Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: “Axl and I are two different people with two different lives and two totally different sets of hurdles to jump over”
Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is currently using the downtime from touring to work on a new solo album and also has a fun new app on the Google Play Store and App Market market called “Rock Science” which is a rock trivia game with a social gaming twist. He’s featured prominently on the latest Guns N’ Roses DVD “Appetite for Democracy” which debuted at number one on the Billboard music DVD charts and is also in the food biz with his signature hotsauces. He’s a busy guy with a lot of things going on but thankfully took the time to talk with me again about his part in this past summer’s tour with Yngwie Malmsteen, the new record he’s planning, GNR and more, read on…..
LRI: Hey Ron, how’s it going? After talking with Yngwie and hearing about the tour this summer I really wanted to get out to the show you played here but couldn’t make it. How did the shows go??
Ron Thal: Good, great. Tour was fantastic. I did a 40 minute set, Gary Hoey did a 40 minute set and then Yngwie did a good hour and a half to two hours and towards the end of the night we all got up together and the three of us all jammed on some Deep Purple stuff like “Burn” with all of us taking solos and I’ll take a vocal here and there on some of the harmony parts or bridges. There was a lot of work involved as far as logistics and making sure everything went on schedule but it was good, a nice musical bonding thing. If you are a guitar player or a guitar fan it was definitely a feast that you missed sorry you couldn’t make it.
LRI: What’s next for more solo touring? Are you keeping your options open for Guns and Roses at this point or busy with other things?
Ron: I’ve been offered a lot of options for touring but have pretty much been turning everything down because I am really focused on finishing a new Bumblefoot album before I go out again. I don’t wanna just go out and tour only playing past music, I want something new and something fresh to support next time I go out. I’m more than halfway done with the new album and starting to work on the best plan as far as how to share it with the world and get it out there. When it’s out I plan on getting back out there to play everywhere I can.
LRI: I was just blasting your track “Guitars Suck” and am blown away every time I hear it but I totally understand you wanting to get some new stuff out there.
Ron: Thank you, thank you, that’s a fun song for sure and a part of the set every night I play.
LRI: I know you grew up a big KISS fan like I did but I wanna ask you about some of your more surprising musical influences. Some of the singles that you have released on bumblefoot.com are covers from some pretty eclectic sources or just songs you don’t hear every day.
Ron: Right, right, they are definitely not your typical cover song choices at all. Not everyone attempts a Herman’s Hermits cover and things like that. I was always into a lot of different music growing up and was exposed to a lot of stuff at a young age. When I was really young I got into the Beatles and KISS and classic rock stuff and punk and metal but also my parents had a lot of Beach Boys albums and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, my uncle had Tchaikovsky so there were all kinds of different things that I got my hands on. A lot of the other kids in my neighborhood growing up had Yes and Blondie or Jethro Tull and I really got to firsthand explore a lot of different styles. My grandmother had shit like Englebert Humperdinck (laughs) and I started hearing some of that lounge type music and got into Motown and found this whole different world of soul and R&B music. I just feel like there is this whole uncharted world of all different kinds of music out there and people really should explore it whether they are taking guitar lessons or just enjoy listening to music for pleasure.
LRI: I think people sometimes get stuck in their favorite genre of music and just sort of stop exploring sometimes. Do you think pushing those listening boundaries is one of the most important things a creative musician can do?
Ron: I do. I think you’re always gonna have sort of your foundation or core music that you build upon that is sort of the essence of who you are like for me obviously it’s the classic rock, hard rock music. That’s what’s in my blood and the foundation of everything that’s followed, everything else is just icing on that cake. At the same time, you’re not being disloyal to your foundation if you explore jazz or blues or anything else like classical or punk or country because it’s good to broaden and explore and enhance that foundation with those other styles for no other reason than to see how you can grow from it or learn from it and add to who you are and what you do and what you play, absolutely.
LRI: You can almost be just as creative when approaching a cover as you can when doing your original stuff. Was it fun for you personally to track that Herman’s Hermits song “There’s a Kind Of Hush”? It’s such a smooth track….
Ron: Definitely. I don’t know if you would say it was out of my comfort zone so to speak but it was absolutely something that was a blast doing. I thought it was just fun doing a song a month like that and releasing it in that way. It didn’t necessarily have to be this cohesive, continuous thing the way an album is. When you put out an album you usually want the end result to sound like it all came from the same place or even where every song is part of the same story. With that song a month, single format, every single track could kind of be its own story altogether which is different but cool in its own way. Each track is able to stand on its own individually and doesn’t have to have any type of connection to the other songs you are releasing. It also gave me a chance to do those kind of unique covers and revisit those songs I grew up on and interpret those things that had an impact on me but be able to share them with everyone and put my own twist on them. I wanted to retell those stories as cover songs, I know I always refer to songs as stories but musically or lyrically but it really is its own language and the songs are telling you something and putting a picture in your mind or taking you somewhere. It does take you on a little travel and tell you a story so I find that as time goes on I more and more see songs as musical stories rather than just as auditory music.
LRI: The new album will be a true album though in every sense of the word and you are looking to release it in other avenues other than just via your website?
Ron: Yes, it will definitely be available on Bumblefoot.com but really should be more than that, it should be available anywhere you look to find music. The goal is to make it as easily accessible for the widest audience possible. I am hoping to have it out at the end of the year but it all depends on recording, mastering, planning, do I want to do videos and all of that kind of stuff. There are all these things to consider as far as what kind of touring and promotion to consider, do I wanna do contests or special things and all of these thoughts about what I can do to bring the audience into being a part of the growth and delivery of the album as it’s released. There’s a whole lot of stuff that I have to think about anytime I do this John (laughs).
LRI: I was telling you via email about how blown away I was by the Guns and Roses “Appetite for Democracy” DVD from the Vegas shows and particularly you and Tommy Stinson’s spots….
Ron: Yeah, I remember you saying you liked it, “Objectify” is on there right?
LRI: Yeah, and it’s awesome but then so is Axl to tell the truth. I saw GNR back in the day and I am amazed also at how much of those signature “AXL” elements of his delivery and performance are still 100 % intact.
Ron: He has as much heart and passion as he ever did.
LRI: Yeah, as much of that heart, bravado and intensity as he ever has had. It’s kind of staggering when you consider how difficult it is to stay engaged as a performer. It’s almost akin to some of the guys Axl probably loves like McCartney, Billy Joel or Elton John. Have you gained some perspective as far as how radically different it is for a band like GNR to put out an album as opposed to an artist like yourself putting out a Bumblefoot album?
Ron: Yes and it’s two totally, totally different scenarios, absolutely. I don’t even know how to begin to compare the two. For one thing in my own situation, in “Bumblefoot” world, I have all the keys to the whole project. I know I have to write an album, record it and release it. In the GNR world, Axl holds the key and (laughs) when he decides to do something is when he decides to do it and it’s definitely at a different pace than say when I do things. Axl and I are two different people with two different lives and two totally different sets of hurdles to jump over which totally affects our ability to release what we create. It’s very hard to bust out anything when life becomes more complicated or you have more people trying to pull you in a million different directions or distract you. The bigger a band gets, the more that happens; so at Axl’s level it’s definitely not easy and there’s a million fires to put out where at my level there is maybe ten fires or even two fires (laughs). When there’s not as many things or people distracting you or keeping you from getting in the zone it really frees you up to do the simple stuff and things don’t need to be so complicated. But, I’ve realized that all those complications that are hurled at you, all of those distractions, they’re all external and they don’t need to penetrate your skin and get into who you are or stop you from doing what you do or change the relationship that you have with music or creating it or releasing it or sharing it or performing it or anything. I’ve realized that can be untouchable and nobody can change that, people will try and people will continue to try relentlessly but they can’t unless you give them the power. Once you realize that as an artist, you realize that you can do anything you wanna do musically and there’s really nothing at all that’s truly stopping you after all.
LRI: I like how everyone in the band has a chance to shine onstage and show what great players you all are. Is it surprising to you the level of exposure or spotlight that Axl gives each of you during the show?
Ron: No, because at the same time we’re a team and we’re there for a reason and I will be ballsy and say we fucking earned it (laughs). We’ve worked hard all our lives to get here and it’s not like we won the lottery or something. It’s not like this is just something we stepped in, I’ve been busting my ass for 38 years musically and after 30 years I did my first show with Guns but even before that I was out there touring and making music for TV shows, putting out albums and teaching at universities and producing bands and had my own studio. God, I had a whole second house that I just gutted and turned into a studio just to work on music. Yes, I am grateful for all the experiences I had with Guns N’ Roses good and bad because the bad ones are just the “unplanned” ones and you still learn and grow from them so they still bring you something good inevitably. So yeah, yeah, it’s fantastic and I’m proud to be on that DVD and to be a part of all that involves it so I am grateful, very grateful and grateful to the fans as well.
LRI: Do you think you will be putting out a longform DVD of your various solo videos or shows or do you think you might do another guitarhead tour like the Yngwie one again in the future?
Ron: Absolutely, absolutely in fact I did talk about it with the same guys at Rocket Fuel Media about doing something similar to that for my next album or for something like that Guitar Gods tour. The subject was brought up and we did talk about it, will it come up this time around for this next album? I don’t know but it is something I would like to do. I would love to more with live footage whether its dvd or streaming or what I don’t know but I am always looking to be more visual with anything that I am doing.
LRI: Last question, thanks again for doing this Ron….When you are working on new riffs or new material how do you sort or know what to keep for yourself or what to maybe bring to Axl or D.J. Ashba or one of the other guys?
Ron: When you’re making music or just sitting around playing guitar riffs or jamming or whatever it is you are doing musically you just tend to hear something as you’re listening to what you play and just say like “Wow, Axl would sound GREAT singing over the top of this” or “Man, I could hear three different guitar parts and a harmony part here this would be great for Guns” or sometimes it’s just something so wacky or far out that it sounds like it would be great for one of my albums. It’s almost like each piece of music is like color coordinated clothing and you’re looking at it like “Oh this would go great with that or this totally doesn’t match that, try this”.
LRI: In other words if it is really funky or curly or crazy it may just be a Bumblefoot song….
Ron: (laughs) Thank you, exactly!! (laughs)
Sites That Link to this Post
- RON ‘BUMBLEFOOT’ THAL: ‘I Am Grateful For All The Experiences I Had With GUNS N’ ROSES’ | vBoogieman Rock and Metal News | September 30, 2014
- Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal Reflects on Guns N' Roses: 'Grateful for All the Experiences' | September 30, 2014
- RON ‘BUMBLEFOOT’ THAL: ‘I Am Grateful For All The Experiences I Had With GUNS N’ ROSES’ | | September 30, 2014
- Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: “Axl and I are two different people with two different lives and two totally different sets of hurdles to jump over” | Legendary Rock Interviews | GnFnR.dk | September 30, 2014
- RON 'BUMBLEFOOT' THAL: 'I Am Grateful For All The Experiences I Had With GUNS N' ROSES' | Planet 6 String | October 1, 2014