April 2012. Hit Channel talked to current Guns N’ Roses guitarist and solo artist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. Ron is one of the greatest guitarists of our times and also a very down-to-earth and friendly person. He spoke to us about touring with Guns, his solo releases and many more subjects. Read below the very interesting things that he told us:
Did you enjoy the US club tour with Guns N’ Roses?
It was so much fun. It was different because usually when we’re playing on a bigger stage there’s distance between the fans and the audience, and this time people were closer to the stage, sitting on the stage. I could come down to the sides of the stage and they could play my guitar and take pictures with me. It was fantastic, it was really personal doing it the way we did. It was refreshing to be able to do that, to have such a personal kind of connection. I enjoyed it a lot!
You are currently releasing your new solo songs through Internet. How did you take that decision? Do you think that the physical products have died?
They haven’t died. There are people that still want them. Physical products used to be the only option, and now it isn’t. For me, because of the touring schedule, it is very difficult to think about a full album all at once. I released 9 songs last year. If I tried to release songs as a full album and release them all at once, it would take too long. We have the technology to release music quickly, we can make songs available as we finish them. So for me the best thing was to do it like that rather than keep people waiting, rather than me waiting. I put out one song at a time, each song has its own significance. For each song I’d do a transcription and different backing tracks, and the recording stems for making your own mixes. It was more than just releasing a song each time. The song had something for guitar players and producers, it had all the things I wish I had when I was getting a song or an album, years ago. It wasn’t possible to do back then, but now it’s possible.
Will we listen to new Bumblefoot stuff soon?
Ahhh! I have to start another tour! It may be a while before I can get back into the studio….
Maybe you have already finished some songs.
Actually, I have some songs in my head that I’m ready to write lyrics to, to record and get them ready. I don’t have enough time to do it. I have a month to live before going on tour and it’s not enough time to take care of everything in life and get the music done. It’s a race against the clock constantly and I haven’t enough time to do what I should be doing.
You collaborated and even performed in some shows with Mexican female artist, Poc. How was that experience?
(Laughs) It was a crazy experience. She lived in my studio for 2 months. We worked every day and in those two months all the crazy things happened: we had a flood, an earthquake, we had crazy heat waves. It was a very intense time. Her old manager quit, he didn’t pay me, this after most of the work was already done. So, I had to be the producer, also the manager, the label and everything else. But it’s hard to do when you’re on tour as a guitar player in a big band and doing all that stuff. I’ve been looking for opportunities for her and I’ve been looking for a team for her, because I should just be focusing on producing. It’s what I’m better at, and what I’m more passionate about. I‘m looking for a team of business people so that she can move on, and I can move on and keep producing and putting out my own music.
You dedicate some time every day to contact with fans through social networks. Does this activity distract you from creating more music?
Yes (laughs)! Absolutely! Everything I do which is not making music, is distracting me from making music. As far as time yes, but not really spiritually. Because you get inspiration from living life and doing other things, that gives you something to share and gives your life a balance. If I spend 6 hours answering e-mails, that’s 6 hours I spent not making music. But to me it’s worth it because it brings us all together and you have to spend time when you can to reach out the people. It’s a symbiotic “give and take” or “give and give” or “take and take” relationship (laughs). But in a relationship you have to put time into it, to keep it healthy and happy.
A few months ago you became a “victim” of e-mail bombing by some Greek fans. How difficult was to handle that situation without disappointing these fans?
It wasn’t the first time that happened. It happens very often when fans decide there’s something that they want to happen. They are looking for some way to make it happen and show how much they care. But they don’t really know that e-mail bombing band members is not going to get Axl Rose to do a live stream. It doesn’t work that way (laughs). That’s just a pain in the ass, that’s not a way to do it. If you aren’t happy about the ticketing situation at concerts, calling a band member who doesn’t really know what’s going on with the ticketing halfway across the world -because I’m not the local promoter or the booking agent or the band manager or anything- doesn’t work. We don’t make those deals. If I wanted to be a manager I would put down my guitar and I would manage. But I’m not a manager, I focus on making music and putting a show.
You own a studio, you have a wife, you are a producer and you have a solo career too. How much the Guns N’Roses touring affects the other parts of your life?
As far as producing and putting out my own music, going on tour definitely makes things more difficult because I’m not physically in my creative environment, in my studio, and I can’t get things done. So, touring makes things more difficult. As far as my personal relationship with my wife, it’s actually fantastic because even today we were working on the touring schedule and are deciding where to go together on tour. We get to see the world together and experience things that we wouldn’t have. So, the touring personally is fantastic. We’ve been to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to Taiwan and South Korea, to Japan a few times, to Australia a few times, to New Zealand. We’ve been all around Europe, to South America, all over the U.S, and Canada. We‘ve seen the world together and having these experiences and memories together makes us stronger.
Do you think the collapse of the major recording labels is a kind of justice for all the years of their corporate greed?
Of course, it was a system that couldn’t last. In the past I always preached that artists should be independent because every time they signed an old-school deal, they empowered a system that shouldn’t be empowered. Doing this takes power away from independent musicians. This was an issue going back to the beginning (laughs). But there are two-sides. Most artists can’t do their own business, they can’t work both sides of their brain. They can’t always be creative and artistic and avant-garde and emotional, and also be logical, precise and organized and focused to handle all the business stuff. Finding the balance and how to make all these things work, could be tricky sometimes. But music business has a lot of possibilities, a lot of opportunities and a lot of choices, and that’s the thing. Now we have more choices, that’s better. My issue was that artists never had choices, and therefore very little control. Now, somebody who wants to find a record deal, the standard record deal, can do that. If they want to be independent and release their own music, it’s very easy, they can do that. And also they could come up with anything in between.
Do you get disappointed when you read negative comments about the current Guns line-up?
I don’t care. It’s like getting mad because I own a seafood restaurant and somebody’s talking about how much they hate lobster. I don’t do what I do for them, it’s for the people that like lobster (laughs). We do shows and people who come to the shows, enjoy it and we’re doing it for them. We’re not doing it for people that don’t like it, we’re doing it for the people that do.
Some comments are really hard. An American journalist exactly wrote: “more random guys have been in Guns N’ Roses than in Lindsay Lohan- though not by much.“.
How many guitar players have been in Red Hot Chili Peppers? How many people have been in Whitesnake? How many drummers have been in Judas Priest? It happens. Break-ups happen. A family can’t always stay together. People die, people get sick, people get angry. Either you can end everything or you can re-build and move forward. So, we move forward and fight. Some people look for reasons not to like things. Their loss, there are plenty of reason why you can like it. Ok, you don’t like it that it’s called “Guns N’ Roses”, just call it “GNR” . You don’t like that an ex-member isn’t there, then go see that person when they tour. It’s ok. If you go to a GNR show, you’ll listen to Axl and 25 years of his music in the show, and everything we do, and you’ll most likely have fun. If you want to have fun.
Tell us a musician you would like to participate in a solo song of yours?
Last year I released “The Pink Panther Theme” and it has pretty much all the members of the band except Dizzy (ed: Reed, keyboards), Chris (Ed: Pitman, keyboards) and Axl. Although I’d like to do something with *all* of them (laughs)! Yes, the next people I’d like to make music with, would be my band and my singer. I would like to be writing, recording and putting out music with Axl, Tommy, Frank, Richard, DJ, Chris and Dizzy. That’s what I’d like to be doing. I feel that the current band is so strong and has so much to offer that we should really be writing songs, together.
Your favourite band is The Beatles. How shocking is that fact for the average Guns N’ Roses fan?
Do you mean how many Guns N’ Roses fans like The Beatles? I don’t know, you have to ask them (laughs)!
Yes, but some of them are from a more punk background.
I think people like everything. I like GG Allin, but I also like Stravinsky. I like Stevie Wonder but I like The Sex Pistols too. I think that most people have diversity, they like more than just one thing. What I think about Guns N’ Roses fans is that they like a lot of diverse things, they’ve shown me music that I had never heard before, different artist that they really enjoy and very different styles. I think people are people and Guns N’ Roses fans are people and they like Guns N’ Roses among other things they also like.
What kind of music are you listening to this period?
I think the most interesting things I listened to was the South African group Die Antwoord . Just today (ed: April 6th) I put an announcement about Alexa Vetere, an artist from New York that I co-wrote, produced & will be releasing. We’re going over those mixes, and preparing everything for that, so most of the times I’m listening to things I’m working on. I’m working with a pop artist and then I’m listening to Scarface – he’s a rapper, he was in group Geto Boys about 20 years ago and I did some guitar work and made the final mixes and mastering for his next album “Work Ethic”. So right now I might be spending time listening to Scarface and Alexa Vetere, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be spending a lot of time listening to Guns N’ Roses.
Nobody knows what gonna happen. I really don’t think about it. I think most of the guys don’t really think about it. If someone don’t ask me about Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, it doesn’t come up in my head.
It is meaningless for some people, but for some others…
It means something, it does mean something. It’s not something I have to think every day and think what is going to happen and who’s going to go and who’s going to play. I don’t know. At this point, my main concern is my health.
How are your shoulder and your back after your injury?
Just on Monday I was in the hospital and they injected medication into my spinal column. Maybe in a few months I will feel the positive effects of it, but so far I don’t feel much better. I don’t know. It’s very hard to live with.
Do you have any contact with Jerry Gaskill (King’s X drummer) after his health problems?
Oh, yes. I was with him in the hospital after his surgery. Jerry said the doctor told him he can eat “whatever the fuck he wants”. That’s what he said , “whatever the fuck he wants”. After the next tour, we will go out for a dinner and I hope he’ll be feeling healthy and strong, and we’ll be eating “whatever the fuck he wants” . I‘m sure he will come back strong. He’s such a good guy.
Which was the best concert you have been as a fan?
As a fan? There are so many amazing concerts I’ve been to. I remember seeing Roger Waters doing his whole “Dark Side of the Moon” show. Oh, God! That show was phenomenal. I remember the first time I saw KISS in 1979, in New York City at Madison Square Garden, that was one of them. It was my very first concert. What else did I see?
Have you ever seen Paul McCartney?
No, I never got to see him. There are so many shows, what else? I saw a Japanese pianist called Hiromi Uehara at a little jazz club in New York City and it was some of the most terrific playing I’ve ever seen! There are so many interesting shows I’ve seen… Yngwie Malmsteen in an outdoor concert in 1983 opening for Ted Nugent (laughs). Jethro Tull in early ‘80s, of course Aerosmith, Chili Peppers…
Yeah! AC/DC in 2008 in their “Black Ice Tour”. That was fantastic. I went with Eddie Trunk (ed: famous radio producer, “That Metal Show” presenter) in that one. I saw recently U.F.O with Vinnie Moore on guitar, and that guy is such an incredible guitar player. U.F.O were fantastic. The first time I saw Buckcherry was great too. Who else?
Can I ask something else? Have you ever played live the song “Jersey Girl” (written by Tom Waits, it became popular by Bruce Springsteen)?
Oh, God (mad laughs)!!! Have I ever played that song live? No, I haven’t.
I guess it is something like The National Anthem there in New Jersey?
No, it isn’t. I think in New Jersey probably The National Anthem is “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.
How possible is to play soon in Greece with Guns or as a solo artist?
In Greece? I was hoping that we would be playing Greece again.
It’s very difficult to happen in this tour.
We are playing (ed: pause, he ‘s looking at the touring schedule) Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey. We are playing around it but not in it. The last time was in 2006 but I was also in 2009 with Lita Ford. It was such a good time. I don’t know. I’m surprised that we don’t have a show. I really hope a show will happen in Greece the next time we tour Europe. :)
A huge “THANK YOU” to Ron “Bumblefoot” That for his answers!
Please check www.bumblefoot.com