There arent many times where you get to talk to a real genuine person who cares not only his work but the people who he works with and is involved with on a daily basis. Ron Bumblefoot Thal is definitely one of those people. I met Ron back in July when he was touring with Lita and at that time we talked bout doing an interview. Not only did Ron stick to his word, he couldnt be more accommodating to do it. We talked about how he got involved with Axl and GNR to his involvement with raising awareness for Multiple Sclerosis. Didnt Axl sing We got your disease? Well, we have your disease right here live in the flesh, an interview with Bumblefoot!
Gus: Where did the name Bumblefoot really originate from?
Ron: That name goes back to the early 1990s when my wife was in veterinary school. She was studying to be a veterinarian and one time I was helping her study and that was one of the diseases. Its called Bumblefoot or the technical term ulcerative podermatitis. It was such a silly name and I was thinking to myself that would be a cool idea for a song. So I wrote a little song called Bumblefoot. Then when I had my first record deal in the mid 1990s, my first record was called The Adventures of Bumblefoot. It was this big apocalyptic cover of death and destruction with this big winged foot flying overhead. After that I started a band called Bumblefoot and thats kind of what did it. Having the band since 1997 and putting out Bumblefoot albums it just became a thing where when people met me and I introduced myself as Ron, they would go oh yeah, Bumblefoot! It kind of became the nickname from doing the band because the band was pretty much a solo thing. I wrote everything and it was my guitar and singing.
Gus: Never heard of podermatitis?
Ron: laughs. Umm.. Who gets that? Lets seebirds, rats, and ferrets. If they have a dirty cage and get a cut that can lead to a staph infection which can lead to an abscess or another term, Bumblefoot.
Gus: Is your wife still a vet?
Ron: She sure is. Shes a fantastic surgeon and a damn good vet. She is a traveling Vet out of a bunch of different places around New Jersey.
Gus: One of the big CDs that came out late last year was Chinese Democracy. It was a huge buzz surrounding the release of the CD. Why did it take the band so long to tour in support of the record?
Ron: There were other possible or potential tours or itineraries in the works that just didnt happen for whatever reason. This one did though. Why? (laughs) I dont try to know anything. My philosophy as time goes on is swinging more towards ‘ignorance is bliss.’ The less I know the happier I am. I dont want to know a damn thing except tell me when to get on stage and play.
Gus: Guns N Roses are scheduled to perform in Japan in December. Im sure your looking forward to it. What can the fans expect when you guys do perform live?
Ron: I can’t give anything away as we are trying to keep it a surprise until we do it. We will be playing a lot of old stuff, newer stuff, a lot of bombs n’ pyro (laughs.) I’m dodging the question you know, the stuff you see at a big rock show.
Gus: You just wrapped up doing rehearsals and you have anew guitar partner in DJ Ashba. How did your rehearsals go with DJ?
Ron: It went great! He is a damn good guy to be in a band with. He gives a lot of himself and adds a lot of himself to every aspect of it. He gets involved artistically. Hes a damn good guy. Ive enjoyed getting to know him and playing with him. And working through the insanity of getting the stuff down with him. Now, Im just really looking forward to getting on stage with him.
Gus: So he is fitting in quite well and fitting in nicely with everybody?
Ron: Hes good to go!
Gus: Thats good to hear. How did you originally get involved with one of the biggest marquee name bands in the world?
Ron: It was about 5 years ago. I got an email from Joe Satriani to tell me he recommended me for the gig (Guns N Roses) so if someone did reach out that I knew it wasnt a joke or something. Very soon after, one of the guys from the band emailed me and we started talking. I started talking to guys working on the album about recording and then spoke to management. Eventually we hit the road and started touring and in between legs of the tour started recording tracks for the album, putting my 2 cents into it. That was it, and here we are.
Gus: Looking back since the release of Chinese Democracy, are you happy with the finished product or would there be something you would change?
Ron: On my behalf, Im as happy as I possibly can be. Which goes like, Im happy for a week, and then I start hearing all the things I would like to change. Thats the way I am with all my own albums too. Anything Im involved with Im like that. The honeymoon period lasts for about a week, then the little things start to haunt ya (laughs.) Its always like that but I’ve gotten better at rolling with it and now it doesnt drive me as crazy. You’ve got to treat it like a moment and that moment was captured, and then move on to the next moment.
Gus: In 2008, you released 2 solo CDs Barefoot, which is a collection of acoustic songs and Abnormal, which is a continuation of your previous solo effort Normal. Are you working on any future solo material?
Ron: I’ve been so focused on all the GNR stuff for the whole year that I really havent been able to. Hopefully next year I will be able to write some stuff, and I wouldnt mind getting more into writing for films and stuff like that.
Gus: That also was one of my later questions but I will jump right to that now. Your involved with other projects like creating the theme song to VH1s That Classic Metal Show and did some other recordings for Fuses Talking Metal Any future projects that you are involved the fans should be aware of?
Ron: Well, there’s a band called Return to Earth which is the drummer Chris Pennie formerly of Dillinger Escape Plan. Now he’s with Coheed and Camabria. I worked on their first album doing the mixing and mastering as well as a little engineering. Now, Im working on their 2nd album doing the mixing and some production tweaks and stuff. We’re finishing up their 2nd album and are mixing the last song for it. That should be out hopefully early next year. Other than that, there is a ton of stuff, I cant even keep track of it all (laughs.) If Im not staring at my computer looking at a list of stuff I don’t know, too much to keep in my brain. Yeah, there is always shit going on (laughs.)
Gus: So the fans can expect a busy year from you in 2010?
Ron: Yeah. If Im not touring I will be in the studio. It will be one or the other.
Gus: Vigier designed the flying foot guitar as its all over the internet as well as you used this guitar to perform live. Will this guitar be used on stage with Guns N Roses?
Ron: I brought that thing out in the first year of touring. Its the kind of guitar you either love it or you hate it. Its probably best to leave it out of the GNR thing and use it for my own wacky bizarre music where it makes more sense and is more fitting. The company Vigier, they are good. They made a new doubleneck guitar for me with a fretless neck and a fretted neck. I’ll be using that a lot on the new GNR tour.
Gus: So that is your endorser correct?
Ron: Yeah, Ive been with them for about a dozen years.
Gus: This past summer I met you while you were on tour with Lita Ford. How did you get involved with Lita?
Ron: I met her a couple of times and hung out over a year before we started playing together. We would hang at mutual friends barbeques or the Chiller Exposition (being in the same room.) They are such a trip. Lita and the family are great! I had so much fun on tour with them. On how I got involved, she just did Sweden Rock and she called me right from there and asked me if I was going to be free? By coincidence we were taking a break for the summer from GNR and I was like ‘I can definitely do the summer with ya.’ She gave me a list of songs and had 2 days to bang it out and learn all the stuff. We had one rehearsal at her house and went through all the stuff and we hit the road. That was probably some of the most fun I had while on tour.
Gus: You have the early part of next year booked with GNR but can you see touring with her again at some point?
Ron: If schedules allow for it.
Gus: Do you think she will do a full tour in support of her latest release Wicked Wonderland?
Ron: I hope so.
Gus: Did you lay on tracks down for Wicked Wonderland?
Ron: No. I think everything was done before I was doing shows with her. She definitely should get out there and tour, bring the kids and have a blast!
Gus: In reading your biography, there was funny story about how you saved up this money to be able to buy your first guitar, which was a Black Ibanez Roadstar. Then you took it home and drilled holes in it and painted it yellow. What possessed you to do something like that?
Ron: The guitar was just $140.00 bucks. Im telling you man, some of those guitars that are $100-$200 bucks, if you find the right one, that will be your main guitar for 20 years. For some reason, I dont know why but my gut was telling me to hack it up into little pieces and I did and somehow it turned into the Swiss Cheese guitar and it ended up being my main guitar for a good dozen years or so.
Gus: We now know you use Vigier. Any other guitars you use while out on tour?
Ron: I use Gibsons. I have a 1989 Les Paul that was a reissue of the 1959 for its 30 year anniversary. I played that one in the 2006 GNR tour. There was a real nice custom Flying V that I was using a lot in 2007. Then theres Parkwood who are a really good acoustic guitar company. I use them for all the live stuff with GNR and on my acoustic album. They’re a good company to check out.
Gus: You do a lot of charity work, especially for the Multiple Sclerosis which should be noted. How did you get involved with this?
Ron: A good friend of mine named Ralph Rosa who was a guitar player and the most wonderful guy. He got diagnosed in 1997 with M.S. You wonder why does it happen to the good ones? He definitely is one of the best people I have ever known. I still scratch my head, why him? He has one of the slow progressive types that slowly chips away at ya. When he first got it, it was just dizzy spells and numbness but he knew where it was heading. So he started this non-profit organization MS Research Foundation, www.msrf.org where you can do events and come up with things to raise money for research. All his friends and family are the staff. All volunteers, no one gets paid and every dime goes where its supposed to go. No one is giving themselves a salary or anything. We would do dinner and comedy events and concerts and things like that. We did that as long as we could to where it was just too difficult with Ralphs physical condition and the stress organizing that stuff, and with me being on tour it was just too much. Now, we just do what we can. We still accept donations. It all goes right to the labs. When we were looking for researchers we checked out everybody’s research. We went to the labs and looked through the microscopes and made sure everything with the staff was legit and that we believed it was heading in the right direction. The funds still go there. So now if someone wants autographed merchandise at bumblefoot.com, $5.00 of anything goes to research.
Gus: Are you involved in some other charities as well?
Ron: I am but take them as they come.
Gus: Some local stuff?
Ron: Yeah. I have to believe in it and be convinced it’s not someone trying to make money off of everyone elses good nature. There is a lot of that. You would be surprised how much corruption there is in the charity ‘business’. I’ve seen it a couple of times and its really not fucking cool.
Gus: So there isnt anything coming up we should be aware about?
Ron: There is a group of physicians who are musicians as well and they have a band called The Scrubs (laughs.) They play in the Westchester NY area, that’s right above the Bronx. They do a lot of stuff. Every once in awhile I go out and play with them at different undraisers. Some of that stuff is coming up but nothing that I’ve been able to confirm being part of. But they’re definitely worth checking out. They do a lot of classic rock stuff and always have a lot of cool guests.
Gus: You have taught guitar and have held guitar clinics. Do you see yourself going back to that and just be a teacher?
Ron: Oh Yeah! Man, I really miss teaching. I really do. A lot of people ask me Are you giving guitar lessons? I always tell them I’ve got no time. The last student I really tried to schedule was about 2 years of canceling and rebooking and canceling because I’d always be on tour or some traveling would happen. The schedule is too erratic and I can rarely commit to being in one place at any time. So, its impossible to teach at this point. When Im done touring, and my knees are all busted up and my back is too sore then I will get back to teaching, and get into all that again.
Gus: What can the fans expect from Bumblefoot the rest of this year and going into next year besides the dates with GNR?
Ron: Besides that?? Hmm Watch me sleep? (laughs!) The only thing right now is GNR. That’s it. We will be in Asia then we will have a couple of weeks off in between the Canada dates so I will just have enough time to take care of…life. While youre touring, your non-touring life is still going on and still requires maintenance. Youre just not there to maintain it and you fall behind. Then when you get home for a couple of weeks you have to squeeze a couple of months of life into that space. These two weeks that Im home from rehearsals before going out on tour has everything from getting a new car, overseeing renovations on the studio, doing jury duty, medical stuff, seeing family, trips to the accountant to get tax stuff ready, and whatever else. All that normal life stuff you’ve got to do. And there are always the little surprises, like yesterday I went to the studio and went into the basement and it was completely infested with ladybugs.
Gus: This is the season for them to find there way into homes.
Ron: Man, I went down to the basement and they were there in every single corner of every doorway and wall. Everything had a mass of a dozen or more ladybugs and random ones all around. I went through everywhere with an industrial vacuum, then took it outside and emptied it out. It sucks when you’re infested with ladybugs and you have to do something about it (laughs.) You do what you gotta do unfortunately.
Gus: Thanks for taking the time in talking with us and good luck on the upcoming tour!
Ron: Thanks and no problem!