Guitar Digest
Summer 2012
Volume 27 Number 3

by Tina Hall

As a guitarist who began building his own guitars around the age of 12, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal first gained notice as a guitarist when he was written up in the Spotlight New Talent column in Guitar Player Magazine, August 1989. Since then he has appeared as a guest on numerous artists' albums in addition to his work as a solo artist and as a guitarist for the ever iconic Guns N' Roses. Ron has been a member of the band since being highly recommend by the guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.

Thal has over 20 years experience under his belt as a producer of music that spans all genres with his work also appearing on VH1's That Metal Show, SpikeTV's MXC, Smallville, WWE Raw, MTV's Pimp My Ride, Hogan Knows Best, Osbournes, Made, Real World, Road Rules and My Super Sweet 16 just to name a few. He currently endorses Vigier Guitars where he has a signature Excalibur model named "Bfoot".

For those not yet familiar with your background, can you tell us a little about that and what makes you tick?

Born and raised in NYC, started playing at age 6 after hearing the KISS Alive! album - guitarist in Guns N' Roses since 2006, solo artist with 20 years of releases, producer, write music for TV shows and videogames... nice to meet ya! :)

What was running through your mind when you got your very first guitar?

Independence and freedom, being released from a cage and able to spread my wings.... was like getting your first car, feeling like you can suddenly go far, and fast.....

What was it like having your first band and learning a little of how the business of a band works outside the music? What do you think is the most important thing you learned from those days?

It felt like I just took that first car out to a smooth straight endless road, where I could drive as fast as I can go, farther than I could ever imagine. What I learned was that the road wasn't straight, or smooth, and the people you're in the car with may not want to go as far down that road as you do, and will try to slow you down, turn you around, jump out, or try to make you crash and burn. It's rare to find people willing to go down that bumpy road as far to the end as you do. They're out there - you find them far down the road, with their once shiny new cars as beaten and battered as yours is. And they still have the pedal slammed to the floor and won't let up. That's how you know who's 'road worthy'.

What led you to start teaching others to play while you were only 13? Do you think that experience in teaching early on has made your recent clinics and such come more natural than if you'd never done that? What is it like to see when someone learns a note or technique and realize for the first time they have got it down?

I was always into teaching, sharing, lighting other torches. By 13 I had a good knowledge of music theory and a good 6 or 7 years of learning, playing, writing, recording, gigging under the belt. There was plenty to share. And it felt natural to do, like it's what I was supposed to be doing, as others had done for me. I love to nurture, light the torches and watch the fire grow.

You also started building your own guitars around that time. What led you to try that? Do you still do that from time to time?

That came from reading Eddie Van Halen interviews in Guitar World magazines in the early 80s, inspired me to give it a try. Found it to be a whole other artistic outlet. Everything I did was pretty crude, but it had character. I don't get to do that very much, and time is so scarce, best to leave it to the pros...

What equipment do you use on the road? Is there any one piece of it you could not do without?

A good amp. For me, Engl amps have the tone and juice that I like. Sure, plenty comes from the hands and the guitar, but a good amp can make your guitar sing and scream, where a bad amp will make it more like you whine and nag.

Do you still endorse Vigier Guitars? Can you tell us a little about the Bfoot?

Been using Vigier guitars for 15 years now. My signature "Bfoot" model has a floating bridge rested against the body where I can bend the vibrato bar down, but if a string breaks the bridge will stay in place and the guitar stays in tune. The neck has the solid graphite going through the core to keep it from bending or warping, as all Vigier's do. There's the zero fret to keep things consistent between it and the first fret. The 2009 version has a killswitch as needed for newer Guns N' Roses songs. The pickups are Dimarzio's, Tone Zone (bridge) and the Chopper (neck). The 5-way pickup selector includes single-coil and out-of-phase settings to get variety in the articulation, beefiness and overtones. I wear a metal *thimble* on the smallest finger of my picking hand, touching it to the string to bring out notes higher than those you can get from the fretboard - there's a small magnetized hole in the lower horn of the guitar with the thimble in it, for quick convenient access.

What do you consider to be your dream model as far as guitars go and why?

The Vigier custom double-neck. It's like my signature "Bfoot" guitar but with a fretless neck on top and fretted neck on bottom.

What advice would you offer the guitarists of tomorrow?

Be on time, be prepared, be calm, focus, use a metronome, exercise your body, be open-minded, be diverse in what you do musically (teach, produce, design merch, explore every talent and passion involved in making and sharing music), bring extra socks on the road and sleep any chance you can get.

What do you enjoy most about playing in Guns N' Roses? What it is like playing in a band with three guitarists? Do you like the dynamic of the live show?

I love the music, the comradery of the band, crew, visiting so many parts of the world, how we'll play for 100,000 people and then do a stripped-down club gig for 100 people... I especially like the moments where we're connecting with the fans. The recent show in Miami [March 6th, 2012] where young kids played my guitar and we took pictures together on the wing of the stage, the signs people make & hold up in the audience, some really crack me up, love it!! It's easy playing in a three-guitarist scenario, we have it worked out. :)

Do you have any particular song you love to play above all others? What is your favorite GnR song to perform live?

I always loved doing Don't Cry, it started in the set as my solo where I'd play and the audience would sing. Now we start it like that and build it into the full band.

How did you first decide to create your own line of hot sauces? What led you to your infatuation with Scoville Units and the like?

I have the ideas for sauces ready to go and have been keeping an eye out for the right company to hook up with. I like the rush from it, and built up a pretty high threshold over time.

Are there any other little known facts about yourself that your fans might be surprised to learn?

I get happy when I smell oranges.

Do you have any particular song you love to play above all others? What is your favorite GnR song to perform live?

I like playing Shackler's Revenge - I do a lot of singing, playing the fretted and fretless necks, soloing and singing simultaneously. The song takes a lot of brain power, I like that.

Who do you consider to be the best living guitarists of our time?

Eddie Van Halen was the one who inspired me the most, I'm stickin' to Eddie.

What projects can your fans look forward to next?

Last year I released nine digital singles at , cover songs, originals, some with guests - each was released with a transcription of the lead guitar parts and stems of the recording for making your own mixes. Would love to do more of that. Between the recent GNR tours I've been producing a bunch. Next releases are rapper Scarface's album "Work Ethic" - I laid guitar tracks and did final mixing & mastering... and Mexican female rock artist Poc - I co-wrote, laid all music, some backing vocals, GNR's Frank Ferrer laid all the drums, did all the recording, mixing and mastering. We released the first single "Rock N Roll Baby" in mid-February, next we'll be setting up her press and hopefully getting her on the road soon, as we release the full album.

If you could pick your famous last words what do you think they'd be?

Hmmmmm, maybe a song reference....... Glad To Be Here...?

Thanks for the great questions, and for all of you who took the time to read this :) Find me at:

Have a good one, bye! :D

10 MAR 2012