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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.


2017.05.12 - Hot Press - Interview with Bumblefoot

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2017.05.12 - Hot Press - Interview with Bumblefoot Empty 2017.05.12 - Hot Press - Interview with Bumblefoot

Post by Blackstar Tue Jun 13, 2023 4:51 pm

By Jason O’Toole

Plucked from obscurity to play with one of the biggest bands in history, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Blumenthal lived the dream – rocking stadiums around the globe and getting to jam with childhood heroes Kiss. But as tensions mounted on the Chinese Democracy tour, Bumblefoot – never one to back down from a fight – became another in the long line of musicians to exit the GNR set-up. He talks to Jason O’Toole about life in the rock ‘n’ roll fast lane.

It should’ve been the ultimate dream gig – being handpicked from hundreds of wannabes to replace Slash. But for Ron Bumblefoot – originally christened Ronald Jay “Ron” Blumenthal – signing up to play lead guitar in one of the biggest bands on the planet turned out to be both a blessing and a curse – in disguise!

Before joining Guns N’ Roses, Bumblefoot was a respected solo artist who’d released a clutch of moderately successful albums, whilst never really setting the charts on fire.

Urban legend has it that during this final solo tour, Bumblefoot had pulled in a pittance, with something like $700 left in his back pocket after paying off the tour’s bills. He’s certainly having the proverbial last laugh now, considering his net worth is estimated at a cool €10 million.

With Slash leaving the band, a red hot replacement was needed. And it was actually Joe Satriani who tipped off Gun N’ Roses’ keyboardist Chris Pitman, back in 2004, about Bumblefoot, who he reckoned could easily fill Slash’s shoes (and hat).

Bumblefoot was flabbergasted when the call came through.

“I could make a lot of jokes about that,” he reflects, “and say, well, they needed somebody with a name that sounded like Buckethead, and Bumblefoot, you know? Two syllables starting with a B, and then a body part. But no – from what I’m told, Axl wanted me.”

It took two years of on/off negotiations before it finally came to fruition.

“It’s just a case of that’s the way they operate,” he shrugs philosophically.

Was it a daunting experience the first time he went into the rehearsal room to jam with Axl Rose and co?

“Chris gave me a very warm welcome,” he recalls. “He gave me a big hug and was like, ‘Bumbles! How you doing!’ The other guys seemed to be a bit more all business. That’s alright – we did our thing. But also, I didn’t know their backgrounds. Even at that moment, they had spent months rehearsing. So, I’m sure they weren’t that excited to audition another person, with the tour only weeks away. It’s like, ‘Come on, you know?’ But we pulled it off! We did. We made it happen. They were ready to go – it was just getting me up to speed. We did it.”

Bumblefoot once remarked that in order to get his new cohorts’ respect, he had to get a little violent. What exactly did he mean?

“You know what? I’m not even going to go into that – really what it boils down to is: you know how bands get into band fights? We’ll just call it that. Here’s what I’m gonna say: I was upset – and I blew up. And that’s on me. There were situations that I probably should have addressed sooner before it reached a point where I was so upset. That’s all.”

Axl said at the time that Bumblefoot had balls made of brass because of his tough stance in the negotiations.

“Um, there were a few reasons he said that at the time,” he says cryptically, laughing.

Did joining one of the world’s biggest rock groups change his personality?

“It didn’t change the core of who I was,” he responds. “But I definitely, on the exterior, went through a lot of phases as far as how I was reacting to new situations and scenarios. When you first join a big band and you’re not an original member and stuff, with that comes a lot of things that you’ve never had before.”

Such as?

“Well, I’ve never had a 16-year-old girl sending me death threats, because I’m not an original member! Things like that took getting used to,” he says, shaking his head in dismay. “There were a lot of things, and there’s no rulebook.

“You have to learn,” he adds, “from making mistakes, and from making your own mistakes. There was a lot of that. I was definitely a lot more stressed out and on edge, and just trying to find my way through this unfamiliar new territory.”

The fame game was, Bumblefoot says, never for him. He mostly got a buzz out of chatting with the fans post-gig. One that he met and became friends with was Dubliner Stephen Browne, who supplied photos for an album sleeve of his.

“I’m too old to fall for the bullshit,” shrugs Bumblefoot of his easygoing approach. “Maybe if things had come together 20 years sooner I’d have believed the bullshit but – you know what? – we’re just human beings and I love making music. I never cared about the other stuff. It’s not about ego; there are people for whom it is all about ego.

“You find that there’s two types: there are the people who are in it for the attention, and those who are in it for a deep love of music. Most musicians I know want respect, and not even for them – for the music. They want to put out music that’s gonna outlive them, that people will love and respect for the quality of what it is.”

Starting in 2008, Bumblefoot spent eight years on various GNR tours, including the Up Close And Personal and Appetite For Democracy treks. “I did 325 shows with them,” he recalls. “Those tours didn’t just run for a few months – some of them were a span getting into years. I remember a lot of the people that I met. A lot of times I remember the food. That’s a big one, and I might remember if some unusual event happened as part of that show or something, but I have a hard time remembering the names of the venues.

“We had some great shows in Ireland; some volatile ones too,” he says referring to Axl Rose’s refusal to go on stage at the O2 gig back in 2010. “We were very late, people threw things. So the show was held off for a while, but then we went back on and finished it. I thank everybody for their patience for sticking around for the whole show and seeing it through with us. That was very cool.”

Bumblefoot reckons Guns N’ Roses are a band at the peak of their powers when it comes to playing live, and thinks the Slane Castle gig will be their best ever Irish show. “That’ll be a great gig,” he enthuses. The guitarist never got to play Slane himself, which he says is a big regret. But one of his personal highlights was getting to jam with his childhood heroes, Kiss, at the very first venue he’d seen them: Madison Square Garden.

“Yeah, I got to play with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss together. We did some songs that they hadn’t played in 30 years. It was cool. That was one of the few times that, as you’re playing, you’re thinking, ‘Never thought this was going to happen!’ Listening to Kiss as a child, you don’t think that you’re going to be meeting, let alone jamming with any of the guys. Life is interesting. You don’t know what to expect and that’s what makes it life.”

As someone married to the same woman for almost 30 years, how did Bumblefoot resist groupies throwing themselves at him?

“I don’t know any musicians who are in it to get laid! I really don’t,” he insists. “They have all truly devoted their life to music. Just because someone offers you sex doesn’t mean you have to say ‘yes’. Just because someone offers you anything doesn’t mean you have to say ‘yes’. And it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna go in the amazing way you that you think it might in your head – or their head. You might suck in bed – haha!

“But it’s not about that,” he continues, warming to the theme. “Honestly, that kind of stuff is the last thing that you’re thinking about when you’re on the road. You know what you want? You want a good night’s sleep, and some peace and quiet to just recharge your batteries. So, you don’t think about that other crap. I love and appreciate and adore my wife, so that stuff isn’t even a thought.”

Guns N’ Roses in seeking peace and quiet shock! In a further dent to their hellraising reputation, Bumblefoot has never taken drugs and rarely drinks.

“For me it was sex, sex and rock and roll,” he laughs. “I have to admit, if I’m at a certain place, with a traditional drink, I might take a taste. If I’m in Ireland, I will inhale some Guinness for sure. It’s almost an out-of-respect thing. And it’s just a damn good beer! But that only happens a few times a year and it won’t go beyond a mouthful, usually. Otherwise, I don’t smoke cigarettes and I’ve never done drugs!”

Bumbleboot soon fell out of love with being in one of the world’s biggest bands. The cracks began to show when the guitarist became frustrated with the fact that G N’R weren’t recording any new material.

“I was hoping that we would write together at some point, and we did write together,” he rues. “And I did write my own guitar parts for Chinese Democracy. I was part of the creative element in that, and anything that they chose for that record was something I came up with myself.”

Bumblefoot – who once jumped up on stage with a Gun N’ Roses cover band for fun – admits that he started to feel like someone going through the motions of playing material that wasn’t his own.

“I didn’t become a musician to play – I’m not gonna say covers – but I needed to do something that was creative for me,” he says. “If I wasn’t being creative, I wasn’t fulfilling my calling of why I became a musician. I didn’t do it just to play shows, and to play what I hate calling covers, ‘cause it diminishes what it is. I’d given up so much of what I loved, and the things that made me feel alive. I could be replaced in Guns N’ Roses and ultimately I was. And the guy who replaced me – God bless him – was Slash.”

Bumblefoot pauses, reflecting on his decision to walk away from the band. “I had more to offer and I wasn’t doing it. You add to that a lot of different other components – whether it was business stuff or personal stuff – and it was long past due that I left. Hopefully, some good came out of that for people, but I should have left a lot sooner than I did.” Apart from wanting to record new music, the other straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when he felt forced by the band to continue touring after suffering a horrific car accident.

“After the car crash happened in 2011, I didn’t want to play, but I’ll flat out say I was made to feel that I had to and I shouldn’t have. I needed to recuperate and to continue the physical therapy. That was something that I had a lot of bitterness about, because truly if you’re that mad at something, you’re really mad at yourself and the decision you made. And you’re kicking yourself.

“So, I’m not mad at Guns N’ Roses or anything like that – I’m mad that I continually put others before myself in a situation when it was very detrimental to me, to my health and to my well-being.”

Bumblefoot was then hit with cancer, which also made him take stock.

“Later on, when I had the cancer, that was a bit of a wake-up call and I was thinking to myself, ‘I need to start doing the things I wanna do with my life’.”

Bumblefoot is now back doing what he loves best – recording his own music. His new band, Art Of Anarchy, with former Creed singer Scott Strapp on lead vocals, have just released their second album, The Madness. Strapp joined in tragic circumstances, replacing Scott Weiland of Stones Temple Pilots, who died from a drug overdose shortly after finishing the recording of their debut. In terms of his own growth, Bumblefoot is back on track.

“I became a musician because I wanted to be in a band where I was fully a part of it, and we were writing together and just doing everything a band did. Also, I love teaching – that’s a very big part of it. And I love producing. I love being in the studio and helping other people shape the music together.

“Look, if you had to sum it up, the thing with Guns N’ Roses was great. Nothing is supposed to be perfect. And I’m not gonna bitch and whine about what wasn’t perfect, or what I hoped it would be or what I wanted it to be, or any little petty shit. It was great. We had eight years where we made a lot of people happy with hundreds of shows and that’s what it’s about. So it was great, but how many years can I keep doing that, when I felt like this is not the reason I became a musician?”

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