Interview – Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal
by Minion | Feb 3, 2015 | Featured, Front Page, Interviews

EDITORS NOTE: Guitar Virtuoso Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – solo artist and co-lead guitarist for Guns n Roses – joins ROKBIZ to talk about his latest solo release, “Little Brother Is Watching”. Bumblefoot sports a bad ass resume including Guns n Roses, Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Guitar Gods’ tour and ten solo records. He has given a considerable amount of his time and effort to many charitable causes in order to make a difference on this planet.

 Ron, you are known world wide as a guitar virtuoso, writer, producer, and teacher. Your talent, career and accomplishments speak for themselves. It looks like 2015 is going to be an exciting year for you with the release of your tenth and perhaps best solo effort, “Little Brother Is Watching”. We would love to get some insight from you as to what’s behind your inspiration for this record.

20140525_-_Vegas_(photo_by_Margott_Hinostroza)_10397224_10152176659310488_7461768854712285043_oBumblefoot: Thank you so much!  I was doing a lot of touring over the last few years, and always found it hard to get inspired while on the road, it’s like I need to step away from it all to recharge the batteries and find inspiration through non-music-related life.  I had some song ideas, unfinished songs that were waiting for something to happen where I’d have a story to tell that fit those songs, and would spark new songs.  In the second half of 2013 I started putting more time back into my own music, started playing more solo shows, solo tours – I forgot how much I loved it, how much I missed it.  Towards the end of the year life started to happen – in the days before starting two months of European solo touring my father passed away, they found tumor in me, family being harassed by a stalker, admitting defeat in efforts to save other things I was doing – I had new experiences to draw from, new stories to tell, and the songs started to pour out.

ROKBIZ: What was the creative process like in making “Little Brother Is Watching” and how long did the record take to write and produce?

Bumblefoot: I finished the solo tours in Europe by Jan 2014, went to NAMM and did some shows in Vegas & LA, back to NY and was guest guitarist on That Metal Show, and the next morning got the surgery.  Three weeks of recovery and played with Tony Harnell on the Progressive Nation At Sea cruise, and then started rehearsals and a South American tour with GNR in March/April.  I started forcing myself to write while on that tour.  It was like touring while your brain was in labor, trying to push & squeeze out something that needs to find a meaningful shape as the tunnel is narrowed and tensed by the distractions of needing to give yourself to everyone else.  When the tour was finished Dennis Leeflang  brought over his drums and additional recording gear and we started tracking in early May, recording half the album’s drums to scratch tracks of bass, rhythm and lead guitars and vocals.  GNR toured the US in May/June while I lived with the first half of the album and did a few re-writes.  Days after that toured ended I started a US/Canada solo tour, as part of Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Guitar Gods’ tour.  Wrote the rest of the album on the bus, and when we finished in mid-July we laid drums to the second half of the album, and I took time off for the rest of the year to focus on finishing the recording, only doing a few shows every month or two.  Most of the guitar soloing and melodies were from the improvised scratch tracks, the spontaneity of those tracks made the most honest and instinctive guitar parts.  Sometimes the first take is the best take, before you start to *think*…   I did a lot more with vocal harmonies and different sounds, from recording creaking doors to banging fists on walls.  The last step in the recording was to have a listening party in NY in December before the album was completed, with 100 fans – we’d listen to each song, we’d talk about the song, then I’d show them parts to sing, and they would all sing the backing vocal chants, melodies, foot stomps.  By January the mixing and mastering were done, Dan Verkys from Garden Of Bad Things  started working on album art, picked the order of songs, spacing between songs…   ok, short version of the answer – May 2014 to January 2015, haha.

ROKBIZ: What type of support can we expect for the new record in 2015 and have you lined up a band to tour with?

20141212_-_Greenpoint_(photo_by_Ilya_Mirman)_10712678_864838110203633_3686877965748951551_oBumblefoot: I’m taking it one step at a time, and will take each next step depending on how things go.  Starting with Yahoo debuting the first single “Little Brother Is Watching” in late January.  As I type this I’m on a plane heading back from the great Radio Contraband convention in Vegas, where I was given the opportunity to share the song with hosts, programmers and more – hopefully they’ll feel it’s worthy of support – if not, I’ll simply dig deeper into myself next time until I can draw out music that touches people.  Gabriella Loutfi of Bitter Sweet Pictures is directing the video we’re shooting in two days, just as the song will be made available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.  I’ll be doing days of interviews while prepping for the full album release and playing a week of shows in Thailand, head back home for the full album release on Feb 24th (if I can meet the deadline!) and two days later head off to the UK for a week-and-a-half of shows, while planning the next video.  Thinking about a radio promo tour, and when the time is right, the full band tour.  Ultimately the rest of the world will decide what I should do next, I’m listening to them.  Will see how each step goes  :)

ROKBIZ: The title track “Little Brother Is Watching” really captures the notion that we are all “watching each other” thru today’s technology – a reverse Orwellian concept if you will with us being Little Brother. What are your feelings on the state of our society’s growing dependence on social voyeurism? While we ourselves are being watched, do you feel we are building effective checks and balances to monitor the authoritarian behavior of those in power thru this social voyeurism?

20140801_-_Dubai_(photo_by_Subodh_Shetty)_bBumblefoot: I think all that’s really happening is we’re exposing what we already are, what we already know.  A big part of the equation in what we people do is “will we get caught?” and we factor that in.  Discipline verse morals verse desires verse accountability.  I’d guess that less people are peeing in the boss’ coffee knowing there’s a surveillance camera in the corner of the room.  I think we’re better able to expose an undeniable abuse of power and get it to more eyes, and that’s valuable.  People have a right to privacy.  But for those we entrust and employ to manage our lives collectively, there needs to be a certain amount of transparency and communication to maintain our faith.

ROKBIZ: You have some experience touring and recording with major acts like GNR. That’s all great stuff, but it seems that you have always been most satisfied being the captain of your own ship. What is it about being a solo artist that you find most rewarding?

Bumblefoot: What I love most about being a solo artist is that I get to fully express myself – in the writing, the lyrics, the singing, playing, the arrangement, the overall mood, the production, everything.  But I’d love to have a higher authority, someone to guide me and make it possible for me to be more focused on what I should be doing – making music.  And that’s what I love most about producing, and why I love producing most of all – it’s a collaboration, the artist is the captain, and my goal is to bring out their best and help them make something they’re proud of and believe in, and hopefully exceeds their expectations.

ROKBIZ: Despite all of the things you are doing including releasing “Little Brother Is Watching” and the new Art of Anarchy record with John Moyer, Scott Weiland, and Jon & Vince Votta – you are producing some cool new artists at your studio. Fill us in!

Bumblefoot: I’ve been friends with Rob Dukes (singer of Generation Kill) for years and he was telling me about the great collaboration they’re doing with Darryl ‘DMC’.  We spoke about having me mix and produce, it grew into adding guitar tracks as well, and it’s sounding pretty badass.  We’re all loving what the other does and having a great time with it…!

ROKBIZ: Over the years you have exhibited a lot of generosity. You have lent your name, time and talent to a number of charitable organization – even organizing events. ROKBIZ respects you for that. Is there any particular group you would like to give a shout out to while you are here?

Bumblefoot: Ah man, there are so many, long list…!  From Wildlife Trust of India to Lestari Sayang Anak orphanage in Indonesia to Operation Smile to Calling All Cats.  I’ll be doing a pre-party show on Feb 12th before playing Bike Week in Pattaya Thailand, proceeds from the show will be going to Jesters Care For Kids.

ROKBIZ: According to your bio, you’ve been “dicked around by half-assed band members, labels, managers and tour companies” over the years. What’s the best advice can you give to the aspiring musician willing to dedicate his / her best efforts to the craft of rock and roll?

Bumblefoot: 5% of your time will be playing.  The other 95% will be stamping out fires and climbing muddy hills to make that 5% happen.  Know how to navigate the 95%.  Understand all the roles of the people you’d want on your team, do those tasks, get experience, make mistakes, learn, and get better.  The world owes you NOTHING, you need to earn it – give everything you are and keep out-doing yourself.  Be self-reliant, self-sufficient, your music is your child, do whatever it takes to take care of your child and provide a good life.  And enjoy every f**king minute of it.  If you don’t, know what you need to let go of to make this a life you love.  That’s important, as all you have is your one life – so succeed with authenticity, as you figure out what that means to you.