Before joining one of the biggest bands in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal played with everyone from Lita Ford to Ty Tabor (King’s X) to, erm, Jessica Simpson, as well as having a successful solo career.
Not only that, New York native Bumblefoot has been putting his status as one of the world’s premier rock guitarists to a much more personal affect and runs teaching workshops all over the world (even private ones via Skype if you ask nicely).
More recently he has been involved in A World With Heroes, a KISS tribute album created by rock journalist Mitch Lafon raising money for a Canadian cancer hospice. Along with Rex Brown (ex-Pantera) and Brian Tichy (ex-Whitesnake), they came together to record the classic “Detroit Rock City” and the band ALIVE was born.
Geeks of Doom: How did you get involved with A World With Heroes?
Bumblefoot: When Mitch Lafon was first considering doing this album, we chatted about it. I think before he even went public I had already recorded my guitar and vocals. Mitch played matchmaker and reached out to Brian Tichy and Rex Brown for drums and bass.
Geeks of Doom: Were you allowed to go in your own direction to record “Detroit Rock City” or did you try and stick closely to the original song?
Bumblefoot: I stuck to the original. It couldn’t ever be improved upon, I’m not going to try and re-write the song. I added a little of my own guitar doodling at the end, but other than that we all kept it traditional.
Geeks of Doom: How did ALIVE come together as a band on its own? Had you worked with the other guys before?
Bumblefoot: After Mitch started playing mixes for people he knew, they started asking when they could see us live. We hadn’t planned on it, but a good amount of people reached out. We all had a hole in our touring schedules [at the] end of July so we whipped up some shows. Not trying to be KISS, no make-up or breathing fire! Just a bunch of fans playing music and having fun.
Geeks of Doom: You came to the Witchwood School Of Rock here in Oxfordshire, England in 2010 with [GNR drummer] Frank Ferrer [the short documentary about it can be viewed HERE] – some of the kids you spoke to and jammed with are now in touring and recording bands. When you were growing up, did you have any direct encouragement from some of your heroes? If so, how important was that for you?
Bumblefoot: Witchwood, yes! What a great bunch of students, and teachers! I had guitar teachers growing up, but didn’t go to a school or have access to my heroes. I’m glad we were able to spend some quality time with everyone at Witchwood!
Geeks of Doom: You conduct a lot of guitar workshops around the world and give private guitar lessons. For someone who can inspire thousands of people in one go from the stage, why do you teach on such an intimate level?
Bumblefoot: The personal interaction is what makes a difference. Playing a big show is fun, it lifts the spirits, but teaching has a greater impact. You’re giving something more than just a good time, you’re helping someone grow, hopefully to the point that they will do the same for others.
Geeks of Doom: The three guitar players in Guns N’ Roses [including DJ Ashba and Richard Fortus] all have different styles and come from different backgrounds, musically. Do you all learn styles and techniques from each other?
Bumblefoot: We haven’t done a lot of that, sitting around with guitars showing riffs. We spend more time without our guitars, socially. We see enough of each other with our guitars!
Geeks of Doom: What was the fans’ reception like when you took GNR to India for the first time late last year?
Bumblefoot: India is fantastic! People are very enthusiastic, energetic, and full of heart. It’s a special place, with a strong identity.
Geeks of Doom: The band sometimes gets bad press, mostly because of the time-keeping issues and basically because some people can’t handle the fact it’s not the same guys as in 1986. And yet Guns N’ Roses is arguably as popular as it has ever been and playing in parts of the world GNR has never been before. Do you feel like it’s a no-win situation or do you think you’re helping to take the band forward?
Bumblefoot: My focus is on making music and doing positive things with my life.
Geeks of Doom: Fair enough. You recently played a couple of dates in Canada to round off some pretty hectic touring – is GNR having a rest now?
Bumblefoot: GNR seems to be having a rest, but anything could change at any time. Meanwhile, I’m starting to ease back into doing my own solo shows again. During the break I’ve got Bumblefoot shows scheduled in August for Italy, Greece, Albania, and Tunisia. Hoping to do more in the next few months.
Geeks of Doom: You said recently you would prefer GnR to release songs one at a time rather than do a whole album. Has there been any movement on this?
Bumblefoot: I don’t think that’s gonna be the plan for GNR.
Geeks of Doom: Ok. What about Bumblefoot singles? Or even an album?
Bumblefoot: Eventually. I’ve been wanting to. I’d need to tour less. Need to somehow adjust the balance so I can make both happen!
Geeks of Doom: You’re an incredibly busy man – were you raised to have a strong work ethic? Who or what instilled this in you?
Bumblefoot: I just try to do the best I can. And when I make mistakes, I learn and try to do better next time.
Geeks of Doom: Finally, how’s the hot sauce business going?
Bumblefoot: Great, thanks! Been having a great time going to food festivals around the U.S. with the folks from Cajohns.com, looking forward to working with them on some new flavors, have lots of ideas!
Geeks of Doom: Awesome! Thanks for your time, Ron!
Bumblefoot: Thank you Dan, Geeks of Doom, and everyone reading!
Check out the links below for all things Bumblefoot: