Interview With GUNS N' ROSES Guitarist, RON 'BUMBLEFOOT' THAL

(Photo by Katarina Benzova)
Ron Thal, better known by his stage name Bumblefoot, is part of the current Guns N' Roses line-up, fronted by Axl Rose. Apart from being in GNR, Bumblefoot is also a solo artist and producer. He released 9 studio albums so far, starting with 1995's debut release "The Adventures of Bumblefoot."

Recently, Ron flew to Dubai, UAE to perform with local rockers Point of View on their CD release show for their latest album "Revolutionize the Revolutionary." During his visit to Dubai; Bumblefoot also headed down to the Dubai Autism Center to hang out and play some tunes for the kids.

Kareem Chehayeb got a chance to chat with Bumblefoot about Guns N' Roses and how he was offered to join the band, he also talks about performing with Point of View and how his second visit to the UAE differs from the first time he was there with Guns N' Roses headlining the Yas Arena, among many other topics.


Being guitarist for a band like Guns N Roses is a great achievement, and must have been a great experience! How did it all happen?

It was over 8 years ago when GNR reached out. At the time, I was releasing my own albums, touring, producing great bands, guest guitarist with cool artists, licensing music to TV shows & videogames, teaching music production at a University, my life was complete and gratifying and the thought of putting all this aside to join another band... I told them no. A year-and-a-half later they reached out again and we worked it out. I had to cancel an upcoming Bumblefoot tour from Russia to Iceland, stop teaching, put producing on hold as well as my own albums, and took a chance that I'd be able to juggle everything. We jammed 7 times, I learned all the unreleased Chinese Democracy songs by listening on a laptop for a half-hour with pen & paper in hand, and hit the road.

(Photo by Katarina Benzova)

A dream of yours was to play in Madison Square Garden - that was accomplished with GnR. What other "dreams" do you still want to fulfill as a musician?

All I ever wanted was to be remembered as a respected musician, not a 'rockstar'. My biggest dream, or hope, is that something I did musically has a positive impact on the world.


What was your first time in the UAE like? How was it different than your second visit, where you were in a more intimate setting with the local rock/metal scene as opposed to playing with Guns N Roses in a huge venue?

The first visit was more like a tourist, seeing the sights. This time it was more 'real', doing more of what people that live in the UAE do. I enjoy both, but I like it best when you get to know a place and it starts to feel like home. Everything felt like that, thanks to the guys in Point Of View ( www.facebook.com/pointofviewdubai ).


(Photo by Katarina Benzova)
You grabbed your acoustic and visited the Dubai Autism Center with Nik Uzi (Point of View) to entertain the kids there. On The National (UAE), you said that your awareness about autism came from your upbringing in Staten Island. Do you think musicians haven't been doing their part in putting effort to good causes as much as they should?

I think people do what they can. Musician or not. When people's lives are at a point where they can give, they do. People need to take care of themselves in order to be able to provide for others, and that is often a challenge.


Do you have a special warmup routine before playing guitar or performing live?

Usually I just walk around the room with the guitar in hand, playing anything, just keeping the fingers warm. I might go over the songs I'm about to play, for my own confidence to make sure I know what I'm doing. But no specific warm-up routine, just noodling around...


Before Nik Uzi got in touch with you, have you heard many rock or metal bands from Dubai or the rest of the Middle East?

Not a lot. There's great music all over the world, but it's the unexpected events that lead us to seeing what's out there specifically. I'm glad things worked out the way they did.


You've toured extensively throughout your career; from North America to Europe to Japan (and GnR about to hit the road in India if I'm correct). What have been some of your most memorable shows?

Yes, India is planned for December, looking forward to it! It's the things that happen off the stage that make the strongest memories about touring. The history, food, architecture, art, socializing... have had memorable experiences everywhere I've been, honestly. Moscow, Rio, London, Prague, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, can list hundreds of places... and of course Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

(Photo by Katarina Benzova)

What's life on tour like? From what I read in your bio it seems like you've had wonderful experiences but also experienced some hardships. I assume the experiences differ between your different projects, but tell us what the highs and lows have been like.

First, the lows... being sick or injured and trying to get through a show when you're not physically able to. That's the worst, not just physically but mentally, it's a vulnerable helpless feeling. And when your family at home needs you and you can't be there for them. The highs are about making people happy, that's the primary reason that anyone entertains. When an audience surprises you and rolls out a huge banner over their heads spanning 100 people, it's an incredible sight. When people reach out and let you know your music has gotten them through difficult times, when you can make music to help those in need, that's what matters most. Those are the highs.


You're an incredibly versatile guitarist! Who would you say are some of your biggest influences?

Thank you! Biggest guitar influences were Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix.


(Photo by Katarina Benzova)
How did the name "Bumblefoot" come about? Also, how did the idea of the flying foot come about for your guitar? Did you come up with the specs and hand it in to Vigier Guitars?

The nickname was my band name, releasing 'Bumblefoot' music for the last 15 years. Before the band, it was the name of my first album “The Adventures of Bumblefoot” on Shrapnel Records in the mid-90s... that album title came from a song called Bumblefoot that was on a guitar comp CD in the early 90s and became the title track of the album... I wrote the song when I was helping my girlfriend study, she was in veterinary school, and Bumblefoot, aka Ulcerative Pododermatitis was one of the animal diseases she was learning about... the guitar design came from the artwork of my first album... (www.bumblefoot.com/adventures.php) Vigier (www.vigierguitars.com) built the guitar and came up with the system inside to make the wings come out when the vibrato bar is pressed down.


What are some of your non-musical hobbies?

Non-musical? Not a lot of time for that, haha. I spend time with family when I can. As a kid I would draw, paint, sculpt, I was into B&W photography & developing in my early 20's, but since then I've been doing half-a-dozen music-related full-time tasks at once, seems all my hobbies are music-related. I guess the closest thing to a non-musical hobby would be taking photos and posting them on Instagram, haha. (Instagram name: bumblefoot)


Your bio says that you're a huge fan of spicy food. Did you get your fix on Indian food while you were in Dubai?

I bit into a few hot peppers while there, haha, yes. Some good regional food, yes...! Where I live there's a big Indian population, it's a multicultural place, so I'm very familiar with the cuisine you find in Dubai. Good stuff!!!

*Beating the spicy curry challenge at Brick Lane Curry House in NYC – restaurant appeared on TV show “Man Vs. Food” as having the spiciest curry in NYC... http://twitpic.com/21oc75


(Photo by Katarina Benzova)
After reading your bio, it seems as though you went through various hardships in your life, and tried many alternative solutions, though they didn't seem to work. Would you say that music was ultimately the source of hope and happiness for you this entire time?

Music was always this, yes. The difficulties are when the 'business' is killing your spirit and turning music into the source of your stress. That's the hard part – when music is being stripped of its healing power, that becomes dangerous territory.


What was playing alongside Joe Satriani like? As a guitarist, I couldn't help but feel stoked after reading about that on your website!

He's an incredible musician, but also a good person. He's always been kind, calm, funny, smart, an all-around good guy. Jamming with the person is the part I enjoyed, as much as the musician.


Did you get the chance to go sight-seeing in Dubai? I assume you had some more time with Point of View than you did on tour with GnR

We did! The extravagant hotels and malls, but also the markets & neighborhoods, got a diverse enjoyable taste of Dubai. But still more to see & do, I need to come back!


What projects are you currently working on, and can we expect any releases in the near future?

Last year I released 9 Bumblefoot singles (www.bumblefoot.com/store.php), each with transcriptions, alternate mixes & recording stems. I produced and released debut albums from female rock artists Alexa Vetere (http://itunes.apple.com/album/breathe-again/id514980356) and Poc (http://itunes.apple.com/album/rise-above/id529724762) and laid guitars and final mixing/mastering for rapper Scarface's soon-to-be-released “Work Ethic” album. Been touring since, and in breaks I've laid guest guitar solos for different albums (http://www.bumblefoot.com/discography-guest.php), have done fundraising shows, and will soon be hitting the road again. I would have liked to have been writing with GNR by now but life has a way of getting in the way of plans – I'm hoping to start writing with them when we get together. And hopefully can return to Dubai soon, I'd like to play a show to support the Dubai Autism Center (www.dubaiautismcenter.ae) and will do my best to make this happen. A great deal of gratitude and respect to Nik Uzi (Point Of View vocalist) and everyone for showing me a wonderful world in Dubai. :)

Thank you for the interview and to all the readers :)


Make sure to visit Bumblefoot on: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

1 comment:

  1. This man is something else. for sure

    ReplyDelete