AxVault recently had the pleasure to do and email interview with
Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal current guitarist for GNR and all around
music master. He has been praised as one of the greatest
guitarist of all time and when you hear the wide variety and
styles and compositions he has written you will agree.
Thal’s song “Firebrand” was used as the opening theme for the TV show MXC (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge), the American adaptation of Takeshi’s Castle. He has also written and performed the theme song to VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, an edit of his song “Day To Remember” on his Forgotten Anthology album. Thal has licensed several of his recordings to television shows on MTV and VH1 such as Hogan Knows Best, The Real World, Made, The Osbournes, and others. Thal also wrote and recorded the music for the New York Islanders Hockey Team 2008–2009 season promos. [wikipedia]
Photo: Katarina Benzova
What projects are you working on now?
Heeeeey! Just got home from a three-month European tour with GNR, slowly getting over that weird transition back to ‘normal life’, haha, ready to start being creative. I’ll be writing and recording and releasing and producing and guesting and teaching, maybe some light gigging, doing whatever I can before having to press the pause button on it all and hit the road again. I was planning on writing instrumental guitar music but every time I have a song idea I start thinking of vocal melodies and lyrics, gaaaaahhhh!!!!!
How did you get hooked up with the Mexican singer Poc?
Someone contacted me
last year to co-write and produce her album, we Skype’d some
ideas and then she stayed at my studio for two months and did
the album, did some shows… kept a Livestream going to have fans
virtually be there, had fans Skype their backing vocals for the
song ‘Rock N Roll Baby’, that was cool. Did a lot of playing off
the vocal lines, had a real singer/guitarist team to the songs –
album is called “Rise Above”, it was her debut album (
http://itunes.apple.com/album/rise-above/id529724762 ) I
produced and released another album this year also from a female
artist, Alexa Vetere from NYC – not the typical producing story…
started in 2003, daughter of a friend, her goal was to release
an album, she had never sang, written a song or played guitar.
We started with guitar lessons, she’d play until her fingertips
were literally black. Vocal lessons, songwriting, my solo band
backed her for recordings and live shows in NY & LA, she got a
nice guitar endorsement, we posted a song online and it ended up
being #1 on the iHeartRadio Rock chart with 3.6 million plays.
Then I started touring with GNR, she went to College, life went
on. We kept in touch and always knew we’d release the music at
some point, this year we finally did :) (
http://itunes.apple.com/album/breathe-again/id514980356 ) I
love producing – the collaborating and creating and making
everything become a reality, it’s what I love most.
Photo: Katarina Benzova
You compose, produce, and perform; what projects are you most proud of?
The last three albums,
http://itunes.apple.com/album/abnormal/id282987232 ) & the
‘Barefoot’ acoustic ep (
), I feel the strongest connection to those albums. I had a lot
of fun with the 2011 song-a-month releases, I liked the ease of
releasing music a non-physical way, and was able to offer a lot
more with each song – transcriptions and backing tracks,
recording stems, things I *wish* I could have had for the music
I grew up with… if you go to
www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php there’s a list of
releases with links to info and soundclips…
Photo: Katarina Benzova
You have played in so many styles? Is there any piece of music you can’t play and why?
I’m not so great at Flamenco… :P I just need to devote myself to it, I really should put in the time.
You seem to be very helpful to young guitar players with the clinics and videos you do. What makes you so helpful to them? Was music a refuge for you growing up like it is for many kids and why?
Music definitely kept
me out of trouble (some trouble, not all, haha) and was solace
when needed. I’m more into the idea of teaching someone how to
catch fish rather than just giving them fish – I share what I’ve
learned, and what I’m still learning. Teaching people,
Photo: Katarina Benzova
On your re-release of “Adventures of Bumblefoot” in 2011, one of greatest guitar albums of all time, you released a transcription of the same album. Do you feel that written music still has a value to contemporary music in light of all the tablature that many guitarists rely on? If so why?
Ah, thanks! Music notation and TAB, each has something the other doesn’t. Notation is about the music, it’s more translatable to other instruments, but doesn’t capture the playing nuances that TAB does. You can get by with either, or neither depending on how good you are at defining what you hear, but if you want to be more than a guitarist, it’ll help a lot to know notation and theory. Info and samples of “The Adventures Of Bumblefoot” album & transcription book are at www.bumblefoot.com/adventures.php
Are there any great unknown guitarists past and present you think are amazing and why.
Aaahhhh, ‘unknown’ is such a subjective term, one person’s celebrity is another person’s “who?” Cool if we talk about some great accomplished players that aren’t on the lists as often as they should be…? It’s a list that could go on for miles, I’ll start with a few names. Elliot Easton – The Cars were one of those bands with perfect arrangements, the vocal melodies and keyboard melodies, the vocal harmonies, the sound of the toms, and Elliot Easton was a real badass player, tone, feel, technique, pocket, dynamics, taste… a big round of applause to him. Mike Campbell – love his playing on Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever” album… man, talk about someone that understands how important *space* is – space is what gives meaning to the moments you play, and when he plays every phrase is truly valuable. Vinnie Moore – I still remember seeing him with UFO a few years ago and as he had his moment in the song ‘Rock Bottom’ he just played and played and it was some of the best soloing I had seen, he just tore it up so ridiculously, it was inspiring, it was like getting a vitamin shot in the arm.
Beside your Vigier Guitars what guitars do you have in you collection? Acoustic and classical?
I still have my ol’ sunburst Gibson Les Paul, ’89 reissue of the ’59. I use Parkwood ( www.parkwoodguitars.com ) acoustic guitars, love the feel and love the tones I’ve gotten with them in the studio. With GNR there’s a Godin electric nylon string that I’d use in one of the newer songs… my favorite is definitely the Vigier double-neck fretless/fretted, can do everything with that one.
How much do you practice?
*NOT ENOUGH* haha…
when I’m on tour I’ll walk around the venue with a guitar for a
few hours before the show to get the hands & limbs warm, when
I’m home maybe a half-hour a day. If I’m exercising with
weights, I need more daily playing time to get the stiffness out
of the hands and arms.
With all the new technology invading music and guitars what do you think guitar music will be like in 50 years?
It’ll sound like putting your ear to an airplane engine, just a big fat unrelenting block of noise that makes your skull implode – all due to 50 years of mastering engineers that made each recording ‘louder’ than the last…
Thanks again Ron
Thank YOU, a pleasure! :)
~ Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal