The Guns N'
Roses guitarist talks about hot sauces, Dubai hard rock band Point
of View, and coming up with the Pink Panther theme
Tagat | June 10, 2013
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal
at Guns N’ Roses show in Mumbai.
Photo: Bobin James
If you ever want to contact Ron Thal aka Bumblefoot, guitarist of
Guns N’ Roses and more recently, promoter of his own range of hot
sauces, you should know that he has a lot of rules.The
big scroll of 35 things you
should know before emailing Bumblefoot may not be the most read
thing, considering fans still mail all kinds of gifts including
animal testicles to Hello Kitty manicure set. “Send me good vibes,
that’s all I need. I’ve always preferred waves over particles
anyway,” says Thal, ahead of his five-city
India tour with Dubai
hard rock band Point of View.
So you’re just free from touring with GNR and now you’re on tour
with a Dubai band, who are heading to India. And they’re playing
with an American guitarist. That’s as global as it gets, right?
Yes! The Internet easily connects the whole virtual world, but it’s
not so easy in the physical world. There are a lot more rules and
paperwork, expenses, hoping your flight isn’t canceled, and trust,
once you’ve left your home. People take a piece of their own culture
and behavior with them and what’s normal in one place could be seen
as disrespectful somewhere else. So you learn a lot from traveling.
You start to see what is common in all of us, what’s in our hearts.
And of all the bands I’ve known for decades, besides being a great
band, the guys in Point Of View also have the greatest hearts.
What is it about Point Of View that stood out for you?
Their work ethic and their social consciousness. I think giving
support is no longer about just the music; you support the people
and what they do. POV are great songwriters, they play their songs
well, and they put it all towards a greater purpose, like supporting
animal welfare and more. Things like this made me a fan. They’re
deserving of international attention. They’ve actually inspired me
to create a special kind of festival that will give attention to new
bands. I want to do something that will help our future generations
of music-makers. Starting with Point Of View, they’ve earned our
attention and respect.
Speaking of promoting bands, are there any Indian bands that caught
your attention? Anything you picked up while you were on tour last
I enjoyed watching and listening to Thermal And A Quarter and
Goddess Gagged, who were both great openers for the Guns N’ Roses
shows in India. There’s a great jazz fusion group called Adil &
Vasundhara, very tasty. Ah, and a former student of mine in NY named
David Abraham, he lives in Mumbai, has a band called The
Koniac Net. They just did their first video,
very talented guy!
You also have your own range of hot sauces that just came out on the
market. What is it about rock and metal that people can associate
with hot sauces?
I’ve thought a lot about that. Rock and metal musicians and fans
love intensity in our music. And no food can cause you to have as
intense a reaction as hot sauce can. What we love about making
music, we also love to share with the other senses. Metal is the
most intense music, hot sauce is the most intense food. You can
find out more about it here.
Do people send you music often and ask you if you can jam with them
or for opinion?
All the time. Sometimes, a few times a day. I try my best to listen
to everything, but time is always the issue. Time and staying
focused are the two big challenges, but I try.
I came across this long list of do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts)
about what people should mail you about. Did that list come out of
any particular experience or is it just a precaution? I know you ask
people not to send you gifts any more, because your house is
It’s an odd list [laughs].
Anything that’s on the list got there because I was asked many
times, all real things. Ah, gifts, yes… the best gig for a traveling
musician is a simple ‘Thank you’. The big challenges on the road are
finding time and finding room in your suitcase. The most appreciated
things are the simple ones. You can bring the kindness someone gave
you to everywhere you are, always. It’s not quite as easy to bring a
giant 40-pound painting in a glass enclosure with you on small
planes and through airports and hotel rooms for two months [laughs].
I value every gift I’ve ever received and have them all, but the
physical world has physical limits and I’ve reached mine! Send me
good vibes, that’s all I need. I’ve always preferred waves over
That list starts off with something about how your fingers get numb
from replying to everyone’s mails/ questions/ comments, to the point
that it affects your ability to play guitar. What’s the craziest
requests you’ve received?
I’m making a serious effort to be more selfish [laughs].
I need to make music. And I can’t do that if I socialize on Facebook
all day and night, it’s self-neglect. So I do what I can, but I need
more ‘me time’ to be with my family, my aging parents need me more
than ever and to sustain my health. People have asked me to raise
their children if they become no longer able to. That’s a bit much.
What are the craziest gifts you’ve received?
Animal testicles. And a set of pink Hello Kitty fingernail files.
Tell me about the Pink Panther theme and your association with it.
How long have you been playing it?
I started playing it in December 2009. It was one of Guns N’ Roses’
last rehearsals before hitting the road for our first tour after the
release of Chinese
Democracy, we all had new solo spots in the show worked out…
except me. I didn’t want to take a solo. My attitude was that since
people came to hear GNR songs, I’d rather give them another song
than stand up there feeling like an attention-seeking buffoon, not
giving people what they want. It was a bad attitude. It stemmed from
Finally, with just a few days left before all the gear was being
shipped off to Taipei, I asked the band “Has anyone done a guitar
solo version of the Charlie Brown theme?” [guitarist Richard] Fortus
said “Yeah, every kid in GIT has…” “OK, how about the Pink Panther?”
Everyone quietly thought, got no resistance. “Cool? OK, Tommy
[Stinson, bassist], play these octaves, bahmmm-bommm-bummmmm… Fortus,
hit these clean chords dah-dahm-dah-daaaahm… Frank
[Ferrer, drums], gimme a tssss-ta-t’-tssss-ta-t’-tssss…. Deej
[guitarist DJ Ashba], come in heavy on this, DAH-DAHM-DAH-DAHM…!”
And we put it together and played it every night from 2009 to 2011.
At the end of 2011, we recorded it and I released it, as the final
song of my song-a-month releases I did throughout 2011. Every song
also offered guitar transcriptions and backing tracks, and recording
stems for making your own mixes. So, in a way, I released the first
new music from Guns N’ Roses [laughs].
It’s available here.
You’re going to be jamming with quite a few Indian musicians as well
[Bumblefoot jams with Warren Mendonsa, Tirthankar Poddar aka 2Blue,
Them Clones vocalist Surojit Dev and Bruce Lee Mani of Thermal and a
Quarter, among others], on your India tour, in addition to POV. How
will all of you be prepping for this jam? Have you had a chance to
listen to their music?
I have not prepared at all. I have no idea what we’re going to do,
and that’s fine. Let’s just be free and see what happens. With all
those great players, there will be plenty of magical moments, the
kind you only get when you don’t plan, don’t try to control the
outcome, and just let anything happen.
Guns N’ Roses are still touring and playing on their huge back
catalog of songs. Do you get to improvise on the guitar parts when
you’re on stage?
Yes, there are plenty of jams in the songs and between songs,
moments of musical spontaneity. But when it comes to the big hits, I
don’t want to rewrite guitar parts that are important to the song. I
would rather respect the songs, and the audience, and do my best to
give them those melodies as they know them, with a true love of
of View and Bumblefoot India Tour
June 11th – Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad
June 12th – Hard Rock Cafe, Bengaluru
June 13th – Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai
June 14th – Hard Rock Cafe, New Delhi
June 15th – The Festival ft Hacride and Nothnegal at Nazrul Mancha,
Bumblefoot plays with Point of View on their India tour starting
June 11th, 2013 at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad. Entry: Rs 250 [Cover
Rs 500]. Details here.