Sunday, November 30, 2008
Bumblefoot Interview, December 2008
Editor Tanya Vece's interview with Bumblefoot of Guns N' Roses!
TV: Tanya Vece
TV: Ron Thal, where did "Bumblefoot" come in. I know it was a band name that became a nick name, but how did the name itself come about?
RT: It was the early 90s, my girlfriend was in veterinary school and I was helping her study. One of the diseases was Ulcerative Pododermatitis, also known as Bumblefoot. It was a disease that turkeys get, and one of the treatments was to rub hemorrhoid creme on its feet. It inspired me to write a song for my band at the time about a superhero called Bumblefoot, and when I had my first record deal in the mid-90's, I called the debut album "The Adventures Of Bumblefoot", with an album cover showing this apocalyptic scene of mayhem and destruction with this winged striped foot flying overhead. When the deal finished I started my own band, called it "Bumblefoot", that was around '97, '98. Over the next 10 years of putting out albums and touring, the name 'Bumblefoot' was connected to everything I was doing musically, and it went from band-name to nickname.
TV: There is a couple of lines in your biography "They tried to medicate me - I threw the shit out. I cured myself by doing the opposite of what I was telling myself to do. If I didn't want to talk, I'd call a friend. If I didn't want to go out, I'd hit the mall.". This caught my attention because I feel it captures what a lot of teenagers have but don't have the balls to do, such as yourself. I find myself often doing the same thing. MS challenges me daily with depression. I find myself having to force myself to call friends, or go out. Do you think a lot of people, musicians, writers, artists, share this experience and choose to self-medicate oppose to taking the prescribed drugs or cutting themselves off from the world? AND if so, what do you think is the more evil of the options?
RT: It's hard to say what's best overall, it's up to the individual, and if there's something more going on than an emotional thang, if it's a chemical balance issue. There are things beyond our control, and beyond our ability to fix with just the power of positive thinking. I'm no expert, I'm no spokesperson, but my 2-cent opinion would be to try and have as much faith in yourself and acceptance of the world for all its good and bad, don't care about anything *too* much to the point it cripples you, and *stay busy*. Build things, have interests, educate yourself, exercise, put time and energy into things that you'll benefit from in the future. And if you're at the point where you're exhausted from fighting some unrelenting internal agony you can't pinpoint but just feel, and are ready to end it all, talk to a pro - ya may need meds to get through it. There's no shame in that - sometimes a cold kicks your ass for a week and then it's gone, other times it ends up being something more and ya hit the doctor and get meds. Same thing. Making art is a healthy way to take in the bad, sort it out and make something good of it. Lemonade is the best revenge against the lemons, haha.
TV: To quote your biography again, "I tasted reality: there's no such thing as job security and stability." .What would you say to those who have been working at music for a long time now , toggling that day job and working gigs at night, and are feeling the frustration of not getting their music careers to where they want them to be? What advice or insight could you offer to my readers who are going through this?
RT: You're not alone. Keep going. The day you're complacent and "where you wanna be" is the day you start to lose your edge, your spirit. Everything in life is an endless road, and life itself is a challenge to see how far you can get on that road. It's a challenge we propose to ourselves. Enjoy the journey, don't give yourself a final destination point, there *is* no end point, the journey is the destination. Just keep going, and leave your mark as you go, do good things along the way.
TV: Your work with M.S.R.F. has a special meaning to me. I have Relapsing Remitting MS and am sure you know the challenges people with MS go through. One day you look fine, the next day your blind, the next day ok. It is a tough disease. Your on the board of M.S.R.F.and have raised a lot of money for the cause and for a cure. As a touring musician do you talk to a lot of people with MS? Have you found being an advocate who doesn't have MS challenging? Do you have plans for any future fundraiser's my readers may want to be a part of or donate to?
RT: MS makes its own rules, it's so unpredictable, not easy. I don't try to speak for people with MS, this isn't about me - if anything I'm just one person in the group of millions who has someone in their life they care about that has MS. All I can do is give my support and do what I can when I can. I'll keep donating from autographed CDs and photos to MS research, and soon I'd like to auction off a guitar for MS research. Hopefully I'll be able to do more than that in the future.
TV: For the Normal Album, you state you couldn't write due to the meds you were on and then were able to write for yourself and the album once they left your system. Would it be fair to say the Normal Album was truly about finding your true self? If so, then what would you attribute the "Abnormal" title to, which followed the "Normal" disc Do you believe creativity really is what is behind what clinicians classify as bi-polar and other disorders and it is not understood by those lacking creativity and magical thinking (the majority of society) so the pill is not suppressing a disorder, but suppressing true artistry?
RT: The Normal album touched on making the choice, whether to continue on meds and sacrifice creativity, or get off them so I can do what I love, making music, at the risk falling back into Hell. In the end you realize you're not powerless, it starts with your perception of things and how you choose to react to everything. It's where life was at self-discovery-wise, learning to give up control and not try to change what we can't, and to just roll with it all, to learn, and draw from your experiences. I think an emotional charge can push creative moments, I think it's a personal expression, a look inside a person, I think free thinking helps creativity flow, but I don't think artistry completely coincides with mental disorder. But I'm the wrong guy to ask, haha. Abnormal was the second chapter, it touches on where life is at now, with the intensity knob turned up, some of the new highs and lows that come with being in a band with name recognition, and how the world suddenly sees you differently.
TV: Who are the top 3 bands you think influenced your style today, and who are the top 3 bands that currently get played the most in your house?
RT: That's a tough one, there are so many! Guitar-wise, the main influences were Angus Young, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen. Musically, the Beatles are up there, and KISS were the inspiration to play music as a kid, hearing the KISS Alive album for the first time when I was 5. The last things I listened to in the house were Queensryche, Manowar, and Judas Priest. I'm an old-school metalhead.
TV: How did you end up getting the GNR gig? and is Axl easy to work with? Did you have creative input while working with GNR, or was all the creative juice reserved for the Abnormal disc?
RT: In the Summer of 2004 I started talking with the GNR folks about getting together, started touring in May 2006. Axl's a friend, always havin' a great time on and off the road. People have so many assumptions, people always want to think the worst. They don't want truth, they want entertainment. I can talk 'til I'm blue in the face about how I was brought into GNR to be myself, and that's what I do, I do my thing, I speak my own words, no puppeteer with a hand in my back, yet anything I say and do there are those who respond with "oh, he *has* to say that", haha. Ya can't win, haha. I've been completely creative in GNR. In my solo band, where I write everything, play everything, sing everything, sure I have more to add, but that's because it's a solo effort, not a band. GNR is a band, where everybody does what they do, together. I gotta say, it's been a fuckking blast.
TV: Is it challenging to work on the GNR album and release Abnormal?
RT: It wasn't a problem, was able to juggle it all and make it work. The GNR bizz folks were busy taking care of bizz, and I was able to lock myself in the studio and bust out the 'Abnormal' album, and an EP of acoustic versions of songs from my last few albums. Calling the album 'Barefoot', should be available before the year is up.
TV: What do you think has been your biggest learning experience musically within the last five years?Musically?
RT: hmmm.... well, in the studio, it was about finding ways to make things sound less sterile, more alive. Ribbon mics will capture the true tone of your amps, and room mics in a good sounding room will keep your drums as powerful in a recording as they are in real life. It's so important. What else... comparing a concert for an audience of 20 people to an audience of 150,000, it upped my appreciation for what you can give at each. There's the personal bonding experience you can have at a small show, there's the pyro and light show and big stage to run around on at a big show. And at both, you're doing the exact same thing, it still comes from within, you're opening yourself up to connect with everyone. With playing so many different types of shows over the last few years, with GNR and on my own, now I know what it's like to play on all types of stages, the big and the small, and they're all a good time. I've learned that you have as good a time as you wanna have.
TV: As a writer of music, what has been your biggest challenge? Some say writers block, others say life getting in the way, is there one defining thing that has always been a distraction from writing?
RT: Writing for my own albums has always been a strange thing. I'd be dry for a year, no ideas, I'd spend the time touring, producing other bands, writing for or co-writing with other artists, laying guest solos on other albums, a guest guitarist at other people's shows, writing music for TV shows, just keeping real busy doing things other than for my own albums. Then suddenly it would all hit at once, like a bright pale white flash, and half-a-dozen songs start flying out of my head, complete, arranged, instrumentation, melodies, beats, everything. I'd spend two days in the studio writing down the lyrics and demoing the songs, then over the next month I write the rest of the album as I'm laying the tracks to the first half-a-dozen songs. It's been like that for years. The same challenges are there though, trying to stay focused while being bombarded with distractions.
TV: What is your favorite guitar to play live with?
RT: Favorite used to be the "Flying Foot" guitar ( http://www.bumblefoot.com/gear/08-vigier-flying-foot-guitar.php ) , but lately it's been the Signature Series guitar... http://www.bumblefoot.com/gear/11-vigier-bumblefoot-signature-series-guitar.php
TV: How can my readers hear samples of your music, or buy one of your CDs?
RT:You can hear it all and get it all at my site, www.bumblefoot.com CDs, photos, shirts, stickers, guitar picks, mini- collectible models of my weird guitars, and new items on the way... you can hear more music at the official MySpace page, www.myspace.com/bumblefoot . CDs and soundclips are also at cdbaby.com and amazon.com , do a "Bumblefoot" search and the albums will pop up. Retail shops like Best Buy and FYE have my albums as well - if your local store doesn't have the CDs in stock, they can get them from BCD Distro in North America, Multicom Distro in France, Plastic Head Distro for the rest of Europe, Disk Union in Japan.
TV:Can you note any December or January gigs where the readers can see or meet you?
RT: Usually appearances come together at the last minute, people can always check my site - latest gigs/appearances are on the main page
You can find out more information about MS, and Ron's organization by visiting: www.msrf.org
Check out Bumblefoot's solo music at www.myspace.com/bumblefoot or www.bumblefoot.com