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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2015.06.13 - - Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal on Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy and Solo Album

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2015.06.13 - - Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal on Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy and Solo Album Empty 2015.06.13 - - Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal on Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy and Solo Album

Post by Blackstar Fri Dec 30, 2022 11:44 pm

Interview: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal on Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy and Solo Album

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is a guitarist, songwriter, recording artist, and producer best known as lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses since 2006 and for playing on GNR’s 2008 Chinese Democracy album. Thal has released ten solo albums including his February 2015 Little Brother Is Watching album. In January 2015, his 4 years in the making “mega group” Art of Anarchy was announced. The group also features former Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver singer Scott Weiland, Disturbed bassist John Moyer, and twin brothers Jon and Vince Votta on guitar and drums. Shortly after Art of Anarchy’s band photo and biography were released in January, Scott Weiland denied being a band member saying it was only a project he was contracted to sing studio vocals for.

On April 8th, 2015, during my exclusive Interview with Scott Weiland, Scott called Art of Anarchy “a scam from the beginning” and surprisingly that quote ended up in the headlines of many music news website articles. My interview with Scott was recorded with his permission. Scott and his public relations company never asked for a word to be changed.

On May 21st, Revolver published an interview with Bumblefoot where he was asked about the “scam” quote. After praising Scott’s vocals on Art of Anarchy’s album, Ron said: “As for Scott’s statement, we need to address if, or why, he made it. It was just a quote from a recent interview and we’re trying to verify that he actually did make that statement. Scott deserves the respect to publicly clarify whether he actually said that. All the members of AOA feel he should have that opportunity.” Knowing it was unlikely that Scott would retract his statement, I decided to contact Ron to verify Scott’s statement and because I thought Ron would be an interesting person to interview.

After sending Ron an interview request he agreed to it immediately. Five days later we spoke by phone for almost two hours on May 28th, 2015. In our wide ranging conversation Ron was remarkably passionate, conscientious, philosophical, and surprisingly candid when discussing Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy, his solo work, and his life. Ron was friendly throughout the entire interview even when discussing touchy subjects. These are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Bob Schallau: It says on your Wikipedia page that Joe Satriani recommended you for the Guns N’ Roses lead guitar job in 2004, but initially you turned down the offer. Is that true?

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: Yes. Joe recommended me and sent me an email letting me know that in case they reach out that it’s not some weird prank or anything, it’s legit. A few hours later I heard from one of those guys in the band and we spoke for a couple of months. At the time in 2004 I was putting out an album every year or two, I was touring, I was producing a ton of bands, I was an adjunct professor at SUNY Purchase college teaching music production.

I was making music for video games, TV shows, little indie movies. I was doing so many things and I was really happy doing them all. And I felt that every one of those things had a future and were growing and should be nurtured. I knew that if I put all that aside that I would be trading off a lot of things that we’re important to me, that meant something to me and I felt had value. I was able to contribute something of worth to the world and I didn’t want to give that stuff up. So yeah, originally I told them, ‘Look, I don’t think I’m the guy for this. I will help you find the right guy. I’d be happy to discretely get in touch with people and help you find the right guy, but I don’t think I’m it.’

What made you decide to join Guns N’ Roses in 2006?

Oh, it was a year and a half later and they had a tour coming up. They reached out again and I still didn’t want to do it. I just didn’t think I was right for it for a lot of reasons. Then my lawyer friend spoke to them on my behalf and said, ‘Look, just leave him alone. He doesn’t want to do it.’ Instead he got back to me and said, ‘You may want to talk to them.’ And I was saying, ‘No! No! No!’ He said, ‘Just talk to them. Hear what they have to say.’ And I’m being a brat saying, ‘No! No! No!’ He said, ‘For me, just talk to them.’ And I was like, ‘Alright.’ So I went down. They were rehearsing in New York and I just brought my guitar, I figured we’d jam a couple of songs that night. So we did, and then the next night another three songs. And we jammed seven times and then hit the road for three months.

Last Wikipedia question, it says that initially that you were not treated well in the band, that they didn’t want a third guitarist and you had to “get a little violent” to gain other member’s respect. Is that true?

[Laughs] Yeah, I just deleted that! [Writer’s note: Ron told me he was editing his Wikipedia page right before our interview]. You know what, I don’t want to get into dirt and all that negative crap. There were so many good things that happened with ‘Guns’. People just wanna put all the bad stuff on Wikipedia. They don’t wanna talk about any of the good stuff. They don’t wanna talk about visiting a children’s hospital in Dallas. Well, ultimately when I joined the band, in the first month it’s true – and I’m not revealing anything that I haven’t already put out there – so it wasn’t the warmest welcome. I kind of had to earn it.

Did you have to just dig in with your playing and prove yourself or were there actual physical fights?

Well, I think it was just more of a situation like a new family member was brought home without the other siblings’ consent [laughs], or to their surprise. It was like, ‘Who the fuck is this guy?’ [laughs]. So it took a good minute for us to get to know each other – I don’t know if we ever did. I don’t know if we ever got to really know each other to be honest. I feel like the environment I was in never gave me a chance to just comfortably be myself and not feel guarded. But that’s just me, and that’s just the way the pieces fell, you know.

You played with Guns N’ Roses for eight years. What were some of your live highlights?

Definitely playing Madison Square Garden. That’s where I saw my first Kiss concert, the 1979 ‘Dynasty Tour.’ In fact I know a lot of people who that was their first concert. My friend Brian Tichy [former Whitesnake/Billy Idol drummer] was at that one.

I saw Kiss’ ‘Dynasty Tour’ in L.A.

There you go [laughter]. Even though it was all “I Was Made For Loving You” and all that stuff where the little kids felt betrayed saying, [animatedly] ‘They went disco!’ Still, that was the year that everyone who was into Kiss was able to go and it was phenomenal.

Art of Anarchy’s album is finally coming out June 2nd.  Are you excited about the album release?

[Animatedly] I am! And if I’m not mistaken didn’t you do the uhh [laughs] that interview [pauses] with uhh [pauses].

[Writer’s Note: Ron is referring to my interview with Scott Weiland.]

I did. [laughing].

Yeah. [laughing].

I did a lot of research on you. I didn’t think you would do any research on me [laughing].

[Laughing hard].

But yeah, I did, and I am gonna ask you a few questions about that. That is kind of how you caught my attention.

I know. We gotta touch on that. I gotta be careful what I say, of course. We don’t know where things are heading.

And I was just the messenger in that.

Oh, you can’t stop what comes out of people’s mouths. Everybody, we are all responsible for everything that we say. I know that half of the stuff that I’ve said to you on GNR – someone on some other news site is gonna grab a quote and turn it into a headline that looks like I’m trying to rattle their cage or be insulting to them. And if I talk about that I know that’s gonna happen and that’s gonna be my headache [laughs].

That [Weiland’s Art of Anarchy] “scam from the beginning” quote, I didn’t even initially headline with that in my article. But other news sites grabbed that quote and ran with it and it blew up. I didn’t mean to torpedo your band or anything.

No. No. No. You were not – you weren’t baiting or luring – I mean you were just asking.

Yeah, but I can tell you that Scott said those things and I did not provoke him.

Oh, I know. Yeah.

What are your favorite songs on the Art of Anarchy album?

Well from the beginning I always loved “Til The Dust…” That was always my favorite. I just felt that musically there was something special about it. I like the song “Aqualung” [laughs]. I’m an old Jethro Tull fan so when Scott wrote lyrics and called the song “Aqualung” I was like, yeah, alright. We all have the freedom to do whatever we want with this stuff. So now there are two songs out there called “Aqualung.”

What else? I like “The Drift,” the last song. I like “Long Ago,” that’s our second to last song. I’m trying to remember because we’ve worked on this album for four years and we’ve put them is so many different orders. But yeah, there’s some nice songs on there.

So Jon and Vince Votta, John Moyer, and you recorded the instrumental tracks at your studio in New Jersey with you producing and engineering?

Yes, and then Scott wrote and recorded the vocals. At the time Doug Grean was his kind of right-hand dude. Doug would handle the engineering and send me files, and I would put them into the main multi-tracks.

Did you envision Art of Anarchy as your next recording and touring band or as a studio project?  

I was open to whatever. I figured that the world would decide what the fate of it should be. Where if people want us to hit the road, if there’s a demand for it and people really are interested in it, then we would cross that bridge and see what everybody wants to do. But ultimately just one step at a time. I was looking at it like let’s just get the album out first, and let’s just focus on the songs. And for me I always felt that for my own album as well, that song placement, like matching it up with good movies or things like that would be an interesting way to go. And just really focus on the songs themselves and the music, but that’s me.

Half the time I think like a manager, a publisher, and a publicist and not even like a band member. Because I’ve worn so many hats and I just wear them all at once. I’m seeing this bigger, giant picture. So the guitarist in me is like, [enthusiastically] ‘Let’s get out and play!’ And the publisher is saying, ‘Let’s see if there’s an upcoming movie that this could match with’. And there could be an interesting combination and lend visual to the sound – that kind of thing. And that’s all part of it. It’s not just playing guitar. It’s making music, sharing music, and also how you have that music connect and what kind of relationship you give the songs with other media or anything.

In my conversation with Scott [Weiland] the main thing that he seemed upset about was that Art of Anarchy was being marketed as a supergroup or “mega band” when he thought it was a recording project.  Was it spelled to him that he was joining a band?

Well, we thought it was. It’s complicated [laughs]. And also it has to do with legal stuff. It would have to do with contracts and all that. So I probably shouldn’t talk too much about it. That could get in the way of whatever. But it was [pauses] – I mean I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus or anything – but contracts were worded clearly. We all knew what we were getting into and thought each other knew what we were getting into. So anything else came as a shock. And even when we announced the existence of the band in January, the night before camps were in touch with each other approving the bio and all those things so that nothing was a surprise. Even things that we didn’t need to be in touch about like, ‘Here’s what I’m gonna say on Twitter, just so you know,’ out of courtesy so that nothing for any reason rubs anyone the wrong way. And we made the announcement and then [laughs] we saw in the middle of… [pauses]. Yeah, so it was disappointing. I would have much preferred if Scott had called me and said, ‘Can we find a different way of doing this or wording this,’ or something that would be less damaging.

Did you speak directly with Scott on the phone or by email, or was it through managers mostly?

Oh, we spoke a few times last year but not since. I would email him once in a while, but mostly I would contact, if anything, his manager.

Because when I talked to him he didn’t seem to know that the band had been signed.

[Laughs. pauses. laughs.]

OK. I’ll move on. During what time frame was the Art of Anarchy photo shoot and video shoot done?

Oh, that was in mid-October of 2014.

So it was a while ago.

Well, not that long ago, figure October 2014. We announced the band in January, the videos came out in May, and album comes out in June.

What was the vibe like on the set for the “Til the Dust Is Gone” video between the band members?

It was a lot of work. We banged out two videos — because there is another video besides “Til the Dust…” – and I know the label made a lyric video to a song [watch AoA’s “Small Batch Whisky’ lyric video here]. But we actually did a performance video to another song [Writer’s note: the video turned out to be for the song “Time Every Time” – watch it here]. So in two days we did the photo shoot which was real quick. Yeah, we just banged it out real quick. In between setting up and doing, there was a lot of multi-tasking where we might be taking some photos in the back while doing a green screen something in the front. It was really just utilizing time as much as we could to finish two entire videos in two days. And being on a rooftop with a helicopter flying around a dozen times.

So it was a lot of ‘boom, boom, boom’ just banging everything out. But it was pretty mellow. It wasn’t very over the top in everyone’s face, nothing like that. You know, we’ve done this shit. You find that people who make a lot of noise onstage, when they’re offstage they tend to balance it out and are often very soft-spoken and mellow and enjoy peace and calm and have a very relaxed vibe. And for me it felt more like that. I mean that was my take on it. As I looked around me – and the way I felt – it just seemed like everyone was relaxed and we were jumping into position when we needed to.

At a guitar clinic in March 2015, you were asked about dealing with difficult band members. You told a guy in the audience to ‘get someone else because honestly there are probably a hundred million other people in the world who aren’t going to be difficult.’ And I mean no disrespect to Scott, he’s a great singer and frontman, but he has a reputation for being difficult. He’s no longer with STP or Velvet Revolver. Why do you still want someone who’s difficult to possibly sing for your band?

Honestly, at this point, I just want people to be happy. Everyone’s gotta do what’s in their heart. But at the same time you also have to see through your obligations. And if you don’t wanna see them though then you need to work out something – but I get it. You know what, you only have one life and you can’t be a slave to what you do. You have to do what makes you happy. Honestly, if doing [Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts’] Blaster – doing that tour and doing nothing else. If that’s what he needs to do to be happy, for life to be livable and for his spirit to stay lit, and for him to enjoy making music – and I hope it’s doing that for him – then I can understand that that’s what he needs to do. I’ve been in that same position where you have to start making choices. And ultimately there’s been way too many rock stars that blew their head off – and I can almost understand why [laughs]. You become property of everyone else and you’re just a slave to what everybody else wants from you. It doesn’t mean anything to you anymore, and it’s just too fucking much. I don’t want to see anybody like that, and I don’t wanna be like that. I don’t want anyone I play with to be like that. But we just need to work out the details of all of that.

Your new solo album, Little Brother Is Watching, is really a vocal, song oriented album.  I was expecting an instrumental guitar album; but you’re really more into songs and songwriting. I think you have a really great voice. Have you always sang lead on your solo albums?

Thanks, I have. I mean from day one all the bands that I love like Kiss and The Beatles, and things like that, all the reasons that I started making music — it was always coincidentally these 4-piece bands where the musicians were the singers. To me that’s what I thought makes a cool band. Of course I’m open-minded and love a good lead singer and any situation, a good trio. But I always found for myself – I was always in a band where I sang, the bass player sang, the other guitarist sang, and the drummer sang; just the same kind of set up.

So from the very beginning when I was 6 years old, writing songs, learning to play, and doing everything a band does, I was singing. It was all about the songs. It was always about — you have these songs you want to share with people and you just use whatever you have. You use whatever voices you have – whether it’s the one from your mouth, the one from your hands. You just give it everything you have musically to give. So you sing, you play, and you do everything that will help make that song be what it needs to be. But from day one I probably sang before I played guitar really. And I’ve been a lead singer in bands here and there too.

I think being in a high profile situation as the guitarist it sort of redefines you, they know you as that – only the guitar player. But for decades before that I was a singer, guitarist, doing both. You know, Kip Winger, he’s a bass player and a singer. Paul Stanley, he’s a guitarist and a singer. Perfect example is John Sykes [Blue Murder, Whitesnake] is a singer and a guitarist – all of those guys. It was always that kind of thing and that’s always where my heart was.

I watched your official “Little Brother Is Watching” solo video. Great video. You have a great singing voice and it’s a very similar range to Scott’s. Have you ever thought about just singing the Art of Anarchy songs live yourself and just foregoing auditioning lead singers?

[Laughs]. You know, that option has been presented to me a lot of times like, [animatedly] ‘Why don’t you just go out as a 4-piece? You can sing it!’ And to me it would be like sending off a 3-legged dog to race. This thing was created to be a certain meeting of people from all different backgrounds that add what they’re adding and making something unique. Combining different people that normally you don’t see together. And that was the whole idea of this – and I feel like it would be stripped of that if we lose one person. So yeah, technically I could go out and do it. Sound wise it’s doable, it’s possible. But I think that Art of Anarchy should have a lead singer that brings in something that I don’t – that brings in his own personality, his own identity, and his own ingredients that flavor it up even more.

You mentioned in the Revolver interview a wish list of singers: M. Shadows [Avenged Sevenfold], Corey Taylor [Slipknot, Stone Sour], and some other people. I did some research and they’re all busy with their main projects. If it doesn’t work out with Scott are you going to audition people and are you serious about taking Art of Anarchy on the road?

We’ve already gotten offers – and I don’t know if I should say – but we’ve gotten offers to play that are into the six figures. There’s people that want to see this band live and the album isn’t even out yet. Unfortunately, I’m sure that [laughs] we’re gonna have to cross that next bridge. And I know Matt [M. Shadows] and everybody are all busy doing the things that are the reason why everybody else would love to be playing with them. So I get that. This is just like, [animatedly] ‘In imagination land, where we all have an army of clones that we can all send down to all play with each other.’ You know, Matt would still be doing Avenged and we’d jam together and his label would be cool with that. We’re still thinking of all that stuff. There’s a lot of great guys that could do it, and we’ve gotten a lot of offers too. Any time any press came out, I would get like half a dozen Facebook messages from singers saying, ‘Dude. I would love to do this with you. Here’s some videos. Check this out.’ And there are people who would really like to do it. We’re gonna have to see after the album comes out what happens.

You know, it’s interesting [laughs]. How do I put this? Never a dull moment. As much as it all seems like a big negative and all this drama and all this shit – it’s not! This is life! This is what goes on! This is interesting! It’s not negative! I mean life for me right now – I’m traveling all over the world doing wonderful things with wonderful people, doing what I love and what I’ve devoted my life to. And I’m putting out my own music, I’m making videos, I’m producing and collaborating with all these great people, interesting people – and putting all kinds of music into the world. How the hell could I be pissed off? I mean if the singer decides that this is not for him, then we’ll cross that bridge – that’s fine. It’s not the end of the world – everything in perspective. Whatever happens with it – one way or another – it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day we are all gonna be healthy, I hope. We’re not gonna be disabled or destroyed by what happens with this or anything else. And everyone can keep moving forward. You know there are no guarantees in life. Nothing is a sure thing in life. You just do what you do. You jump in, you do your best, and then you look back at it all and you say, ‘Wow! That was interesting. That was a life well lived.’

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