propriu) 100 de idei pentru fiecare melodie si vedeam care merge cel mai bine si ce s-ar potrivi si cu celelalte piese.
Metalfan: The album has been received with mixed reactions from the fans and critics. How do you see now this album now, do you think it stands the test of time? How important has it been for your career as an artist?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: It's such a unique album – no matter what anyone's opinion is, everyone can agree that there's no album in the history of music that went through such a journey in its creation.  I'm proud to be part of it.

Metalfan: The band has been promoting this album extensively live in the last few years. Has there been talk about a new album between the band members or is this a topic that belongs to a distant indefinite future?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Everyone in the band is a good songwriter and we'd be able to make a great fucking album.  We've just been touring our asses off - we'll see what comes after that, I don't know what the future will be.

Metalfan: How about a live album or a DVD? There's been a lot of touring with the new line-up have any of the shows been professionally recorded with the intention of being released at a later time?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: If it was up to me we'd have live DVDs of every leg of every tour with backstage footage and interviews and funny moments, it would be like a dozen sequels to Spinal Tap, haha.  Ah well...

Metalfan: What's your favorite Guns N' Roses song and why?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: From the old stuff, Don't Cry.  Back when I first started touring with Guns, I played a solo version of Don't Cry and the audience would sing along, it felt like a real connecting moment in the shows.  From the newer stuff, the song Shackler's Revenge – I'm playing the fretted/fretless double-neck, switching back and forth while singing backup, I do a lot in that song.
Metalfan: Albumul a avut parte de reactii contradictorii de la critici si de la fani. Cum vezi tu acum acest material, cum crezi ca a trecut testul timpului? Cat de important a fost el pentru cariera ta de artist?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: E un album unic – indiferent de ce crede fiecare, cred ca suntem cu totii de acord ca nu exista un material in istoria muzicii care a avut parte de o calatoria atat de lunga in faza de creatie. Sunt mandru ca am luat parte la acest proces.

Formatia a promovat intens acest album printr-o serie de concerte in ultimii ani. Ati inceput deja sa discutati despre un nou album sau e un subiect pentru  viitorul indepartat?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Fiecare membru al trupei e un compozitor bun si am putea scoate un album al dracului de bun. Numai ca am bagat turnee la greu – vom vedea ce urmeaza dupa asta, habar n-am ce ne rezerva viitorul.

Metalfan: Dar un album live sau un DVD? Ati dat foarte multe concerte in noua formula. A existat vreun spectacol pe care l-ati inregistrat cu echipament profesional ca sa il puteti difuza la o data ulterioara?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Daca ar fi depins de mine, am fi avut un DVD pentru fiecare concert din fiecare turneu, inclusiv cu interviuri, inregistrari din culise si faze haioase, ar fi fost o duzina de continuari la documentarul Spinal Tap, hahaha. Ma rog...

Care e melodia ta favorita de la Guns N' Roses si de ce?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Dintre piesele vechi imi place Don't Cry. Cand am inceput sa concertez cu Guns cantam o versiune solo a acestei melodii si tot publicul canta cu mine, a fost un moment foarte emotionant pe parcusul spectacolelor. Dintre chestiile noi imi place Shackler's Revenge – cant la o chitara cu doua grifuri - unul cu taste, si unul fara – si schimb grifurile in timp ce fac a doua voce, chiar depun mult efort la cantecul asta.
Metalfan: What do you think about the whole story of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of Guns N' Roses?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I think Axl said enough about it, haha...

Metalfan: A teaser for the video 'Better' directed by Dale Resteghini has been released in 2010. But the video itself has not been released so far…

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Yeah, people have been bringing up this 'Better' video for a few years, I don't know what the plan is.  The one I saw was pre- Dale, and that wasn't a storyline type of video.  I can only speak for myself, I release tons of stuff - in the past year I finished & released four albums of music – produced Alexa VetereBreathe Again” (
www.reverbnation.com/alexavetere) and PocRise Above” (www.reverbnation.com/pocnation), guitar-work and final mixing & mastering for rapper ScarfaceWork Ethic”, two videos for my song “Invisible” (http://bit.ly/bumble2vids) and nine singles of my own last year, each with transcriptions & backing tracks & recording stems (www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php).  And that was with being away on the road half of that time and rehabilitating from a car accident that fucked my world up.  You just have to trust yourself, have faith, don't second guess, don't over-think, and you'll get plenty done.

Metalfan: Could you tell us more about your playing technique? What are your main influences? Bands, albums and guitar players...

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I started playing at age 6 after hearing the Kiss Alive! album in the mid- 70s, it had just come out.  Kiss made me want to do what I now do, and the Beatles made me love music and melody and how creative a song arrangement can be.  Guitar-wise, a lot of Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May...   I guess some of the things I do that guitarists might find interesting is the fretless playing, and the “thimble” tapping – I keep a metal cap (thimble) on my little finger of my picking hand and use it to tap notes on the strings higher than the fretboard, to get an extra range of notes.  Both the thimble and the fretless require accurate finger intonation like you'd need on a cello or violin, it's an aspect of guitar playing that isn't touched on often, as it's not needed with fretted guitar playing.  Examples of the fretless & thimble are the songs “Guitars Suck” (Bumblefoot “9.11CD) and “Guitars Still Suck” (Bumblefoot “Abnormal CD)

Metalfan: How many guitars do you own and how many of them you actually use? Do you still have your first guitar? What's your favorite guitar?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I'm not sure how many I have, I stopped counting, haha.  It isn't a lot though.  I'm not a big guitar collector, I just have what I've played on, over thirty-somethin' years...  around 15 guitars maybe?  My first guitar was a sunburst Les Paul copy from a company called Pace, back in the late- 70s.  I still have it, but it's gone through some obscene changes. At age 12 I started getting into guitar building and modifications, and did some odd things to my guitars...
(www.bumblefoot.com/gear.php)  My favorite for a long time was the “Swiss Cheese” guitar, then the “Flying Foot” guitar, now it's definitely the Vigier (www.vigierguitars.com) fretted/fretless double-neck – I can do everything I want to with that guitar, it's the weapon of choice.

Metalfan: You are regularly using a double-neck guitar during your live concerts. All the famous guitars players in the history of rock'n'roll have been using a double neck guitar at some point. Honestly, how much of it is a guitar-hero show-off to impress the audience with, and how much is it technical necessity?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Nooooo, I *need* that double-neck. I do so much switching from fretted to fretless and back during a song, gotta have it.  I think most guitarists have a double-neck for a legitimate purpose - one neck is usually a 12-string on most double-necks.
Metalfan: Ce crezi despre toata povestea cu includerea Guns N’ Roses in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Cred ca Axl spus ce era de spus despre chestia asta, haha...

In 2010 ati lansat un teaser la videoclipul Better, in regia lui Dale Resteghini. De ce videoclipul n-a fost inca lansat?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Da, multa lume aduce in discutie subiectul videoclipului Better de cativa ani, eu nu stiu exact care sunt planurile. Ce am vazut eu era un material facut inainte sa-l contactam pe Dale si nu era genul de videoclip cu o poveste. Eu pot vorbi doar despre munca mea; anul trecut am terminat si am lansat patru albume: am produs Alexa Vetere cu Breathe Again (www.reverbnation.com/alexavetere) si Poc cu Rise Above  (www.reverbnation.com/pocnation), Am facut partile de chitara, plus mixajul si mastering-ul final pentru rapper-ul Scarface cu Work Ethic. Am filmat doua videoclipuri pentru piesa Invisible cu Bumblefoot (http://bit.ly/bumble2vids)  si tot pentru Bumblefoot am lansat noua single-uri anul trecut, fiecare dintre ele cu transcriere, cu negativ si canale separate (www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php). Si asta in conditiile in care am fost in turneu cel putin jumatate din timp si mi-am revenit dintr-un accident de masina care m-a dat complet peste cap. Trebuie doar sa ai incredere in tine, sa ai credinta, sa nu ai ezitari, sa nu te gandesti prea mult si o sa reusesti sa faci o groaza de lucruri.

Ne poti da cateva detalii despre felul in care cinti? Care sunt influentele tale? Trupe, albume si chitaristi...
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Am inceput sa cant la varsta de sase ani, dupa ce am ascultat albumul Alive al celor de la Kiss, in anii ’70, chiar atunci cand a aparut. Kiss m-au facut sa vreau sa fac ce fac acum, iar Beatles m-au facut sa iubesc muzica, melodia si sa inteleg cat de creativ poti fi cand orchestrezi o piesa. Dintre chitaristi am ascultat mult Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May...   Cred ca lucrurile care i-ar putea interesa pe alti chitaristi sunt cantatul pe un grif fretless si tapping-ul “cu degetar” – tin intotdeauna un mic dop metalic (practic, un degetar) pe degetul mic de la mana cu care ciupesc corzile si il folosesc ca sa obtin note mai inalte decat as obtine in mod normal pe grif. Ambele tehnici – cantatul “cu degetar” si cantatul pe un grif fretless cer o precizie foarte mare a degetelor – o exactitate intalnita in mod normal doar atunci cand canti la vioara sau violoncel. E un mod de a canta la chitara care nu e prea des intalnit, pentru ca de regula nu ai nevoie de o asemenea precizie cand canti pe o chitara cu taste. Exemple ale ambelor tehnici puteti gasi pe melodiile Guitars Suck (Bumblefoot, albumul 9.11) si Guitars Still Suck (Bumblefoot, albumul Abnormal).

Metalfan: Cate chitari ai si pe cate dintre ele le folosesti de fapt? Inca mai ai prima chitara? Care de chitara ta preferata?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Nu stiu exact cate am, nu le mai pot numara, haha.Totusi, nu sunt chiar atat de multe. Nu-s mare colectionar. Am chestiile pe care am cantat in ultimii 30 si ceva de ani... poate 15 chitari? Prima mea chitara a fost o copie Sunburst de Les Paul de la o firma numita Pace, asta era la sfarsitul anilor ’70. Inca o am, dar a suferit niste modificari de-a dreptul indecente. La 12 ani am inceput sa fac si sa modific chitare si intrumentelor mele le-am facut tot felul de schimbari bizare... (www.bumblefoot.com/gear.php)  Preferata mea a fost mult timp chitara Swiss Cheese, apoi Flying Foot, iar acum e clar un Vigier (www.vigierguitars.com) cu doua grifuri – unul cu taste si celalalt fara – pot face orice vreau cu instrumentul ala, e arma mea favorita.

Metalfan: Folosesti des chitari cu doua grifuri in concert. Toti marii chitaristi din istoria rock-ului au folosit astfel de instrumente la un moment dat. Sincer, cat e nevoia ta de a impresiona publicul si a iti face imagine de mare chitarist si cat ai nevoie cu adevarat, tehnic?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Nuuuu, chiar am nevoie de alea doua grifuri. Fac atatea treceri intre ele in timpul unei melodii, imi trebuie mult de tot. Cred ca toti chitaristii care folosesc doua grifuri o fac din motive intemeiate – gandeste-te ca unul dintre griffuri are 12 corzi la un astfel de instrument.
Metalfan: In 1995 you have released your first full-length solo album titled The Adventures of Bumblefoot. How do you see it at this point?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I wasn't planning on my first album to be instrumental, it was what the label (Shrapnel Records) wanted – my vision was to have a band, that's what I always wanted.  But I wasn't going to stop moving forward just because it wasn't immediately happening the way I planned it. Life never happens the way you plan it, it's filled with compromises, and that isn't always a bad thing.  It turned to be a special album, something unique for its time (1995).  We re-released it in 2010 with additional tracks from a video-game soundtrack I had scored in '96.  I released a 200-page transcription book for the album as well, it was nearly a year of work making that book.  I transcribed it myself, completely accurate with fingers, picking, musical notation, tablature, for every track of every song.

Metalfan: Tell us a bit more about the digital singles you've been releasing last year, one single almost every month. Even though you had enough material for a full length album, you chose to release it as singles, how did you come to this decision?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I'm so busy between touring and producing that I'm not able to hibernate for nine months and make an album happen.  It made more sense for me to release songs as I made them, one song each month, keeping a steady flow of music coming out rather than waiting years to finish and release an entire album – I didn't know how many months I'd be able to keep it going, managed to get nine songs released before hitting the road again.  The last song I released was the version of “The Pink Panther Theme” I'd play as my guitar solo with Guns, and the band played on it.  About these songs - it was more than just releasing an MP3 each month – each song was released with a choice of hi-resolution formats, instrumental mixes, lead guitar transcriptions with backing tracks and reference mixes, and also recording stems so people can make their own mixes. (
www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php) It was everything I wished I had for the music I grew up with.

Metalfan: Your latest solo album dates from 2008. What can you tell us about your next solo album?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: I think the songs released in 2011 were like an album, just released in a non-traditional way. Almost like an album - with an album, songs are like chapters of a cohesive book, and the songs released in 2011 were more like a collection of individual short stories.  Ah, but what comes next?  I don't know.  I'm just letting life happen, and whatever music comes out will be the reaction to what I had lived.  But I don't know what that will be...  life's full of surprises, I'm not planning anything, I'd rather surprise myself.

Metalfan: Thank you for your time and for your answers, Ron! In the end would you like to send few words to our readers or to add something?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words to you all!  And thank you for the thoughtful questions.  See you very soon in Romania!!!

~ Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal


 Foto: Danette Bartholomew
Metalfan: In 1995 ai lansat primul tau album solo - The Adventures of Bumblefoot. Cum il vezi acum, dupa atatia ani?
Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Nici nu am avut intentia ca primul mei album sa fie unul instrumental, asta a vrut casa de discuri – Shrapnel Records. Eu am vrut de fapt sa am o trupa, asta mi-a dorit dintotdeauna. Dar n-avea sens sa ma opresc doar pentru ca lucrurile nu se intamplau din prima exact cum am vrut eu. Viata nu e oricum exact cu ti-o planifici tu, faci multe compromisuri, dar asta nu e intotdeauna un lucru rau. Pana la urma s-a dovedit a fi un album special pentru vremea lui (1995). L-am re-editat in 2010 cu piese suplimentare, de la coloana sonora a unui joc video inregistrata in 1996. Am lansat si o carte de 200 de pagini cu transcrierea albumului, mi-a luat aproape un an de munca. Eu am transcris totul foarte exact: ce degete folosesti, cum ciupesti corzile, adnotari muzicale, partituri – la fiecare track al fiecarei piese.

Metalfan: Povesteste-ne despre single-urile pe care le-ai lansat anul trecut, ai scos cate unul aproape in fiecare luna. Desi ai fi avut material suficient pentru un album, ai decis totusi sa scoti single-uri, cum ai luat decizia asta?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Sunt atat de ocupat cu turneele si cu productia muzicala incat n-am timp sa hibernez timp de noua luni ca sa concep un album. A fost mult mai logic pentru mine sa scot piesele in momentul in care erau gata, o melodie pe luna, ca sa tin un flux constant in loc sa astept ani in sir sa termin un album si sa-l lansez. Oricum, nu stiam cate luni voi putea sa continui procesul asta, dar am reusit sa lansez noua cantece inainte sa o iau iar din loc. Cel mai recent e versiunea mea a temei din Pantera Roz, pe care o cantam cu Guns ca solo de chitara, si toti membrii trupei canta pe ea. Cat despre aceste noua piese – e mai mult decat lansarea unui MP3 in fiecare luna – fiecare melodie e scoasa cu optiuni de rezolutie mare, transcrierile pentru chitara solo cu adnotari despre cum am mixat si cum am grupat canalele, astfel incat oamenii sa-si poate face propriile mix-uri (www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php). Asta e ce mi-as fi dorit eu sa am la melodiile cu care am crescut.

Metalfan: Cel mai recent album solo al tau e scos in 2008. Ce ne poti spune despre urmatorul?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Cred ca piesele scoase in 2011 au fost ca un album, doar ca lansat intr-o maniera neconventionala. De fapt, aproape ca un album, pentru ca un album e ca o carte unitara, pe cand melodiile mele sunt ca o serie de nuvele. Despre ce va urma? Nu stiu. Pur si simplu las viata sa-si urmeze cursul, iar muzica pe care o voi compune va fi o reactie la lucrurile pe care le-am trait. Dar nu stiu ce va fi... viata e plina de surprize, nu planific nimic, mai degraba imi place sa ma surprind.

Metalfan: Multumim pentru raspunsuri si timpul acordat, Ron. La sfarsit, vrei sa adaugi ceva sau sa transmiti cateva cuvinte cititorilor nostri?

Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal: Multumesc pentru ocazia de a va spune cate ceva tuturor. Si multumesc pentru intrebarile bine gandite. Ne vedem curand in Romania!

~ Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal


 Foto: Danette Bartholomew