Interview: Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses)

We love it when we get to talk to musicians directly and interview them without third parties involved, and such was the case with Mr. Thal.

We’re proud of all the interviews we’ve done on this site but few interviewees really played along when it came to our unique way of asking questions. Remember Axe?

But Bumblefoot gets this type of humor and he embraces it, this is why this is my favorite Dose Of Metal interview so far.

So if you want to know what a typical day in the life of Bumblefoot is like, what his stage name would have been if his wife wasn’t a veterinarian, what he thinks should happen to us or how many necks a proper guitar should have, make the jump…

Dose Of Metal: Hey Ron, thanks for doing this interview. How are you?

Bumblefoot: I’m pretty happy in the pants right now. All’s well, thanks.

DoM: You have a disclaimer on your website for people who want to contact you. One line says “I will not raise your children in the event something happens to you.” — Do people really ask you stuff like this?

B: Yes. Maybe the real purpose of this whole ‘music thing’ was solely to lead me to my true calling, to open “Bumblefoot Nanny House”. A place to take angry troubled kids, and make them more angry and more troubled through the power of music. 🙂

DoM: Will you raise my children in the event something happens to me?

B: Maybe. Say ‘please’ and I will. No, wait…

DoM: Please?

B: DAMMIT! Now I’m gonna have to keep you healthy and safe for the next 20 years….

DoM: You obviously have a great sense of humor, so what do you think of people like us, who combine music journalism with humor?

B: I think people like you should have their skin removed with a carrot peeler.

DoM: The fact that I called what we do ‘journalism’ is a joke in and of itself, isn’t it?

B: Nah, you guys are good. You do your own interviews, ask your own questions, you keep your personality, you get people to read by making an interview that’s enjoyable.

DoM: I recently wrote an article called ‘Top 10 Ugliest Guitars‘ which tackled a few very famous guitars. A lot of people got angry because of it. Do you think metalheads don’t have a sense of humor, or am I just going to metal hell?

B: Isn’t Metal Hell the ultimate place ya want to go as a metalhead? It’s like living inside the cover art of all your favorite albums, haha. The guitars on your list look good to me! Of course, ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I think I have some guitars for your list…?

DoM: Speaking of ugly guitars, what do you think of Steve Vai’s triple neck? Badass or showoff?

B: Not enough necks.

DoM: What about Michael Angelo Batio’s quad guitar? Badass or showoff?

B: Not enough necks.

Rick Nielsen’s quintuple neck – THAT’s how you do it.

Just the right amount of necks

DoM: How did you get into guitar playing and when did you realize it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?

B: I was 5 years old and the KISS Alive! album just came out, heard it through the older brothers of my friends in the neighborhood, and as soon as I heard it I knew. I knew that young. By six, I had a band with original songs and we were gigging, making demos, making merch…

DoM: Who are some of your favorite guitarists still making music today?

B: Of my inspirations, that are still out there kickin’ ass? Ace Frehley, Angus Young, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May…

DoM: If you had to pick one famous guitar solo as your favorite, which one would it be?

B: Eddie Van Halen’s intro to Mean Street. No one ever did and ever will make a guitar sound like that.

Mean Street Live

DoM: You got the name ‘Bumblefoot’ after helping your wife study for her veterinary exams. What if she was studying something like urology? Do you think you would have found a stage name in those books as well?

B: If she was studying urology I would have started a band called “U.T.I.” Actually, I just played a few days ago with a band called “Pisser“.

DoM: If the myth about big feet is true, having the name ‘Bumblefoot’ would mean you’re either way too confident or way too honest. Comments?

B: No comment. I have a pretty big nose, too. No comment on that either…

DoM: You’ve been a part of Guns N’ Roses for about 5 years, do GNR fans get along with Bumblefoot fans?

B: They seem to play nicely together when the two intersect…

DoM: You probably got asked this a lot around 2006, but we’re unoriginal like that so we’re gonna ask you again: Were you a big GNR fans before joining the band?

B: I’ve seen ‘big fans’ of GNR, and the intensity these folks have, it’s hard to beat. I was a fan but the term ‘big fan’ has been re-defined for me, where I don’t think I’ve ever come close.

DoM: In December of 2009 you played an almost 4 hour gig with GNR in Tokyo. Was it a carefully planned event or just a spur of the moment kind of thing?

B: Nah, we were just having fun, playin’ spur of the moment. Good stuff!

DoM: Was the crowd looking exhausted by the end of the set?

B: I hope they were enjoying it and not getting burned out! I could have kept going…

DoM: So walk us through a typical day in the life of Bumblefoot when he’s not touring with Guns N’ Roses.

B: I wake up at about 4 in the morning and brush my beard for an hour. I then have 16 bowls of Bran Chex. By around 11am, I’m able to walk and I start my day. I go onto DoseOfMetal.com and leave comments on every article, interview, news story, and make sure my opinions are heard. By that point it’s about 2 in the afternoon, I have my TiVo record nothing but Oprah so I start watching them, while I cry into a pillow. By that point it’s 6pm. I eat a cupcake, put on my bunny pajamas and go right to bed.

DoM: You are very involved with your site, Facebook page and Twitter. The internet has affected the music industry in a lot of ways, do you think its perks outweigh its flaws?

B: Perks absolutely outweigh the rest. Music can be easily created and distributed without having to sign away your soul. You can have a relationship with fans in a way that was never possible. I’m putting out a song a month, offering different formats, instrumental mixes, transcriptions and backing tracks, multi-tracks to make your own mixes… 10 years ago this wouldn’t have been possible.

DoM: A lot of people in the music business see “100,000 downloads” on a torrent and think it would have translated into 100,000 album sales, if it wasn’t for the internet. That’s clearly not the case, most of those downloads only happened because they were free. So piracy, in a way, means more exposure. What’s your take on it?

B: I know what your saying, you’re not losing sales because you wouldn’t have had them. It’s like viral promotion. There’s so many pros and cons, it would get into hours of discussion. It’s evolution. I noticed recently that no one talks about the amount of album sales anymore, they talk about the amount of YouTube views. Evolution…

DoM: Speaking of piracy, are Swashbuckle actually pirates?

B: Yes, they are. We were all touring Europe at the same time last year and met up in Prague, first time I saw a mosh pit where people had pirate hooks for hands, nice…!

Swashbuckle - Real pirates (confirmed)

DoM: How are your Skype guitar lessons going? Any crazies showing up?

B: The students I’ve taught so far have been fantastic – good people, talented, and I’ve enjoyed the one-on-one time with them! My inbox is so full I can’t get to all the students reaching out, I wish I could. I’m going to try to teach when I can, but within a few days it became something beyond what I can keep up with.

DoM: Have you had guitar lessons yourself? If so, how important would you say they were for you?

B: I started taking lessons at age 7, they were very important. It was more than learning to play, it was learning about music, building discipline, learning how to be creative and channel it, it was social, cultural, everything about it was good and led to good things. I took one-on-one lessons for 8 years, and continued to study and seek out more on my own after that.

DoM: You know those cliché questions “If you were stuck on an island and could only bring 3 CDs, what would they be?”, right? It’s 2011, so I’m gonna be clichéd in a modern way… If you were stuck on an island and all you could bring was an old iPod with enough memory for 3 albums, what would those albums be?

B: That’s always a tough question, and I just go by the first three to pop in my head. I’m gonna say Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour”, Manowar “Battle Hymns” and Judas Priest “Sad Wings Of Destiny”. But that list needs to be 300 albums, not just 3…

DoM: Another one of these, because I’m just lame. If you were stuck on an island with a shitty laptop and all you could access were 4 websites… One of them would be Dose Of Metal, obviously. But what would the other 3 be?

B: Dose Of Metal, OF COURSE!!! I don’t think I’d bother with any other site. There’s really no other reason to use the internet other than to go on Dose Of Metal. But if I did need to go on another site, I think the other three would be 1) Orbitz or Expedia to see if there was a way off the island, and if not 2) Amazon, so I could buy something and have it shipped to the island and ride back to civilization with the delivery person, 3) a porn site, but won’t give any particular names of sites. Any will do. Or maybe ‘Fat Chicks In Party Hats‘ – the photos only surpassed by the quality captions. For example: Part 39

DoM: So what do you think of our website?

B: It’s better than ‘Fat Chicks In Party Hats.’

DoM: Any last words for our readers?

B: Thanks for reading! Come say hi at my Facebook page, Twitter account and website.

DoM: Thanks for your time!

B: Thank you, my pleasure!!

Check out Bumblefoot’s digitally released singles: Invisible | Strawberry Fields Forever | Bernadette
For more stuff, visit his official site.

Photo credit: Stephanie Cabral

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