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SoulMonster

2012.07.06 - Interview with Bumblefoot from Dutch Distortion

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2012.07.06 - Interview with Bumblefoot from Dutch Distortion

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:14 pm

What’s in store for 2012 in the Bumbleworld?

Hello!! Plans? AAHHH!! I stopped making plans, I just roll with whatever comes my way. Writing, recording, producing, releasing, touring with Guns, maybe teaching again if there's time – time is a narrow doorway and I'm a gang of hungry 400-pounders all trying to squeeze through it at once. Whoever gets through first will get to flourish in that brief moment of time before hitting the road again.

You will be touring with Guns ‘n Roses this year. Are you ready to conquer Europe?

Seven weeks into the tour as I type this, and what a seven weeks! I've been seeing people I've known for the last 15 years from my own solo tours, been a bit of a 'coming home' in many ways.

You’ve been very successful in promoting yourself as a developing artist and label. What was the key to getting yourself out there?

I don't think I'm as successful at it as I could be, if I had more time to put into it all, I feel like I've plateau'd over the last few years. I've needed a manager for the last dozen years... ah, but some key points are
1) put energy into your successes, not in trying to turn around your failures,
2) work with what you have, don't spend what you don't have,
3) listen to what the world is telling you, listen and grow from it,
4) make music because it's your passion, the world will decide the rest.

It came to my attention that you work with a real Dutchman for over ten years now, Dennis Leeflang. How is your cooperation with him?

Dennis, yes! ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] It began in 2000 when he came to see my band in Paris, and we always stayed in touch... I was going to do a clinic tour all around Holland in 2001 and he offered himself and his bandmates to be my backing band – we did it, it was fantastic. Soon after I was touring throughout France and the drummer unexpectedly quit, we had a good 20 shows left to play, and no drummer! Dennis had just finished his band's tour and immediately jumped on a plane, learning the rest of my songs during the flight and saved my tour. He was my drummer from there on. We did the “Normal” and “Abnormal” albums together, some more touring... we toured as Lita Ford's band in 2009, and did the song-a-month releases in 2011. Ahh! About those releases... with all the touring now, I'm not able to devote nine months to make an album happen. It made more sense to release songs as I made them, one song each month, keeping a steady flow of music coming out rather than waiting years to finish and release an entire album – released nine songs in 2011 before hitting the road again. But it was more than just releasing an MP3 each month – each song was released with a choice of hi-resolution formats, instrumental mixes, lead guitar transcriptions with backing tracks and reference mixes, and recording stems so people can make their own mixes. ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] It was everything I wished I had for the music I grew up with. Released a bunch of originals, one of them “Catfight” with guest vocalist Mark Tornillo from the band Accept, and covers of 60s & 70s songs, including the version of “The Pink Panther Theme” I'd play live with Guns. Guns recorded on that one, I released it at the end of the 2011 tour. (http://itunes.apple.com/album/the-pink-panther-theme/id492350959?i=492350960) I guess in a way it's the first release from the current version of GNR...? Released two performance videos for of the original song “Invisible”, one filmed in the light, the other filmed in the dark with night-vision cameras. I was thinking about the whole idea of feeling Invisible, like you're in one reality and the person you're trying to reach is in another – the videos hit on that, two videos out at the same time, one in a normal lit room, the other filmed in total darkness with night-vision cameras. (http://bit.ly/bumble2vids)

How is Dennis involved in the writing process of your projects?

When doing an album I'd play and sing on an acoustic and he'd start tapping out grooves, then I'd plug in & he'd get behind the kit and everything would come together. Dennis is a talented drummer, and producer, a very smart guy that cares a lot about everything he does.

You have the young and promising rock ‘n roll chick Alexa Vetere under your wings for over ten years now. How does it feel to work with someone so young and dynamic?

I love producing. It's my favorite thing when it comes to making music. The collaborating, the whole process of creating and making everything become a reality. I've worked with a lot of young artists, Alexa ( [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] ) was a unique story. Started back in 2003, she was the daughter of a friend of a friend. Her goal was to release an album, she had never sang, written a song or played guitar. We started on guitar lessons - she'd play until her fingertips were literally black. Vocal lessons, songwriting, demoing... my solo band backed her for recordings and live shows in NY & LA, all was going well. She got a nice guitar endorsement, we posted a song at iHeartRadio and the song ended up being #1 on the Rock charts with over 3.6 million plays. Then I started with GNR, she went to College, life happened. We always stayed in touch, and always knew there would be a time when we'd put life aside and release the music we made together. This year we finally did that... ( [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] )

How was it to help a young musician grow in the music industry?

It's important to me, a kind of nurturing, it feels natural to 'pay it forward' and share. That's probably why I love to produce and teach – to inspire people and help them grow and spread their wings and build something of their own.

Was it hard seeing the financial and piracy circumstances?

The only thing that was frustrating was how the music industry fought the technology instead of embracing it, and treated the new generation of listeners like the enemy. It didn't have to be that way.

Weren’t you afraid that she became more of a Bumblefoot Jr. than Alexa?

It was a collaboration of Bumblefoot & Alexa, that's what people should realize. We both wrote, we both played guitar, it was a collaboration. And, with Dennis on drums. If you hear a lot of me in the music, it's because I am in there, writing and playing.

Could you maybe tell us something more about your solo projects?

As a solo artist I've been releasing music for 20 years, starting with instrumental releases in the early 90s, a record deal on Shrapnel Records in the mid-90s, started touring soon after, releasing music on my own in the late 90s, and whatever I did I shared – I wrote, taught, produced, engineered, was a guest on people's albums & on stage, and that hasn't really changed. Finding time is more difficult now, and I have to make tougher decisions about what I can & can't do, but I'm still doing what I do. Since 2011 I finished & released four albums of music – Alexa Vetere “Breathe Again” ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and Mexican rock artist Poc “Rise Above” ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] guitar-work and final mixing & mastering for rapper Scarface “Work Ethic”, two videos for my song “Invisible” (http://bit.ly/bumble2vids) and the nine Bumblefoot singles last year with the transcriptions & backing tracks & recording stems ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] And that was with being away on the road half of that time and rehabilitating from a car accident that fucked my world up. You just have to trust yourself, have faith, don't second guess, don't over-think, and you'll get plenty done.

Let’s talk some gear! How has your rig changed over the years?

I've always gone for the simplest approach – guitar, pedals, amp. It really hasn't changed. Right now my setup is Vigier ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] electric guitars & Parkwood ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] acoustic guitars, a Dunlop ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wah pedal, an Engl ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Invader 100W head with a TC ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Nova System in the Engl's FX Loop, and a Hermit ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] iso-cab with four 12” Celestion ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] speakers.

How does it differ when you’re in the studio?

In the studio it's very similar, except the guitar goes direct into the recording gear and out into a 'Re-Amp' box to the amp. This way the raw performance on the guitar is captured and the amp can be tweaked and re-recorded later if needed. The amp is mic'd in a different room with condenser, dynamic and ribbon mics, each going to a different track, then I check the tracks and make sure the soundwaves are aligned and there's no phase cancellation. (An example of this is on YouTube at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

You are also known for your custom build guitars. Could you maybe tell us something about the design process and where you get your inspiration for such guitar shapes?

As a teenager I was very into guitar designing and modifying, and most of the designs were spontaneous. Everything I did was pretty crude, but it had character. The 'Swiss Cheese' guitar (http://bumblefoot.com/gear/04-swiss-cheese-guitar.php), the 'Mutant Cow' (http://bumblefoot.com/gear/03-the-mutant-cow.php), the 'Pensive Expenguin' (http://bumblefoot.com/gear/01-pensive-expenguin.php) which was my first electric - it was a sunburst Les Paul copy, got it when I was 8 years old. That guitar went through a lot of changes, as did most of them. First I put gold reflective tape on the pickguard, then added the pickguard shape in reverse on the other side of the body. Then cut the body into a small odd shape and painted it red, put a Badass bridge and a DiMarzio Super Distortion pickup in it. Then it was covered in fur. Then I made it into a fretless and covered the fretboard in coins. Then it got covered with penguins... click on the links at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] there are plenty of stories about how those guitars became what they are, some funny ones...

Vigier Guitars released the Limited Edition Bumblefoot model. Could you tell us a bit about the unique features?

Been playing Vigier guitars ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] for 15 years, they're fantastic. My signature "Bfoot" model has a floating bridge rested against the body where I can bend the vibrato bar down, but if a string breaks the bridge will stay in place and the guitar stays in tune. The neck has the solid graphite going through the core to keep it from bending or warping, as all Vigier's do. There's the zero fret to keep things consistent between it and the first fret. The 2009 version has a killswitch as needed for newer Guns N' Roses songs. The pickups are Dimarzio's, Tone Zone (bridge) and the Chopper (neck). The 5-way pickup selector includes single-coil and out-of-phase settings to get variety in the articulation, beefiness and overtones. I wear a metal 'thimble' on the smallest finger of my picking hand, touching it to the string to bring out notes higher than those you can get from the fretboard - there's a small magnetized hole in the lower horn of the guitar with the thimble in it, for quick convenient access.

Where did you get the first idea to use a thimble in your playing?

It started in the late 80s when I was looking for ways to get to the notes that continued on the string past the fretboard. I had one custom guitar with 37 frets, but trying to play over the body between tiny frets, I was out to find a better way. So instead of touching the string to a metal fret, I thought it could be better to touch something metal to the string, from the picking hand. At first I had a 9-volt battery on a rubber-band attached to the bottom horn of the guitar, but there was a loss of momentum when I'd go to grab it, there'd be a gap in the playing. A thimble made sense – a metal cap over the fingertip of the smallest finger of the picking hand, and I tap notes onto the string where the fretboard ends. (An example of this is on YouTube at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

If you look back on your career, what was the greatest band you have contributed to?

Would have to be Guns. I've played with lots of other people, but Guns is the only other band I've been a committed member of, besides my own band.

Can you describe some of the highlights and low points of your career?

One highlight was playing Madison Square Garden in NYC for the first time. It's where I saw my first concert at 9 years old, KISS, it was a dream to play there someday, with the pyro, lights, fire, the energy... low points are best to keep buried or I'll end up in a nuthouse.

Now for something completely different, you’ve been in a car accident last year, I hope the recovery is going well? I’m sure the fans are dying to know!

My life is governed by pain, and will be until it ends. Will be continued treatments and living cautiously, which doesn't really feel like living to me, but that's a compromise I'm supposed to accept according to everyone else. It's improving though – I can live without being on painkillers or continuously drunk, and after a year I can finally lie on my side. Pillows are like torture devices still, can't have them anywhere near my shoulders or neck, gotta lie completely flat. Majority of the brain damage is gone. I think? Haha. Grandma was right, health *is* most important.

Who is Ron ’Bumblefoot’ Thal outside of music? What are you into?

Outside music? Hmmm, spending 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.

Are there any (upcoming) bands and/or artists that we should pay attention to?

Yes, a band from New Jersey called Thank You Scientist ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] my favorite new band. It's melodic, intelligent, always puts a smile on my face. Hints of Dream Theater, Incubus and Dave Matthews, very interesting band.

Thank you for your time. I hope your recovery from the accident last year is going well and that you will kick ass on stage during the tour!

Vivianne

Thank you, and thanks to the readers! Dank u, take care! Smile

~ Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal
Source: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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