Wikipedia defines Bumblefoot as “ulcerative pododermatitis – a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction on the foot of birds of prey and rodents.” However, it’s safe to say that in the music world the name is more often associated with Ron Thal – lead guitarist for Guns n’ Roses, a writer, and a producer. Before joining GnR almost a year ago, he’s released 8 solo records since 1995. Bumblefoot is a true virtuoso guitarist and a highly original writer with a style that I’d describe as hard rock with a quirky and experimental flavor to it.
Check out his latest solo release Normal, for a taste of his playing. It has also been confirmed that Bumblefoot will appear on the new Guns n’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy – an album that has been in the works for over 10 years. It is expected that album will finally be released in 2007, although no set date has been announced yet. For more info on Bumblefoot and his music, go to www.bumblefoot.com.
IC: What’s in store for 2007 in the Bumbleworld?
RT: Heeeeeeeeeeey! Gonna be a busy year – a whole lotta touring, hopefully another solo album, if I can get into the studio enough in-between the tourin’. Maybe I’ll grow a moustache too. Not sure.
IC:In mid-2006 you officially became one of the lead guitarists in Guns n’ Roses. How did that come about?
RT: It was through recommendation; we just talked a bit, got together and started jamming, and never stopped. Jumped right into touring, then recording, and here we are almost a year later. Looking back, it’s been a great year, excited about what’s yet to come…
IC: You’ve been very successful in promoting yourself and your career. As a developing artist, what was the key to getting yourself out there and getting your name known?
RT: Don’t be a sleazebag, don’t be a taker. Be real. Be yourself. Care about the integrity of the music. Reach out to the specific people and places that might be interested in your kind of music. Pick your battles wisely – some won’t be worth the time and energy. If something isn’t working, move on and invest yourself deeper into the areas that are succeeding, be patient with the rest.
Be diverse – explore as many areas of music as you can – songwriting, engineering, gigging, teaching, promoting – you might discover passion in an area you didn’t expect.
IC: How did you first get started with playing the guitar and at which point did you decide that you wanted to make a career out of it?
RT:Knew from early on – 5 years old, heard the Kiss Alive! album for the first time. I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.
IC: What’s your background in music education? Have you ever received formal training?
RT: Started taking guitar lessons around 6 or 7, started also writing songs, formed a band, recorded, gigged… took private lessons for years, worked on theory, composition, jazz, classical, and continued studying on my own. Ya never stop learning, always some new revelation and discovery – I think the day you stop learning is the day you start sucking.
IC: How did you come up with your stage name – Bumblefoot?
RT: It was the early 90s, my girlfriend was in veterinary school, was helping her study for a test, one of the diseases was called “Bumblefoot”. I wrote a song called Bumblefoot, she did well on the test, the song became the theme to my first album, she became a veterinarian, Bumblefoot became my band’s name, and eventually my nickname. Then she married me.
IC: Describe your style in 3 words or less.
IC: Both your playing and writing are very different and original. Is that something you’ve consciously worked on over the years and or just how things came together?
RT: Ya gotta just let things happen naturally and spontaneously, don’t over-think it. Don’t be over-critical, have faith in yourself, trust your instincts, and let the ideas flow. Easier said than done, I’m the first person to obsess over a mix or lyrics…
IC: There is what seems to be an eastern European influence in your songwriting. A great example of this would be the chorus in “Real” from your latest album, Normal. Can you talk a bit about this influence and your influences in general?
RT: Listened to a lot of classic rock, old-school metal and punk growing up, but I dig everything – cheesy lounge music, funk, opera, polka… it all leaves some kind of imprint on the brain, ya know? I try not to think about it all, just focus on the attitude and vibe, and try to make something that will get that vibe across. Would rather define the music after it’s created than have it direct the creative process. My grandparents are from Eastern Europe – maybe it’s just in my blood.
IC: What kind of gear do you use nowadays?
RT: Line6 Vetta2 head, Marshall cabs, Vigier guitars… with Guns I mostly use an old Les Paul, and the Vigier fretless guitar. I keep it pretty simple, a guitar and an amp, some fx from the amp.
IC: Can you tell us about your signature Bumblefoot guitar?
RT: Nice geetar. I won’t do it justice if I try to describe it, there’s info and pictures available HERE.
IC: Is it true that you use a thimble on your right hand to assist with your guitar playing? How come and what are the benefits of this?
RT: Yessir. It’s on my smallest finger on the picking hand, I tap on the string with it to get notes that are higher than the fretboard. The metal thimble against the string brings out the sustain and pitch, like pressing a string against a metal fret. Check out the song “Guitars Suck” to hear an example of it…
IC: What kind of stuff do you listen to nowadays? What are your top 3 records of all time?
RT: A lot of old Motown stuff mostly. Top three albums? Hmmmmmm… that answer changes every 10 seconds – for now I’m gonna say Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour”, Manowar “Battle Hymns” and Soundgarden “Superunknown”… DOH! It just changed to Kiss “Dressed To Kill”, Yes “Going For The One”, and Stevie Wonder “Songs In The Key Of Life”… keeps changing.
IC: What do you think about the current state of guitar-oriented music? Where do you see this genre heading towards in the future?
RT: It’s in fine shape. Turn on your TV, you’ll hear plenty of it.
IC: What advice can you give to aspiring musicians?
RT: Have fun! Give 1000%, and enjoy doing it. Very important – be *pleasant*, be someone people want to work with. No one wants to deal with a douchebag. And be *on time*.