Thursday, March 3, 2011
Bumblefoot: "We Could do More to Establish the Current Band as its Own Band"
radiometal.com recently conducted an interview with guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. You can now stream the one-hour chat at this location. A few excerpts follow.
On the current lineup of GN'R:
Thal: "If we had band photos, then people would say, 'Oh, yeah, they're a band. But we haven't had a fucking real band photo or anything like that! So we are not presenting ourselves to the world as a band even though we are one, and because of that, people, unless they know us or they have been to twenty shows or hung out with us after shows and stuff, they know but the rest of the world is just going to say, 'Alright, all of the famous pictures of Guns N' Roses, they have the five guys from the Appetite lineup,' and, yeah, that doesn't help us. (laughs) I feel that we could do more to establish the current band as its own band. It shouldn't be in the shadow of the past."
On GN'R starting its concerts later than scheduled:
Thal: "Well, first thing, people don't realize that it is such a big show with so much going on that at minimum there has to be 45 minutes between bands. What happens after that? I don't know! (laughs) I mean, I'm there. I get there early. I take the earliest van that I can take to get to the venue from the hotel and I eat dinner with the crew or the other bandmembers that arrived there early. I play my guitar, I warm up and I watch the opening act. That's it. And then I just make sure that I'm ready and that I'm there. Then I just wait to get on stage. As far as what delays the show? I know where the finger is pointing, but I'm not going to get into that! (laughs) I mean, sometimes it's for stupid reasons! There have been times where Axlis on his way over and the driver got lost for like a half hour. He gets there and everyone is pissed, like, 'What the fuck?! How does that happen?' You can literally see the venue from the hotel and it's a five-minute drive but the driver got lost for a half ... fucking ... hour."
On GN'R'S future plans:
Thal: "If you ask me about my stuff, I can tell you all kinds of plans for the future and what's going to happen. If you ask about GN'R, it's all a big question mark and it really is. It's not like anything is being hidden, it's just that nothing can be predicted. [Laughs] It's a weird fucking thing, man!"
On how he would feel if a reunion of the classic lineup ever happened:
Thal: "If a reunion ever happens, I would hope that they would give me some free passes so that me and my wife could go. [Laughs] You know, that doesn't bother me. I have no problems with anybody. I mean, shit, I just did a signing last weekend with Duff. So does it bother me that people want a reunion? No! You know what?! I love KISS, I love a whole shitload of bands and if there was a lineup that did an album that I totally loved, I would love to go see that lineup do those songs. It's normal. And it doesn't mean that I hate what's going on now."
On Axl Rose:
Thal: "There has been no other singer that I have ever worked with in my fucking life that cares as much and that gives as much and that kicks as much ass on a stage and that works as hard as that guy. Everyone wants to think of his as this kind of dictator just because he's the last man standing from… I mean, he started the band and he's still there and he's not going to end the band no matter who leaves until he decides that he wants to stop. You can do anything. I'll wear whatever I want, I'll play whatever I want and he's got no problem with it. Because we don't do a lot of press as a band, people don't see that side of things. They don't see us joking around or having fun. Either that or they don't want to see it, because it's more fun to talk about the character that people have in their own minds about others than the people that they truly are."
On feeling down on stage:
Thal: "There's time when we are getting on stage so late and the audience has not been entertained at all for like two hours and so they are all angry and upset. I'm angry and upset with them. I found out the way to resolve that for me, because it's not something that I am going to be able to change and it isn't helping anyone as they are just watching some angry miserable guy on stage, it's not like, 'Well, we waited for two hours to see the band and now we get to see the band but the band is pissed off,' we have to give them a great show. I found that half a shot of Jägermeister before I go on stage and I am the happiest motherfucker in the world! [Laughs] It took me 40 years to figure that out! Yes, Jägermeister, I call it my liquid smile. Jäger helps everything! They should get rid of all antibiotics, they should get rid of casts, they should get rid of hospitals and all kinds of medication and surgery and just give everybody Jägermeister! And everything will be fine. Wars will end. Everything will be cool. Domestic disputes will end in nice dinners. Yes, Jägermeister! Or at least it does for me."
On practicing as a musician:
Thal: "People practice too much. If you spend 10 hours a day, every day for years playing, then in those 10 hours you are not going to get as much out of it as in a very concentrated two hours. The rest of the time you should be spending living your life. It's wrong to be sitting in your room, not experiencing life and just slaving away. If you want to make interesting music then you have to live an interesting life."
On why Chinese Democracy came out when it did:
Thal: "I don’t know. I don’t know why it came out then and not sooner. Everything that happened before me I can’t really comment in because I wasn’t there and I really don’t know. All I know is that I got in the band, we toured and in between legs we recorded and then the album came out. So for me, it wasn’t that long of a wait. I think what happened is that the music is done, the album is done and then trying to work things out with the label and trying to come out with a marketing plan or just figuring out the right business when you’re dealing with something so big. I think that when you’re dealing with something that has a potential to bring in a lot of money, people start thinking about their own pockets. This is not just in GN’R, this is in general. Like if people are going to make a song for free and give it out, I think that everyone will just say “Ok well what looks best for the art?”. Whereas when it’s something where a lot of money was spent, then people will start coming up with plans for how they are going to make money. This isn’t necessarily about GN’R , this is about anything in life. I think that it gets in the way and it causes conflict, distrust and a lot of battles when it’s me looking out for me versus you looking out for you. In my experience of dealing with record labels, it’s usually not a good experience (laughs). I can only assume that once the album was done, it was not a simple task to work out all of the business between the band, the label, management and any other hands that may be trying to get into the cookie jar. I’m sure that it’s like that for any band that’s making a lot of sales and there is a lot of money invested, spent and planned to be spent. That’s just how it is."
On Axl's reluctance to promote the album:
Thal: "Well I know that I feel that way about my own albums (laughs)! By the time it’s done, the last thing I want to do is think about it or play it or anything. You know, when it comes to that it’s like, I’ve seen everybody blame everybody. The record label says it’s this person’s fault or the distributors will say that it was this one’s or the band will say it was this one’s… And I don’t know! I would have loved to go out there and immediately start touring and immediately start promoting. In fact I kind of did you know? A few weeks after the album came out, I went to Europe and I did a meet & greet in Paris and London and Berlin. I also did some interviews and stuff. I just did that myself, just to be supportive (laughs). I can’t answer, I can’t get into other people’s heads and I don’t want to speak for anybody else because it’s not really my place to go and do that. People have got to go out there and speak for themselves about things. But for me, I would have loved to get out there and start promoting immediately. So here it is, like it or not. We are exposing it and giving it to you. Check it out, that’s all. You don’t have to like it, just check it out. If you like it then great, but not everybody is going to like everything. That’s how anything is, whether it’s food on your plate or an album that you’re checking out or a piece of art hanging on a wall. So yeah… I mean, despite any lack of promotion, I think it still did 4 or 5 million sales around the world. But you know what? Imagine if we did promote it! (laughs) I think that there is so much controversy about the album that it’s going to be twenty years before people can look back on it and say “alright, what do we think of the music?”. Because at this point, I mean like in this conversation, we haven’t even yet talked about the music on the album (laughs)! We are talking about how much it cost and how long it took, because those are real things that are part of the baggage that come with this album. I think that it’s going to be a while before people stop feeling the weight of that baggage and look back at it thinking “hey check out that album! What a weird experimental introspective album they came out with! And look how many people contributed! No album has ever been like that!” It’s just that kind of album that people are going to talk about and have opinions about before even hearing it. It’s an interesting album with a lot of things to talk about."
On when we can expect the rest of the supposed "trilogy" of material:
Thal: "At this point? (laughs) Erm… You know I really can’t say because there’s nothing to tell. It’s frustrating for me because there is nothing to tell about the future of GN’R because it changes minute to minute. As far as a trilogy is concerned, I don’t know. There is enough music for another two albums, but these are all 10 year old recordings from the Chinese Democracy sessions. Those songs are not new songs and this current band, this relevant band that contains me and DJ and Richard and Frank on drums, we have yet to get in a studio together and sit down on the floor with guitars and just start writing. We have not done that. The only music that is going to be coming out at this point that I see from GN’R is going to be from 10 years ago with players that have been gone for 5 years and maybe alternative mixes of songs. So it’s like a big chapter in Axl’s musical life that has yet to be closed. I have no idea. I mean shit! We are supposed to tour the US in February and it’s the end of January and no one has even like…. yeah. You can’t make plans. You cannot make any plans when dealing with Guns N’ Roses. Things are just going to happen and they are not going to happen when you think that they are going to happen. That’s just how it is and it can’t be controlled, it can’t be changed. This is just how it is in GN’R world. And you just roll with it and say “alright”. We were going to tour and then now we are not. It will happen when it is going to happen, and it does. It’s not the kind of thing where… Like if you ask me about my stuff, I can tell you all kinds of plans for the future and what’s going to happen. If you ask about GN’R, it’s all a big question mark and it really is. It’s not like anything is being hidden, it’s just that nothing can be predicted (big laugh). It’s a weird fucking thing man! (big laugh again)"
On Axl's love for KFC buckets and bee wing guitars:
Thal: "Figure that one out! (laughs) Axl has diverse taste. You know, it’s like he can run a full gamut by having a bluesy guy playing in the band with a guy who plays a guitar shaped like a foot, and he loves it! Actually, he hated that foot guitar. I would be doing solos, playing live and the whole time he would be saying stuff into my ear monitors that only I could hear. He was like “when are you gonna get rid of that fucking toy?! Get a real guitar!” and just like fucking with me, trying to make me trip up and screw up (big laugh)."
posted 9:07 PM